Penske Racing Press Conference Transcript 2008 Indy 500 Media Tour Tuesday, April 8, 2008 PAT SULLIVAN: Please find your seat so we can start the afternoon press conference. Helio is trying to run off with the pace car. Keep an eye on ...
Penske Racing Press Conference Transcript
2008 Indy 500 Media Tour
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
PAT SULLIVAN: Please find your seat so we can start the afternoon press conference.
Helio is trying to run off with the pace car. Keep an eye on him.
Well, good afternoon. As we prepare for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, delighted to be with you. I'm Pat Sullivan. Quickly will add a three-time graduate University of Kansas, so I haven't had a lot of sleep tonight.
We're delighted to have the most successful team in the Indianapolis 500 history. Fourteen-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske, we're delighted to have the president of Penske Performance, Tim Cindric, and two very talented drivers, Ryan Briscoe and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
Tim, it's been a very interesting and exciting period for Penske Racing with a couple significant victories, two races under your belt in the Indy Racing League, and I know your focus is always on the race here at Indianapolis.
TIM CINDRIC: We're hoping to win all three season openers in our quest this year, but we didn't get that done at Homestead. We're certainly focused on coming to Indianapolis and trying to give Roger, I guess, the title of being the first guy to win Daytona and Indy not only together but in the same year. So certainly focused on doing that. Probably no different than any other year, but this year makes it even more special.
SULLIVAN: How are the preparations going in your mind as you prepare for Indianapolis?
CINDRIC: Well, I guess usually our preparation going into this is the same every year. It's making sure that No. 1, that we're organized, we're going in there with, I guess, a different lineup with Ryan coming on board, but at the same time we spent a lot of time last year with -- he had a yellow car last year but kind of a lot of the same names and faces surrounding him. So he knows for the most part how we approach it. But last year he had the opportunity to maybe sit back a little bit out of the pressure cooker that he lives in most of the time, and this year he will be part of it.
SULLIVAN: Good to have you back, Ryan, indeed a good run last year and to be with the Penske team, I'm sure.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it's really exciting for me. It's a special feeling racing for Team Penske with Roger and Tim and just the history about this race. The more I learn about the Indy 500, the more excited I get about coming here and racing. It doesn't get any better than coming here with Team Penske. I can't wait for May to come around.
SULLIVAN: Tim and Ryan are working hard. Did you do anything in the offseason, Helio, screw around a little bit?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I think you were part of it. Weren't you helping to vote?
SULLIVAN: Let me tell you something, I never thought in my life I would pull a hamstring jumping out of a chair cheering over a dancing contest, but I did.
CASTRONEVES: Let me tell you, every time, obviously, I think you guys already heard me say, but every time I come over here it's special not only because of Indianapolis and the Indy 500 but obviously what you guys have done for me, voting and supporting. No question. I even heard about it when I was on the opening set that night on the finals, the biggest area there was viewers with "Dancing with the Stars," it was actually Indianapolis. So I was very happy to hear because that means I could get a lot of votes.
But again, it was great. I have to thank, obviously, Team Penske to let me do that. It was something that I never thought that would make such a big deal but our strategy actually was very, very interesting. I mean, we want to capture new fans, we want to try to make, obviously, the IndyCar Series more popular and come back the way it used to be. So I do believe we achieved that. Now with the merger especially, it's become even better. So right now I just see the positive things about the whole situation, and we're looking very strong for this year and we're going to have a great race hopefully.
SULLIVAN: Good deal. We've got wirelesses working on both sides of the room and open it up for questions.
Q: Two questions. One for Tim Cindric first. The way you approach, the company approached by former ex-Champ Car teams with some help in setting up the Dallara cars, for example. And the other question to Ryan Briscoe: With Will Power, your countryman also is competing in the Indy 500 this year, also he's driving for a rival team, are you maybe sharing information and so talk to him?
CINDRIC: First of all, relative to the Champ Car teams, initially I guess our support team was to be the Walker organization in the beginning, and obviously that didn't work out for Derrick. Hopefully he'll be able to make it back for the Indianapolis 500. I think the car that we actually provided to Derrick ended up with the Minardi organization, which is the 33 car. I think that's where that car actually ended up.
But as far as help on the Champ Car side, we've always offered whatever we can do to help make the series better is what we need to do. And logistics and some of the things, I think, everybody has had their arms out to say, "Hey, how can we help?" But when it gets to racing, everybody has to be pretty realistic and understand we're all there to do a job, too. You know, from a technical standpoint there's a lot of support from the Dallaras and the series and that type of thing. But to sit here and say, "Yeah, we're going to set up somebody else's car," that doesn't really work out that way, and it's not a realistic approach. But at the same time, you know, we want to make sure that we have as many competitors out there as we can. I was the first one to have a hand up since whatever year it was to say this is the only way to go. So anyway, I'll leave it with Ryan.
BRISCOE: Yeah, I think it's great having, obviously, the unified series and Will Power being included in that merger. It's great having another Australian in the field; he's definitely a very strong driver, and I think he's going to do well over here. I've obviously spoken to him, and I've got a few friends that have come over from the other side and there's only so much I can sort of tell with my limited experience, as well. But I think going into Homestead, the most important thing we were talking about was just, you know, what I could tell them to just be safe out there, you know. First time on an oval with practically no testing, I just sort of talked from my experience, from my first race. And then going into Indy, there's going to be plenty of track time, plenty of testing for all those guys. So I'm sure they're going to be fine.
Q: Tim, if you could give your recollections of the old days in CART and the rivalries with Penske, Newman/Haas, and how much of that do you think you can reclaim with the unification? Or any of the teams, for that matter.
CINDRIC: I think there's a big step obviously in St. Pete to put another name up there that people are familiar with being Rahal. When you start to look at, you know, the so-called heydays of Indy when you had the Rahal and the Andretti and that type of thing and seeing that next generation coming in, it is certainly important for the series. It's certainly I know that after qualifying there in St. Pete, Carl Haas came into Roger's bus and came up and said, "You know, it's starting to look pretty good out there." His car was on the front row all of a sudden, so the world looked a little different to him than maybe what it did at Homestead.
But back to the equipment and the ability to be competitive, they showed this weekend. We've been running these cars a couple years on the road courses, and they're right there, right up to speed. So these guys are all plenty capable. When you give them a couple weeks of practice like you have around here, it's going to be good. It's going to be good. You know, you want to see some of the other owners come back into the fold, as well. You know, the Derrick Walkers and the Barry Greens and the John Menards. These guys are sitting there trying to see what's going to happen.
I think St. Pete is a big step forward from stepping away from the negativism that surrounded open-wheel racing the last couple years or 10 years, whatever it's been, and start really looking at the positives. The things that I read after the St. Pete race, there were a lot more things positive out there than what I've seen in a long, long time.
Q: All the years that you spent with Rahal, what are your first recollections with Graham? You started there even back when it was called Patrick Racing. But what are your recollections of him when he was a kid?
CINDRIC: My wife and I were talking about that the other day because she obviously grew up around the Rahal family. She reminded him after the race that she was his first crew chief, sitting there building the LEGOs in the bus. That dates me a little bit, but I certainly remember him tagging around with us in my early days at Rahal. I probably embarrass him with a few stories to give. But he was -- my kids have his little go-kart still in my garage. They were talking about now it might be worth putting on eBay. (Laughter)
Q: Helio, since your last victory in '02 you've had a couple of teammates at Penske win the race. Does that add any motivation to you as you go for No. 3 this year?
CASTRONEVES: Absolutely. Ryan, he definitely showed he's capable last year to be competitive on the ovals, as well. It's good for the team. It's good for us, it's good for me. When you have caliber drivers like himself and Sam and Gil de Ferran, you basically as a team, you're trying to both, put both cars up there, which means your chance is also going to be bigger. And again, there is the factor that you obviously always want to beat your teammate. The good news here is the atmosphere here in the team is, we try, "OK, let's do everything we can to win the race, to win any kind of race but obviously Indianapolis, not only for Roger and the team and for everyone, it is the most important race. Being there, you know, able to taste the victory and the milk as well, so it definitely, definitely I know how it feels. For me those kind of memories, it makes me, you know what, let's go back again and give everything we can to being on that podium again.
Q: Ryan, what is the pressures stepping into a Penske position where the guy you replaced is a former winner of the race?
BRISCOE: It's definitely a very important position. You know, a special feeling. I really feel I've got the whole team behind me. Helio has made me feel welcome on the team, and we've been working great together. So a lot of the work is very focused on the job, and a lot of the time you sort of forget about the pressures and what's involved with it. But, you know, I understand the importance of the role and it's definitely a very good feeling inside to have this ride.
Q: Helio, I forget if it was at the end of last week's, this past Sunday's race or the week before but you made the comment that "I keep thinking Sam's back there." Is there a chemistry that you're expecting now with Ryan being your teammate?
CASTRONEVES: Well, the good news is Ryan has already been on the team, Team Penske. He was obviously on the Porsche side, but most of the time, and I had the chance last year to drive not with him but with his teammates. You know, it's just different personality. I mean people sometime asking, "Hey, do you feel pressure, you know, for Ryan, because you're replacing someone else?" The way I see, it's just different personality for me. I had obviously Gil de Ferran, then Sam, you know, and now it's him. I'm just trying to continue and having the great atmosphere in the team because I know if you have that kind of situation inside, everyone is going to succeed. You know, obviously Sam had only -- I don't think I ever have a teammate before he joined Team Penske. So for him the process probably took a little longer. Eventually, now he's still on the Team Penske now, but he give me good luck in the Homestead race. But just to see the entire organization is always trying to keep everybody stick together and that's great because I only see, you know, moving forward. I don't see anything different with Ryan. In fact, I know we're going to actually win a lot of races this year.
Continued in part 2