Indy 500: IMS Media Tour - Team Penske press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: I kind of wanted to follow up on that and ask Tim how you at your level, how you plan for the drivers to work together or not based on their personalities. I mean, obviously, I think that the relationship...

Continued from part 1

Q: I kind of wanted to follow up on that and ask Tim how you at your level, how you plan for the drivers to work together or not based on their personalities. I mean, obviously, I think that the relationship perhaps between Sam and Helio was a certain way and then Ryan coming into the mix now, the relationship between those two drivers might be a little bit different. I'm wondering from a team perspective, how do you plan for those kind of changes between the two drivers and does it really impact different things that you do in preparing for races?

CINDRIC: It's a good question, and personalities are always different. Part of my job sometimes is to play psychologist with a lot of these guys. But we're fortunate just from the outside to look the same, you know, from a Team Penske standpoint we're fortunate to have his car look the same as his car and the guys being able to wear the same uniforms. That's a big deal just from a psychological standpoint for the guys. We're very fortunate to be in that situation because it reinforces the fact that we work for an organization, all of us, rather than for a car number. I've seen it within a lot of different teams and series and all that to where guys start thinking that they work for car numbers or that they work for a driver. As Roger says, they get a little confused. So that part of it is a good start before we even hire one driver or the other.

And the next part of it really has to do with them seeing how it can be mutually beneficial because at the end of the day, his career he wants it the best he can, and so does he and everybody else that falls in those places.

One thing that's really helped Team Penske is the personality of this guy. You guys all saw it. The people, most of you know him before the shows and the dancing and all the rest of it, but he's a big part of making this thing important to everybody else. He's the one that preaches the things that we believe. You know, he's the first guy to reach his hand out to these guys and say, "Hey, you know, this time it's my turn, that time it's your turn."

For me watching it from the beginning, I remember when he and I and Gil came to this team at the same time, and we all had separate things to prove. None of us were, quote-unquote, successful in this business to the level we wanted to be, but yet we were working for a guy that was the pinnacle of open-wheel racing. I remember the separate, he and Gil weren't the best of friends. One guy is on the phone one time telling me: "Hey, I'm not worried about Helio, he's just up and coming, I'm worried about this, you know." And Helio is on the phone saying, "Hey, I don't care what Gil says about the car, we need to do this." And for me in 2000 when Gil won the championship and I think Helio finished seventh in CART that year in the series, and Helio won his first race there at Detroit, it was OK, but I know I had a guy in Helio who believed he was as good as Gil. And there was a certain amount of envy in the fact that Gil was the champion and he had won the 100th race for Roger and some of these other things.

When Helio won the Indy 500 in 2001, to me the scales balanced with the two of those guys. You could walk into a room with one guy being an Indy 500 winner and one guy being a champion, and you walked in there together. It was the same situation with Sam. You know, he won his first race with us at Homestead, and that kind of brought things into the game, and the two of them fed off of each other. I'm sure it will be the same way with Ryan. I know that's a long answer to that but just bringing it from that end.

Q: Helio, this may be kind of a weird question to ask, but please understand where I'm going with this. NASCAR has done such a great job of making their drivers personalities. There are some personalities in this series, as well. If we could make you guys the personalities that a NASCAR familiarity, I guess, is that something you guys would like to see happen or is that going to be more of a distraction for the on-track stuff?

CASTRONEVES: The way I see, obviously NASCAR took a great advantage in the past and especially when the split happened, you know, not only promoting the drivers, it was promoting the series. The series grew, and obviously a lot of good things happened to them. You know, sponsorships and TV deals and all of a sudden now you have like 40, 50 drivers and obviously a lot of ones of different characters. We always had that in the past, but now we are actually facing a new beginning. I see no difference.

Yes, we do have a lot of work ahead of us to accomplish what we want. I don't think we in these days we are competing against NASCAR. You know, maybe we can learn from what they did in the past 10 years and trying to follow the same direction or a parallel direction. I think we will achieve the same result. I mean, I have a personality, Ryan has a personality, and you can see any other drivers out there that they have the same way. We have different names, champion names like Rahal and Andretti and even Unser in the Indy Lights Series, Foyt. So we have that as well in our series, it's just it will take time for people to understand that IndyCar, it's coming back, and it's fun to watch. It has what used to have in the past. And right now, the drivers, they're natural, they're going to come out with who they favor and who they like and things like that. So it takes time. I do believe we feel we are in the right direction. But not only the drivers and the teams need to work, but obviously the entire series and the press as well needs to continue working.

Q: Tim, can you take me back 12 years and then to today and tell me how you think open-wheel racing has changed or is different or is the same.

CINDRIC: Well, it's a good question in the fact that 12 years ago it was established and it was arguably the pinnacle of U.S. motorsports or was still looked at to where you could make that argument, whereas now it's certainly distanced itself from the NASCAR success from a media and sponsorship level. But the one thing that IndyCar racing still has is accessibility, whether it's in the garage area, you know, in the hospitality, you know, the drivers, that type of thing. That's one thing that still remains and separates it from not just NASCAR or whatever, but all forms of sports. The amount of time that you can get close to these guys and you can be in their locker room and you can talk to these people before the race, you know, right after the race, that type of thing, that access still hasn't changed. That's one thing that continues to be a positive that I hear from the sponsors is we can't do this anywhere else, football, baseball, even NASCAR. So that's what separates open-wheel racing in some aspects.

But the on-track product I look at and if you go back to the quote-unquote, heydays of the Indy 500 and you look at the number of cars on the lead lap and you look at the people, if you look at the odds before the race, the Vegas odds and all that, there's a lot more people right now that can win a race, and the odds are a lot closer for a lot more people and there are a lot more cars on the lead lap at the end of a race. So the on-track product is as good or better. I would say one of the things that we don't have that we used to have is the unpredictability. Right now you're expected to finish a race, you're expected to run the whole day, whereas back in the '80s and even the early '90s when some of these manufacturers were coming on board, there was a lot of attrition. There was a lot of blown engines; there were a lot of things that would occur to the cars that you just weren't quite sure if you were going to run all day. Right now if it's prepared and put together and all that, these guys expect to be there at the end. Their focus is more on pit stops and how the race plays out. So that's one of the biggest differences I see.

SULLIVAN: Time for two more.

Q: Can I follow up on that?

SULLIVAN: Sure can.

Q: Can you address a little bit about Team Penske's history with the IRL and CART and then Champ Car in terms of I think that a lot of people would think that Team Penske coming back to the IRL was a big step in sort of the scales of balance going to the IRL. How do you feel about that and what brought Team Penske back to not only Indy but eventually to coming to the IRL?

CINDRIC: The biggest thing for Team Penske is the Indianapolis 500. Without a doubt, it was one of the toughest things for Roger to do is not to participate here at this event for those years. But, also, what drove us out of the CART racing and the thing that this series needs to continue to be mindful of is the international races, because CART got to become way too international for the sponsors that we have and for quite a few of the sponsors that are in the series right now. It has an international flair, and that's OK, and racing in Japan with the Honda backing and that type of thing, that all makes sense, but seeing the movie, knowing how it ends when you start taking sanctioning money to go off in some other country to do something else, you lose a lot of that continuity. That was the biggest thing that tipped us over into the CART world, along with the fact that, you know, the heritage and Tony and the things that he was trying to achieve versus in the CART world you kind of had the mice guarding the cheese. The rules were being made by the participants, which I don't know when that happens, really.

The one thing that open-wheel racing has right now that CART didn't have is a dictatorship, and that's one thing that has made NASCAR very successful is having one person that ultimately can make the decisions. You know, we can all ask questions and survey everybody and everything else, but when it comes down to making the decisions, you have to have a dictatorship in motorsports, and that's the way it is in most successful motorsports, which is what we need to take advantage of now.

Q: Tim, we've gone to a system where we have one chassis, one motor and we're looking toward the future of new chassis, maybe two chassis, three companies coming in. Penske always found a way to have an advantage, be it his chassis or was it his motor when he came with the Ilmor stock block, whatever. Do you look forward to those days again or are you content with being able to get rid of those variables and say, "This is what we're going to race, but we're going to race 'em better?"

CINDRIC: First thing Penskes had is the people. You can't ever have a spec on that. That's been the thing that's our biggest differentiation, whether it be the drivers we have or the people working on the car. So that part they can never determine what that is.

In terms of the equipment and so forth, yeah, we want an open window, we think a little bit more of an open window. I don't think we're going to see turbines racing against diesels or some of this other stuff that's going on unless we want a five-car race. If we want a 33-car field, then we're going to have to have a pretty narrow window. But having a little bit more adjustability would help this series a lot in terms of having that uniqueness and something to talk about, see and think. But at the end of the day, I don't think we're going to have more fans here because of what kind of engine we run or what have you. I think they're really after it for the personalities and the people, and NASCAR has continued to prove that.

SULLIVAN: Final question.

Q: Yeah, for Helio, I noticed when you first came in you made a beeline for that Pace Car and were kind of checking out Emmo's name on there. Do you have any comment on that?

CASTRONEVES: Yeah, one, it's free. (Laughter)

And second, you know, I mean a Pace Car is a Pace Car is great. And I was doing a piece the other day on the TV, and it's a trophy. It's definitely a trophy you can take home and people look at it as a car, but I see that as a special trophy that I will hopefully carry for my entire life. And looking at those incredible machines and I aspire, I actually want to kind of look, kind of touch the car, you know. That's what I did my first time, so it works. I don't want to change.

BRISCOE: I better head over there, then. (Laughter)

CASTRONEVES: You can go that way on the old one. (Laughter)

Again, to see obviously Emerson's name, he was the first Brazilian to win the Indy 500, I remember still watching in Brazil when I was still racing go-karts. So it is definitely special and definitely going to look very good in my home in Miami. So now I need to work for it.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for stopping by, guys.

CINDRIC: Thank you.(Applause

-credit: ims

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske