IRL: Indy 500: Pole Winning team press conference, part I

87th Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole press conference May 11, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Roger Penske, Tim Cindric, Helio Castroneves Part 1 of 2. Moderator: Tim, what finally convinced you that now was the right time to go out? Tim ...

87th Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole press conference May 11, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Roger Penske, Tim Cindric, Helio Castroneves

Part 1 of 2.

Moderator: Tim, what finally convinced you that now was the right time to go out?

Tim Cindric: I think the key what we did today is to have the team and the driver that are patient. It takes a lot of patience to sit there and watch the weather go by, watch these guys put their numbers on the board and wonder when it's going to be your turn. Really, that was the biggest thing for us, is just tweaking the car a little bit at a time, then deciding when it's the right time to go. You have to have a guy you have confidence in, especially on a day like today. The more you run, the more risk you take. To have the confidence that he'll keep the thing off the fence when you get ready for this, and know your team has the other car ready to go, really gives you the confidence to go hang it out there and see what happens.

Q: How much of a chance did you take?

Cindric: Well, there was a point at which we're sitting there thinking first two rows, then it became ... from the morning, if you go back to the morning, it was, "Let's get this thing in the show and go home." Then as the day progressed, we got him more and more confident in what was going on. Then it became, "Hey, first two rows. Looks like we can do a 29-something, maybe put it in the first two rows." Made a few changes to the car, did a 30-something. Then he got out, took the car back, changed gears. (Castroneves said) "What do you want to do? Do you want to go for it? Do we want to go just for the first two rows?" I said, "No, we're here. Let's go." At that point we took the drag out of it and really figured out how to utilize the tires on the run. Firestone came with a great, great set of tires. It was just a matter of getting the best out of them. Obviously, he did that.

Q: Nine years I believe since you've had a car on the pole. How pole hungry were you getting with this long layoff?

Roger Penske: Well, I guess as Rick Mears said many times, there's two races here, you know, the first race is for the pole, and the second one, you know, is the race itself. You know, we were not contenders for the pole the last couple of years. We knew that. But with Toyota motors and the opportunity to look at these two chassis, the fact that we picked different ones was interesting. I guess we'll see when the race comes which was the right decision. You know, we wanted the pole. We knew that if we waited, we'd have a better chance than just going when our number was drawn. That's the facts of life here. We took that chance. You know, obviously we were able to get Helio confident. Gil was never as confident with his car, never got as free as Helio did. At the end of the day, Helio had run almost 31 there before he went out. Just a matter of getting it out on those four laps, which obviously he was able to do.

Q: Andretti Green admitted they were sharing setup information. The fact you're running two different chassis, does that eliminate that and create a different challenge?

Cindric: In some ways, you could say that, and in other ways, you could say maybe you might lose your focus. There was no worrying about the other side or looking over your shoulder. And that may have paid off for us today, I'm not sure.

Q: I'm not really sure which of you two I want to direct this to. The boys from Brazil the last couple of years have absolutely dominated at this track. I was wondering if either of you have any particular feelings about whether there's something in their aptitude or discipline or their aggressiveness that accounts for it?

Penske: Well, you've seen some greats with Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Tony Kanaan, Giaffone, Helio, all these guys, I guess. Their families seem to start them in go-karts and start them in racing early. You saw a young Andretti, Michael, the same way with his dad. The Unsers. So I think it comes up to the way your family sets you up. Some people like to go ice skating, other people are hockey players. These guys are racers, there's no question about it. To see Helio get the pole and, you know, the confidence that he had, you can see he's just an outgoing guy. He's made a great, great difference to our team and a great contribution, he and Gil. So, you know, nothing wrong with a Brazilian.

Q: Your comments, Tim?

Cindric: I think it really goes down to the work ethics. You know, I don't compare to anybody else. I just know the two guys that we have, both of those guys are completely dedicated to what they do. They don't hang out at night and figure out how to have a lot of fun until it's time to have fun. You know, you can have fun with the rest of them, with the best of them. But, no, I think it really comes down to their dedication and their work ethic. You know, they know when to say go. You know, with Helio, Gil, both of them, they work on the car for a while, and when it's time to put a number on the board, they give it what they have.

Q: Roger, how big a day is this for Toyota?

Penske: Well, obviously, you know, there was a lot of competition out there. When you looked at the numbers, probably midway through the day, and you saw the strength of Michael, the Andretti Green team, I'm sure the Toyota people are wondering: Was there an opportunity here? I felt Dixon this morning ran very, very strong, yet he wasn't probably as strong as he had been because of the wind. And for us, you know, we're representing Toyota here. Great run. Obviously I'm sure for them it really paid off. Now what we got to do is win that race. To me, you know, we have a business relationship with them, and you really feel good when you can deliver.

Q: Roger, going back to 1999, you had to make some very big decisions in personnel and equipment changes. What factors into choosing one chassis, one engine over the others? You've changed in this series, changed in stock cars. What led you to make these changes?

Penske: I think sometimes change is good. I mean, you can get in the same kind of groove. You don't get further ahead. There was no question as we looked at our performance over a couple years, it wasn't where we wanted to be. Obviously, the opportunity to hire Tim to come on the team, he's been a great, great resource for us. The people respect him. He's come up from the bottom. He understands what the cars are about, the engines are about, and he's a great people guy. And he's not afraid to make a decision, as he did today. So I think, you know, we do that every day in business, and we're trying to carry on the same aspects of our racing. To me, you know, coming to Indianapolis is a great challenge. You know, everything is there to look at it. If you make a mistake, people talk about it. When you win, you get the benefit of that. I think that's what we try to do every day at home and certainly in the business. You know, for me making the changes, you know, was not difficult.

Q: You mentioned your working relationship with Toyota. This is their first year here. Obviously, they're having tremendous success. You get a pole your first year. How do you feel about that relationship?

Penske: We'll sell probably 75,000 vehicles this year for them in our dealership. All those people that represent Toyota dealerships, I'm sure are standing on the tables today. That can't hurt it.

Q: Are you going to attempt to enter a third car next weekend?

Penske: Well, we come to Indianapolis with a number of cars we're going to run, and I think that, you know, based on our sponsorship situation, the position we're in today, we do not have any plans at this point to run a third car.

Q: Because you have so many different makes of cars, both Dallara and G Force, would you possibly be interested in maybe selling one to a team that might be struggling to put team together for next week?

Penske: I think Tim will make that decision. Obviously, if it's in the best interest of the Speedway and the sport, you know, if we could supply a car to someone, we obviously would take a look at that for sure.

Cindric: No one's come (laughter).

Q: What's the opening bid?

Cindric: Maybe the hundred bucks you're going to make.

Q: Tim, the clouds started gathering out west about 4:30 this afternoon. Did that have any effect when you put the cars on the track?

Cindric: No. Obviously, there was a bit of a sprinkle there while he was sitting in line. We're usually pretty informed with how the weather is, what's going on. You know, our pilots and Joe, the guys that work with Roger and his fleet, they take care of us. We make sure we have our bases covered. But you never know, no matter what any weatherman says or whatever. We just stayed according to plan throughout the day and hoped it would work out.

Q: Roger, given the amount of success you've had at this track, is the thrill ever gone? Is the hunt always the same for you?

Penske: Well, I think, you know, it gets tougher and tougher obviously because, you know, we've set standards here in the race, you know, in qualifying and certainly on the poles. But to me it gets my juices running. You know, if I can't be competitive, I won't come here. I just feel I can't feel any better than I did today with Helio bringing the team to the pole position.


Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Rick Mears , Ayrton Senna , Roger Penske