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

87th Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole press conference May 11, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Roger Penske, Tim Cindric, Helio Castroneves Part 2 of 2. Moderator: Helio Castroneves has joined us. Congratulations. Helio Castroneves: Thank ...

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

Roger Penske, Tim Cindric, Helio Castroneves

Part 2 of 2.

Moderator: Helio Castroneves has joined us. Congratulations.

Helio Castroneves: Thank you.

Moderator: A quick note, of course, we've been talking about the No. 3 throughout the month with you. A couple of notes for you. The last time the 3 car won the pole for the "500" was when Rick Mears won the pole in '91. He went on to win the race. Prior to that the last time the No. 3 was on the pole was '81, Bobby Unser. Unser went on to win the race.

Castroneves: OK.

Moderator: This would be the third time in a row the 3 wins the pole and wins the race. Once again, you have that working there for you. You were very emotional when you got out of the car to the point almost of not being able to speak.

Castroneves: Yes. Again, I have to thank Roger and Tim Cindric for giving me an opportunity again to be in this phenomenal team. When we came over here to Indianapolis, bringing two cars, they probably already said that, you know, it's a tremendous effort for everyone in the Marlboro Team Penske. As soon as I finish a lap, obviously I knew I could do the speed, but I didn't know I could do it that time. All of a sudden the conditions were so brutal. Everything was so tough out there. We just didn't know. I mean, when we did the practice this morning, the car was very difficult. My first lap was around 140. I couldn't keep going. I was like, "Gosh." It was always like that. Always starting the day and something not right. We were able to discuss; we were able to stop. We decided to abort on the beginning and basically see those times. Basically came in handy, obviously. But the weather, and after Scott and somebody else was like spinning, crashing, and we were like, "Oh, my God, the track instead of getting better was getting worst." But we not thinking about that. We decide to test. All of a sudden, the car start getting very comfortable, very nice. We start putting everything we did whole week, we put it back again, retry again, and things started getting be very nice. Last car on the track, seems like the car was getting much more balance. In fact, we did a run, was 231 and 230 and 227. I was like: "Wow. Now is the time. We can't hold it now. Let's go." I didn't get out of the car. It's like just another outing, you know. When we went out, the car all of a sudden was super-fast. I don't know, was just everything coming very, very nice. Again, when it's unexpected, those times that you do, that's why I'm very emotional. I'm like, "I can't believe it, it happen again." So this place is magic, you know. I guess when you believe it, for sure make it come true.

Q: Helio, it was about an hour and 45 minutes between Tony's time and your time. How difficult was it to wait and to see Sharp's crash, not know if you were going to get out on the practice?

Castroneves: Gil and I were in watching those guys. I said, "Gil, stop, let's not watch those things. Stop it. Stop it. No, the track might not be good. Let's watch cartoons here, you know." All of a sudden we go back and have an attempt to practice. Obviously, when we start practicing, I at least was feeling the car much more comfortable. Again, we're calm. We're looking for four laps, running by ourselves, putting new tires. Basically the way it was supposed to be, simulating a qualifying. I guess all of a sudden it clicks, the car just went in a good setup. I start actually practicing myself inside the car to set up the car, doing the run. Wow, that's what happened. All of a sudden we came up with the 232.

Q: There was a lot of mention about the No. 3. I want to be the one to throw out you could be three-peating, of course. It seemed like you might have caught a bit of the break on the wind when you went out to do your qualifying. I was wondering if the fact that Tony was the guy who held the pole at that time and put the cake in your face the night before had any impact on terms of your competitive nature?

Castroneves: Maybe, yeah (laughter). Don't get me angry. Maybe get even the next day. No, just kidding. Again, I don't know if the wind came down or not, but for sure was very tough out there. It's like old days, we used to be teammates, Tasman. All of a sudden we're battling for pole position like old days. But this place here, it's incredible. You never can predict what's going to happen. How many winners, experience guys, all of a sudden didn't have a chance, and all of a sudden something bad happens? Again, I'm always learning. I remember my first year. We just want to put this baby in the grid. Next following year we were able to try to attempt for the pole, we didn't get it. This year we're just trying to work patiently ourselves to get in a good speed, and all of a sudden we end up on the pole. It's just this place is just come ... I don't know. All the time seems to be good for me.

Q: You had this incredible string of success now with two straight victories and now the pole in just 24 months. Your thoughts on the ability to accomplish that and what's gone into it so quickly?

Castroneves: Well, I guess obviously the success was not only mine, for sure. It's the entire team. You know, that include my teammate Gil. Because we, both of us, working together. I mean, we try as best as we can. When you're out there, I know Roger won't (inaudible) me. But, again, when we inside the garage, we try to discuss, we try to make the team progress, the team develop in a good speed, you know. With all the situation, everybody's working together, I mean, obviously I win, Gil win, I feel that everybody in our team is getting a part of it, which is true. Again, I'm so happy to be part of the team, this Marlboro Team Penske, because they been successful before I was born probably. Is that right (laughter)? Anyway, but obviously the organization, Roger has been great successful businessman. Tim Cindric, it's been phenomenal when he start joining the team, as well. Again, we just not focused on what the history or what we have to do. We know that we have to work hard because at the same time we're winning or having good results, the same time next week we need to work hard to keep the same result.

Q: Helio, Tim, to try to get straight how the car or conditions came to you. Tim, I believe you said just before you went on that last run you took some of the drag out of the car. Helio, had the wind died down so you could take some of the downforce? Did you have so much downforce that the wind didn't affect you?

Castroneves: I tell you, man, we trying whole week long to try take the wing out of the car to make sure we could go faster. Again, with the conditions that we had today, we got in a point that we so low in drag, my lap time this morning was about 140, I couldn't just stay on the track. The car was so loose. The wind was so strong. Even straightaway, the rear seems to go around me, you know. Was a combination of everything. I was getting comfortable. Exactly what we took off, we put back again, then we started patiently back off again. Basically seems funny, but we just back and forth on the same setup whole day long, you know. If the wind dies down or not, what a lucky man, you know. But for sure, didn't feel like it. The car was moving the same as this morning. We just were able to happen. Obviously, fantastic effort for Toyota, as well, to give us a great engine.

Q: The pole-winning run felt as hairy to you as the one this morning?

Cindric: You know what he said right before he got in the car to go out? He pointed up to the top of the Pagoda. There's an Indianapolis Motor Speedway flag there, white flag on top. Through the day, it continued to tear itself. He looked at that thing. I thought to myself, "I'll give him that for his birthday if he puts this thing on the pole." We have to figure out how to go on top of the Pagoda and get that thing (laughter).

Q: The fact that you were able to get your fastest lap of the month in these kind of conditions, I mean, how much did you have to dig down for that?

Castroneves: I'm telling you, enough to not even need to come through. I'm sorry to say that. It was tough. Take a lot. Took a lot. But again, was in a condition to be comfortable. We don't want to put this thing in the wall. We want to make sure we're safe but same time fast. We're very low in downforce, I believe probably the lowest downforce out there. But Grant and I and Tim Cindric, everyone in my group basically crack our head to make sure that we could be able to make it happen. Things happen on the right way.

Q: All month long people have asked about winning three in a row. Now sitting on the pole, obviously it's realistic you can do it again. What's it going to take for you to win your third consecutive race here?

Castroneves: Now I'm going to enjoy this moment because so far it's fantastic, you know, for whole team. I guess I'm going to use the same strategy that I used the years before. You know. Actually, I have to think about. Now I'm starting outside top 10 (laughter). You know, I'm going to talk to Rick Mears and then I tell you what I'm going to do.

Q: You said more than once that you don't race for money, you race for trophies. Where is this one going to go? You're going to have to build your own Indy 500 trophy case.

Castroneves: Hey, if you have to do that, I have no problem do that. But, again, it's just special. I'm very happy for everything that's happening this month so far.

Q: What kind of conversation do you think you'll have with Tony (Kanaan) regarding the start of the race?

Castroneves: Oh, he said yesterday, it's X-Man versus Spiderman. We need to figure out which super hero is going to come out first (laughter). But I'm sure he's not going to be happy what happened because I'm sure he would like to be sitting down here. But Tony and I, we're friend from long time, since racing go?karts, what, 12, 13 years. That's what happen when you have a good drivers, competitive teams racing against each other. You know, you have competition, high-level competition. But I'm sure we're going to still have a lot of fun racing against each other.

Q: Roger, I know this year's race hasn't taken place yet, but can you talk about what Helio has been able to do here with this track his first three years? Does it amaze you?

Penske: I think, you know, to come in as a rookie in 2001 and run as strong as he did from the beginning, in fact, both he and Gil, I think it was a credit to our ability to set the cars up. As he talked about this morning when the car didn't feel right, then be able to step back, then come back down and take the downforce back out, I think that's one of the credits we have to give to the team and the engineers. And certainly, you know, his ability to adapt. But Helio had run fast on the ovals before, you know. In CART, I watched him when he was driving for Carl Hogan in St. Louis. I watched him sit on the pole at Milwaukee. He's always been fast on ovals. I think when he got here, he was right at home. He ran wheel to wheel at Michigan and California. I think both drivers came over here, having not run here, probably surprised them at how narrow the track was. But then last year, the discipline that he showed in knowing that he probably didn't have the fastest car in the race, but he was going to have to save fuel and track position were going to be critical, and he made that decision with Tim, that certainly worked out. I think today just authenticates how good he really is because when it was time to go, I saw some great times there, 230, 230 and a half, and knowing that he probably didn't show it all until it's time, both these guys are the same. When it was time to go, he put his foot down, the car was free, had four great laps. I think the results speak for themselves.

Moderator: Roger, Helio, Tim, congratulations. Looking forward to May 25th. Thank you all.


Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Rick Mears , Bobby Unser , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske