IRL: Indy 500: Team Penske press conference, Part III

Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Marlboro Team Penske May 10, 2002 Moderator: Pat Sullivan Guests: Roger Penske Tim Cindric Rick Mears Helio Castroneves Gil De Ferran Q: Gil, you were a test drive for four or five years and you have a ...

Indianapolis 500 Press Conference
Marlboro Team Penske
May 10, 2002

Moderator: Pat Sullivan

Roger Penske
Tim Cindric
Rick Mears
Helio Castroneves
Gil De Ferran

Q: Gil, you were a test drive for four or five years and you have a reputation for (inaudible). Any comments from you on (inaudible)?

de Ferran: I'm looking forward to working with the manufacturer again. Certainly one of the highlights of my career as I look back was my relationship with Honda. I enjoyed that work tremendously, and I made a lot of friends, not only among the management but amongst the engineers. That's a relationship that I treasure very much. You know, certainly this year we're racing Chevrolet and next year again with Toyota in a slightly different program. I'm looking forward to getting close with those guys. From what Roger and Tim has related to me, they are very committed people. Certainly there's a strong relationship there between Penske and Toyota. I'm really looking forward to getting right in the middle of it and try to see whatever I can do to contribute. Because that's really the kind of work that I very much enjoy.

Q: Roger, you mentioned earlier about still having a desire to kind of see things come back together a little bit. Can you talk about now that you're racing IRL, do you see more common ground, less common ground? And then, also, can you talk a little bit about how much of it coming back together may be product versus people or people versus product?

Penske: Well, I would say from our vantage point I see the IRL as a well-organized series. It's competitive. There's a good entry-level opportunity for people to come in because the cars have stayed the same for the last three years. So we can take a last year's car and sell it. The engine programs are certainly a lot less expensive than what we were involved in in the past. So those are two metrics I think that you need to look at from the IRL perspective. There's less races, so there's less cost. The international situation of running different parts of the world obviously, typically those costs are associated with the individual promoter, so they don't really offer any more cost to the teams. But the number of races and certainly the logistics. On the CART side, I think that, you know, Pook is a terrific guy and, quite honestly, I had hoped that he would have been in that slot earlier. But, you know, timing is everything. He had commitments. They've got a good series. I think the real issue they're dealing with is that they really have two organizations, they have two constituencies. They have the public ownership, the people in the marketplace that own the stock and then they have racers. Racers are drivers, car owners and sponsors. They have a much different interest than the person that buys five shares of stock because, you know, you put your money into the team, put your money into the drivers and into the engines, and that to me is somewhat of a crossroads, and I'm not sure how you deal with that. Quite honestly, I've thought about it myself, what would I do? I really don't know. So I think that's one of the things that makes it very difficult to see the organizations come together today because you've got capital that has been invested by the public in one series and you have another series where we have team owners who have invested and those team owners can get together, they can change rules, they can do things in conjunction with the sanctioning bodies. So I think there's more flexibility. So those are the two different positions that the series are in. I think that's going to make it much tougher to get together. What's going to happen over time, I think you're going to have people really matriculate over from one series to the other. Obviously, if there's less costs -- we've read about Formula One today where people are complaining about the tremendous high cost, and there's not the competition that they have. I think in our series, at least in the IRL, there's a lot of competition, and people can join the series. I think that's one of the things, Tony's vision. I have to take my hat off to him, he's stayed on course with that. You can come here and get a car, probably last year's car, and make the race. That's important. People can do that, and then they can generate a team and generate sponsorship. I think the public entity makes it very tough to see a merger. I don't think you're going to see a merger. I think you're going to see people deciding over the next maybe 12 to 18 months, they'll have to make a choice. The product side of it that you mentioned, there's no question with the engine changing next year and with another manufacturer coming in, we have Infiniti, we have Chevrolet, we have Toyota now, this is going to bring a lot of interest. The good news is these engine manufacturers have dealers, they have customers, they have a lot of things technically that they can bring to the party. They buy TV ads, and that's important, and that's going to be a plus for the IRL next year.

Q: Roger, there seems to be general agreement in all of American racing that the cars are too fast no matter what series you talk about, but there's no agreement on how to make them slower. I wonder if Penske Racing has an idea on the Indy car, would it be aero, would it be narrower tires, less horsepower, flat bottom, that would wouldn't compromise the interest in the racing?

Penske: We've been trying to slow them down, Chris, since we went 180 here back in '71, 30 years ago -- maybe 180 it was, an exact 50 seconds. About the time you get the tire manufacturer to make a harder tire, someone figures out more downforce, and we get more power. Everything, just look at your own car today, there's so many things technically we know today that we didn't have before. And I almost think that when you look at cars running together, 30 of them side by side like it's a pace lap and something happens, you have a horrific accident. I think we have to have cars that are faster so they can pass. The problem is people make mistakes. When they make mistakes, there's an accident. So one of the things that I see that's important is we used to do, people had to race in other series before they could come here. I think this year as you come in, most of the drivers have had oval racing, which is important. From a speed perspective, you know, putting engines that you -- you have high-tech engines putting restrictors in the carburetor let's call it, I think is foolish. Like putting a plate down in NASCAR, it wastes it. To me we're going to have to monitor the speeds by drag. I think we can put more drag on the cars, but then you get them all running together. So I don't have an answer. If I did, I certainly would have -- you know me well enough, I would have put it on the table. I think it's going to be evolutionary. We're doing to make a step forward to slow them down, and six months later we're going to be right back to where we are. Here we're running almost 230 miles an hour. Remember when that was one of the things, well, we'll run 215 or 216? Well, people forgot that now. And the race is just as good probably at 215 or '16. I think you'll see this race, though, down in the low 220s following the big speeds because you just can't run with that many cars and run those speeds. Those speeds you're seeing in the last couple of days are just optimized, and I think we've really got to think speeds are in the low 220s right now.

Q: If the drivers could comment. Although you've come from different backgrounds in racing, road and street course racing, the fact you've extended your contract and you're going to be in the IRL for a few more seasons, if you could both comment on your contract extension.

de Ferran: I think from my standpoint, I was actually asked that question in the past regarding Formula One, you know, would you go Formula One racing, that sort of question. The way I always saw it, to me the biggest priority when deciding what to do was the team because the team is what you spend the most time with. The team is the way in which you're going to be successful, you know, by choosing the right association there. So for me the answer was simple. I feel very much at home at Penske Racing. It's the team that probably brought me the most success throughout my career. I was happy that Roger and Tim offered me an extension.

Castroneves: Well, as a race car driver, everybody knows to be, you do have to have a good team, otherwise - you're might yourself get a good run one or two race but not consistently. And I'm very - I consider I'm a blessed person today to be here with Marlboro Team Penske. Again, it's a good team, I feel comfortable and since I came to the team, I told Roger that always I want to try one day Formula One, and my opportunity might happen, and we want to see. You know, everything depends on the opportunity, but right now I'm very happy where I'm at.

Q: Roger, if you could tell me what kind of enthusiasm Helio has brought to the shop, and have you had to kind of curb it, maybe have him try decaff or something like that?

Penske: This morning he came in with his lanyard on, had a paper that said, "It's my birthday today." (Laughter) So that says it all. He has been a great spark plug. And I would say this, that these two guys as we deal with our sponsors and other people, they work well together. Helio, I think, has been good for the sport. We got in trouble in CART when we climbed the fence, but we don't get in trouble now. Now they've got to do it in NASCAR, so once they do it down there, I guess it's all right.

Q: If any of the five of you have a comment. Throughout its long history, this place has been renowned for technology and innovation, and you've spoken yourself in the past and said you'd like to see a little bit more technology in the cars. We know we have the complex, the constraints of speed we've just talked about and economics. But do you have any thoughts on any way that there could be introduced some way that would open it up a little bit that would create some room for technology?

Penske: Well, I think that what's happened. The person in the stand comes here to see a driver, to see a red car, a white car, a blue car. Quite honestly, we have all this technology under the hood, and I don't think the person in the stand - there might be a few, that really appreciate that. We need to keep the cost down in the racing. It's escalated, and to me to have a lot of gadgets under the hood that really don't - it might be great for the engineering community as you're testing, but once the racing comes, we need to keep it pretty simple. I like seeing more pit stops, I like to be able to see people pass. Those are things we should be worrying about. Technology is going to drive cost. I don't want to come out here with a two-by-four obviously, and we're not, but at the end of the day, you know, we have a specification. I think one of the good things that's happened, the specs stayed the same. So the cars hold value and that keeps the cost down. There's going to always be a balance between technology -- look, we have tire sensors, we have data on fuel, those types of things make the strategy a lot better. Let's have technology to give us information so we can be smarter, understanding what we need to do, and I think those things are very important from a safety perspective and also from an ingenuity standpoint once you're in the race. So I see that, if we could do more of that. I think the pit stops, the more pit stops then better. It shows the crew off, and it's exciting, and maybe we've got to take 10 more gallons of fuel out of the cars, you follow me? And we have to make more stops. It's like the shot clock in basketball, those are the things we have to keep thinking about.

Mears: Just real quick. Along with the technology, also the technology can take it out of the driver's hands, depending how far you go with the technology. You need to be careful with that besides cost, also leaving it up to the driver to try to help to get the job done.

Sullivan: Tim, I understand we have perhaps a little special presentation.

Cindric: You don't need your sunglasses for this. We want to acknowledge your birthday here in front of everybody so everybody knows it's your birthday. We couldn't come up with anything better that you would want than another picture of yourself. (Laughter) Happy birthday, you and the other 500,000 fans.

Castroneves: Thank you. (Applause)

Sullivan: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it. Thank you. Again, if you want to set up a one-on-one, there's the two people to see.


Part I

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