IRL: Indy 500: winning team press conference, part I

Team Penkse winning team press conference Participants: Helio Castroneves Roger Penske Tim Cindric Part 1 of 2: The race, the win. Helio Castroneves: I'm speechless. To be honest, first of all, I have to thank my team, Roger, Tim Cindric,...

Team Penkse winning team press conference

Helio Castroneves
Roger Penske
Tim Cindric

Part 1 of 2: The race, the win.

Helio Castroneves: I'm speechless. To be honest, first of all, I have to thank my team, Roger, Tim Cindric, the whole crew, to give me a car to finish, because to win, first you have to finish. I didn't have the best car there and I was just trying to keep going, just trying to keep out of trouble, try to not crash, try to keep in the lead lap. Because I knew that one point, if you have to take a chance, that it would come. And on Lap 160, 162, I don't remember, Cindric and I decided to stay out. And I couldn't believe it, everybody was coming in, and I said this is the chance that I want because I knew I have 20 gallons in the car, and it was like 22 laps to go, and normally it's a gallon per lap, and I was just trying to keep in good shape, lifting off. In fact, I lapped, I think it was Kenny ... first of all, I could not see on the mirrors because one guy blew an engine right in front of me, and I believe that's why the leader crashed, and I could not see. My mirrors were completely oiled and I was trying to clean and just making it worse. I was just with the radio. When Cindric said that there were three cars a lap down behind me, I decided to let them go and try to draft them and keep saving fuel. It was working really good, but it still was very close and still praying for the yellow. At one point, one of the Green guys, I believe it was Dario, started passing and lifting off, passing and listing off; I didn't know who it was. Cindric said, "Now it's Tracy," and I could not see who was it. Basically, I was just lifting off, and the dash ... I was turning in Turn 3, the dash, there is a system in the IRL that the yellow light comes on. And I was so tense when the yellow came on, I thought because we also have a light for the fuel, I thought I was running out of fuel. And guys on the radio, "yellow", "yellow," "yellow," and I was so shocked. And then Tracy passed me very fast, and I was screaming: "He passed on the yellow, he passed on the yellow." Because I was just waiting for ... when I saw the light, and that's where you can just stay against ... with your spotter, because sometimes they don't throw the yellow. I think this system has worked really well, and I didn't know if it was going to finish or not, the way it's going to happen.

Moderator: Al Unser Sr. was the last to win back-to-back in 1970-1971, and I would also remind you that Mauri Rose won in '47 and '48. Wilbur Shaw nearly won three in a row, 1939-1940. Tim or Roger, did Nazareth ever come into your mind? For those who don't know, they ran out of fuel while leading in the last lap with Gil.

Roger Penske: I think that really what happened with 40 to go, there was two decisions to make, one car to go for it. We had been running competitively with Gil, decided to make a stop. As you know we had a bad stop and lost a wheel, and Tim made the absolute right call to stay out. Because when you look at the number of yellow laps, we were running ... one thing I think not many people noted, we were running anywhere from two to three to four laps more in every stint if you looked at under green, and I think that gave us a real advantage. I think that that played into the opportunity; worked hard on the fuel pickup in the car. We ran a lot of lean laps. That's one of the reasons we were able to run as far as we did at Nazareth. Tim made a great call, and I think Helio being able to run the car, and we had the meter on the dashboard that shows what kind of mileage you need. So he was making over 2.35 miles per gallon, and under the yellows, you make five or six, so you almost use just less than a half-gallon per lap. So it really fell into our laps. But Helio did a super job.

Tim Cindric: Today, without a doubt, we didn't have the fastest car out there, no doubt about it. And at the point in time when the decision was made, it looked like Gil was in good position to win this race, as well. From our standpoint, Helio and I agreed that we didn't have the car to go past these guys to win. So we decided let's see what happens. Some days it's your day here, and some days it's not. I was telling Roger, I think it was back in the '97 Rio race in CART when Rahal was leading, and I was calling his race, and he had Tracy behind me there. Rahal ran out of fuel on the last lap, and that was my gain that day. He beat me that day doing that, and some days it's your day, and some days it's not. It all comes around. It just happened to come around right today. Thank God, I was watching the TV, as well, when it went yellow and saw. There was no doubt in my mind who was ahead.

Q It seemed like you were so relaxed all month, you were out there having fun with the Alley Cats every day, giving beer and everything. It was almost like you kind of came here relishing every moment of being the defending winner.

Helio Castroneves: Well, let me say one thing. Here, all of the sudden, racing it's very stressful, and you have a lot of down time, some very frustrating times. And a month in Indianapolis, it's very easy for you, to start like two days great and just bring yourself down. So what I try to do, not only with my guys inside the team, but with everyone, is enjoy the moment because I never know what's going to happen. Well, I'm a lucky man. Today it happened again. So I'm going to start enjoying every second for the second victory in Indianapolis. But in any particular situation, you just have to try to see the brightest side, and again, we were very fast the whole week, the whole month, and just all of a sudden, things start coming not the way we like it. But I didn't lose, I didn't feel that I couldn't do it. Otherwise, I would not be in the car, and again, like Rick Mears always said, "This place all of a sudden happens. The race comes to you." I was just trying to keep in the top 10 in the whole race, and Cindric ... in fact, we made a plan. Like, OK, if I cannot pass anyone, let's just pass on the pit stops. And I couldn't stop very well because my eye was so low that the engine was shutting off. So, every time I was going to the pits, I have to downshift first and the bumps started before I stop. So it was a very tricky thing. I was missing a little bit the marks because of that. And then, our pits stops, unfortunately, could not be like Thursday when we won the competition.

Cindric: We also had a couple of problems during the race on the green stops where we had 14-, 15-second stops. Unfortunately, when the car would drop, what we call the red-headed fueling valve would re-cock itself, and it would take a couple of seconds to understand really what was going on, and you would have to reset the fuel meter, the fuel probe, as well. We put him back in a few spots in which I think we were six seconds ahead of the leader at one point in time, just trying to stay on the lead lap. We definitely kept ourselves in a position to win. But one thing I would like to say is there's a guy on our team for many years, Gary Buckner, that's not here with us today, and it's very important that we remember what he brought to this team and the spirit that he brought.

Q Helio, Roger is there any doubt in your minds that you've won? If not, why not? How can you be so sure?

Penske: I think that the officials viewed the tapes after and said that Helio was the winner. Fred Nation was here and said that that was the case. Obviously, from my perspective, Helio drove the car. The circumstances that took place today, like any other race, and for me to say, how do I know, the only way that I know is it was the chief steward, the head of the race made the call, and he has all of that data in front of him to make that call. I don't think you can or I can make it sitting here. As we sit here today, we are going along with the chief steward of the race.

Q Do you know exactly how much gas was left and could you put into words, your emotions, and just what it means?

CASTRONEVES: One thing I know: It was enough to finish. Definitely was enough to finish and compete the last lap. Emotions, you guys saw, I was so happy. Again I keep saying about that, to win is even better. Like I said, we came here, no doubt about that; we could do it. But during the race, you have to keep the faith, and that's the only thing that I was keeping the faith and to just give me a chance. All of a sudden, that's what happened on the yellow, and then the gamble of the fuel. The rest, I said, listen, I have the chants now, I have to make it happen. I was saving fuel as much as I can. And no doubt about it, without the yellow, we might not have finished. So emotional, I think you saw how happy I was climbing the fence, how emotional I was, crying like a baby, but it's just another dream come true.

Q (Inaudible)?

Penske: I think Paul (Tracy) and Barry Green should talk to the chief steward and let the chief steward make that call. If Brian Barnhart said that Paul won the race, he won the race, we are not going to protest it. This is not the first race that a yellow has gone on in big races, and the finish was determined by the last laps under yellow.

Q Did you know what was going on with Gil's pit stop and losing the tire, and did you think about that at all when you're dealing with your own issues?

Castroneves: I wasn't sure if it was Gil. I think one of the yellow I saw on the screen, a car, but from the back, I thought it was like one of Mo Nunn's cars, so I didn't know if it was Giaffone or Gil. So at that time Cindric and I were deciding to go for a strategy, and so we're not even trying to ask. For something like that, I'm just trying to focus on my job and try to finish the race.

Q When Al and Parnelli won here, you had not yet won your first. Can you reflect on how long a period of time it was before there was a repeat winner and now the fact that it's your guy?

Penske: Well, for us, this is unbelievable to see what Helio has been able to do. As I said before today, each one of our wins, the credit is due to the hundreds of people that have worked on this race team, and the reliability, the engine builders, putting our cars together, I think that's been a trademark of our team. If you go back and look at the reliability of how many times we have been able to finish, and that to me is critical. Driving so you don't have an accident. You see today we made a mistake in the pits and cost Gil a very good finish. But I think the reliability has made the difference. To go back, '70, '71 is 30 years plus, a long time ago. So obviously he was a special guy. That win, I'll never forget.


Team Penske, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Barry Green , Roger Penske , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske