IRL: Phoenix: Helio Castroneves, Tim Cindric press conference transcript

MODERATOR: Well, congratulations. Obviously, you were here last year, won Indianapolis 500. Batting pretty good right now. Very interesting race. Helio Castroneves: I tell you, that was my teammate, you see that? Imagine if he wasn't my teammate...

MODERATOR: Well, congratulations. Obviously, you were here last year, won Indianapolis 500. Batting pretty good right now. Very interesting race.

Helio Castroneves: I tell you, that was my teammate, you see that? Imagine if he wasn't my teammate (laughter).

Q: (Inaudible)?

Helio Castroneves: No, no. That's not my style. I did have a very good car on the traffic, not very good as Sam and Gil was very strong, as well, especially in Turn 3 and 4 outside. I was just trying to be patient. I knew it would be like back and forth. As long as it was with the top five, would be a good position. The first pit stop, I tried to go around one car. He didn't know where to go. He really was slowing down. I tried to get a little space. I went too close to the wall. Dust really got in my tires. When I brake, I slide really bad. Well, unfortunately cost some positions. And right at that moment, my car all of a sudden tends to be really bad. I start to Turn 1, and (turns) 3 and 4, a lot of understeer. That really cost me positions, in fact. But as soon as the second pit stop, we did some adjustment, and the car was back to the track again, back on the rails. And that was very good. I tell you, I was having a lot of fun. I was, like, in fifth gear most of the race, and all of a sudden I switched to sixth, then I realized that was much better. I was like, you know what, I should discovered this way before (laughter). I discovered in time, you know, to finish well and finish first, so I'm very happy, especially for Marlboro Team Penske.

Q: Your teammate, does it give you more confidence when you make a move like that?

Helio Castroneves: Well, yes, because we know each other very well. We respect each other inside the track and outside the track. I was impressed, to be honest with you. Normally, he's not like that. He waits a little for the opportunity, and all of a sudden when I saw he is like outside, I was like, 'Hey, normally I'm on the outside.' But he was very under control, and I like that because I left him room, and he didn't just try to throw the car, which happens a lot, not the fast cars, but the backmarkers. A lot of guys were unfortunately slow and sometimes didn't know where to go. But I guess the race conditions I knew would be like that, the traffic, and I was just worried about the last few laps because I was leading and I knew if I got the traffic, would happen the same thing happen to me before like 30 laps ago. But I planned very well, and I think it work well.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Helio Castroneves: No doubt about they're doing a good job. Like I said, I was just trying to make sure my eyes keep in front. Hey, it's our second race here in the series. We have to remember it's not because we're experienced and we are great team that we going to keep winning like every race. No, we finish strong second and third, again today first and second. It's tough. It's tough. It's a different kind of race, as everybody saw, a lot of passing, a lot of momentum. And I was learning. Every time I was out there, I was learning. I guess the first race was a very good learning curve, and help us today.

Q: Getting used to racing with Sam?

Helio Castroneves: Well, we don't watch only one driver, we watch the fastest driver, and in this case obviously it's him. We just saw Homestead, he was lapping down the field, you know. And we just said, 'Guys, let's work.' And that's what we did. We came back here, we -- I was testing Friday only the lap times. I was way back there. Why? I was just practicing race. I wasn't trying to go fast. And pays off. Honestly, pays off, because that's where we trying to figure out the good setup on the traffic. And here we go, so we did a good job. Again, pit stop was crucial again. The team is just fantastic, you know. It's going to have more race, different guys going to come up, as well. This is only second race in the championship.

Q: Let's bring some management into the conversation here. From the fan's perspective, when the red-and-white cars were side by side, that was pretty thrilling. I would imagine that was a Pepto-Bismol moment for somebody in the pit area.

Tim Cindric: First of all, I want to make sure he told you how great he is. Has he finished telling you that (laughter)? We call him Helio - I love myself - Castroneves. But he's the best. Just like at Indy last year, those guys went into Turn 1 together. Roger (Penske) and I looked at each other, didn't know what to say, think, whatever. The same thing happened here, only more than one here. I think we've got all the confidence in the world in those two guys, that they know how to race and they trust each other. They're great teammates. You know, from our perspective, yeah, that's all the more I could handle. Roger, as well. Like, show him this, show him that.

Q: Satisfaction of beating Sam on a flat track? He's so good on them.

Helio Castroneves: It's not a matter of only beating one guy but beating a lot of ones. Today we saw Robbie Buhl, and Al (Unser Jr.) and my teammates. Everyone was strong. To be honest, finishing this position, winning a race, it's very - satisfaction is great. It doesn't matter where, flat track, banking track, ovals. Remember, this is my only second victory in ovals. It's fantastic. It's just amazing, you know, how much effort everyone put in the cars and the team. I tell you, it's going to come next weekend, and we still have to keep working because is not over yet.

Tim Cindric: On that, I think today proved that you've got to have the whole package to win the race. It's not just the fastest car. We want to beat Sam when he doesn't have a problem. Today he obviously had a problem in the pits, got himself stuck back there. I don't know if he lost a gear or what happened there. He was struggling getting out. At the same time, our guys made it happen when it was necessary. The whole championship program is consistency. That's what we did in the championships we had in the past few years. That's what we're trying to build on now. For us, I'm sure Helio has talk about it a bit, this past week has been difficult with Gary (Buckner), his passing, and to come in here and stay focused and concentrate and have the pit stops we had today, I think it's a testament to the overall package. That's what we continue to stress and that's what Roger stresses throughout the team: Really, it takes everyone to win, not just a fast car. I think the rivalry is whoever is in first and who's second. It's not between Marlboro Team Penske and the Panther team. I grew up around a lot of those guys. I've known John (Barnes) since I was a kid. Obviously, they're the defending champions, and everybody wants to knock them off. No different than ourselves. We've had various successes. Everybody's trying to knock us off. I think the rivalry really is whoever is closest to you. It happens to be them. We're closest to them, however you want to look at it.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Tim Cindric: We're more focused, to be honest, on the team wins. Under the circumstances we've been under the last week or so, it's been very difficult. I can't stress enough how important it is for our guys to bond together like this and turn the page. You know, that's as important to us as anything out in the racing world.

Q: (Inaudible) fun to drive?

Helio Castroneves: When you do have a good car, it's fun to drive. When you don't have a good car, you better pack your stuff and see you, good-bye (laughter). Today was fun. Again, a lot of traffic and a lot of momentum: You need to pay attention. And it's difficult. (Turns) 3 and 4, for example, I was having a lot of hard time there because basically I couldn't go outside. My car was pushing quite crazy, especially behind people. Sometimes in Turn 1 and 2 was like flicking the rear. So that was good after some laps that I got used to. Was very fun to drive. Today, obviously finishing in this position, I couldn't ask for a better thing.

Q: Tim was brought in really bring this team back (inaudible). Your role in that, your feeling about a new chapter in Penske Racing?

Tim Cindric: One thing that Roger stresses all the time, it's not about one person. There were a lot of guys brought in at various points in time. Obviously, I'm the head of the brain pool, head of the program, whatever you want to call it. From my perspective, I knew that this challenge, although from the outside I know you guys think these guys are (inaudible). You know, I think what we've gone through in this transition and stayed focused on the racing part of it, I think my biggest role is to keep the guys going in the right direction with the race cars, the program, the testing, and try to keep these guys isolated from all of the politics that go on in the racing world, whether it's the drivers, team, whatever. Roger has given me that role in a lot of ways. I've just tried to keep him focused on racing. That's what they do best. That's what I love doing. But somebody's got to stand there and be the deflector shield for all the rest of us. This offseason for me personally was the most difficult I've ever gone through because you've got to reinstate a lot of the sponsorship programs, you have to answer a lot of questions. Obviously, you know, there's different things that you look at, you know, the positives, the negatives, what are you doing. The bottom line is, Roger and our team are trying to get where we think open-wheel racing needs to go. Obviously, we made the choice to be in the Indy Racing League. We're not going in this with a half-hearted effort. So just being there together, we're here with what we think is the best way we can be here, with the best guys behind the wheel, the best guys in the pit stops, that type of thing. We know we're a target. Why wouldn't you be? So you wouldn't want to be in any other position, if you ask me. I mean, you want to be the one that everybody wants to knock off, no different than Panther Racing wants to be the one that everybody wants to knock off. That frees interest from the outside. The thing that we're trying to stress as much as anything is let's talk about what's going on between these two guys and Hornish, the fact that he goes to the back, up to the front. That's what's going to build us and keep us where we need to go. I think Tony (George) has that vision, as well.

Q: Where do you think open-wheel racing ought to go?

Tim Cindric: It needs to go to one series. However that happens, whatever brand we put on it, that's the only way it's going to survive in this country. For us, obviously we need to look after our team and make sure that we're positioned the best to carry on for the long-term. But, you know, this series has kept a vision. I've said it before. There's going to be forks in the road, there's critics. 'The league was supposed to be this, the league was supposed to be that, now it's changed.' That's the way business goes. You start out with a business, change, you change it throughout the year to make sure your business continues. That's what this league has done. We think anything we can bring to it on a positive note is what we'll bring. You know, it's not necessarily the one with the most money, not the one with the most of anything, but you watch these all-star teams, I say it all the time, you watch any athletics, the all-stars don't necessarily beat the collegiates. Whether it's the hockey team in the Olympics or whatever it might be, you know, you always have to keep the egos out of the way. You're not No. 1 just because somebody tells you you are.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Tim Cindric: If you would have told us we were going to be second and third at Homestead the first race, we would have taken that and gone and tried to build on it, which is what we're doing before. We've said it before, we intended to come here and be competitive. The series and rules are such that you can start to put good money after bad if it's about money because there's only so much you can do with the regulations there are. I think that's what's going to make this competitive and continue to make it fun to watch. It's a good package. It's a good program. When we want to do more, we're positioned well to do that relative to our competitors. At the end of the day, we just want to go racing.

Q: At one point when Al Unser, Jr. was leading the race (inaudible) one-groove track?

Helio Castroneves: We're not finding much of the traffic at that time. The race pace honestly was very strong. We were like 21.4 (seconds), 21.3, 21.2. With that situation, it tends to be not so easy to make a move and pass. And I guess, obviously, when you start hitting really slow traffic, that's where you start making tough place and tough decision. If the track change, maybe change in the beginning, like I said, when I had a lot of understeer and oversteer in Turn 1 and 2. As soon as I made some adjustment in the car, for me didn't change any more. I was ready to go.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Helio Castroneves , Al Unser Sr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Team Penske