IRL: Team Penske Indy 500 Media Tour transcript, part 1

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Marlboro Team Penske: Helio Castroneves, Tim Cindric, Sam Hornish Jr. Part 1 of 3 MIKE KING: We'll get started with Marlboro Team Penske. Great to have Tim Cindric, the...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Marlboro Team Penske: Helio Castroneves, Tim Cindric, Sam Hornish Jr.

Part 1 of 3

MIKE KING: We'll get started with Marlboro Team Penske. Great to have Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Racing. Tim is actually on the pit box that he calls all of Helio's races. And of course Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves. Helio, two-time Indy 500 champion. Helio, we were talking the other day about your first three races here. You've done what no other driver has done, in three starts at Indianapolis, your average finish is 1.3. That's not bad. That's not bad. And Sam Hornish Jr., two-time IndyCar Series champion. The team opened at Homestead-Miami Speedway this year running one-two, a great duel between the teammates for the final 10 laps. Perhaps, in my opinion, in IndyCar Series history, it's the best opener we've ever seen and one of the best races start to finish that we've ever seen. A lot of conversation between Tim and Roger during the closing stages of that race. It was fun to hear the post-race press conference. This past weekend, not quite the same outcome. Helio battled, I think you went loose into your first turn, right?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: He's thinking. (Laughter)

KING: We had Kim Morris, our pit reporter, ask Tim why you had slowed up a little bit, and I think Tim said that you had gone a bit loose, but you were holding onto it.

CASTRONEVES: I tell you, every time I go into turn Turn 1 I was praying to not end up in the wall. But anyway, we were able to fix it up in the first pit stop. Unfortunately, we didn't have any yellow as we were expecting, but after we made the first stop, we were able to fix the car, get our lap back and finish sixth, which is good for the championship.

KING: Particularly given what you had to work with your first stint there. Sam uncharacteristically had a bit of a problem, rear got loose on him and brushed the wall. It's kind of funny after the race to talk to the safety team, and if any of you know Mike Yates, who is with the Delphi Safety Team, Mike is a real good guy, and I'm talking to him before the plane takes off and he said, "Sam yelled at me." I said, "What? " He said: "Yeah, he thought we could push start him out there. He didn't realize his wing was damaged, and he wanted us to push start him. And when I told him we had to tow him, he got upset, and he yelled at me." And he stopped for a second and he goes, "Sam's never yelled at me before."

SAM HORNISH JR.: The rear wing was already broke; they couldn't do any more to it.

KING: So you were, "Just push it." It's great to have you guys. Let's get to Tim's thoughts first. Tim, before you get to Indy, you've got to take your team 7,000 miles to Japan and then come back for the race there and then get set for this race. How difficult a task to do that while you're preparing for the 500?

TIM CINDRIC: After what we did in 2001, where we did both in the same month, it seems pretty easy. I think that we're certainly looking forward to going back to Japan and having a better result. That place hasn't been good to our organization; I think we had a couple second places and a couple should have, could have. We're looking forward to going there and at least getting us back on the right path for Indy. All things considered, relative to last year, at least we've got both guys sitting next to me after Phoenix, whereas last year we were scrambling to figure out how to get to Japan and figure out who was going to drive and what car we were going to use and that type of thing. Relative to Phoenix, I think we're sitting second and fourth in the championship still. Helio was right, I couldn't even watch him through (turns) 1 and 2 anymore, I quit watching him and started watching Sam. Sam was a lot more comforting to watch in the first part of the race than what Helio was. I said hello to you once in a while, but I couldn't watch anymore. Aside from that, we're certainly looking forward to coming back here. Roger (Penske) sends his apologies. He had his day job today so he couldn't make it. Weekdays are tough. But anyway, he's certainly looking forward to coming back here and trying for what would be our fourth straight with relatively the same people in terms of the crew. I would say most of the guys within our organization have been with us since we came back in 2001, and I think that's a big testament to us and not only the race, but they're looking forward to the pit stop competition as well. They're always geared up for that. So here we go.

KING: Helio, two firsts and a second in your first three starts at the Speedway. You don't know anything but success here. Tell us about getting set for the month of May.

CASTRONEVES: Obviously, Tim said most of it. Nothing came like easy. Everybody's been working, everybody is well synchronized, and I think that's most of it. You know, when you have an entire crew that knows what to do and obviously well connect, makes things a little bit easier. But this place, again, as the same way I approached three times, you always have to respect, you always have to work. That's why they gave us the month to make sure that we cover all the areas, and obviously I'm not thinking about what the result, but achieve the result, I guess. Sam is now on the team, for sure it's going to be a big boost for everyone, as well. And again, I don't think we need to change what we've been doing because so far here we've been very successful. But we know the other teams are going to come strong and we just need to keep focus in our team.

KING: Sam, it's hard to believe that we're talking about your fifth start here. It seems just like yesterday you were a rookie here and just a kid. But your fifth start, the previous four haven't gone the way that you had hoped, and you've been a little bit snake-bit here. How do you prepare differently with a brand-new team?

HORNISH: I don't know, I guess the same amount of pressure is always on. Everybody asks me how do you feel about going to the Speedway and driving for Marlboro Team Penske. Like I said before, nobody puts more pressure on me than I do. I'm going to go into this race and be as hungry to win as I ever have been. But I feel that my chances are greatly improved this year, mostly because I have a lot of experience. This team also has a lot of experience winning this race and, you know, I guess two years ago Helio kind of came from nowhere but he was on pace all day long. They had a program, and they stuck to it. It proved that you don't always have to be the fastest car to win this race. I've kind of went about it the wrong way a couple times. Last year gave me a lot of perspective. I mean, we were three or four miles an hour off the pace, and we had good pit stops and were able to move through traffic, and we were right there within sight of the leaders when the engine blew. We're looking forward to this year.

CASTRONEVES: Have you noticed Sam is prettier today, makeup? Look at that.

KING: You know, I've got to say, and I think everyone here will concur, of all the teams that have been in here, you guys across the board have the best hair going. (Laughter)

CASTRONEVES: Well, my hair you guys know about, but I give some tips to Sam this time. Look at that.

KING: You all just look like you walked out of the stylist.

CASTRONEVES: We just did that.

KING: I think Sam shot a commercial today. Questions for Marlboro Team Penske.

Q: Tim, this is for you. Sam has a phenomenal record on the mile-and-a-half tracks, and that's the one sort of track where the first two years Team Penske tended not to have an advantage on everyone else. Does Sam sort of provide the missing piece when it comes to the mile-and-a-half tracks or have you learned other things during the first two years that you expect to ratchet up your level of success on those tracks this year?

CINDRIC: Certainly, no question. I think Sam's been great on the mile-and-a-half tracks, but he's been pretty good everywhere else, as well. So I think that he can hold his own wherever he goes. But with regard to our team, it's true that the first, really the first year and a half, through '02 and halfway through '03, it took us a little while to figure out the game because it was different than what we were used to. Some didn't believe us, but coming from the CART program into the IRL program, it's hard to unlearn some things, and it's hard to change your thought process. About halfway through last year, I think we fell onto a few things that started to make sense for us. As you saw, we ended up on the pole at Fontana; I think we were competitive the last half of the year on the bigger tracks. And Texas, we were on the pole there again and certainly competitive throughout the race. It seemed like whenever we had to, I don't know how Helio found at the end of '02 when these two guys were racing each other at Texas, but we went from being completely lost at Texas to running wheel to wheel with this guy the whole time. The fact that he's on our side now makes it a little bit easier to digest that side-to-side program. But no, I think we've definitely made strides as a team, and certainly Sam is a big part of that.

Q: Sam, maybe the answer is obvious since you won your first race ever for Marlboro Team Penske, but when you join a new team, there's a certain feeling-out period where you get to know the team members, the team members get to know you. How well has the team blended with you and you blended with the team so far to get going for this year?

HORNISH: It was kind of hard the first time I went to Reading (Pa.) when we announced the deal. I was still driving for Panther Racing, so it's kind of weird because you're going in there, and you're still kind of the enemy but not so much anymore. The second time I went was right after the Texas race, which was only like two days after the season finish, naturally. So that was a little bit better. We started our, I guess whenever I go to Reading, we have a little poker tournament, which allows me to get to know the guys a little bit better. I seem to talk a little bit more when I'm away from the race cars. I don't know, I guess a little bit of courage. But the guys have all been great. Really nice to me and just made me feel at home more than I ever could. We're still in the learning process, learning each other. You go from a team that has maybe 20 employees to one with 67, and then you've got to learn their names and not only that but their nicknames, and some of the guys have two nicknames. (Laughter) Whatever they're calling you today, you know. But no, it's been great. Everybody's been really receptive and from both sides, both teams, they've really proved there's no A or B team, just the team.

CASTRONEVES: No worry, Sam, still learning the names, too. (Laughter)

Q: Helio, has Sam taught you how to bowl yet?

CASTRONEVES: No. Yeah, that should be our next adventure. I still wait for invitation for his marriage, his wedding. I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe I know why he's not inviting me. (Laughter) No, I'm waiting for that.

Q: Sam, with some of the guys you bowl with, how do you think they would accept Helio?

HORNISH: It's kind of hard --

CASTRONEVES: Wait, wait, think, then breathe. (Laughter) Hey, I used to live in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, when we were doing this autograph on the merchandise, anyway, we were signing autographs, a lot of fans from Ohio came to see Sam. Obviously later on I said, "Listen, I like Ohio, I used to live in Ohio." So no worries, guys.

HORNISH: I think that going from two years of like when they knew I had to really beat somebody out there on the track, that that was Helio I had to beat. So they probably had a couple of times rooting against him. So it would probably be a little bit awkward for them the first couple times, but you can't help smile when the guy is around. I'm sure everybody would be OK with it after a little while. Never know what can happen but it would be funny, I'm sure.

CASTRONEVES: As long as you bring (Hornish fiancee) Crystal's friends, we'll be fine.

KING: That, by the way, has been a common theme. Helio, you downplayed it a little bit last May, it's never easy to come to this track having the opportunity to do something that no other driver had ever done, and you had the opportunity last year to win your first three starts here at the Speedway, and you played it down, look, I'm approaching this as just another race, you know, got the focus going. Really, though, was it, was there a lot more pressure on you? Were you thinking more about it? When Gil (de Ferran) beat you at the end of the day, did you leave the track saying, "Damn it," you know?

CASTRONEVES: Yes. (Laughter) That's what I did at Homestead, too, damn it. (Laughter) Anyway, no, approaching way is pretty much the same. As I said, you can't -- as Sam was talking about, you're the one putting pressure on yourself. Trust me, my family, they're more upset than anybody that I didn't win, because obviously they'll be all supportive and help me out all the time. Obviously, I want to win more than anybody, but sometimes you just have to learn and accept it. You just can't figure out why or questioning, you know, what happened. So, again, through the whole month we did a hell of a job, especially putting that four laps together in the pole, on the qualifying day. So, you know, when you put those perspective together, you say, man, that wasn't that bad. Unfortunately, we had an awkward situation during the race that made us lose the position. But Gil did obviously a hell of a job coming back from an injury and putting the car as well in that situation. So it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. That's why I say this place is magical, because I was very fortunate, not only myself and my team, to do those kind of situations, especially after 500 miles. So the same way is going to happen, I'm going to have a lot of fun through the whole month again, I'm going to enjoy it. I think that's what makes me release any kind of pressure I put on myself.

Part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Team Penske