Indy 500 Pole conference
PAT SULLIVAN: Peak Performance Pole Winners. What a day, huh? Mr. Penske, I know one of the things you've said in the past is you look at this event and a couple of segments, and one of the competitions is running for the Peak Performance Pole and you got it.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, we're excited, and I think to have Helio after his time off to come back and show everybody how good he really is, and it was a thrill for me and obviously for him and all the people who stood behind him over the last five or six months, especially, you know, to his family. I just want to personally congratulate him for a fantastic job. Obviously, we've got a competitive team because Ryan wanted to have a go, which was obviously a tough call. But he wanted to go and Ryan wanted to go, so we had to give each of them a chance, and we didn't want to lose those top two spots, but it worked out fantastic for the team. Of course, Will Power, we've got to take our hat off of him. I mean, he made that run. The people who got ahead of him at the end each had two or three times they went out, and he stayed with his time from the beginning. So it was a great run.
SULLIVAN: Really was. Tim Cindric, I have to ask you, you're involved in these conversations, I would have to think these extra runs, et cetera, when you're locked in the top 11 or at least some cause for acid reflux. (Laughter)
TIM CINDRIC: If you're not up for this day, I'm not sure why you're here. It was a great opportunity for us, those are all good problems to have. Our goal today was to try and sit on the pole and make sure all three cars you were in the first 11 in the first day. We accomplished that, and there's no better way to do it with my buddy here racing against the wind, about made me cry today, but I didn't. Thank you and great job again, Helio.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you, man.
SULLIVAN: Well, Helio, you looked pretty close to that. It has to be a very emotional day for you.
CASTRONEVES: Say it again?
SULLIVAN: It has to be a very emotional moment.
CASTRONEVES: Are you kidding, man? It's just incredible. Again, for me, once again, I have to thank Roger and Cindric to believe in me, to be behind me all the way. Like I said, you guys gave my life back just being in the race car and for me that means a lot. That's what I know to do, you know, since I was 11 years old, that's what I love, it's racing. This place is magic, man. I tell you, it's something that's just amazing.
I have to say Ryan and Will Power, they did a great job during the preseason tests, preparing the cars, as well. The entire time Team Penske we get out of the truck, basically, we didn't have to do very much. The cars were extremely strong. And we just have to continue working through the weather, working through the day and that's what we did.
So today, as Roger said, Ryan and I were really strong. A couple of times I'm like, ‘Man, it's going to be tough.’ Especially when he left toward the end, I'm like just make me easy to do a decision here. I didn't want to go out and just don't go for it, you know. And it's one of those things, you want to make sure that your buddy is there, and I'm glad that we got the front row. I'm sure Will, it's having Rick Mears beside him, he's learning a lot and he will definitely be there.
But today it was about finding the edge, the first attempt. I said to many people it was a little easy, and you don't want to go around easy; that means you're not going fast enough. Again, we work a little bit, make a little bit tough and certainly that 225.4 was something that, I don't know what happened. But definitely it was a great job for Roger Penske and the entire crew, No. 3. They did get all the bits on the car to make sure that we could squeeze every speed out there. And it did help.
Q: Helio, because of your problems over the offseason, was winning this pole more important to you today? Was it more special?
CASTRONEVES: Being here it's already been very special. Many times during the trial I was thinking about it. You know, unfortunately I'm a human being, there's not much I could do. I have to think about racing because that's what I love, and I was just wishing that I would be here. That was my wish, in those times. Just sitting here just to prove that my faith definitely, you know, He did not let me down. He kept me saying this is where you belong. And I have to thank again the team and my family and everybody to keep supporting me.
Q: Helio, with the emotions you went through in the trial and especially that moment when they announced the verdict, does that give you a better appreciation of fighting for that edge that you fight for every time you go out on the track?
CASTRONEVES: It definitely changed a little my perspective of life, you know, appreciate what I do. I realize even more, I knew what I loved racing, but I realized even more that's my life, you know. And just to be here, it's just a dream come true, and I appreciate every day knowing that I wake up in the morning. I know sometimes I'm annoying in the morning, but that's me: I enjoy life. Now I enjoy it even more. But again, I have to say that what I learned from the trial probably my mind is much stronger now and my skin is a little bit thicker now. (Laughter)
Q: For Roger and maybe for Tim. Can you talk about the decision to send Briscoe out again and pulling second place off the board for a run at the pole? I mean, did he talk you guys into that or who drove that decision?
PENSKE: I think, you know, if you looked at it, you know, prior to that we were in pretty good shape, certainly with Helio had run that lap. But these guys are competitive and Tim and I talked about it and said, "Ryan, do you want to make a run?" He said he did. So we didn't say don't make it, we gave him the opportunity. It would have been the same if there had been time and Briscoe would have beaten Helio and he wanted to go, we would have done it again. So I think you've got to have that kind of momentum with a team and certainly people could look at it that we made a mistake, but these guys we count on are the best. When you're running at the level that the Ganassi team or any of the other teams are, we've got to give them that opportunity. That's why we're here.
Q: Roger, out on pit road, you know, after the gun went off, Helio wins the Pole, you're kind of over there consoling Ryan, that's got to be a real delicate balancing act for you because you're supporting both drivers. One is guy going to win, one is going to lose. How difficult is that sometimes to -- you know, Rick Hendrick once said the first thing he does after a race victory often is talk to the drivers who didn't win before going to talk to the winner.
PENSKE: He would be a pretty good teacher if that's what he does, I'll remember that next time. No, really, I'll say it today, I've said it in the past, if the team wins, the members of the team win. When we go out on Race Day, only one can win the race and only one can be on the pole. But there's great respect, and I think you can see how Ryan has come along over the last two years. He had a lot on his shoulders with Helio out of the first race. But, again, he did a great job. He came here and tested and that information was the basic foundation, you know, for the month of May for both Will and when Helio came back.
I think as far as I'm concerned, you know, it's pretty special to see Helio on top I think that from his circumstances. But he didn't give it because we said, ‘OK, Helio you're going to get it today.’ He won it, he earned it, and Briscoe had a chance to get it, too. So I think it worked out fine.
Q: This is for Helio. Did you have an opportunity to talk with Ryan and what were his comments to you?
CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I mean I could see in his face he was a little upset. He's a race car driver. You want to be the No. 1, it doesn't matter who it is, you know. But I have to say Ryan and I being we worked together last year, and we help each other. We did seem to be, to have a very similar driving style, especially on the ovals, and no question about the help both of us to develop the car to the limits so that both of us can be fast. Unfortunately, what I'm going to have, he's going to have. One day it's going to be my turn, one day it's going to be his turn.
But I do feel he's, I mean he's a first-class guy, he's an incredible race car driver, and that's the way it goes. One pushes each other, and the only one that's winning here is the team. It makes both the team happy because obviously as Roger said, you want to see the No. 3 and 6 right up there first and second. Today Team Penske is the one that's winning.
Q: Tim and Roger, I mean since the verdict was announced and basically three weeks, two top 10s and now pole, is there anything you can compare this comeback to?
CINDRIC: First of all, I'd like to say his English has gotten a lot better hanging out with all those attorneys. (Laughter)
He's going on and on and actually sounds good. He used to only know about 50 words of English, but he's continued to move that along. “Dancing with the Stars” has taught him another 25, but they were a little different, though. (Laughter)
Now he's got all these technical words. But in terms of where he's at, I think he's had an opportunity to win the last, you know, two races that he's been in, Kansas running second there and there at Long Beach, you know, the yellow falling different, he might have had a chance to run to run with Franchitti. So I can't say enough about his focus, his concentration. Woke up this morning, saw the wind blowing like it was and saw the direction it was, and when he sat on the pole here in 2003, with the gusts and the winds and it was twice as bad as it was today, the flag that was all ripped up that was on top of the Pagoda, the Speedway flag, we asked Tony for that after the end of Pole Day, and we still have that. When I woke up this morning, I thought: ‘You know what? We've got the guy to do this.’ We just had to put it out for him, and he executed, for sure.
SULLIVAN: Folks, we have four questions lined up and I'm going to leave it at that.
Q: Roger, to follow up on what Tim just talked about, when you wake up and see bad wind like that, with all your experience here at the Speedway, do you think that favors your race team?
PENSKE: I would say the experience we have, certainly to the level where we are, I think it helps. The drivers are experienced, certainly Helio is. We've seen him run in the worst conditions, and I'd have to say the qualifying run, you know, Mears had some amazing runs, I think Rick would also say running in 2003 when it was about 45 degrees and I think we had 35, 40 mile-an-hour winds, he ran 230. It was pretty special. So I think quite honestly today for Helio was an advantage because he knows how to drive through that type of situation.
Q: Helio, I understand you're spending the entire month here in Indianapolis as opposed to previous years you might go home to Florida to recharge for a couple of days. Is that just because you want to savor this entire experience, start to end in a different way?
CASTRONEVES: I don't know. I just found out, obviously schedule changes all the time, I just found out Monday I'm going to have to go to Texas. (Laughter)
So my intention was to stay here all the time. But, again, as the media requests, I'm going to go. So the point is, like I said, my perspective change so much. There was a point in my life in the moments, tough moments that I don't even know that I would be here. So not because I didn't doubt, but just unfortunately it was outside of my control. Then all of a sudden I have this opportunity now. I will do what I love. I like this place and I like being racing, involved in racing. And as long as I can be around, so I will. It's not to change anything different from last year, from previous years or to make it better, it's just because I feel like it. So I'll go with instincts.
Q: Helio, you talked about having to make the car a little less comfortable. How uncomfortable are we talking about? And what are the sensations, what do you feel when you find that edge?
CASTRONEVES: You know, when the car is kind of stuck going around this place and you can go any line you want, that means you might not be achieving the best that the car can do. You know, and for me there was a way to say, hey, you have more to go here. But sometimes you've got to remember, you've got four laps to go, it's not only about one lap, and that's where we were facing all of a sudden. We were trying to take the downforce of the car, trying to change a little bit of the setup to make sure we could go a little bit faster, and also see what Ryan did because his run was pretty strong. So you've got to put everything together and do a little shake, shake and bake. (Laughter)
Then whatever happens happens, you know. I guess I go back again. Sorry, Tim. (Laughter)
Q: Helio, winning the pole is probably a good step toward winning the race. Starting up front, do you feel that will give you a distinct advantage?
CASTRONEVES: I mean, no. Starting on the pole here does not give you an advantage here. Certainly it's a good start, as Rick Mears said, two types of races. We accomplished one, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us and that's where we're going to focus now.
SULLIVAN: Helio and all of Team Penske, congratulations. I'm always reminded of the fact, Tim, that you once put a banner above your garage that said, ‘Yes, we know it's your birthday.’ So happy birthday tomorrow.
CASTRONEVES: Thank you. Thank you.
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