Q&A with Tim Cindric and Will Power
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome today's IZOD IndyCar Series teleconference. Earlier today, Penske Racing made an announcement that Will Power will be driving the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Honda-powered Dallara full‑time in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2010. We're joined today by Will Power and Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
TIM CINDRIC: That IZOD IndyCar Series sounds good.
THE MODERATOR: It sure does. Will, it's very exciting news for you today. Almost like a dream come true to kind of stick with Penske Racing for 2010 full‑time.
Q. Tim, the last time we had you on a teleconference, you talked about Will and how he fit with the team. What does he bring to Penske Racing and why make this decision to bring him on board full‑time?
TIM CINDRIC: Obviously the results speak for themselves last year. We're excited to be able to give (Will) the opportunity to come on full‑time, because he's done an excellent job in a very difficult situation. It seems like so long ago that he was sitting here and his fate was depending on Helio (Castroneves') fate. Now he's independent of all of those things and continues to perform. It was great that Verizon was able to support us going forward, and we were in a position to be able to keep Will and that Will continued to on believe that this is the place to be, even though he kind of had to wait this out a little bit.
Q. This the first time since the mid '90s, that Penske Racing will field three full‑time cars in the Indy Car series Last time you had Paul Tracy, (Emerson) Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Jr. Can you tell us why the team made the decision to expand?
TIM CINDRIC: The opportunity was there. It's not every day that you have an opportunity like we have to put three proper programs together with your three very capable drivers. All the moons aligned for us, and we feel obviously that this is a great opportunity for all of us.
Q. Will, last time you were in a car, a little bit of a nightmare situation, getting injured. What is your status? How are you feeling?
WILL POWER: I'm feeling good. Everything's going well. It's actually ahead of schedule the way my back healed. I'm in the gym every day. I'm working out with the PitFit guys. I can't believe in a month, in just one month, how far I've come. I'm swimming. I'm on the row machine, doing weights.
I don't think there's going to be any problem getting back in the car in January. That is sort of my plan. I'll probably be cleared to drive before then, but to get back to full cardio fitness I think I need to wait until January.
Q. Tim, you've got two Aussies now (with Will and Ryan Briscoe). James Davison is waiting in the wings, so perhaps you can fit him in. But to be serious, you've got three very aggressive drivers, good guys. But how do you temper them or see tempering them next year? Each one will want to win a championship. Will it be team orders or will every race be won on the day?
TIM CINDRIC: I think they are known quantities, which is a good thing. We're not going into a season with three drivers which we haven't worked with one of them or multiple guys. With Helio and Ryan, they've seen two seasons together now to where their circumstances have been different. Where Helio was challenging for the championship in 2008, Ryan had to play a bit of a role there. You know, the shoe was on the other foot at the end of this year.
Those guys I know that they understand what's good for the team is good for them. You know, they also understand, and Will can attest this year with the races that he ran with us, that we were able to supply them all equal equipment, and let the best man win. That's typically been the philosophy.
Number one rule is always don't run into each other. So I think that, again, I'm just glad that we're going into a known situation. These are people that have all worked together, and we've been through some good times and some tough times together with all three of them.
So last year I think everybody got to put their feet on the ground, and I think we know where we're headed.
Q. We talked last summer, and you said if Roger Penske can't find a sponsor in this economy, nobody can. And you guys ran Verizon on Will's car a couple times. Just can you talk about the length of the contract at all? What would have happened if you couldn't have secured a sponsorship with Verizon full‑time? Would you have still retained Will for six or seven races like you did this year?
TIM CINDRIC: I always hate to speculate, because I don't know how it would have exactly turned out. But we would have done everything we could to keep him in the fold. We certainly would have approached him with here's what we can do. And we would have done everything we can to at least run him in Indianapolis next year and see if there was something that came ahead of time, depending on how long he was willing to wait.
But obviously with the result that he had had last year there's probably going to be more people knocking on his door if they found out that he was available. So we did everything we could on that front. And (Verizon Wireless CEO) Lowell McAdam and everybody at Verizon Wireless, they certainly have really put together a good relationship with Will. They've got a great relationship with our organization, and really this program is an extension of the whole Verizon Championship Racing program that already exists within Penske with Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series, and Brad Keselowski in the (Sprint) Cup series.
So it was a great fit for us. Obviously they also were participants in our Grand Am program last year, and sponsors of our Grand Am program last year. So we're essentially running an IndyCar program for the first time full season for them. So that's how that all turns out.
It's certainly a multi‑year extension from the programs he we already have.
Q. Will Will's contract be multi‑year also?
TIM CINDRIC: We haven't even talked about that, have we, Will? We're just trying to worry about this coming year. All Will has to do is win races and he'll be fine.
Q. Is it going to be yellow like it was this season?
TIM CINDRIC: The Verizon car was black and red.
Q. No, the yellow car that you had painted at Sonoma?
TIM CINDRIC: The truck leasing car?
Q. Well, I'm 60 years old. Sorry I missed that?
TIM CINDRIC: No, black and red.
Q. Black and red, thank you.
TIM CINDRIC: Yep.
Q. If I could, Will is considered to be a gasser, a guy that's not afraid to push it. You have two other guys there that are pretty good drivers themselves. How much do you kind of see the three of them pushing each other and getting all three of them maybe to step up a notch or two?
TIM CINDRIC: It's always a challenge, but it's a good problem to have. The guys not only the drivers, but the crew itself, you know, we have to remember that we're an organization. We're not three one‑car teams. That's always a challenge.
Whether it's this series or the Cup series or whatever else it is. For us it's pretty easy when you have a guy like Roger, it works for us ‑‑ or we work for it, I should say. For us when things get out of line, we usually hit the reset button and sit down and talk about it. The good news is we've got the right kind of personalities to be able to do that.
We're all competitive, and sometimes that gets the best of you. But I've seen all these guys in difficult situations that way. They've all come to the right conclusion at the end of the day. You know, that's the respect we have for the guy we all work for.
Q. Will, obviously you were very impressed with what Penske Racing could do for you last year. With the victory that you had at Edmonton and all that, even after you got injured, how confident were you that you were going to be able to stick with the plan and stick with this team?
WILL POWER: It was like Tim said, it was a matter of waiting it out. I think I would have stayed there no matter what, because it was a great situation for me to be driving there. Every time I was in the car, it was a good car. It's no use running around the back of the field with a team that's sort of not up for the job, because you don't do yourself any favors.
But it was for me a great year, although it ended badly, now it's turned out to be, it was just a very good decision for me to go there. I really look forward to it. I'd like to thank Verizon Wireless, and Lowell McAdam, and John Stratton for putting all this together and giving me this fantastic opportunity.
Q. What was the motivation behind signing Will for a full season? I don't ask that to sound overly stupid, but I ask that because looking at Ganassi last year where Dario (Franchitti) and (Scott) Dixon basically every race were running more in tandem and scoring maximum points. Ryan more often than you would have liked seemed to be out there gutting by himself. Helio certainly had great races. But in terms of a two‑pronged attack, maybe didn't have that happening all the time. Is Will kind of represent the ability for your organization to have the race‑in, race‑out minimum two cars gathering as many points as possible to help fight back against the Ganassi Team?
TIM CINDRIC: To be honest, we don't make too many of our decisions dependent on what one team is or what the competition is. We have to look at the things that we can control and the things that we have to do a better job of.
So definitely these decisions aren't based on what Ganassi's doing or what they're not doing. They may change their game as well. You can't be reactive, you have to work on anticipation.
When I look back to Edmonton and the opportunities we had to run one, two, three there at Edmonton, we didn't quite get it done, but we were certainly in the right position.
That's what these guys are capable of. When I look at the championship and so forth, if you look at laps completed last year and you look at the two guys that are at the top of laps completed, they're also the two guys at the top of the charts.
To me that was the difference between this year and last year. They made less mistakes and they did a better job when the opportunities were there. They were able to execute to take advantage of those opportunities. And we just missed it on that front.
With Helio it was a difficult year and one that he certainly wasn't full stride there at the beginning. So next year we're looking at hitting that in a whole different way. We're looking at ourselves very constructively to determine what is it that we need to do to be better. Because we certainly we didn't get everything right on the teams in the end of the year.
Q. Speaking of what makes a Penske driver a Penske driver. Will seems to fit into the classic mold of someone that is right for your organization. What is it that you see Will brings to your team that maybe fits some of that classic Roger Penske mold of a driver he knows that can deliver for him?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, one thing is Will's an opportunist, for sure. When we sat down and talked to him he's doing what he does for the right reasons. That is the thing that stuck out to us when we sat down and talked to these different candidates last year and we were in that situation.
He's a guy that wants to come here and do a good job. All the rest of it will come. He's certainly a team player. He's shown that. When you look at the guys that have had long careers with Roger, that's probably the thing that fits those kind of guys the best. When you look at the Rick Mears and Helio and the guys that have driven for him for multiple years, that's usually an attribute that they have. It's a way to understand that the team concept, and have a respect for the accomplishments that have been here. I think Will fits that. He's humble enough some days to offset the Helios of the world, which is a good thing.
Q. This question is for Will. Beyond getting yourself fully healthy again, do you see any areas of improvement that you can work on to kind of bring yourself up to the level of a title contender? And by areas I mean getting better on specific tracks, car setups, things of that nature? What is your perspective on that?
WILL POWER: I believe you have to learn every year. Every year you have to come away with a plan for the next year at places where you're going to be better. I've always done that throughout my career. I already have in my head where I'm going to improve on the tracks that I raced at this year. So that's just a constant process with me. I'm always searching. I think to be successful in this business you have to be because it's always a development going on. It's always moving forward. So that's my normal plan of attack.
Q. If Will hadn't been available for you, for example, if he signed with another team in the off‑season, would you have bothered running a third car? And was it the fact that you could get Will in it that is what pushed you into doing this?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, we knew that we had certain ‑‑ to be honest, I hadn't really thought about that. And probably not real prepared to speculate on how that would have all turned out. But, had we not been able to, we've had obviously people approach us, wanting to know if this doesn't work out, could they bring funding to run a third car with us. And the answer to that would be the same answer we've had for years that we don't really have any interest in taking our focus away from the two guys we already have.
It's a known quantity in a lot of ways. Obviously, there are a lot of tracks that Will didn't go to this past year or he's been to but hasn't had success at. But he's shown us that given a good car, he can be successful at tracks that he wasn't successful previously. So we knew that we were in step with Will. We knew that, yeah, he wasn't in a position to sign with anybody here for a little while. So our focus was completely on getting this deal done. If it didn't get done, it probably wasn't going to happen in terms of a three‑car team next year anyway.
Q. Will you be looking to improve your performance on ovals? Do you expect that racing is where you most need to learn the smarts of racing for a team like Penske?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it is, actually. It's something that I haven't had as much experience as I have on road courses. Of course the sport's all about experience and are beyond the two (ovals) that I did do this year, I cracked up on it. And you know it made a big difference having a good team and a good car under you. It gives you a lot of confidence. I know I'll continually have to work on it. And I couldn't be in a better place to learn. So I expect to be running up in the front from the very beginning. There is definitely a place that I'll focus hard on.
Q. Do you think therefore that you'll have your own goal to challenge for the championship this year?
WILL POWER: Yeah, that's what I'm aiming for. I want to be running up front all year. I really want to be a title contender. So I'll be doing my absolute best.
Q. What was ‑‑ how did you react when Tim called you either on the phone or into the office and said we've got a deal done for you for the entire season? What was your initial reaction?
TIM CINDRIC: Stop taking so long.
WILL POWER: That's exactly right. Tim answered the question. No, it was a long process. I knew that it was in the works. There was a good chance it was going to come off, but I was very happy when I heard the news. Very relieved and it was just a great opportunity.
It was something that I wouldn't have dreamed would ever have happened to end up at Penske Racing and driving the Verizon car. Yeah, it's unbelievable. I really need to focus on it, and do a great job.
Q. Without trivializing how seriously you were injured, was there ever a point in time in the first few minutes or hours after the injury at Infineon where you thought, well, that's it. Fate has screwed me over here and I'm going to lose this opportunity.
WILL POWER: I think the only time was just after I hit Nelson (Philippe), and I exploded into a stop. And just after they got me out of there, I was thinking, 'Well, if there's nothing broken, there is a chance that I can get back in the car for Sunday.' So I had had no doubt in my head I was going to get back in.
But the sort of team that Penske Racing is, they stick behind you no matter what. They made that very apparent when I was lying there in the hospital. So that gave me plenty of confidence in them and made me feel a lot better.
Q. You were literally thinking about it before the car came to a stop?
WILL POWER: I just felt it. It was such a bad pain, you know I thought oh, no. This is it. I only had limited opportunities this year. But when you're badly injured you sometimes aren't so positive.
Q. Does this essentially become the same team that worked the car, the yellow car for Will, the Edmonton crew? Is this the Grand Am team just shifting to the IndyCar Series side?
TIM CINDRIC: No, not at all. The approach next year Will be very different from that approach. Because that approach was in a lot of ways what was possible last year. And, you know, we've taken the approach in the off‑season here looking at everything from I guess a clean sheet of paper with the fortunate thing ‑‑ you know, fortunate and unfortunate, the Grand Am situation probably we're not planning on it being a team next year.
So we're not planning on participating on that front. So we can't have a built in workforce, if you will, or resource. And with that we're combining that for the different areas, different positions and trying to optimize the three best programs for next year.
We've hired a new racing engineer for Will, going forward for next year. Dave Faustino who was with KV Racing Technology last year, and had worked with Will at Walker Racing. He's on board. He started this week. He and Will are very familiar with each other. I think we're going to hit the ground run running from the association that they've had in the past.
Again, there will be some of the guys that were on Will's team last year will be on the 3 or the 6. And some of the guys that were on the 3 and the 6 will be on Will's car. So we're looking at it from a three‑car perspective rather than a two and one, and a third car once in a while.
Q. You'll keep calling Helio's races, Roger will call Ryan's, and Dave will call Will's?
TIM CINDRIC: No, Dave Faustino will be his race engineer.
Q. So who is going to call Will's races?
TIM CINDRIC: Clive Howell will be the third man.
Q. I know that Ryan did some work with Rick Mears, and Rick is always there to offer advice. Will you be seeking him out particularly for advice on ovals before the season starts?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I did that this year. I'll be doing the same. I'll get as much as I can out of Rick. He's there every weekend. He's got unbelievable amount of experience. He always answers your questions very well because he's been there and done that. So I'll be doing everything I can to learn as much as I can.
Q. Might he perhaps spot for Will at any races or is that out of the question?
TIM CINDRIC: Right now, to be honest with you, Clive Howell has been Helio's spotter. I think Helio had some experience with Rick as a spotter before, so I think we'll leave that unchanged and have a different spotter for Will next year. It's not something we've really gone through, but just throwing it out here on the call that I anticipate Rick being on Helio's car next year.
Q. You guys have run three cars before. Kind of talk about some of the advantages of having a three‑car team and also some of the disadvantages?
TIM CINDRIC: I haven't been here to be honest. I haven't worked in a three‑car team that's run full season that way. So I can only tell you from my limited experience on a part‑time three‑car basis or what I see in the past. The challenge there is obviously I would say it's very different from when Penske ran a three‑car operation before.
Because a three‑car operation in the '90s when the rules were more open and you could actually create a lot of different pieces and parts. From my vantage point it was very difficult to ever put three cars out there that had identical opportunities. Because in the R & D sectors, you were constantly evolving the car. So to provide one that was ready to run, let alone three of them that are ready to run, it's a very difficult game.
The game that exists now to where the majority of the pieces that are readily available to run multi‑car teams at the same level is much more obtainable and much more realistic than what it was in the '90s and the '80s. So it was a much bigger challenge to have three cars running up front in my opinion than what it is now.
Now it's obviously logistics. You still have to have the right people. You have to have the right drivers, and you still have to execute. But having the pieces and parts available and put together in a way that they're equally competitive, that opportunity is a lot better than it was in the past.
So I certainly think it can be an advantage, because the limited testing that you have, it allows you if you have people that can work together, which is the key. If I felt like we had one of these guys couldn't work with the other guy, then it wouldn't make any sense in my opinion to try to make it happen, because you'd end up doing the opposite.
So that's my vantage point of where it is. I can't tell you that I've managed or worked in an operation that's run a three‑car full season. But I saw enough of it last year where I think the good is certainly going to outweigh the rest.
Q. What is your biggest disadvantage to the three‑car thing?
TIM CINDRIC: The biggest disadvantage is some days you're taking points away from each other. Some days it's difficult to hold one guy. You just let it happen as it exists. There's a lot of days where you wonder, hey, is that the right thing to do or not, in terms of letting them race. And we've always been in a position where you let it happen as it happens and see where it all ends up.
So for me that's one of the more difficult things. The guys have been around enough to see where, like I explained earlier in the call for Helio and Ryan. They've been in different positions whether it's a supporting role or the guy that's running for the championship. You don't give everybody a spot, but you certainly cut them a break when you understand that they're running for a championship. Whether they're your teammate or not.
Q. How does your three‑driver arrangement play off against Jay Penske's program? Or does Jay have a program?
TIM CINDRIC: As far as I know Jay has a program. But Jay's obviously Roger's son in name, but he runs a completely independent program from what we operate. So there's really no cross or interaction there aside from we do whatever Jay needs. He's obviously a friend of ours. Very close to our organization. But from a technical exchange standpoint, there is none.
Q. Under a pressing situation in a race, say you have a sudden yellow, you wouldn't want to bring all three of your guys in at the same time, would you? How do you normally do that with two cars? You want them one at a time or two at a time? How does that work?
TIM CINDRIC: You pit when you need to pit, and whatever happens happens.
Q. I guess a lot of talk in IndyCar racing is trying to beat the red cars of Ganassi, or trying to beat the red and the white cars of Penske. I guess you've kind of put a new twist on this by throwing a black car out there?
TIM CINDRIC: It's a twist that existed at Indy. It's not completely different.
Q. But on a full-time basis? Basically you're adding another quality car to the lineup here. Just kind of what that helps do for the series?
TIM CINDRIC: Without a doubt. Verizon Wireless is, number one, they're one of the most recognizable names in the world, and to have their support in the IndyCar Series and you do that on the tails of the IZOD announcement, I think that's all positive momentum for the series.
They certainly are one of the best activators there is in terms of once they decide to on support a program. They supported it as well as anyone in the world does.
You know, those guys all understand our business, and that combined with the programs that we've already had in place, you know, makes it even that much stronger.
Q. Will's an aggressive guy, but, you know, he seems to kind of know when to turn it on and when not to. How difficult of a quality is that? Because I know that you've got a young aggressive guy like Brad Keselowski over there in cup, and a lot of times in the Nationwide Series from a time or two, a lot of people think he's aggressive. How difficult is that for a driver like in Will's situation that kind of has that balance?
TIM CINDRIC: The good ones from the average ones. The ones that find that balance are the ones that are typically winning the championships and are successful. And the ones that can admit that they made a mistake are usually the ones that don't make that mistake again.
Q. Will, what is your next phone? I assume you're first in line to get it?
WILL POWER: Yes, it is the Droid, of course. You've seen the commercials and it looks like a fantastic phone, so I'm waiting for mine.
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