Q&A with Team Penske on addition of Will Power
Tim, we'll begin with a few opening remarks.
TIM CINDRIC: First of all, I didn't realize that you had this trophy spun around so we could look at both sides while we sat up here. Pretty good (laughter).
Yeah, obviously we wanted to come today and welcome Will Power to Team Penske for 2009. Obviously, it's under difficult circumstances. The most important thing for us in 2009, not only is he our driver, but our friend, is to do everything we can to support Helio going forward with what he's going through. It's a difficult thing for me to sit up here today and even talk about it. I'm sure it's a lot more difficult for him than it is for me.
But under these circumstances, our job is to make sure that in racing you're as prepared as you can possibly be. That's what Roger (Penske) has always set a precedence for; it's what our organization is known for, is preparation. We need to be sure in 2009 that we're ready to go and we're ready to win as many races as we can for not only our sponsors and for our organization but also all those that work for us.
This is today really a way of communicating to all of you how we're going to approach 2009. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of questions about what if this, what if that. But time will determine a lot of those things. You probably won't really know those answers until you know more about it.
We're here today to really just come out and talk about exactly how we're going to approach things and answer the questions that you have. My feeling is that, I said to Helio the other day, in this situation, number one, it's real difficult to see a guy on such a high after everything that he went through with Dancing With the Stars, all the accolades he gained there, the fact that everybody got to know the guy I've known now for nine or 10 years, now to see him go through this situation, it's very difficult. At the same time I'm a hundred percent confident that if there's anybody out there that's going to get through it in a positive way, it's going to be this guy.
We're very fortunate to have someone like Will available to join the team. The way I look at it is, we have three drivers. There's three drivers for Team Penske in 2009. We'll determine who drives which one of those two cars depending on how everything sorts out. We'll kind of take it a day at a time. That's what we've been doing to this point.
I'd like to welcome Will to this organization and let him say a few words.
WILL POWER: Firstly, I'd like to thank Roger and Tim for giving me this fantastic opportunity. Penske is a team that's won a lot of championships, Indy 500s, races. I'm really looking forward to helping these guys out for the 2009 season. I know there's a handful of drivers in the mix. I feel very privileged that they chose me.
I'm really going to give this a hundred percent. No matter what the outcome is, I'm very happy to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, you have another Aussie chasing you.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, definitely very excited to welcome Will on board. We all saw how fast he was last year and also in previous years in Champ Car. He's, I think, going to be a great asset to the team in the lead-up to the championship. Look forward to working with him.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, let's get your thoughts on obviously a tough situation, but I'm sure it's nice to know that Penske Racing is standing behind you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's right. No question it's a little bit strange to be in this situation. One thing I have to say, Roger and Tim, they back me up all the way. It's pretty good to have friends like that, first of all, and a good organization behind you like that, as well.
Again, unfortunately you guys know me, I like to talk a lot, I would love to talk more about my case, but unfortunately I'm not. March 2nd is the date that we're going to be talking about it.
My life, it's definitely about racing. The way I end up with Team Penske is also a very difficult spot. But I feel very confident the whole thing is going to be over. I can't wait for this thing to be over, for me to be back in the race car, do what I love most, which is racing.
Q. Tim, when did you decide you had to bring Will on? The trial begins March 2nd. Did you feel there was not going to be enough time there, if he's exonerated, to get him ready to go?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, we looked at it very methodically. We didn't feel we really had to make a decision at any certain point in time. Again, it comes down to preparation. The longer you go, the more you know. The more you know, usually the better decisions you make.
Along that line, obviously when we looked at it, the best thing for us was to be in a situation where maybe this thing could happen at the end of 2009, and we could go through 2009 and do everything as planned. When it became obvious that there really wasn't anything different, other than this March 2nd date, at that point in time we felt, even if everything's over at that point in time, everything's good, he has to be able to focus on what he needs to do. The race he needs to win is the race he's going to be in March. That's more important to him than anything we've got going on.
We felt like the only way for him to focus on all those things, and for us as an organization to be prepared in the right way, is to find the best available guy there. Obviously, we've chosen Will as that guy. I thought back to some other years. If we'd have been in this situation in other years, we wouldn't have been I guess as fortunate to bring someone on board that can compete at the high level that we're going to obviously expect.
I think it's been a process where we needed to decide. We hoped to make a decision before the holidays, but there were a lot of guys out there that had very good credentials.
If you asked me any one thing that separated Will from any of them, it's very difficult to say. It's one of those things where you look at it and, you know, you say you need to make sure that we as an organization can go out and test and we can go out and do all the things we normally do, let him remain focused. There really wasn't any definite timeline. It's always been something we've kind of taken day to day.
Q. Helio, can you kind of describe emotionally what you've gone through these last two or three months, what it's been like playing out scenarios in your head?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The good news is my family's here. We're all together. Friends, as well. They say the tough times are when you find real friends. I've been very fortunate to see a lot of people responding, being supportive. You guys that know me, obviously I love racing. That's what I love to do. I guess unfortunately when you go through that in life, it's just to make sure that you strong enough. The only thing in my mind right now is to get these things over and back to the race car.
Q. Tim, would you describe what convinced you to pick Will out of the various drivers that are available.
TIM CINDRIC: If I had to say one thing that Roger and I, after we sat down with Will, and obviously we watched from afar, but really never got a chance to know him too well, but the sense of determination that he has. You can look at a lot of these guys and you can say this went well, this didn't go well, that type of thing. But at the end of the day, the sense of determination that both of us felt when we sat down and talked to him about where he's planning to go with his career, how he plans to get there, the things that are important to him, when we added all those things up, he obviously was the guy that we felt was the best for us.
Q. If Helio gets cleared in time for the 500, would you go with a third car then and provide him with one, too?
TIM CINDRIC: There's nothing more than I'd want to do than come back to Indy next year and run him at the 500. Why wouldn't you want to? I think it's very important to realize that I think at that point in time those answers are going to be a lot more obvious than they are now.
I think right now we just have to, again, take this thing a day at a time. We're not going to make any commitments other than we're going to stand behind Helio, and in the meantime we're going to get ourselves prepared as we can be to go win races this year.
Q. Tim, what kind of a contract does Will have? If Helio is back by the middle of April, will he get to run any races or just kind of play it by ear? Is he going to be maybe the test guy if Helio is back?
TIM CINDRIC: It's pretty simple: If Helio is ready to go at St. Pete, he's in a situation where he's ready to go for the rest of the year, the 3 car is his.
Q. Then if Will could go somewhere else and get another ride, he'd be released?
TIM CINDRIC: At that point in time we'll decide. We'll decide what makes sense for all of us. I know that this isn't anything new to Will or to Helio or anybody else. I think everybody sitting up here understands exactly what the game plan is. We want to make sure that we're as up front as possible. Our plan, like we said before, is the easy thing to do in this situation might be to say, 2010, Helio, we'll talk about it then, just get on with 2009. But we didn't feel like that was the right thing to do. The guy has been with us for nine years. He's done a great job. He's won a lot of races. He's great for the sport.
For us, we need to do everything we can to stand behind him. If he's ready to go in St. Pete, then he's still our guy. If he's not ready to go in St. Pete, then obviously Will's going to be ready to go in St. Pete. Anything after that really is a matter of how everything plays out day to day then.
Q. Tim, can you tell us about the duration of the contract with Will. Is it just for 2009? Are there options?
TIM CINDRIC: You know us, we never talk about duration, we never talk about specifics (laughter).
Q. This is a little unusual case. Any specifics regarding that?
TIM CINDRIC: I think the best way to put it is Will's committed to us, we're committed to him. He knows if Helio is back in the car, we'll sit down and talk about it at that point in time. We'll do the best we can for both of us.
The specifics of it are exactly that.
Q. You're not going to run Helio at the first test? He will not participate?
TIM CINDRIC: He's going to stay focused on what he's doing until he's done doing all that. Once he gives me the call and says, 'Hey, here's the story,' then we're going to do everything we can to get him back in the race car, provided it's before St. Pete. At that point in time we just have to sit and see where are we in the season, what's the situation, what's going on. We'll be a lot smarter at that point in time than really making comments now that three or four months from now may or may not make sense.
Q. Will, this is a different type of circumstance as a driver. How did you weigh your options without a specific guarantee?
WILL POWER: Well, to drive for Penske, it's a real honor. When you come to the U.S. and race open-wheel, it's the sort of team you want to sign up for. When I was given this offer, I didn't give it much thought. I really wanted to go. Honestly, I didn't have anything solid at the time anyway. I just thought it was the best direction for me. I can learn a lot in this team. These guys have got a lot of experience. I think no matter what happens I'll come out of it a better driver.
Q. Ryan, did you know each other in Australia and race against each other? How do you feel about him subbing for Helio?
RYAN BRISCOE: I really just got to know Will when we were both racing in America. We didn't race against each other in Australia. We were racing Formula 3 at the same time in Europe, but he was in England, I was doing the Euro series. We never really competed against each other a whole lot till this last year.
I think I've definitely kept track of his performances. He's very fast. I think he's going to be a great asset to the team. I really look forward to working with him throughout this winter testing.
Q. Ryan, how is this affecting you? You and Helio became really tight fast last season in your first year as teammates. How is it affecting you preparing for '09?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, really I just stay focused on the job. Helio and I have become very good friends and great teammates. He's a great person to work for. I've learned a lot from Helio.
I can't say it's difficult for me. I can't imagine how tough it is for Helio. Obviously in any team, stability is always good. This is life. We've got to deal with change. I think Will is going to be a great asset to the team and we'll be able to move forward.
Q. Tim, you grew up about three miles from here. Did you ever dream you'd be sitting between two drivers from Australia and one from Brazil?
TIM CINDRIC: When I grew up, you were either an A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti fan. I knew what A.J. had to say about these foreign guys (laughter). I think of that once in a while, for sure.
At the end of the day, obviously we don't know Will as well as we know the other two guys. Forgetting where they come from, you wouldn't find three better people. That's a big part of kind of what makes it fun for us, and for Roger as well.
You look at it, and the whole world's changed from the time I was a kid, the way the world looked at things, the way the world looks at things now. I don't think it's any different for this place. Where my kids go to school, it's a whole different atmosphere, whole different world than it was back then, for sure. Maybe it's for the best.
Q. Helio, we know how much you like to race. I'm sure it's a great release for you to be able to do that. What are you doing now to stay sharp? Are you able to get in a car to make some of these things go away?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, obviously I've been working out, making sure that I'll be as fit as I can and prepared as I can. I try to educate myself on what's going on. Clearly it's a language that I'm not familiar with. Even in Portuguese I wouldn't be able to understand it either.
It's a very interesting situation. But right now I'm just focused on this issue one step at a time. Like I said, Team Penske and I were able to talk about it. It's best for everyone. Those are my friends. Roger has really been an incredible person in my career. For me having him give me tips, making me understand a lot of things, no question it's the best advice I can have.
Right now, I'm just going to continue doing that as well. As soon as possible when this is over, I'll be ready for the 2009 season.
Q. Come March 2nd, has your legal team given you any indication of is this going to be a week-long event, a month-long event? Do you have any idea how long you could be involved come March 2nd?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It is hard to say. (A trial like this) they say is about 20 days. The things always change. In my opinion, to be honest, they are saying strongly that they never saw a case like this. They're very surprised. But in my point we're going to present ourselves the best way we can present. But in terms of time-wise, that's what the indictment says, about 20 business days. That's what we're counting on. We're going to go for it. After everything is over, like I said, I'll be more than ready.
Q. What was your thought on Will's performance at Surfers Paradise? That was a non-championship race, but he showed good speed in qualifying to be on pole by a good margin. Was that something that made the decision easier in the end?
TIM CINDRIC: After the first couple sessions, I kept asking Ryan if the Australians got to run a different course than the rest of the guys because, for whatever reason, even in the race, Will was (indiscernible) about our pit before he went into Turn 1, and he was still about a second a lap faster than everybody else.
One thing, I did see Will after the race, and obviously he was very disappointed. Being your home country, all the rest of it, all the stage is lined up to have your dream day, then it doesn't work out for you. At the end of the day, sometimes that makes you stronger.
The way he handled that situation after the race, he didn't look at anybody else, the wall didn't move, the car didn't break maybe. He knew exactly how to handle it. That's a big part of doing what we do. You got to be fast, but the days that don't work you got to just be able to put it behind you. That showed us a little something off the racetrack
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