IndyCar Sonoma Saturday Press Conference
1 - Josef Newgarden - Penske Chevy/Penske Shocks
2 - Simon Pagenaud - Penske Chevy/Penske Shocks
3 - Helio Castroneves - Penske Chevy/Penske Shocks
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by Will Power and Helio Castroneves, who will be starting second and fourth respectively in tomorrow's race.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Better late than never. I feel like we had a couple places this year where we were capable of getting poles. It just didn't materialize. I feel like we're getting better and better. Today we threw everything at it at the end there. A little bit on the back foot. We have such good racecars, they certainly hang on to the tires so well just from all the work we put in I feel like at the shop, with all these guys. Huge credit to the team, to everyone that's been driving these cars because we've been working on them for the last week and a half to be able to do this. It's fun we were able to do 1-2-3-4. It's good for the team, but it's only phase one. We got phase two to get through tomorrow. We'll see where we end up.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Josef, is this an example of your peaking at the right time?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think we're getting better. We've been getting better this second half of the year without a doubt. I think the more time we've had, the more experience together, the better we seem to do. So that's a good thing for us on the 2 car specifically.
I feel like we're able to contribute more and more to the overall group the more we've gone throughout the year. So absolutely. It's the best time to be doing it, is right now.
To get a pole, it helps for tomorrow. It's only part of the equation. The race is what is really important. The pole didn't actually matter today. You win the race, the pole doesn't really mean anything. Tomorrow is the big thing we've got to focus on now.
Q. Tim was saying you made their strategy look good with the way they did the allotment of the tires there toward the end. In a lot of ways you kind of manhandled your way on that lap. What was it like inside the cockpit?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know about 'manhandle' it. We had great racecars here. We knew our car was fast. I think these guys, they're all capable of doing the same thing on used tires. Who is not to say that used tires would have been a little bit better for one lap. Maybe that was the case today.
But we were behind the eight ball there, for sure, after the first round. We made the best decision we could as a group. We were first out. There was no way we couldn't run the reds because we just had no idea what people were going to run. We weren't sure if we would be secure on black tires.
We ended up that we would have been safe, so we didn't need to run the reds. But obviously these guys were able to watch that and make a better decision in the second round.
I was a little bit surprised, but at the same time I'm not. We have the best team out here giving us the best equipment. When you have that, you know anything is possible.
Q. Will, three and a half hundredths off the pole. Is that a piece of dirt, a feather? Is it frustrating to be that close?
WILL POWER: Yeah, well, I mean, you start going back through the lap in your head. I could have just hit the throttle a little earlier there, yeah. Would have helped me braking actually, push back.
Yeah, it's tight. It's just like that sometimes. I mean, gave it everything I got. That's the situation.
Q. Given the huge variations that you can get around here with wind direction and sand blowing on the track, how different are your setups between the four of you? You must have been able to look at it over the course of the weekend and in testing. How close are your setups?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We've been here for a week and a half.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Pretty much identical.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Pretty damn close. You'd be surprised. Maybe a couple tiny baby differences. Will has some, like, odd feelings that he likes. I do, too. All of us do. So we have these little baby differences.
But the car has really merged over the last week and a half. In all honesty, it really has. We've had so much time. We've honed in on what works, what doesn't. They're not much different at all, to be honest.
Q. Josef, considering the points that got away from you previous race, is there any sort of confidence or momentum factor coming in and grabbing the first point available?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, it helps. It helps for the start of the race, I think. You got to think it helps. But how many IndyCar races have you seen where being on the pole wasn't the right thing for the race with the way yellows fall or whatever it is?
I hope it's straightforward tomorrow. That would make our job a lot easier. We just have to focus on making a fast racecar that lasts. But you never know. I hope I'm not being poetic with talking about him starting sixth and that being the best thing.
You just never know in a IndyCar race. It could fall his way in a heartbeat. I don't think we take any comfort in it, but we'll certainly take it. We'll take the point and the clean air to start the race and hopefully it falls our way.
Q. Josef, do you feel like you can even celebrate this pole? Your first pole was the same day in Milwaukee. You couldn't celebrate that. Now it's you got a championship, pole doesn't mean anything. Can you celebrate it or just best starting spot?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's good for us. We're happy. I'm really happy for the 2 car guys. They've wanted a pole all year. I think they deserved it. At a couple -- a couple points I feel like we had shots at it. It just didn't work out. I'm really happy for that.
I don't think it really means anything for the race. It really doesn't. Win the pole, lose the race, lose the championship. Doesn't really matter. Tomorrow is all that really matters.
Q. Helio, you're the senior man on the team. It would seem to me as a team, if you're looking at the championship overall, if you have a limited number of test days, you would think the last race with double points would be a good time to do a test, which Team Penske did. Suddenly there's an open test day for everybody a couple days ago. As a team, were you able to learn anything more to come back again last Thursday? Basically did you do race simulation?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, well, you know the top four today here is Team Penske. It made a lot of sense. We planned that at the beginning of the year. We're surprised actually people did not decide to join Team Penske. I'm not sure how the rules were, if they're allowed or not. But the point is, they were allowed, right? I don't understand why. As.
You mentioned, a hundred points. Team Penske, we're throwing everything out there. We wanted this championship as bad as anybody. We do have a chance. We going to obviously try to execute. That's our goal.
So we did learn a lot, not only as qualifying but also as race pace. Certainly this place, the weather change quite a lot. So even that we came here, it was one way, but at least that day, we checked that box. We knew what to do. But it was a progress toward the entire weekend for us, to keep improving our cars. Today it showed very well in the qualifying. Now we got to continue finishing the rest of the job.
Q. At what point after you leave here do you stop having dialogue with each other, zone out, say, I got to kick these other guys' butts?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm just faking right now.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We all have to hang out tonight, to be honest with you. We'll talk for a lot longer.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't think this is a scenario that we're not going to talk to each other. Obviously we want to win. We know the rules. You know the game. Right now we want to win as bad as anybody.
But in the end of the day, we still got to deliver this championship to Roger. We understand what we need to do. That's what we're going to do tomorrow.
SIMON PAGENAUD: When we have our helmet on, we can't talk. I guess that's your answer (laughter).
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You guys would be surprised if you put a camera in the engineering room, how much we goof around. Everyone thinks we're lying.
WILL POWER: It's only since you joined, Josef, that the room has become much more lively.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I thought you said it toned down when Montoya left.
WILL POWER: Montoya was never there. He was never in there (laughter).
HELIO CASTRONEVES: When he was there, he was playing video games.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Depends who has the energy that day because it all changes. Some days Will is on the pipe, he's running hot. A go-kart term, by the way.
Q. What has caused the track record to drop so much? The reds are now basically on last year's black compound. Would have thought with less grip it would have been harder. What made it so perfect today?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I thought the timing was going to be similar as far as the outright pace was going to be very similar to last year. I think what happened there is the track gripped up from the Pirelli World Challenge race.
I was surprised. It was a little slippery for my first lap because we went out first. After you got that off the track, it was pretty gripped up. I'm sure these guys would say the same thing. But it was pretty impressive how much grip was on the track.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: This year has been quite fast. I think the development of the cars improve a lot, not only from the mechanical engineer side, from a little bit of engine. So even that the tires probably wasn't the best, but I feel that actually wasn't that bad. It was actually perfect.
So that's probably all when you put all together, it definitely helped for the time to go really, really down.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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