Team Penske Q&A from Indy

Team Penske
Team Penske

Team Penske Racing
Roger Penske
Tim Cindric
Helio Castroneves
Juan Pablo Montoya
Simon Pagenaud
Will Power

Friday, May 20, 2016

Team Owner, Roger Penske, President of Competition, Tim Cindric, along with drivers: Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet and Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Full Transcript:

MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Team Penske media availability for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Pengrade Motor Oil. For those of you who may not know, I'm Jerry Punch from ESPN and ABC, and I'm going to be the moderator this morning. Our program will involve me introducing each one of our special guests. I will ask each one of them a single question and then open it up to the floor for you to ask a question. I would ask you to you state your name, your affiliation and question, and I will repeat that for those listening around the Speedway in different locations so they will be able to hear the question and the answer.

First of all, let's meet our special guests. We're going to begin with the man third from the end over there. He is the founder and chairman of Penske Corporation, Roger Penske joining us this morning.

To his immediate left is the four-time Indy 500 winner, six-time pole winner and, amazingly, he started on the front row eleven times at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the oval-meister, Mr. Rick Mears.

To his left is a four-time pole sitter at Indy, a three-time race winner and driving the Pennzoil Team Penske Chevy, Helio Castroneves.

We move down here to the man who steers the motorsport ship for the Captain, the president of Penske Performance, Tim Cindric.

Next to Tim, the driver who is the hottest hand in all of Verizon IndyCar racing right now, Simon Pagenaud.

To his right is the defending and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, driver of the Verizon Team Penske Chevy, Juan Pablo Montoya.

And here next to me, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion, and runner up — what a great drive he had and Juan Pablo had at the end of that raced a year ago — driving the Verizon Team Penske Chevy, Will Power.

I do want to mention, by the way, that Simon Pagenaud drives the Menards Team Penske Chevy, and how happy was John Menard at the end of the Angie's List Grand Prix las week?

We will begin. I want to ask Roger Penske a question. Roger, Indianapolis, this race is about history and tradition and family. So I really want to turn back the clock to 1951 when a young man from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who had been captivated by anything with four wheels and an engine, was brought to this race by his dad. Julius Penske brought you here in 1951. What was it about that day that ignited your passion for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

ROGER PENSKE: I've said it before, my dad worked for a company that I guess they sponsored a couple laps here. In those days you had lap sponsors, and he had gotten a couple tickets, you know, and asked if I wanted to go to the race. Of course, I used to listen to it on the radio. Sid Collins I think in those days probably was the guy.

I remember coming here, we drove here from Cleveland and got here late and were supposed to go to someone's home for lunch. We went there anyhow, and everybody was gone but there was a car there. Ironically we had a show car back in '51, if these guys can believe it. They had a car there. I got my picture taken with a Cromwell helmet on. I think that day I thought I wanted to either drive — and certainly as we came out to the track and saw the race. I came every single year until we left when we had the split. But that was the early time.

I think the speed here, the sensation of the track, and if you love cars like I did in those days, it was a place you wanted to be part of.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MODERATOR: That day ignited what has become the absolute dynasty, one of the major dynasties in all of sports, not just motorsports but sports. Of course, this year Team Penske is celebrating their 50th anniversary, an organization that began in 1966. In case you don't know, 420 major race wins and 28 national championships for Team Penske. And in that group, 181 wins in the Verizon IndyCar Series, including 16 Indy 500 victories with 11 different drivers.

Next to Roger, we mentioned the president of Penske Performance, Tim Cindric. Tim, how difficult is it for you to manage the expectations and desires of four very, very competitive drivers whose goal this Sunday and next is to beat each other on the racetrack?

TIM CINDRIC: That's a good question. These guys know we couldn't have four better guys when you look at the talents that they have and the successes they've had. I think Roger says it all the time, if it's right for the team, it's right for you.

I think these guys, they push each other for sure. Without a doubt, they all want to win this race and, more importantly, they all want to win it for Roger because they all want to be part of that history. When you look at how hard they compete on the track, off the track, we encourage a totally open book and these guys have bought into that. I think that our successes is a big part of that.

I think, as you see, Juan won the race last year, Will with the championship before, Helio and these guys, they understand and now you see Simon coming on and getting his successes within the organization.

So I think the expectations are always to be successful. Those that have come before us have done that and I think Rick sets the tone, really, for how you work together and what you need to be within this team. He's our example.

MODERATOR: You do a phenomenal job. What a great beginning to the 2016 season for Team Penske, five poles and four wins in five races.

Let's go over to Rick Mears. Rick, we talked about your incredible history here: The six poles, the eleven front row starts, the four wins. I know people come to you because you are a wealth of information, a vault when it comes to not only about this racetrack and about the history.

I want to challenge you. Aside from your four victories, aside from your four wins, what other Penske victory at Indianapolis and the Indy 500, stands out in your mind as something that you will remember?

RICK MEARS: The Penske victory or other things that we have accomplished here?

MODERATOR: Other things you have accomplished here. I know your four wins are special; we've talked about that in the past. But I want to draw from you some history of special memories of Penske.

MEARS: For me, my next special memory ranks right up there with the four wins is my first pole. When we sat on the pole here, that was the first pole I ever had, period, in a race car, in an IndyCar. So that jumps out for me as very strong. It was only our second year and it was still, "Rick who?" And we were the last car in line waiting to qualify that had a shot at it. I think Sneva was on the pole at the time and Foyt was just ahead of me getting ready to go out. Foyt went out to make his run and his first couple laps I think was quick enough to bump Tom.

So the announcers were going crazy as he was making his runs. And I guess his third lap he lost a spark plug or something, dropped a cylinder and speed started tapering off and they go, "Oh, man, it's all over. Sneva's got it. Foyt can't do it." I'm sitting there thinking "Wait a minute, guys. I haven't gone yet."

I wasn't sure at that time if we could or not. I knew we had a good car. The guys had given me a great car to run. It was a matter of going out and trying to put the four best laps in we could. One point in that run in particular I was still learning the limits and where everything was at. And I remember coming through 3, I was trying to run wide open and coming through 3 on I think the second lap, I started losing the front end right in the middle of the corner and the thing started widening out and I thought, "Oh, man, this is going to be close. I can either lift and make sure or leave it and hope."

So I decided to leave it. I even started leaning over in the car and bracing myself. I thought I was going to bounce off the fence off of 3. We made it. We cleared if. I thought, "Whoa, that's great." Right?

When I came around the next lap, I thought I was like this from it. We came around the next lap, going through 3, I was looking at my black mark, and I still had about six, eight inches left, so I had a lot more room out there than I thought. I was still finding the limits.

But that run, when I came in and saw those smiles on all the guys' faces, to me it was kind of payback for all the hard work they do, if we can go out and put the numbers on the board. That was what jumps out at me.

PENSKE: Tell him what you remember about the '78 race.

MEARS: '78, I remember I couldn't see the first laps. I kind of forgotten to buckle my helmet. I was trying to be calm and relaxed, and I didn't want the pressure to get to me. I kind of laid back in the garage and waited and trying to stay relaxed. I was so relaxed I was late getting in the car. So then I had to hurry, and I got in a rush and I somehow screwed up my buckle on my helmet. Didn't get it done.

First time we took the green, went into the corner, the window on the helmet started going up like this (indicating). So I'm stretching my neck trying to stay with it. Pretty soon I had to grab it with one hand, so I'm running the first few laps with one hand and holding my helmet down. And I hated to make that call in, you know. "Hey, guys, I forgot to buckle my helmet." (Laughter)

So I ran as many laps as I dared, and I thought, this is really dumb. So I made the call. Fortunately about the time I made the call, we got a yellow and we got to come in and it give us a little time to get it buckled and take off again. So that was exciting, also. That doesn't quite rank with the pole, though. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: How about that? You understand how important qualifying is at Indianapolis. You go from "Rick who?" to one of the greatest all-time drivers at this place. How about that quote, "Leave it and hope," from Rick Mears. That's sort of what has to happen on Pole Day.

Let's move over to driver of Team Penske Chevy, Helio Castroneves. Helio is a four-time pole winner and a three-time winner here. What you may not remember is he came within 29 one-hundreths of a second of winning his first, finishing second to Gilera de Ferran, and then two years ago he came within sixth hundredths of a second of beating Ryan Hunter-Reay. So less than four-tenths of a second from being a five-time Indy 500 winner.

Helio, how often, honestly, do you let yourself think about what it would mean to win a fourth Indy 500 here?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, you've got to move on. You think about it when you talk about it, but you've just got to move on. If we could be doing this or could be doing that, we would be a five time. But this guy would probably be like seven times or eight times because he also finished a lot in second place on Race Day that he could have won.

You can't think about the past. You've got to think of the future. Obviously, those races were great. Winning with our team, Gil got the best opportunity in Turn Two and passed me. And Hunter-Reay, he really went for it. He took some chances and he might have had a little more juice than us on that day.

But the good news is we were there. We're pushing. We're finding every inch in the track to make sure that we can make it happen. So looking forward this year to put the Shell Pennzoil colors again in the top.

MODERATOR: Absolutely. Certainly always fun to watch, and we're so excited about what could happen on Race Day for you and your team.

Let's go over to the Verizon Team Penske Chevy driver Will Power.

Will, you drove just a flawless race a year ago. There was some adjustments made in the final stops that they made to turn you loose and you were just incredibly quick. You and Juan Pablo — we watched the last few laps again yesterday, all of us in television land and said, "Wow, what a great race." The fans were on their feet here and at home watching.

In hindsight when you go back and look at those laps, is there anything you could have or would have done differently a year ago?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I think just running more downforce. You know, Juan went to the back early on, so those guys put more downforce on. And you know, we were going to put more front aero in because ultimately that was why I couldn't pass him on the last lap, either hit the wall or lift. So I did the opposite of Rick and I lifted because I was going to hit the wall.

So, yeah, it's not much I could do different. I mean Juan, once he got past Dixon cruised by me and I kind of lost some ground there. But actually I was thinking coming on to the last lap, I'm in the best spot here, I can get a run on him. But he did a really good job of taking the air and making sure that I had push, you know, which was really smart. You know, that was it. I couldn't do anything about it.

But it was still a great race, you know. It was really, really — I forgot where I was, I was so immersed in the race. It was so much fun battling it out at the end. It's a good lesson. I've learned some tricks for this year. We'll obviously be going for it again. You've got to be there at the end. I mean, that's the key for this race nowadays is it's just a drafting first, and no one can know where to be on the last lap. You obviously don't know. Juan didn't know if that was the right place to be. It may not have been. So it's just a matter of making sure you're in that group and that will be the plan this year.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MODERATOR: Just a fabulous race a year ago. You checked the box of Verizon IndyCar Champion in 2014, and came that close of checking the box a year ago as an Indy 500 winner.

Let's move next door here to a driver of the Verizon Team Penske Chevy, the two-time and defending Indy 500 winner, Juan Pablo Montoya. Juan, people have said you can't have a bad luck have a miscue in this race because it will cost you, and it's hard or almost impossible to win. You proved that to not be the case a year ago.

For those who may not remember, Juan Pablo Montoya made two pit stops before Lap 10, one to repair damage in the back of his car, not of his own doing, and secondly, to top off a tank. And then his first pit stop he slid over the air hose and cost himself five-and-a-half seconds which is 200-some yards on the racetrack. Went back to 30th and came back and won the Indy 500.

Juan, when you look back, what was the key to being able — that amazing comeback from the back of the field to win the race?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To be honest with you, I think the biggest difference was just patience. I think to be honest, the years I had in NASCAR, when you do so many 500-mile races, you realize it doesn't matter where you start. It's just work on the car, make it good, and if you have a good car, you just take it one by one. To be honest with you, I was actually surprised, we got into the top ten within a hundred laps. I was like, wow.

As Will said, this race is all about you never know whether the move you make is the right one or the wrong one. You've just got to make a decision whether you do it or you don't. We're lucky enough to be here with Team Penske and great sponsors like Verizon and Chevy and everybody involved in the program that it gives us the opportunity, all four of us, to have a shot at winning. We come here and everybody looks at us. You know, the winner might be sitting in this room right now. And that's exciting. It's extra motivation to work hard to make sure you get everything out of the car, and it makes it fun.

MODERATOR: Well said. Well said. Let's move beside you quickly here. The Menards Team Penske Chevy driver, Simon Pagenaud, without question, the hottest shoe in all of Verizon IndyCar right now. Three consecutive wins, two runner-up finishes in the first five starts.

Simon, you have averaged 1.4 on your finishes, the best ever for a Team Penske driver in the history of the organization through five races, and that's hard to do given the history of this incredible organization.

How do you explain, though, the amazing success you guys have had with the Menards Team Chevy?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Hello. It's all the preparation that we put in last year, all that work that happened in 2015, it wasn't visible in terms of results. But we built a really strong team, really awesome people on that 22 car. Like Roger likes to say, it's all about people. We kept exactly the same people on the team. Consistency makes a big difference in racing; I believe that.

And this year the results of 2015 is showing. You know, it's all the work that we did last year that's now showing. So it's very enjoyable. It's a great time. Obviously when you're winning is when you have the most fun in racing.

But like Juan Pablo said, we have the best cars and we are the best team, so it pushes us to the limits even further. That's why things happen. So there's a long way to go. We had a really good start, but long, long way to go for us.

MODERATOR: What a great beginning for you and Carl Moyer and Menards Team Penske Chevy. Open it up for questions. I would ask you to raise your hand, state your name and affiliation, and I will repeat that.

Q: Rick, when you first came here and you said this place wasn't ever on your radar, but when you look at the 100-year history of this race and what you have meant in that history, what do you think? You won four — four Indy 500s in the least amount of starts.

MODERATOR: Question is, Rick, when you came here, you know, you won your four in the least amount of starts here. What do you think about that as far as the history of this place and what you accomplished?

MEARS: Well, you know, like you said, it wasn't really on my radar. Growing up as a kid in California, and we were playing with things with wheels on it for family recreation on the weekends. Never dreamed of making a living at racing. Would work during the week to go play on the weekend. It just snowballed and took its own course. Never dreamed of getting in an IndyCar until six months before it actually happened.

So I didn't study the history. I didn't know the history of the place. When I got back here, the first win came very quick and I didn't appreciate it as much as I did the second, third or fourth, you know. But as time went on, you learned the history, once you spend the time here. A little older and a little wiser, and it's just incredible the amount of history this place has. And then as you go, you start growing into being a part of the history, which is incredible.

I mean, to be in the same league with two of my heroes, A.J. and Al, you know, I still feel I could never really be at their level even though we're in the same club there. They came before me. We may have gotten it done a little quicker but they were there first. Obviously, to get those numbers, it was all about having the tools from the team to be able to make it happen.

So it's just unbelievable to be, you know, a part of the history of this place, period.

Q: But do you feel it more this year or not?

MEARS: Feel it more this year?

Q: Do you feel you're part of history more this year at the 100th race?

MEARS: It brings it to light more. The 100th anniversary and everything around it, brings it to light more. As I go over to the museum and seeing the display of Roger's 50 years there, when you think about the 50 years, it's hard to visualize it. But when you go over there and go in that display and get to look around and look at all the cars and pictures, you get to see that 50 years physically in person. You can visualize it a lot more. And it makes you realize you are more a part of it than you ever thought, you know.

MODERATOR: Next question.

Q: One question to Roger. Roger, looking in the history of your team from many years in England, you built mostly your IndyCars under Roger Bennett. Under the right time and circumstances, would you do it again?

PENSKE: I think the way the League has set up the cars and trying to keep costs in line, you're not going to be able to do that, obviously. If we had the opportunity to build our own cars, we certainly would. We're building our own cars in NASCAR and I think that that's an opportunity. But on the other hand, I applaud the Indy Racing League for keeping our costs down. I think that's one of the things we'll continue to build here as we look over the next four or five years, costs are under control, engines are reliable. I think safety has gotten much, much better. So I bought into the concept they have now.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Roger.

Q: This is for Roger. Seeing as you have the most years here as anyone, what do you think has transcended this from a race to being an event, to be such a legendary event as opposed to just a race?

MEARS: I think when you go back to when Mauri Rose and Gaston Chevrolet ran here was to display the speed and strength of their cars. I think that's happening today. You've got Chevrolet and Honda trying to race here, you've got the "Biggest Spectacle in Motor Racing." I think the technology has changed so much. I think that's to me, you know, what's the difference. There's no question from the standpoint of entertainment.

People have lots of things they can do and the way we can stream this race and you can be part of, sitting in the car with the driver has made a big difference. In the old days we didn't have these fancy watches and we could look at how the cars were running on the racetrack, you would have to wait to come in to figure that out.

So the technology has driven it. I think there's still a competitive competition amongst the manufacturers. One thing we don't have is complexity and turbines running against V8s and four cylinders because in today's world, you try to get equalization, really creates a lot of confusion and maybe some noise that we don't want. So I think right now we're in a pretty good position.


Q: Roger, this is for you. What do you attribute the phenomenal success of Penske Racing to for 50 years?

PENSKE: Well, it's real easy. It's the people. I've said it so many times. When you look at the group up here, and you could go back and each year the people we've had that supported us, it's the continuity. I've said it before. We have over 600 years of experience that will be at the track this year. We have 3500 at the shop, if you can believe it, back in Charlotte. So it's all about the people.

I think it's also the partnerships we've been able to develop through racing helped me open the doors to many of the top automotive companies around the world. It's amazing how motorsports, when you talk about that within those organizations, you really get someone to listen to you and maybe what you want to do together. Those partnerships have helped me build the company. So I think it's a common thread through our business. We have 50,000 people now in our company on a worldwide basis. We run a flat organization. If I got to drive the truck to Cleveland tonight, I'll drive the truck to Cleveland. I think that's everybody — the drivers would do that tonight if they have to. We have that kind of a can-do attitude.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MODERATOR: Thank you, Roger.


Q: We've got four drivers here from four different countries and three different continents. Can each one explain what drew them to America to race here?

CASTRONEVES: I tell you what, what I enjoy most racing in America, it's not only — they do say it's the land of opportunity and it's true. Because if you work your butt off, you know, you are definitely going to be recognized. That happens to me. They gave me a fair chance and I worked all my way. And today I'm so honored to be driving not only for this team for an amazing series, and so that's the basically the biggest choice and the right choice I made in my career in my life, leaving Europe and coming over here to America. I'm so glad I did that.

MODERATOR: Simon, what lured you to this country?

PAGENAUD: Similar to Helio, I've been living the American dream. I came from Europe hoping for an opportunity and it worked out. But the biggest thing for me was the Indy 500 that was, to me, one of the biggest races in the world like LeMans, like the 24 hours of LeMans or Monaco GP. So I really wanted to be part of it. But it took me a while to get to it and be with the right team.

So, yeah, I'm definitely living the dream. I live the American dream, so I'm very fortunate for it.


MONTOYA: I think, you know, I've been lucky enough to race everywhere. To be honest with you, the quality of living here in America, it's amazing, and the racing is great. It's so well balanced. There's a really nice balance here between how competitive it is and how enjoyable it is. It's where — the true racing is still here, in my opinion. You know, in a way by having everybody in the same chassis — yes, there's two manufacturers but a lot of the parts are the same and you see how competitive and how close it is, it makes it fun. It makes it fun every week. It makes it tough as well because you go into races and you don't know whether you're going to be on pole or you're going to be freaking last.

So it's tough. It's tough racing. It's fun racing, and it keeps it interesting. Having the chance as well to be in the Indy 500, it's a plus.

MODERATOR: Will Power?

POWER: Yeah, racing in Europe like these guys and just had — actually, I was racing against Simon in 2005 in World Series by Renault and just by circumstance ended up with a ride over here in Champ Car, and that's where it progressed from.

It's like Juan said, this series as it is right now is the most competitive series in the world, there's just no question. You know, anyone from any other series who comes over here from Formula One, doesn't matter where they come, there's no way they're going to step into the series and win straight away, you just can't. It's too tough.

I think that's what's great about IndyCar racing and the versatility that you have to have to win a championship, you know, you've got to be good on all those disciplines, you know, street course, road course, super speedway and short oval, it's all mixed up and they're all different, too. So to me it's the best series in the world.

MODERATOR: Great answers, guys. In the final couple minutes, let's do three quick questions.

Q: This is for the current drivers. How has competing with and against your teammates made you better?

CASTRONEVES: Well, we have a lot of information in our team. We do want to beat each other. We know that every time that we are faster than these guys, we have a high chance to be beating everybody else. So right now it's incredible the way, the quality that those guys have and it's incredible. So learning from each individual, someone has areas that's very strong and you're able to actually adapt to that.

So for us, for me at least, it's been an incredible experience learning with those guys, and we keep using it out there.

MONTOYA: Yeah, for me it's the same thing, you know. Something that from day one here at Penske, you guys work together. Off the racetrack it's an open book and we all work together. And it's amazing.

I'll give an example. Like yesterday, we made a change on the straightaway, we walked through the teams and said, "Hey, that was better." And Simon's car, for example, went to the garage yesterday and Simon plugged in straight away and talked to me. When I'm out of the car, I'll go, and there's a lot of interaction.

So it's really good because I can go to any of my three teammates and say, "Hey, I'm struggling here. What are you doing?" And they go, "Oh, I tried this. I go here, I make sure the car does this." It's very open. That's why we're so good. That's why as a team we're so strong because, yes, on the track we do want to beat each other and really badly, but off the track we're really good friends and we're really good partners. I think that makes a huge difference.

POWER: Yeah, I mean it's amazing how different the driving styles are and how much you can learn off all of us. There's always one of us that is standing out at some point and makes the others work harder to get there.

So as a group, just like Juan said, I really believe a lot of our pace comes from just the competitiveness amongst us and, you know, all the data that we share. So really, to me, it's the toughest combination on pit lane by far as far as a group of drivers. I don't think there's anything like it, and that's what really makes the team tough to beat.

PAGENAUD: Yeah — is this on? That was a Montoya joke, I guess. (Laughter) That was going to happen.

CASTRONEVES: Teamwork. Teamwork. (Laughter)

PAGENAUD: Personally, it's like Helio said, each one of us has strengths and weaknesses. But as a driver if you can look at what are the strengths of this guy and this guy, do I have those strengths? Can I make it better? Can you improve your weaknesses by looking at those guys? For me personally, I feel like I've improved massively because of them just basically being open books to me, showing me how to do it. I always joke with Montoya, he starts last, wins the race. So why do you even bother qualifying, you know? (Laughter)

Things like that, it's incredible, to see when he's able to turn things around and Helio is magical sometimes. He's got these things like this little spark that he has, he's able to do something incredible. If I was able to do that any time, it would be awesome, right? And Will, when he's on his special laps in qualifying, it's just incredible to see.

So if you can take all this strength and make it better for you, then that's a good thing.

MODERATOR: Two more quick questions.

Q: Roger, for you. Take us back to when you first switched over from getting out of the cockpit to really taking over the team. I remember reading, I believe it was Rookie Year or something when Mario got the ride and you decided, "Hey, this is the track that I'm going to go in." Talk about being able to do that without wanting to get back into the car.

PENSKE: Well, I've said it before, it was kind of a junk intersection of opportunity to take a test here with Clint Brawner and Jim McGee. Unfortunately, I had a job, as I said earlier this month, I couldn't get a couple weeks off to come here and do that.

At the same time, I was applying to be a Chevrolet dealer in Philadelphia, and General Motors didn't want to give me a franchise if I was a race driver. So I had to make a pretty good business decision at that point. Do I continue racing or do I go into business? And I think I made the right decision, because I was able to have the experience as a driver, understood what it meant to have reliable and great cars, and was able to bring that into our team a few years later. From that point we never looked back.

So it was a hard decision but an easy decision. My dad had loaned me some money out of his savings account to get going and I had to pay him back, and I couldn't do that from the racetrack for sure.

MODERATOR: Due to time constraints we're going to cut this off. We thank you for being here for the Team Penske availability. Again, thank you so much to Team Penske for being here this morning, and thank you as well.

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