OBVIOUSLY THIS IS A SAD TIME FOR EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW BUT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AS WELL. I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE A FEW WORDS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US TODAY:
“I would assume everybody has seen the press release, but last night the shooting that took place unfortunately has some attachment to Hendrick Motorsports. Someone in our engine shop it was his brother, Andrew Collier’s brother, Sean was tragically killed last night. Still a lot of questions going on obviously if anybody has had a chance to watch the news today there still is a lot of chaos taking place in Boston. Trying to gather all that is going on, but a very sad time. My thoughts and prayers are with the Collier family. I certainly know that it is the same thing for all of Hendrick Motorsports. We are one big family and it’s sad and unfortunate to see a fellow teammate and his family going through such a tough time."
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WEEKEND:
“Excited to be back, I think that every driver and team is excited to race here. First there was a race track now there is this thriving community and businesses that are around the track as well. It’s nice to come here as the track, it was newly repaved, but with the progressive banking I think there is a lot of good racing that is going to take place. I think we had a nice opening event here last fall, one that we were very competitive in. I think as the track ages we will have a lot of lanes to choose from and a lot of great racing will take place as a result of the reconfiguration. Again, the area is great. I spent a lot of time in this area driving for the Herzog’s that were up the road in St. Joseph, Missouri. I smile for a few reasons every time I come back to this race track."
DID YOU GUYS TURN IN PENSKE LAST WEEK? I’M ASSUMING YOU HAVE HEARD BRAD’S (KESELOWSKI) COMMENTS AS FAR AS, THEY FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE BEEN TARGETED AND UNDER THE MICROSCOPE THE LAST WEEK OR SO. YOU AND CHAD (KNAUS) OBVIOUSLY KNOW HOW THAT FEELS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHEN YOU DO HAVE SUCCESS HOW MUCH CLOSER NASCAR DOES SCRUTINIZE EVERYTHING THAT YOU GUYS DO:
“When you have success on your side the magnifying glass the viewpoint for everybody, NASCAR, other teams, it gets a lot more intense. The best officiating in the garage area has always been your neighbor. That has just been part of NASCAR for years and years. That is why NASCAR has the procedures in place that they do in the garage area and why even in F1 today they are not allowed to cover their stuff anymore. It’s just part of it. With all that being said, no, the Hendrick group and the No. 48 team did not rat out the Penske cars. There are two decisions teams are faced with in the garage area. Everybody has people watching. We have been very impressed with the No. 2 cars staff and their ability to have somebody just stand and watch other teams.
“So this environment does take place in the garage area. Yeah, there are eyes open, but when a team sees something they have two options. One, they go home and try to adapt it to their car and understand it and see if they can make it work or they go in the truck and say something. We don’t say something. We are a company built on performance. We are a company that tries to understand the rulebook as close as we can to the law. Sure, we have had our issues with it, but that is racing it has been that way since day one of racing. We go in there and we try to be as smart as we can and conform to the rules and put the best race car on the track. With all that being said, no, sure there was a lot of activity around the Penske cars during the test day, just like all the other cars and everybody is watching, everybody is looking, but in no way shape or form did anybody from the No. 48 car walk into that truck and say anything."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO COME AND RACE IN A TRAGIC SITUATION LIKE THIS TODAY? IS IT EASY TO PUT IT OUT OF YOUR MIND WHEN YOU GET IN THE CAR?
“It’s ever changing to be honest with you. Monday I think everyone dealt with grief and sadness and shock. Come Tuesday I found out that the Gross family from Charlotte that was injured in the bombing that I had not an attachment to, but I know who Nicole is. The pool that I swim at on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s she is there often instructing others, she is a swim coach and works with a lot of people. Once that hit home with me I’m like ‘wow I know who she is.’ I know her face. I didn’t put that together prior to. That brought it a little closer to home for me. Then now this morning learning the news about what happened last night brings us closer to it again. Absolutely, we will race with heavy hearts. At a sporting event at a type of an event where most people are competing for the awareness of a charity or for some cause to have these innocent people that are there in the spirit of giving back have this tragedy take place is just ridiculous. I think we have all as a society have paid attention to that and it has hit somewhere deep in us on that. The last four hours, three hours, it has gone to a new level knowing that a fellow teammate is now directly involved with what took place in Boston."
IS THERE CERTAIN CHEMISTRY BETWEEN THE DRIVER AND THE SPOTTER? IS THERE REALLY NO PROFILE THAT FITS BEST FOR EVERYBODY, BUT RATHER JUST WORKS BEST FOR YOU? WHAT MAKES EARL BARBAN SUCH A GREAT SPOTTER FOR YOU?
“Yeah, there just is a connection with a driver and a spotter and you really don’t know that until you get racing and get into some real pressure situations and you can tell when your spotter saved your butt; or if they miss something and got you into an issue. I haven’t had many spotters along the way. I don’t believe I’ve ever had an issue with one where it was like okay; you need to go do something else. I’ve been very fortunate along the way. I think at Hendrick, we find good people and are able to make sure we go to the track with the right people in place. But even in the earlier years, I was very fortunate to have Lorin Ranier spot for me when I got into Nationwide. It would always surprise me the eye that he had. When I was a rookie, I needed that experienced eye up there (atop the grandstands) watching. He could tell me when I missed my mark by four or six inches. And it’s like man, that wasn’t it. Try gain. So, everybody has a different need inside the car. And when you find someone that you get along with, it lasts for a long time."
WAS THERE ANY PART OF YOU THAT THOUGHT THE PENSKE PENALTY WAS SOMEWHAT JUST IN THE SENSE THAT BRAD KESELOWSKI WAS COMPLAINING OR AT LEAST TALKING ABOUT YOUR REAR END SUSPENSION LAST YEAR?
“Brad was talking about my rear end (laughter)? Sounds like we’ve got bigger issues than race car stuff (more laughter). I’ve said this before. Brad is a huge talent. But as we all know, Brad will say things. And when you’re in the sport long enough, you learn when you need to be careful. And no team is immune to the issues. I don’t want the crew chief’s job. Those guys live on the ragged edge and they have to. If not, they’re going to run 20th every week. So, I think over time, I’ve learned and have also clearly experienced some issues where man, you just do your thing and there’s no need to spout off what other people are up to. I think there have been a few lessons that Brad has learned along the way this year as to when to say something.
“With all that being said, it doesn’t take away from the fact that with the penalties and with what Penske is going through right now, doesn’t take away the fact that they are champions and they did an awesome job last year. And I still think Brad is an awesome driver and that team has awesome equipment and we’re going to deal with them week-in and week-out. Again, I’ve lived through it and good teams survive. Good teams and drivers will always survive. But it’s going to put a lot of stress in their world the next six, eight, or ten weeks, depending on how long the appeals last and all that. And we’ll all see how they respond to it. But once they get some normalcy back in their lives at-track, they’re going to be right there at the front of the pack each week like we’ve seen so far."
IF THEY DON’T WIN ON APPEAL, HOW DIFFICULT WILL IT BE FOR THEM WITH THEIR KEY PEOPLE WORKING FROM THE RACE SHOP INSTEAD OF AT THE RACE TRACK?
“That’s tough. Your depth chart really gets challenged at that point. We know that as fines continue to come out, they will never be less than what happened before. So it’s going to continue to go to new levels and NASCAR obviously wants to discourage this type of activity, so they are going to make the punishment harsher and harsher. Now it’s not just a crew chief suspension. You’re into engineers. Typically, your engineer would sit on the box and call the race if the crew chief was gone. So, what’s next? It’s going to be tough. Without a doubt, it’s going to be really hard for those guys to perform. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, and I do expect great things out of Penske. Roger has an awesome racing operation with a lot of smart people over there. It’s not going to be easy, but I think they’ll survive."
WOULD AN ENGINEER FILL IN FOR ANOTHER ENGINEER EACH WEEK?
“You can. They have on their IndyCar staff a lot of great people. It’s just like a driver coming into a car. A very accomplished driver from another form of racing would be the same as an accomplished crew chief and/or engineer from another form of racing. You can get in the game. You can get close. But to win at this level, you’ve got to be so good. And it’s the last tenth or half a tenth that separates second from first. And that’s what you miss. That’s the part that will be missed if their suspensions go through."