HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 HITACHI/SHELL V-POWER/PENNZOIL ULTRA TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Barber Motorsports Park and discussed having AJ Allmendinger join Team Penske, working with two teammates, changes to Team Penske and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
Q. Allmendinger says you have the second best looking hair.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, you be the judge when we finish the race and we take the helmet off. I think that will be answer.
But it's cool to have AJ around. Actually, it's great. Having AJ on the team, it's pretty fun, it's pretty cool. He's coming back. First test he did in Sebring, he was right on the pace. It's great. It's great to continue to have a good atmosphere.
Wishing all the best for Ryan, obviously. We create a good foundation since he was on the team in 2006, I believe. So hopefully he can join us whatever he's going to do.
In the end of the day, we're here. Another year, 2013. We're looking very strong again. The DW12 seem to be a little bit better, which I think everybody went through all the phases of learning the car. I'm really, really excited for 2013 to start.
Q. Who is going to talk to Will and you during the race now most of the time?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Right now (Tim) Cindric going to keep in Will's car. John Erickson so far is officially the guy on my car. I believe Roger is going to be the consulting. I hope he'll be consulting more on my side because Cindric has his opinion, his own, which is a good thing for sure.
But right now officially John Erickson is going to be calling my races.
Q. You don't want Roger?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I do. What I heard, I think he's flexible now. He also want to be going to the NASCAR races. I believe he want to be back and forth. In this case of a third car, he also be able to call the race for the third car.
But, yes, it would be an honor to have Roger. So far two races I did with Roger, which was in the Porsche, the Spyder, we finished fourth and won one race. It's a pretty good record, I have to say. I would enjoy having him in my group.
Q. When you get a new teammate, how do things change? I know AJ won't be there all the time. How does it change?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: For us, having AJ around, like I said, he's already understand the Penske work ethic, you know. First test as we had, it was just like he's being there, even though it was a NASCAR team, but he's been there.
I don't think it's going to change much. Right now Will and I, we understand about third car to be there. It's important also now, especially because we don't have much practice to collect data. We feel AJ is going to be really good.
Right now the way he adapt is extremely fast. I think that's one of his characteristic. He's able to jump from NASCAR to IndyCar to DP. He doesn't need time to adapt. So I guess that's one of his strongest point.
I feel going into the race here and Indy, he'll be extremely fast as well. It will be good. For sure it will be good to collect a lot more data, like we always have.
Q. (Question regarding foundation with Will.)
HELIO CASTRONEVES: For sure, Will is proving the last three, four years how incredible he is in the road course and street course. I mean, the guy is a super talent. For sure he's able to do a lot of things that I haven't seen my other teammates do.
He's able to adapt quick in certain circumstances, especially in qualifying. Sometimes you're able to match one or two corners, but the good thing about him, he's able to put like a good lap in all the corners.
I would say he's very accurate, especially in qualifying, and he's able to be smart when you switch to race pace. That's his strength right now at this point.
I would say for us, we be able to work together well. Him and I use similar setups, especially in ovals. You know, in his case ovals hasn't been his strongest point, but I guess experience will help. Right now we're doing everything we can to make sure both cars, not only in ovals or road course, but they be competitive.
Q. Seems that when you've worked together with Will Power over the last two, three years, it almost seems to me like you've improved.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, yeah.
Q. I don't mean just because you have somebody to compete against, but I feel like you've stepped it up a little.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: For me, I have to say moving with this new car, I change the way I drove with the left foot brake. Last year was the first year that I did that. Especially when you have two paddles in the car, plus carbon brakes, reaction time got to be faster.
Plus the double-file restarts, you know, it's one thing in the start of the race, but every yellow you have double-file restart, so we have to be on it all the time, especially when the tires might be cold, not new, things like that.
So, yes, that's why I change a little bit. I felt very, very comfortable. But still, when you spend most of your life braking with the right foot, you still face some challenge. But right now it's nothing an issue for me.
Q. Now you're back, a championship contender again.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You got to update. I said it before, just like a computer, you got to update. Sometimes the computer's good, but the technology around you go faster. You got to just keep going.
Right now we have a new group in our team. I have John (indiscernible), I never know his name. As you can see, it's new for me, too. We work together with the prototype, the Porsche Spyder. He was working with Ryan Briscoe last year. I mean, our group of guys, especially the engineers, are incredible.
The reason when they eliminate a third car, I felt, we all felt, that Ron, who was the top engineer, it would be good for him to look both cars instead of just one car, keep in pace with everything.
I felt great with John because I worked before. Plus John worked with John Ericson on the Porsche Spyder for many years together. So I guess the combination would be great.
Also we have different crew guys. We did a mix, you know. We're getting all the best guys.
We do have a problem. We have old very good guys. It's tough for you to select. But internal they have some type of questionnaire of who is going to keep going to the races, that's the way they select who is going to be on the No. 3 and the No. 12.
We chasing a little change, the No. 3 group. I like what I had in the past. But sometimes little change, details, makes a big thing on the racetrack.
Q. You said that AJ was on pace at Sebring.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes.
Q. What do you think he will bring to you guys that will be a benefit for both of you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Just a different style. He seemed to be very aggressive with the car. Sometimes in some of the tracks it's important for us to find out what's possible.
I remember when Will came onboard, I mean, we have one style, and all of a sudden a guy comes with a different style and able to make it happen. So it's great for that. I feel AJ going to bring that, as well.
That's why, I mean, I'm excited. Plus he's funny as hell. It's really nice to have another guy making fun. I'm sure he's not understanding much, which is funny as well. But right now the three of us are having a good time.
Q. Is AJ a left foot braker also?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think he's always been a left foot braker. Those old guys, me, Dario, I don't know who else, those old guys, we kept the right foot. I think Dario still right foot, is the only guy.
Q. I thought he changed last year.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: He's left? I know the Dallara end up making a new pedal. Suits the right foot brakes. I decided trying the new challenge with the left. But I don't know who else works on the right foot brake.
Q. If Mr. Penske wants to field a sports car, would you be interested in racing at Daytona and Sebring?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Would love to. I think I did twice. With Team Penske I did once and we finish in the top three. It would be great. In Sebring I race with the Spyder and we finish third, as well.
I would love to. It's a great series. I believe the series is growing, as well. But right now I'm not focused on that. Just starting the IndyCar Series. Can't wait to be in the racecar. Can't wait to be racing again.
Q. Is the off-season too long for you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes. I think for everybody. Especially when we don't have testing. I would strongly suggest – I don't know the financial part of it – but when you have that kind of a long off-break, it's difficult to everyone, for the drivers especially. Especially for rookies, they need to understand how it works.
All of a sudden you have June, July and August a race every weekend. It's becoming rushed to everyone, including the mechanics. They have to turn over cars from street course to ovals. I think that's the most tough of it.
Sometimes mistakes end up happening because you don't have enough time and probably spending more money. So I wish we would have at least started much early. If it can't be in February, at least early March, so you could break it up with the times and dates.
But that's outside of my control. I don't know. I just want to wish that that would happen.
Q. What would an ideal season look like? How long and how many races?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think 19, the way we have it, with the doubleheader, is good. 17 race weekends, it's not bad for the combination that we have.
But I would rather start in February, have a bigger space in some of the areas, especially in the middle of the season, give a break for the mechanics. Drivers it's actually not a problem. For the mechanics it would be great. And coming back with those double-headers in those places that you have a break, that probably would make everybody fresh for those type of conditions.
And finish, I would say, about November. Used to be in the past, long, long time ago when we used to run CART, we used to have even more races, 22. But I feel if you don't want to test, you save money, at least you have those spread-out races, you probably would have an opportunity for, you know, okay, what's next, keep the ball rolling.
That's just my humble opinion (laughter).
Q. Will you go to Indy when Allmendinger does his orientation?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Texas, isn't it?
Q. April 11th, I guess. Right after this test.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I know I have an appearance with Hitachi and Shell, but it's right after Barber. They didn't request my presence yet. I would love to actually. Trust me, he doesn't need much of a help.
Q. What are the chances of getting a second race in Brazil? Still interest down there?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: They are. Brazil, economic situation is very strong. Certainly it would be great. I heard now Formula One might moving from Sao Paulo to the south of Brazil. Obviously it's all about how much the promoters are willing to spend. I think it's more than actually interest.
At this point I feel that America has a lot of other places, which we should have a little more 50/50 in terms of challenge if it's a street course, oval, short oval, speedway. At this point I think we just got to take the pace the right way and see what happens.
Q. How was T.K.'s wedding?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was actually very funny. Lauren was really, really happy. That for me was incredible to see her having a great time, smiling. I was very happy for both.
I did not drink. Actually, much of us were having a good time and have fun because we knew we had a test this week. But it was great. Very happy for them. We show the best for the couple.
Q. Did you like doing the Harlem Shake?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You're asking me what to do? I don't even know what to do. But it was funny. We all prepare and I was the only one that (didn't?) have my helmet on. C'mon. It was great. Everybody got into it. It was great. We had a good time.
Q. You said she was having fun. Was T.K. not having fun?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know T.K. I don't need to talk about much. Sometimes people ask about him. Normally in the wedding it's not his time, it's her.
Q. When are you getting married?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Very good. Hopefully very soon (laughter).
I've been thinking a long time, but just thinking the right time. It's tough. You trying to think about all the details, it's worse than a race team, let me tell you. But you will hear me.
With that, I'm done. Thank you (laughter).