- Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
- Will Power, Team Penske
- Pato O’ward, Arrow McLaren SP
- Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP
- Juan Pablo Montoya, Arrow McLaren SP
- Taylor Kiel, Arrow McLaren SP President
Part 1 Press Conference (Team Penske)
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES video news conference with teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden from Team Penske.
Gentlemen, both of you had success last year on the road course here at Indy in the Harvest Grand Prix with Josef winning race one and Will winning race two.
Will, you have four wins and five poles here at the road course in Indianapolis. How excited are you to get back to the road course where you’ve had so much success?
WILL POWER: Yeah, always a track that I thoroughly enjoy. The field is so tight this year you have no idea where you’ll stack up. We were pretty good at Barber. That was a road course, smooth road course. Hopefully some of that transfers over.
But I think our baseline setup there is pretty good. The temperature matters a lot there. You can have a very different car depending on the wind, the temperature, if it’s rain or whatever.
But, yeah, never take it for granted we’re going to turn up strong, always ready to react on the fly. Yeah, certainly looking forward to starting out there.
THE MODERATOR: Josef, you had a P2 finish in St. Pete on a street course. How excited are you to get back to a road course where you started P2 last year for the Harvest Grand Prix and ended up on the podium in the winner’s circle?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Just like Will, it’s always been a good track for us and Team Penske without a doubt. We’re going to try to follow up where we were at last year.
Temperature-wise I think Will brings up a good point. We seemed almost a little stronger on the 2 car specifically in October. I’m hoping that carries over. I think the weather is going to be cool looking at it, not necessarily super hot. If the wind is not to our liking, like Will said, we have to be ready to react pretty quickly.
Excited about it. Excited to have Snap-on running on our car this weekend, which will be quite cool. A unique livery. Celebrate their makers and fixers. Very excited about that.
THE MODERATOR: The weather is going to be cool, in the 60s, but sunny at least through Saturday. Happy about that.
WILL POWER: I love Snap-on, so yeah. I have Snap-on everything. Maybe I should have had the Snap-on car. But Verizon 5G is still someone I’m very loyal to. Yeah, I just wanted to put that out there and let everyone digest that the way they would like. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: I’ll have you guys work that out with the captain.
WILL POWER: Yeah (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions.
Q. Will, you got to admit, it’s a crappy day outside here in North Carolina, isn’t it?
WILL POWER: It is. If you want to come over and watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or something like, that I’m all for it. Just chilling in my basement. Up to you.
Q. Maybe I’ll stop over and bring some barbecue with me.
WILL POWER: Sounds good, Bruce (smiling).
Q. The Friday race last October was one of the best road races we’ve seen at the IMS road course. What do you see the reason for that being? The length of the race was different in the Friday race. It was a more action-packed race than what we’ve seen in some of the previous races at IMS on the road course, which if you get out front at the right time, you can cruise to victory.
WILL POWER: I would say it certainly was the difference between the Friday race and the Saturday race, the fact that of the distance. It opened the windows, the strategy window, up significantly so you could try different strategies, pit on different laps, just created good racing.
Actually I haven’t looked at the distance. I know we sent the series a lot of information on race distance, how to open the windows up, make it so it’s not a fuel race. Hopefully I did that.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I agree with Will. It’s just the fuel windows. A much better race on Saturday because they were open windows. I think that’s the goal going back, is to try to keep those windows as open as possible. It just creates opportunity to run a completely different strategy than people around you, make it work. I think that’s the key, is providing options to people.
Once they have them, it makes the race instantly more entertaining because there’s just a lot more going on.
Q. Speaking of entertaining, Mr. Entertainment himself, Juan Pablo Montoya, is going to be driving an INDYCAR the first time since 2017. How happy are you to mix it up with him? Arrow McLaren SP is a pretty good team this year. Put Montoya in the mix, it’s interesting.
WILL POWER: Is he running the road course as well?
WILL POWER: Is Helio running the road course?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I believe he is.
Q. He’s not. He’s just doing the 500.
WILL POWER: Okay.
Q. He’ll be doing the Music City Grand Prix.
WILL POWER: He picked a right one there. That’s a special town, not because of its history in country music, but because Josef Newgarden lives there. As I’ve said before, he is what I’d class as a god-like figure based on his social media. So, yeah, I’m excited to go there. I’m sure Helio is, as well.
Q. How about Montoya?
WILL POWER: Oh, yeah, Montoya. Yeah, no, it’s cool that he’s back in the series. Juan, he works it out pretty quickly. I think he’ll help that team with all the experience he’s had. I think he’ll really help them on the oval actually. That’s where he’s very strong.
Yeah, it will be fun to have him back in the series. Always a great character, someone that you don’t want to mess with on the track or off the track.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, I would agree with Will again. I think Montoya’s strength will be more on the oval. I think he’ll be a very strong teammate for both Rosenqvist and Pato. I think he’ll help the team a lot with what they’re doing and just be tough to beat. He’ll be difficult to beat.
Road course-wise, think it will probably be harder for him, I really do. He’s Montoya, so he could surprise all of us at any moment. I think he’ll have a tougher time just getting back up to speed.
The field is so tight, like Will said, you can’t even make the smallest slipup nowadays. You can be way in the back, like 20th.
WILL POWER: Yeah.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it will be hard for him to get back up to grips with the road course car.
WILL POWER: I’ll see you in an hour or so, Bruce. The barbecue, remember that (laughter).
Q. Will or Josef, because you’re going to spend so much time at Indianapolis over the next few weeks, Josef, it looks like you’re moving house to Indianapolis anyway, but driving this direction this weekend, the other direction from Monday onwards, does it actually play into your mindset when you’re on the main straightaway at Indy or do you blank it out because you’re doing what you got to do?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, doesn’t even register. Totally different track, different downforce level. So, yeah, I have to say in all the times I’ve done it, it hasn’t even registered. It’s such different disciplines, you could say.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I’m like Will. It’s so completely different that you’re almost hitting it in stages. The first stage of a big month, kind of really focused on that. Then as soon as you get done with it, you can start thinking about the oval event and the 500.
Having said that, we have people working on the 500 the whole off-season. Even before we show up for the GP, we’ve been working on the 500. We get locked in on the GP event, get the most of that. You get a good cadence leading into practice the next week, then you roll into the big show.
Q. Will, is there anything specific that you can pinpoint as to why you’re so good at the road course in Indy?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it’s Bruce’s barbecue. Something about when Will and Bruce get together there’s a 24, 48 hour window. Bruce is available, Will gets that barbecue, that guy sings on the track. He just sings. I don’t know what it is. It’s something in the brisket (laughter).
WILL POWER: I would agree with that because the years I’ve won it, yes, Bruce has come over and we’ve eaten barbecue and we’ve watched chick flix. There is something to that. Maybe it’s the attitude of going into the weekend, an attitude of bliss and happiness.
On a more truthful note, honestly I enjoy the track. I’ve done well at pretty much every track we go to in the series now. Yeah, in particular just a fun road course, consistent grip all the way around.
Yeah, it’s hard to pinpoint whether it really suits my style because we go to other tracks where it is a completely different style and I’m still quick.
Yeah, don’t know. I think the team’s very good there, period. So you’re starting off with a good car, then obviously you got to do the rest. Yeah, I actually really enjoy it. A really fun track.
You can certainly push the limits because, you know, there’s not many walls or anything to hit there. You get to the limit pretty quickly. I couldn’t pinpoint a reason apart from all the work I’ve done over the years on the craft.
Q. Josef, obviously you did really well last season. What do you think you can kind of improve, if anything, for this year to get to victory circle?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I’m disappointed I’m driving up to Indy, I was trying to be over in North Carolina today with Will. I would have liked to have gotten on this barbecue meeting, chick flix. I’ve got to look at different ways to be good.
I thought we were very strong. Hopefully I haven’t frozen here.
THE MODERATOR: You jinxed yourself, Josef. You were doing great, then you froze. Now you’re back, but you’re muted.
WILL POWER: He shouldn’t have talked about Bruce like that (smiling). He’s muted again. Take your ear phones out, Ashley won’t care.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I much prefer to listen to Will, to be honest with you. I don’t know that it’s a tremendous loss that you’re not being able to hear me (laughter).
I think we hit on something pretty good last year with our car specifically. I felt good about our car in the summertime, too, when Will and me were up front in that race before the yellow happened.
I’m excited. We just got to try and make sure we qualify well. I think that’s pretty important at the GP. Definitely make your day a little bit better. So if we can do that, I think we’ll have good cars, like Will said.
Q. Josef, there’s been quite a lot of talk about INDYCAR drivers in Formula 1 over the past few weeks, spurred by Colton winning at St. Pete. Obviously you went over to GP3 and had a short period of time there. What was it that brought you back to the States? Was it how attractive the Road to Indy program is? The style of the tracks? The limited time you had to get used to racing on the calendar?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s kind of a shame. I think it’s just a shame to see the animosity amongst the two series. I consider both of them world class championships, both Formula 1 and INDYCAR. I think there’s just a lot of parallels you see (indiscernible).
WILL POWER: We can’t hear you, mate. Your headphones.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I figured this would be a shame if I broke up on this, because it’s a great question. I don’t know that I can really answer it super well in these conditions. Got toilet paper behind me (laughter).
Jack, if you remember this, you ask me this question again at some point. I would love to see some young drivers get over there. Both Pato and Colton I think would do extremely well in Formula 1 personally, in my opinion. It’s a great question.
I hate to see the animosity between some of the fans amongst the series because they’re both great championships, really great. I think they have so many parallels together.
I’m just a huge fan of seeing the crossover, more often than not, whether that’s drivers, mechanics or engineers. I’d love to see some more. Hopefully we get some young guys from our side competing over there.
Q. There’s a lot of points on the table this month. You have a doubleheader in Belle Isle after. How do you balance the championship, thinking about the championship, also the 500 as a driver? The championship at the end of the year can be decided over these next few races.
WILL POWER: I’ve never been a big fan of the double points at the 500. I believe you should never be thinking of the championship when you’re racing to try to win that race. If you’re in the hunt to win it, not that you’re thinking of that, but if you’re fifth and you’re down the last stint, the last 10 laps, there’s no chance to win, you won’t fight as hard. You might consider just taking the points.
Yeah, I just think it shouldn’t be double points, it should be normal points. It should be 100% about the race, shouldn’t be about the championship, in my opinion.
Yeah, obviously like you said, massive stint in a short period of points coming up here. It will play a huge part in who’s going to be a contender at the end of the year.
Q. Josef, do you think championship yet? Is that even in your mind? Are you still just trying to get the season going?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it’s still pretty early. Even at Indianapolis. I completely agree with Will. I’ve not been a big fan of the double points scenario, both at Indy and the championship finale, quite frankly.
Yeah, you’re not thinking of points at Indy until it’s over. Those come in moments. You think about qualifying, you’re always trying to be fast, always trying to be in the top nine shootout because you know there’s points there, but more so because you want to start up front in the race.
You’re first thinking about doing well in the race, starting up front. Then after qualifying is done, then you think about the points implications. If you had a good qualifying, it helps you in points. If you didn’t have a good qualifying, you worry about what it did to you in points.
The race is the same way. When you’re in the race, you’re thinking about doing as well as possible in this event. You get one shot at it every year. It’s such a big deal. You’re just trying to win the race.
After the fact you kind of have to settle with whatever that was. If it was a winning day, it helps you tremendously in the points. If it wasn’t, then you’re feeling horrible about leaving there, being in a hole probably in the championship.
Yeah, I don’t like it. I think Will brings up a good point. If you’re fifth or sixth, do something strategy-wise to win the event, you may not do that nowadays just because you don’t want to sacrifice the negative of losing a bunch of points if you get it wrong. I don’t like that element.
For the most part you’re not thinking about championship when you’re in the event.
WILL POWER: Is the final race double points this year?
THE MODERATOR: No, just the 500.
WILL POWER: I thought they got rid of that.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t know if they carried that. I know we did that last year.
THE MODERATOR: Not the finale. That was two years ago. Just the 500. I just verified that with Arni, the knower of all things.
WILL POWER: Unless you’re behind, of course, then it’s terrible (laughter). Change the rule.
Q. When it comes to being successful, how much is it about pure speed and how much is it getting comfortable in the car?
WILL POWER: I would say successful in this series is often about luck because if you get caught on the wrong side of yellows, it can totally ruin your day because they have this terrible rule where the pits close on the yellow.
Obviously speed matters massively. You might question that if you look at last year’s championship where Dixon won probably three races because of yellows and qualified horribly.
For the most part, yep, if you can qualify at the front it helps. Lottery yellows, I love to stick the knife in and let people know how bad they are.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s a tough equation. It’s just tough. I feel like you have good years and bad years when it comes to luck. You just don’t know. I don’t know how you really control that. You just got to work as hard as possible at all moments and try to put yourself in position to be ready to capitalize. There’s some things that are just out of your control.
WILL POWER: I think a pretty safe strategy is pit when Dixon pits because nine times out of ten you’re going to catch a lucky yellow, like last year on the Indy road course. If you just, like, watch Dixon, qualified 17th, me and Josef out leading by a mile, Dixon pits, INDYCAR is going to throw a quick pit, Josef would have won the championship for sure. I probably would have been in the hunt, yeah.
You can tell Josef hasn’t been destroyed multiple times by yellows, and he’s still kind of on the fence. Well, yellows have helped me out a few times. A few more times of Dixon getting the lucky one, him not, he’ll be right onboard, Yep, the yellow thing really, really stinks.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ve not been beat to a pulp quite as much as Will has when it comes to yellow flags. I don’t have as many wounds. It’s not fresh for me. But I understand it.
WILL POWER: Honestly, it’s a really bad system because if you qualify well, you’re more subject, because I have qualified well my whole INDYCAR career, you’re definitely more subject to getting screwed by a yellow. If you don’t qualify well, you are going to pit early and take a risk, go fishing for that lucky yellow.
That’s where I think it’s a horrible system, a horrible system that has nothing to do with merit. Totally to do with luck. It almost goes the other way: it hurts the guy that does a good job. Horrible system. Must change.
Think I got my point across (laughter)? It’s the truth, though.
Look, I can promise you nothing will change. We actually went to the INDYCAR meeting. Helio was in there. Walked out, said, Nothing has changed in 20 years. He’s right.
Q. Speaking of frustrations of yellows, another side of frustration can be keep coming close to winning and not winning. Is the frustration building in having not got there yet or is it too early in the season to have that buildup?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s becoming almost unbearable at this point. So close, yet so far. No, I’m kidding.
It’s been okay. We definitely have been in the mix, which is most important. Step one is just getting in the mix, giving yourself an opportunity to win a race. We definitely have been there two out of the four events we’ve had so far.
I feel really positive. I think we’re doing a lot of things right. Probably not the start of the year that we would have dreamed of, but it’s been good enough to where we can build on it. That’s kind of where we’re at. We’re trying to build on what we’ve done so far, continue to improve.
I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing because we’re plenty close enough in the fight. You keep to doing that, eventually it will cave open. We will make sure the door caves open.
WILL POWER: Caves open? That’s the way.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Knock it down.
WILL POWER: Knock it down.
Q. Josef, it’s been a little bit of a rocky season so far for you with some incidents that have happened, yet you’ve managed to be No. 4 in the championship right now. You bounce back, you’re always able to bounce back. You bounced back last season. What’s the secret? How are you able to do that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Look, I’m telling you, I don’t want to give my secrets away, but it’s barbecue. I live in Tennessee. We got good barbecue, too. I know Bruce has some magic stuff there that Will has been taking advantage of every now and then. It’s the diet. It’s really the diet that keeps you resilient. I don’t know. It makes me more rubbery, just makes me bounce back.
I don’t know what to attribute it to. We have a very resilient team I think in general with all of us. Certainly within our group specifically, when things happen that are negative, certainly the first race was very negative, then you just got to move forward. Whether it’s me or a member on the team, it’s one of the engineers that’s not feeling good, we just always are moving forward. I think we have that mindset that we’re always moving forward. That kind of keeps us in a good place performance-wise.
WILL POWER: I think we all need the barbecue just based on today’s social issues.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll close out today with Asher.
Q. For both of you. You were both winners last October for the Harvest Grand Prix. Josef was the first winner on day one, Will was number two, number one in day two. There’s only one race for the GMR Grand Prix, so only one of you can win. What is one of you going to try to do to try to get it to the front or make a repeat win?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: What do you think, Mr. Power?
WILL POWER: Hopefully we roll off the track pretty good. It’s a couple of short sessions, straight in qualifying. I think we’re pretty well-prepped. It will come down to qualifying well, or if you don’t, catching a lucky yellow. Obviously making no mistakes in the race. Might as well make a couple risky moves.
Like Josef said, keep knocking on that door and eventually the yellow flag monster will answer. Or just a win, or the I’ve-worked-hard thing will come to fruition.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I would agree. Thanks for the question, Mr. Asher. I hope you’re excited for the weekend. I know that we are.
I would love to have a duel with Mr. Power on the track. That would be fun as long as it doesn’t end badly for both of us. I think it will take qualifying well, decisive decision making because we don’t have a lot of time. It’s going to go really fast.
You’re going to roll off the first practice, pretty much how your car is is what it’s going to be. If it’s not good, you have to make quick decisions to make it better before you qualify. A fast-paced weekend that you have to basically get the most out of very quickly. Whoever is best at that will do really well.
WILL POWER: Actually I think that we deserve to resume our battle that we were having at the first race last year, and Dixon should be back starting 17th. Let’s replay that and see how it really would have finished.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I would have liked to have won. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see.
WILL POWER: It would have been quite an interesting good little battle.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I would love an opportunity to snooker Mr. Power. I like that we can snooker these guys. Very hard to do, though.
WILL POWER: You’ve snookered me more times than I’ve ever snookered you. I owe you a snookering big-time.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Can we just say ‘snookering’ all weekend? That’s the new word we have to fit into our interviews.
Q. Do you think there will be another push-up battle between Will and Josef?
WILL POWER: I reckon I might be able to beat him right now. I’ve done a lot of weights recently. I’m pretty sure I can get him in push-ups right now, pretty sure.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We should have another battle.
WILL POWER: Let me know when. I’m probably going to get you. Probably going to get you this time.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t think so. It’s a good suggestion.
Q. How many push-ups do you think they should do? 500 or what?
WILL POWER: In a workout you can definitely do 300, no question.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: How many in a row can you get right now, Will?
WILL POWER: No, I haven’t been doing many in a row. They’ll all been, like, intervals with 10. I’ve been doing chest, weights, single arm chest push, whatever you call it, single arm dumbbell press.
THE MODERATOR: Then you add in the barbecue.
WILL POWER: I’ve got bigger muscles than I’ve ever had right now. Trying to stay in my weight bracket.
I’d like to add that Josef sent me a very, very disheartening text message last night. He hasn’t apologized for it. That’s something that’s kind of upsetting me, I would say (smiling). I should tell you what he said. He said my wife does everything for me. That’s what he said. And she does (smiling).
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I did not know what you were going to say. I actually was confused about what text message you were talking about.
I was complimenting Liz. Liz is very organized and professional. Some people don’t seem to know that, but they’re going to know that Liz is very professional.
WILL POWER: There’s no question. Liz is certainly on top of her game. She has two children to deal with. I contribute a lot. You’d be surprised, Josef. You would be surprised. I bathe my little boy every night, put him to bed. I don’t ever cook dinner, never cook dinner. The missus, she’s too on it, man. Just something I don’t do. But I would.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You’re a lucky man, Power.
WILL POWER: I don’t know. I reckon old Ashley does probably quite a bit for you.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: She’s amazing. I would not function without my wife.
WILL POWER: You hear that, Ashley?
ASHLEY NEWGARDEN: He has to say that because I’m driving.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to end it there. I would suggest similar to our Andretti Autosport friends that you guys start a podcast together, like Hinch and Rossi. I think it would be entertaining and there would be a lot of subscribers.
Thank you everyone for joining.
Part 2 Press Conference (Arrow McLaren SP)
Felix, what learnings did you take out of the two races at Texas Motor Speedway, and how prepared are you to head to Indianapolis for the month of May?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: We can be that fast on a super speedway. Maybe not all of it translates to the 500, but I’m sure of it is going to do that. I think personally as well, I’ve felt better than I’ve ever done on an oval. I think that’s kind of a good step. I really started to learn what I need from the car, and I think my engineer Blair (Perschbacher) and all the others on the No. 7 (Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) will start to understand what I need to feel comfortable.
As I said, the points haven’t come, which is a shame because we have had some really good potential in at least three of these four rounds we have had so far. That’s how it is. We have a good chance to strike back here in these two, and there’s double points at the 500, so that’s encouraging. You just have to keep fighting and it should be good.
We’ll go now to Pato. First-time race winner at the last race in Texas. Pato, how do you build off that success you had in Texas, especially given that you’re second in the championship right now? Where does that put your priorities heading into the Indy GP and also the rest of the month of May?
PATO O’WARD: Thank you. Yeah, I think we are rolling into the month of May with some great momentum. We want to keep it going. Especially leading into the 500 and the rest of the season. There’s a long season still ahead; many races and many opportunities to be able to execute and get some more results in the bag. I think the approach will be the same as any other weekend that we’ve been to, trying to execute come qualifying and keep our nose clean during the race, have a quick race car. That should really put us in contention for a podium or a win. That is the goal for this weekend, the same as it’s been for every single weekend since 2020. Yeah, I am looking forward to it.
Thanks, Pato. Now we’ll go to the newest member of Arrow McLaren SP, Juan Pablo Montoya. Juan Pablo, this is going to be your first IndyCar race since 2017. You’ve obviously been racing other cars since then, but how do you prepare yourself for your first race in an IndyCar in almost four years?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, I think first of all try not to freak out (laughter)! I think we got a decent test in Laguna (Seca), and learned and understood a lot of what I needed out of the car, and got it in the swing of things. The two days at Indy in the oval were really nice to get everyone together. We need to understand the priority of running the road course, apart from having a really good result, is working well with the engineers and everyone on the team.
If everyone is a new group of people, and they’re really good people, and to get them bonding together is really important. And understand what I need out of the car. It’s such a compact schedule, and I think it’ll be good. It could be frustrating; there could be anger moments, and there could be good moments. But I am looking forward to it. I am really working hard to prepare myself for it. And we’ll see what it brings. We had a session in the simulator last week, and the baseline was pretty good and the pace seemed pretty good. So I’m looking forward to it. One of the curveballs is the red tires. Learning to get the most out of it will be really hard, but at least we’ll get a set out of it in practice. Back in the day, we didn’t use to get them.
Thanks, Juan Pablo. Taylor, I’ll piggyback a bit off that and ask you a follow-up question. What a lot of people may not realize is our third crew at Indianapolis, the No. 86, are all full-time employees of Arrow McLaren SP. How important is it to have the Indianapolis GP to prepare those guys, who aren’t normally a race weekend crew but are important to the team to get ready for the Indy 500?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think one of the most important things there is to understand that they are full-time employees, but work different jobs. Like Craig (Hampson), my engineer, he’s not running a car normally. He’s looking after everybody. I think in a way it’s good because there’s a lot of experience. There’s a couple young guys working on my team that came from England as well. I’m really excited. I think we have a great group of people, very experienced mechanics, and everyone is pumped up about it. With Pato winning the last race, it shows the potential of the car at Indy, so now you have to execute. If we screw up, we have to make sure we screw up in the Indy GP and not in the big race!
Taylor, do you want to follow up on that?
TAYLOR KIEL: I think Juan covered it pretty well. That’s why we made the choice to run the road course race was to get some more experience with that group. It’s the only thing that separates them from Pato and Felix’s cars, they just did it a week ago. It’s important where we are at an advantage over the other one-off cars, and that we’re doing that. That’s what it’s about, like Juan said, to put ourselves in the best position for the 500. That’s what it is.
Pato, what’s life been like for you now that you are an IndyCar winner?
PATO O’WARD: It’s the same, now with the title of having one win under my belt. It’s all the same. The approach to everything is the same. We’re the same people, same persons, nothing has changed. We just have had a taste of what a win feels like and now we want more of that! It’d be great to rack up some more if we can.
For all three of you, the IndyCar races on the IMS road course have been kind of pedestrian, but the Friday race last October was one of the best road races they have had there. What’s the reason why that particular race was so good last year, when others have been about how the strategy falls?
PATO O’WARD: I’ll take it first. I think in my opinion it is about the amount of laps (85) opened up it for either a two-stop fuel save or a three-stopper. Whenever you take away some laps, and force everyone to do a two-stop, is when things get boring I guess. So I feel like, this year is the same amount of laps (85) that road race you mentioned was good. I think it’ll be a good mix this weekend.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: I think it’s also depending on weather, tires and how they operate together. I think INDYCAR is doing a good job in experimenting in that a bit, with race length. Sometimes you don’t know how it’ll play out. One day the red tires are degrading, the next they’re good for a whole stint. We may have a hard time figuring out what it’ll be, even with our best predictions. That’s part of the fun, you know? Sometimes it’ll be an awesome race, and others it’ll be completely different than what you expect. I’m sure we’ll be surprised with some this weekend as well.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I’ve watched the races, but as Felix said and as Pato said, it depends on strategy, when the cautions come out, and if people save fuel. If they do that it is normally a pretty quiet race. Everybody tries to stay in line, draft, save fuel and go as far as they can. It becomes who can go the furthest. When you’re not racing hard, versus when you get cautions, the pack is packed up, the cautions mix the pack. It’s frustrating sometimes, because you could be on the right strategy leading the race, and someone tries a different strategy and the caution comes out and you can come out of the pits 10th when you were leading and you finish 10th. And you don’t even know why? But that’s the nature of IndyCar. In a way it’s their problem not mine, I’m just a one-off so I want to run as good as I can this week and see what we can bring.
Taylor, reflecting at Pato’s win at Texas, just being able to put into words what it means for Arrow McLaren SP, it really is a sign of what the whole program is based on. It’s about showcasing their talent of young drivers.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Thank you for the young (laughter)!
TAYLOR KIEL: Yeah, I think there’s a few things to that. Certainly there is the young talent piece. That’s a small part of it. The other thing is putting the best people in the best positions to take advantage of what we’re building as a team. We have that with Pato and Felix and certainly Juan. But this has been a long journey. I think at a certain point you get sick and tired of being a mid-pack team that occasionally sneaks out a victory. When you have a partner lineup like we do, the support from ownership and everyone to take advantage of it, it’s a great position. It requires thoughtful planning and organization. That’s what we have been able to do slowly over time, and now we are starting to reap those rewards.
Texas is certainly Texas. That’s it. We’re onto the Indy GP, then onto the Indy 500, then a bunch of races after that. But now we have an organization that knows how to win. From an importance perspective, it’s very important. But it’s certainly not the end of the journey. It’s not putting our feet on the desk and saying, we’ve won Texas, we made it. We still have a long way to go. We’ll see shortly how far we’ve come.
For Juan Pablo, during the Indy 500 test-, you did an interview (with NBC Sports) about you’d heard from Arrow McLaren SP about running Indy and Roger Penske said no. Could you elaborate, and how hard did you push to do this earlier?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, with Roger, when it’s no, it’s no. Zak (Brown) called me the last two years and I said to him, ‘Well, I don’t think they’re going to let me. If you want to call him, call him, but I’m pretty sure the answer’s going to be no.’ And he called 10 minutes later and he said, ‘Yeah, no, you’re not running!’ So this year, now that I’m running a different program, I talked with Zak and I thought the challenge was exciting, and as everyone is saying, Taylor mentioned they’re going in the right direction.
The timing is very good and the potential to run the Indy 500 is perfect. From the timing point of view, working with Craig and the experience he has, and how open-minded he is, the potential is huge. It’s been fun, because I’ve worked with people before and you show up and they go, ‘Well, this is the way we need to run it.’ Craig is very open-minded, and has a lot of experience. So we can work together where I say, ‘Hey I want this out of the car, I don’t like this,’ and he’s got a lot of previous laps and experience where he can go, ‘Oh, I understand what you mean.’ So it’s very easy to communicate and we seem to find direction really quickly.
I’m very stubborn when I don’t like something; I really don’t like it. And we’ve been there already. And we laugh about it. I told him before the first test, ‘There’s a few things especially in the Indy oval, if I don’t like it, or feel comfortable, I’m not even gonna try it.’ Because normally, that’s when you make a mistake and end up having a shunt for no reason, with something you wouldn’t even think about racing.
You seem very excited to be back at Indianapolis and the Indy 500. How much did you miss it and were you surprised by how much you missed it?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Honestly, I loved the sports car program, and I really enjoyed endurance racing. Still working with Penske was a lot of fun. All that time was cool. I think this opportunity was unreal, to be honest with you. In my mind, I never thought I’d run Indy again. Because Roger would never let me at the time. I’m 45, whether you like it or not. I believe I still can perform. And I’ll give you an example. We’re in Spa, running WEC (World Endurance Championship). I was running hard, but I feel like I’m miles off the pace. And we qualify like ninth in (LMP2) class, and I drove from ninth to third, and I passed people on the brakes, and I out-brake and outsmart people. It was really good. Oh, I can still do this!
Felix, you’re going back to a track where you’ve had pace before. Do you think you can get one with the AMSP car here?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah for sure, I’ve been quick here before. I wouldn’t say it’s a track I like more than others, but I had a pole here my rookie season which was fun. I think it’s more what we’ve done in the background, developing the setup, what Juan talked about. I spent a lot of time with Craig and my engineer (Blair) to build a package I think will work better than Barber and St. Pete. It’ll be exciting to see what we come up with, because I definitely think it’ll be a bit of a difference. It’s less depending on the track. When we find the sweet spot of where we want to be, I think it’ll be from every track for the rest of the year. We saw that in Texas with something I liked. That’s the direction we’re going, and working to strike back at the GP after a tough first four races.
Juan, I noticed you’ve had Sebastian (Montoya) with you in Europe. What is it like having him as a driver around? I know he’s been around as a son, but now he’s a driver. Is it fun to have someone who now understands the driving side with you?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah I think it’s exciting. We had a really good conversation with me after Spa. He’s been with me, getting ready for his new season. He has his first race of the year this weekend here in Italian F4.
In the car, something you don’t understand is how good you are. He’s got crazy talent and crazy speed, but he’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ Honestly, you see how good I am and he’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re so good,’ and I’m like, ‘I still believe you can kick my rear end every day.’ So imagine how good you are. And he’s like, ‘Really?’ He needs a little bit of confidence and needs to learn a lot. He’s young, you know what I mean? He turned 16 last month. It’s crazy the potential he has. Once we get to cars with a little more downforce and he’s not sliding around like the F4, he really hates that car. But he needed the experience. We did a test in Barcelona in Euro F3, and I think he was the quickest guy of the week. We ran the first two days, and then the track gets better. Then the team is like, ‘Oh my god, how quick is this guy?’ And I’m like, ‘I know,’ but he doesn’t!
Juan, what do you see of ‘younger you’ in time you’ve spent with Pato and Felix so far?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think they’re very different driving styles, both of them. Pato’s the guy that you put the wheels backwards, and he’ll still make a good lap time! And you don’t know how, but he does, and that’s great for him. But he needs to, and we’ve spoke about it, he needs to learn a bit more about what he needs for the long runs. His potential is unreal.
Felix’s, I think his driving style is a lot more similar to mine. You want a car that doesn’t want to kill you! I think that’s been the biggest thing. For Felix, when I got in and I was like, ‘I can’t drive this!’ He’s like, ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one!’ (laughter) It’s been really good. We work to make a much friendlier car and much more consistent in a race, because if they can build a car that’s consistent, the results will be much more often in the front.
And then Pato and Felix, your thoughts on what you can take from Juan going into this month?
PATO O’WARD: For me it’s just so much experience, and a lot of input in areas where I don’t know how to explain what I need from the car. Especially in manufacturer stuff like downshifting, seeing if you have a certain issue in the downshift, seeing where in the downshift it is, and just understanding more about the car. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think you can tell the experience he has when he explains things. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and even without spending weekends together, with the Laguna test and the Indy test, I have just comprehended a little bit more about what things do. That helps me tell my engineers more about what I need, and that’s been a win-win situation. Like I said, in my career, I’ve been so used to driving what they give me, so I’m not a big whiner. But I need to whine more, because I think we can extract a lot more when it’s easier to drive. Like Juan Pablo said, it doesn’t want to kill you, I guess
FELIX ROSENQVIST: I agree with Pato. I’m kind of in the middle between Pato and Juan Pablo in my career. I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of experienced drivers, like Nick Heidfeld, Scott Dixon, and Gary Paffett when I was in DTM. When you have a teammate that has done so much, as Juan Pablo has done, you realize the reason he’s good is because he knows what he wants and knows how to get it. Everyone understands that’s the way it has to be. Like Pato said, I got so far in my career by jumping in driving whatever I had. I didn’t complain about it. I told my engineers what I wanted, and for me it was very clear, when I raced with Scott and now with Juan Pablo, if you want to race for championships that’s where you need to be to make the difference. Everyone has the talent. There’s huge talent in IndyCar in the whole field. Those details are where you can make your life easier. If it’s easier for you, and make the car do more work for you, that’ll be a different kind of race.
Pato, so you’ve been with the Arrow McLaren SP team since the beginning. How has your confidence and trust grown, and how does that help build momentum for the Indy 500 and championship?
PATO O’WARD: I think just having a full year under our belt is what has given us a bit more efficiency in a weekend, knowing what I want. There’s barely any running in the weekend from session to session, so it’s important to be efficient with changes and know what you want to go in the right direction. That’s helped us. But I don’t necessarily think it’s so much different to last year. This year we are showing what we had last year. We just didn’t quite execute. The goal has been, don’t screw up. If you don’t screw up, you’ll win races. For me, going into the 500, it’s a race where if you’ve never done one before, there’s no way you can prepare yourself for that. Ever. You just can’t. I feel like once you do it a year, you’ll understand what to expect, for traffic running and having a good car to compete at the front and win.
Juan, when you’re going from series to series, you’re going through different cars. What’s the most difficult thing to adjust to?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think the hardest thing is adapting to the tires, in the feel of what the tire wants. Every car is different and every manufacturer builds them different. So when I run here, we’re with Firestone. In Europe, we’re with Goodyear, and in IMSA we’re with Michelin. So you go from the spectrum of the Michelins, which are super fast with tons of grip, while the Goodyears are the P2 cars, they’re a little more intermediate – a little harder and more difficult to drive – and it is what it is. You learn to make the most out of it. But it’s so good because it keeps you on your toes the whole time. The other thing that’s hard is, here, it’s good because it’s my car with my engineer and group of people. When I run in IMSA, I’m the third guy. So I don’t even have a voice or a vote. I say what’s happening, but I’m just the filler guy.
In WEC, we have Ben (Hanley), who’s the younger guy, myself, and then we have the gentleman in the car. It’s a different program. There we need to make the car drive really good, and we work a lot on the gentleman, Henrik (Hedman), to get the best out of him. If we make the car two tenths quicker for us, that’s great, but if we can make Henrik go two seconds a lap quicker, that’s a bigger improvement than anything else. It’s a different challenge, everything is, but as Pato said before it makes experience even better. It makes me look at things in a different way and makes things much simpler.
Taylor, you have two Latin American drivers, how important is that for the team for the region.
TAYLOR KIEL: I think they could be from Mars, right? But it’s about the best drivers available. Pato and Juan, their Latin heritage brings them together. But as a group, I’m focused on putting the two best drivers in the car regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, it doesn’t really matter to us. Bringing Juan and Pato together is the best move for our team. They’ve proven that, and we’re excited to get going.
Juan, how do you adapt your driving style to IndyCar after being most recently in WEC?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think the hardest thing there is remembering what I want from an IndyCar on a speedway. It’s all about how fast can you go. The more comfortable you are, the quicker you’re going to be. For Pato, what I want may be completely different. Maybe he goes, oh, the thing can’t turn. Maybe he’s more comfortable with the car stepping out. For me, if the car is uncomfortable on the entry, I’m going to keep my foot on the brake until I feel I can release it and know the car isn’t going to snap out on me. Where Pato may trust the car a little different, and rotate. If you give the car more understeer, I may be able to turn it more to be more aggressive with my hands. You may make it turn more. You have to know what you need. The hard thing is we only have two sessions, maybe two or three runs each, and two, three, four, five laps and you’re done. So we’ll see what happens.
I’d talked to Sebastian (Montoya) and he said he might want run at Daytona next year (2022 Rolex 24 At Daytona). What are your thoughts?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: (Laughter). I don’t want to think about that yet! It’s too early to be honest. We need to see where I’m going to run next year. If an opportunity to run in a car together with him came up that would be amazing. I think it’d be great, he’d learn a lot if we are in the same car. He’d have to be more flexible in the way drive and brake. In Europe, they tell you, this is the way you need to brake, this is the way you need to turn. And when you’re young, that’s what you do, and you do that to make lap time. When you learn to drive all the cars I drive, the best way to describe it is I drive depends on what the car needs, so I turn and brake a different way. Different cars have different cornering ways. I don’t have a set driving style, but I do have my preferences.
Taylor, you’ve been part of Robert Wickens’ journey in the team. What’s your reflection on him getting in a car last week, and the feeling in the team around that?
TAYLOR KIEL: I thought it was great. Since day one, we’ve been behind Robbie in any number of ways. Certainly, it’s been his main ambition to get back in a race car. I think our support for him both away from the racetrack, at track, and in any endeavor he wants to do has always been there. So when an opportunity came to hop in a car, good on you, go for it. I was thrilled to see him back out there. I spoke with him afterwards, and he had a blast, but he was already thinking ‘Man, can we do this? How can we do that?’ We’re going to go to the drawing board and help him out any way that we can to see if we can help realize his new dream, which is getting back into a race car. We’re certainly supportive and proud of Robbie for what he’s put in. We’re excited to see where the journey goes and how we can be a part of it.
For Pato, how much momentum does the win give you into Indy and the 500?
PATO O’WARD: I think it’s great momentum, the best we can carry into the month. The approach is the same. We want to continue fighting at the front. The most points we extract out of the GP, the better it will be for the 500 and so forth for the rest of the season.
How beneficial is it to have Juan Pablo for the GP and the 500?
PATO O’WARD: It’s good. He has loads of experience. The guy knows what he wants from a race car. I think we can learn a lot from him in trying to extract the most we need from our cars.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: I’d agree with Pato. It’s also good for us to have a third source of data. We’re a team that is growing, and don’t have a lot of time to try new things with limited track time on a weekend and in winter testing. There’s not a lot of running. It matches well with our plans from an engineering point of view to run a third car, try different stuff. Juan Pablo is a huge input source. He’ll tell you what he wants. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll keep asking for it. It’s pretty exciting for all of us. It changes the dynamic in the team for the better.
Taylor, by being Pato’s strategist, how has this process of building confidence and chemistry occurred race-by-race?
TAYLOR KIEL: It’s been a process, no doubt, as any relationship is in our lives. But it’s also super critical to off-track success. Understanding how to read body language, tone of voice, and being involved in the process from start-to-finish, to be close to the engineering group, driver group, mechanics, you can paint a clearer picture of what’s going on. That’s not limited to just strategy on race day. To me it’s a big part of building the team and everyone being on the same page. The race day piece takes care of itself. Although we’re growing and on a growth trajectory, we do try to stay small in a few aspects. Those are communication within the team, interpersonal communication with myself, management, drivers, and always trying to keep our finger on the pulse. When you do that on a day-in, day-out basis, with quick decisions or otherwise, you take in the human element. If you look across the paddock, those teams with a massive amount of success like Scott (Dixon) or Josef (Newgarden) just to name a couple, those have longtime people in their ear, on their timing stand both with Mike (Hull) and Tim (Cindric). Continuity is big. I think the relationship piece is big. It’s a daily effort. How do you build it day-by-day? That’s what I’ve tried with Pato, and also Felix and Billy (Vincent) have a good relationship as well. It takes time, but the rewards can be reaped on the back side as well.