- Josef Newgarden
- Roger Penske
- Tim Cindric
- Marcus Ericsson
- Tony Kanaan
- Santino Ferrucci
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by someone who might be catching his breath after everything he went through winning the race that he had long been awaiting to do, Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet.
Led five laps of the 200; got it done in thrilling fashion there at the end. Congratulations. You visited the stands, which no one saw coming. Congratulations.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Thank you. You’ll have to bear with me. I feel emotionally depleted. I really do.
Obviously I’ve never had the honor of winning this race. I was in awe of sitting next to my boss Roger Penske and realizing this is his 19th. So it was very special.
To win this race is indescribable. I think being at this event is indescribable. Someone has to come and see it and be a part of it to understand what it is really all about, and I’ve always wanted the honor to win this race because I wanted to go in the crowd if it was ever possible because I know what the energy is like here in Indianapolis.
So to me, it was an unbelievable finish to be able to be here with the team and do that.
I’m a little out of words. I apologize that I’m running out of steam here. It’s been a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously the 19th for Team Penske, first American to win since Alexander Rossi back in 2016, and of course here’s one for you, the first Tennessee native to win the Indianapolis 500.
You’ve got that going for you.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, cool.
Q. Josef, when you were growing up, all those years that you and your dad drove up from Nashville to go to Newcastle to race go-karts, you either had to go through Indianapolis or around it. When you reflect back on what you did today, how much of that do you think of your father, the effort and sacrifice that he made when you were a kid to help you become a professional race driver?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, it’s undeniable. I wouldn’t be standing here without my dad and my mom. It’s an impossible career to make happen without support, and they are my No. 1 supporters.
I think about the time that we drove up here starting when I was 13, and, I mean, it’s just weekend after weekend learning about racing together. My dad really put pretty much everything on the line, like probably irresponsibly, to allow me to have a career in racing.
It was very fitting, I think, for him to be here and to see it. And to do this in Indiana, it’s like a second home to me. Very, very special.
Q. We saw Marcus use the tail of the dragon to his benefit to win last year. Do you feel this year you beat him at his own game?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Look, it’s impossible to not use that because of the ease it is to follow one car. It got even tougher this year. I think sitting in first place was even more difficult than what we’ve seen in years past, even just last year, and when I was able to get by him on the back straight I was actually really surprised how much momentum he still had in 3 and 4.
He was like super close and had a good run coming off 4, and with that, I thought, I’ve got to be as aggressive as possible to not let him by.
Today we had an opportunity to win the race, and I wasn’t looking to take anyone else out of the race, but I was going to put my car on the line to win. I was either going to win the race or I’d end up in the wall. I wasn’t here to finish second, third, or fourth today. I was here to win.
So I just did everything I could at the end there.
Q. Josef, you talked after the race about always wanting to go in the stands and celebrate with the fans after you won this race if you ever got there. Had you scouted out where you wanted to try and get to the fans? Because I know there’s a lot of fencing up here and it’s not super easy to do.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I knew exactly where the gap was. I’d been over there many, many years. I’ve seen that photo, whole spot, and really it’s just like an access point that you can crawl under. It looks like it’s closed but there’s a way to get through. I knew exactly where I was going at the end of this race.
I planned to go higher in the stands, but it quickly got a little out of control, and I thought, maybe the best thing is for me to leave again. I hugged a couple people. I felt the energy, and I’m like, I need to get out of here.
But it was really cool. You just can’t beat the Hoosier hospitality, the energy that people bring here. It is second to none when it comes to a sporting event.
I’ve always known that, having the privilege of being here many, many years and seeing it, and I just wanted to be a part of it. It was always something that would be a dream come true to be able to do that.
Q. You’ve obviously been waiting 12 years to finally capture that win. Roger has been waiting three and a half years since he bought the speedway to try to win this race as a track owner and a team owner. Do you have a sense of just kind of what this means for this whole organization that’s been waiting for another one of these?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think it’s gratifying for the entire team. There should be a tremendous amount of pride across the entire Team Penske group because we’ve had a tough go here the last three, four years, and we’ve had a lot of questions to answer every day.
After every qualifying weekend we’ve got to come and put a brave face on and say that we just didn’t fully get there.
I knew this year, similar to last year, but even better this year, that we had a good race car and a car that could win the race, and I wasn’t worried about where we qualified.
Of course we wanted to be on the front row, and if possible qualify on the pole, but it’s very gratifying for all the work that’s been put in.
I know firsthand how much effort has been poured into the last two, three years to figure out how we win this race again, and for our standard, we don’t show up here to be average. There’s nothing given; Indy doesn’t owe anybody anything. It doesn’t matter how many 500s you have. It doesn’t matter what team you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It isn’t an easy place to succeed at.
I don’t think we came with an ego, and to work through the difficulty the last three, four years, this victory is a win for all of us on our team, and it’s very gratifying for every member that’s put the time in.
Q. Josef, I wanted to ask you about — we know how much pressure you put on yourself and the weight of expectation that you’ve had on yourself for so long to try and win this race. I just wondered how difficult that’s been to fight that off year after year and what it’s like to have that released from your shoulders now?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ll be honest, it’s annoying. It’s been terrible. It is mentally draining to be here for three weeks and just to know that you really only have one opportunity, and it comes down to today, and that’s the day you’ve got to be perfect and great and everything has got to work out.
So you spend all this time and effort, and it’s really just a mental grind to work through that. The more you’ve been here, the more it’s not worked out, the more that grind really starts to gnaw at you.
I don’t necessarily subscribe to the fact that if you don’t win the 500 your career is a failure, but I think a lot of people really view this race and this championship with that lens, that the 500 stands alone, and that if you’re not able to capture one, then the career really is a failure in a lot of ways.
It’s impossible to not recognize that or to absorb that from people when you’re here, and I just didn’t know if circumstance would ever work out where it would really come to be where we could win the race.
I just said — especially after ’19, where I did have an opportunity to win the race and we fell short, I said, if I’m ever in a position again to win this race, I’m not coming back with a top-5 result. I just don’t care what happens. You come here to win the race, and we’re going to do that.
Q. So you committed to win the race and the rest of it goes out the window, but you spend the year so focused on winning championships, Team Penske, and doing your absolute best to stay consistent through a whole season, so what’s it like to come into May and to have that total change of an opposite mindset almost to come in here and treat it completely differently to the rest of the year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: In a lot of ways it was nice to just be — look, I just went out there and drove today. I knew I had a pretty good car. I was pretty happy with Fast Friday. Luke Mason did an amazing job. We basically just went back to our test car from the pre — from the April test where our car was so good, and we had never run that car again in May, and we were both looking at each other laughing, like what are we doing.
We left that test and said, if we have this car, we’re winning the 500. That’s what I said. We never ran the car until Fast Friday — sorry, until Carb Day.
We ran that car, and I said, okay, you did a good job; we’re going to be just fine here.
I didn’t study a lot. I typically, like, pour over every detail. I don’t leave a lot of stones unturned. But I was just pretty relaxed. I was like, you know what, I’m not going to overthink this. I’m not going to overdo it. I’ve been here before. I think I know how you need to win this race.
I’m going to relax and I’m going to show up and go race on Sunday, and that’s what I did. I just came with kind of a carefree attitude and just tried to trust my natural instinct.
It worked, so I was pretty happy.
It was so much more than that, obviously. I’m kind of simplifying my own personal — my internal messaging, but there’s a lot more than that. The amount of — I’ll come back to the team side, but the amount of effort and timeline to get to this point really makes everything happen.
But just from a personal stance I think that was the right approach for me this year.
Q. Marcus was unhappy with the call by INDYCAR, the way the race finished. He felt like there weren’t enough laps left leaving the pits essentially when they’re throwing the green. Did it surprise you that they made the third red flag call, and what did you think about that whole process?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I’m happy they did it to give a good finish. Obviously if I was in Marcus’ situation, I would have said, yeah, just end it. That’s great. I’ve got to the line and they’re not going to go to a — I’ve also been in a lot of races where you get ahead of somebody like that and the yellow just comes out, and you’re going back to the timing line of Turn 4. And I’m like, what are you talking about? We’ve been sitting here for about five seconds where I’m in front of this person.
There’s so many different ways that this could have played out and you could have said this is fair or that’s fair. I’ve seen it all. At this point I’m just really thankful they did it the way they did. I’m glad I had the car. I don’t really care. I’ve seen a lot of situations where it didn’t go our way. Today went our way, and I’ll take it. I’ll take it all day.
Q. Using Marcus’ move to beat him when he used that move to essentially beat Pato last year, you guys were way below the white line coming off 4. Can you describe that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I was about driving through pit lane. It was legal is all I’m going to say. They were very clear that they are not enforcing that line, and they didn’t enforce it last year. They said they’re not enforcing it again, and I’m coming to the checkered flag and I’m going to do everything I can to win this race, and I had to be as aggressive as possible, because the tow effect to just the first car was even more difficult than last year. You were just a sitting duck if you were in the lead.
Honestly, I don’t love that. I think the cars should be more difficult to drive here. It’s a very — terribly difficult balance for the series to walk because you want to have a good show. You want everybody to be as close together as possible and you want it to be difficult for someone to win this race, and I agree with that.
But I think it’s not difficult in the right way. We’ve got to find a different formula where we can trim the cars out and they’re easier to follow in the pack. Basically all this downforce that we’ve added has only made it easier and easier for the first two cars, so when you’re the third car you’re still just stuck in that tow line where no one is really going anywhere. We’re all closer, but it’s only the first two that can really do something.
So we’ve got to change that formula where it’s easier to follow in the pack, but you can also be rewarded if you’re better at driving the car with less downforce. I want to see the drivers that really excel get a better advantage.
That’s why they pay us to be in the seat. That’s why they pay the engineers, to find the perfect setups that we can make an advantage and get away with it. Not so we can win by two laps, but I just think the dynamic of the race, the complexion could look a little differently.
Q. If they do that, it takes care of itself, the discussion, the debate about the way these races are ending takes care of itself?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: For sure. I just because we’ve added downforce year after year. You sort of noticed that at first with probably Pagenaud was the first time we really saw that, 2019. We’ve just added more and more downforce, and it’s become more important to try and break the tow.
What are you going to do? Just sit there and get — I mean, if you sit in a straight line you’re just going to get passed super easily.
I don’t hold any grudge against anyone that’s doing it in front of me, as long as it’s not a true block, which it’s not if you’re — if you’re not reacting to the person, if they’re following you, that’s not a block.
It’s just the style of racing that has become imperative because of the style of racing.
Q. If I remember correctly, when you made the move from Indy Lights to INDYCAR, you drove for Sarah Fisher’s team. Any reaction from her?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yes. I saw Sarah’s daughter, Zoey in Victory Circle. Actually, fun note: Zoey texted me this month and said, I just have a feeling this is your year. She’s never said that before, and she was very adamant. She said, I don’t know why, but this is your year.
I’ve heard that from a lot of people, okay, many times, so it’s hard to react to any of that stuff, but she made a good call this year. Maybe she’s my good luck charm.
Q. INDYCAR champion and Indy 500 winner. Does one feel more rewarding than the other?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think this feels more relieving. There’s no doubt that this was a bigger weight.
I think I’m still in the camp that the championship is tougher. In a lot of ways it is, because there’s so much more that goes into it.
This is the single-most difficult race in the world to win. I’ll stand by that. There’s no doubt. If you’re looking at a single event, you cannot beat the difficulty of the Indy 500.
But I don’t know how you compare the two. You’re looking at one standalone versus a championship, and putting a championship together, I think, is very, very difficult. You really see the best rise to the top. You see the best team, the best pit stop performance, consistently it adds up over a year, and it’s very difficult to do that.
They felt very different. I just don’t know that — I classify them as different things. I think internally I feel differently about them.
Q. Do you feel like a more complete driver now that you’ve won both?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, I don’t. I’m going to be honest, I don’t feel different — the only thing I feel is the weight of what everyone else wants to put on you because they think the Indy 500 has to be won.
I think about all the drivers that probably should have won this race that never won it, and it doesn’t make a difference whether they won it or not. Their career is still fantastic. It’s more just a shame that it didn’t work out for them.
That’s really how I feel about the event. I’m not here to take anything away from it, but I don’t like looping it into the category that you have to have it to be complete. I don’t feel differently as a driver because today happened, I just feel less weight.
Q. In 2016 when you finished third, your post-race interview, despair, frustration, and all that. Today with the elation, could you elaborate on how one place can evoke such a wide range of emotion in one person over the course of their chosen career?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Absolutely. There’s no denying that Indianapolis, this is the most difficult motor race in the world to win. It’s the pressure that builds this entire month. You have so much time to potentially get it right, and it comes down to really one day to be perfect.
You can have a good qualifying. You can have a good Fast Friday. You can have good Carb Day. If you’re not good on Race Day, it’s all for nothing.
That’s what makes Indy so terribly pressure filled but terribly difficult, too.
I think that’s what has made it special today to win it. I just feel overjoyed for the amount of work we put in this month.
On the flipside, when you don’t win it, that’s what makes it so demoralizing. You pack up, you say we, lived here for three weeks’ and we put everything we had into this and it didn’t work out. It just breaks your heart. It’s broken my heart every year.
And so I feel — I just feel amazing now that it didn’t break my heart this year.
Q. You mentioned earlier about the sacrifices that your parents made to get you here, possibly irresponsibly. What made it that way growing up, that they sacrificed that much? What did they have to do — I’m assuming they didn’t put the house up for mortgage, but how far did it have to go for you to get to this point?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, I won’t go into the details, but my parents, they gave everything for my career, I can tell you that, and more. It’s not from a lack of effort and belief.
I think my dad has really just been wired that way, that anything is possible, and he’s always given me that belief. I’m a pretty pragmatic person. I’m very realistic. But I also have an internal belief that anything is possible because of him. He’s instilled that in me.
Look where it’s gotten us.
Q. In terms of the milk celebration, had you practiced it in the mirror before? How did you feel it went today?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Dude, no practice. I haven’t. The only thing I really had in my head that I wanted to do was go in the crowd. That was the only thing I felt adamant about. If I was lucky enough to win, I was doing that.
The milk, I felt good about it. It tasted so good. I love milk. I drink a lot of milk. So for me the Indy 500 is kind of the greatest thing ever. Other people might not like to get milk after. That’s the choice I would have made, too. I love Louis Meyer. I love that he threw that up as a tradition. I’m a big milk guy.
Q. We spoke a couple months ago, and Scott McLaughlin said that your love language is finance. What do you plan on doing with the prize money?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We’re going to the NASDAQ on Wednesday. I can’t wait. We’re going to talk about equity. NASDAQ is up 18 percent year to date; Dow is lagging. I’m excited. Finance is my love language. I don’t know. The money, we’re going to invest it into a prudent mutual fund and let it grow sustainably over 20 years and then look at it and say where are we at and what can we do and be responsible and budget.
These are high-level questions. I have no idea what we’re doing yet.
Q. You’ve made it a point that you’ve wanted to win this, and now you have. How does it feel? Is this your dream? Is this what it feels like?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s amazing. I just really wanted to emphasize that to me there’s no bad seat in this house. I’ve been a fan here. That’s kind of where I started.
Everybody should take a lot of pride in being at this race, whether you’re someone sitting in Turn 1 or Turn 4, you’re working on the car or you’re a partner or you’re a friend or you’re the driver. All the seats matter, and they’re all special.
I genuinely mean that. We all make the energy that this event is, so I just feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be here for 12 years and drive this race and try and win it, and to win it with such great partners like Shell, and especially the messaging they’ve had this year, it’s been — you know, it was really fitting to drive this car, this Shell car this year with that livery and the powering progress message that they have.
They’re all running Shell fuel this year. It’s all sustainable fuel. It’s a very big deal for this series.
Yeah, I’m just elated. I don’t know how to put it more into words how special it is to have an opportunity as a driver here.
Q. Tim Cindric talked about the importance of getting an Indy 500 victory with Roger Penske as the track owner. How important was that to you?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I don’t think it — honestly, it doesn’t matter the circumstances at Indy. Indy is just special.
But there is, of course, another layer to that with RP now owning the track. To see Roger and the family, and the amount of work that he’s put into this place has been impressive to witness. Very, very impressive.
I think you really notice that with everyone that was here, that they appreciate the event and they appreciate how much he loves the tradition of the Indy 500.
This team was built off the Indianapolis 500. Roger came here, and this is what brought him into the world of racing and has built this whole Penske Corporation.
I think it is so fitting he is the custodian of the track in elevating it to a new place. To win for the first time that now that he owns it is definitely more emotional, very, very special.
Q. When he won in 2019, his 18th victory, he said his goal is to get to 20. Now that can happen next year. How important would that be for any one of the three drivers?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: That’s what I said. I put my hand on his shoulder in Victory Lane and said, now we got to get 20. He was the first one to go, absolutely. He didn’t even take a breath. He was ahead of me in the thought process, as you know.
He’s eyes forward. It will be important. We need to come back. There’s still areas we can be better, so we’ll go and analyze after this weekend and see where we can improve. But we’ll come back ready to fight and get No. 20 for him.
Q. You said that you’re a man of process, but can you tell us about that time when you are doing the pass for the lead?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, it was a good position to be in. I think second or third was a good start or a good position to be in on the restart, particularly with only one lap to go. That’s where you want to be.
For me it was get the lead at all costs, whether that’s Turn 1 or Turn 3. I wasn’t premeditating that Turn 3; had to be the spot. If I had a little better jump I probably would have passed Marcus in Turn 1.
Maybe that wouldn’t have been right, but I think you have to go at the first opportunity because of the potential for the yellows.
We had a yellow come out for that second red flag and we didn’t even get to the start-finish line. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, and I think it’s the mentality of getting the lead at all costs is where you have to be.
If it doesn’t work out, if a yellow does come out when you’re not in the lead or something goes wrong, then that’s okay, but I think that’s the right approach to try and win the race.
Q. Was it the best drink of milk that you’ve ever had?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: 100 percent the best.
Q. It seemed like Ricky Bobby was right based on what you said earlier, that you’re either first or you’re last or at least here. That is it, right?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s a funny quote, but it is true at Indianapolis. You’re either walking away the winner with your team or you’re walking away as someone that didn’t win the race.
That’s not true for everywhere that we go, but Indy, the only thing that matters is winning the race, so that’s why for me it was extra special to have that mentality today.
Q. You’re familiar, I think, with the term red mist. Maybe you’re not. But there was carnage out there the last part of this race. Three red flags, unprecedented. What comes over drivers? Can you explain it? With the Indy 500 on the line, et cetera, that they’re willing to — you are willing to throw it all out there, so to speak?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think you saw exactly what it means. Everyone probably carried the same attitude that winning the race is the only things that matters here, and so you saw everybody going for it.
Everyone was doing everything they could to win the race or to position themselves to win the race, and you can’t fault people for that. That’s what this place brings out of everybody. That’s why we spend so much time here, to just give ourselves a chance to potentially win it.
Yeah, it just gets more elevated at this event probably more than anywhere else because of that reason.
Q. I asked you on Thursday, does this place owe you anything, just like I asked Tony Kanaan one time, and he said absolutely not; you have to earn this race. Was that the lesson further learned today?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I was a believer of that many years ago. I never expected anything from this track. I don’t believe that it owes anybody anything. I wholeheartedly believe that.
I think you can’t have any ego when you show up here. I’ll say that about our team. Doesn’t matter who we are, it doesn’t matter how much money we have, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve won the race, this place doesn’t owe you anything. You have to go and earn it. I think that’s why you have to carry the attitude that you either come here to take the win or you’re not going to win the race.
Things can happen, obviously. Maybe it falls in your lap. But I think more times than not, you have to go out and earn the win.
Q. When we were talking about the 500 versus the championship and what’s harder, and now that you’re a final winner of the 500, are you upset about the removal of the double points?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We already said — we said, you know what, now that they took the double points away we’ll win the race. We just knew it. Knew it. But I’m very happy it’s not double points. I’m very, very happy.
It would have been lovely today, but that’s okay. I was not a fan of them ever.
I think that it also took away from what the 500 is. You shouldn’t ever be here racing for points. It’s the Indy 500. You’re running for the win. You don’t leave fifth here and go, we had a good day, we finished fifth, we got good points. That’s not how it works.
I’m not saying you’ve got to be reckless and wreck people, but you have to give everything to win this race. Yeah, probably bittersweet about the points, but I’m happy the way it is. I think it was the right call to go back to single points.
Q. I overheard you talking about stocks coming out of the elevator. What makes you fascinated by stocks or finances?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, I was joking around. I am into finance. I think it’s a great career path. It’s probably something I would be doing if I wasn’t driving cars. It’s kind of as simple as that. I won’t bore everybody, but I love that world. I think it’s super fun.
Q. Do you own any stocks?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I do. I carry equities, yep. I have many positions. We could go on a lot of different paths on that, but I think, yes, looking after a portfolio yourself is prudent.
I think you should have good advisors and you should make good long-term decisions with your investments and your budgeting. I am a man that, yeah, likes looking after most of it myself. I think everybody should be educated on finance in this room. I think it’s a good thing.
I didn’t think we were going to be talking about stocks here.
Q. Just a quick note on Tony and his final Indy 500. I know growing up you probably looked up to Tony, and a lot of other Indy 500 drivers did, too, and just what Tony has meant to you as a fellow racer.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think Tony has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport, first and foremost. He’s been a great Indy 500 champion, as everyone in this room knows. He’s a fan favorite for a reason. He wears his heart right on his sleeve, publicly displayed, and I think that’s why everybody loves him.
He’s been a tremendous competitor.
I think someone that is tough to race against, but also someone that you could go to if you needed advice or assistance. He’s pretty open minded and ready to help the young guys if needed. You’re seeing that even more so now that he’s working with younger drivers in his team.
He’s been great for the sport. I’m so happy that he was still here for this final race. I’m also in the camp that doesn’t believe he’s done, like most people are.
But if it is his last go, then he’s had a tremendous career, and we should all be thankful that Tony was here.
Q. Josef, now that you’ve been out of the car, I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to see the final lap or the reactions, especially from your wife. Watching the last lap, she was really emotional. It was a really cool video. I’m curious to know what it’s like to watch someone who’s been in this with you for so long and their reaction to this dream of yours coming true.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, my poor wife gets the — she’s probably got the toughest job in our family, not just because she looks out for everything and helps make my world go round, but she sees the negative impact, she sees the heartbreak more than anyone else, so she knows what that’s like.
I’m just happy we were able to finally win it. She knows that, too. I don’t know why I’m getting emotional about it. She’s just as competitive as me. I can imagine how happy she was.
THE MODERATOR: I know you’ve got a long laundry list of things to do today and tomorrow, but enjoy it.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I appreciate everybody, all the coverage, all the support in this room. I really mean that when I say that there is no bad seat in this place. There truly isn’t.
We all make the Indy 500 what it is, so thank you for covering us and pushing the sport. I think we’re all trying to elevate INDYCAR back to where it belongs, so thanks for all the effort from this room and everybody that’s given us time and feedback and great coverage. Thanks for being here today.
THE MODERATOR: The celebration continues for Team Penske, and honored to be joined by Roger Penske, now a 19-time winner at the Indianapolis 500, and longtime Team Penske president Tim Cindric.
Roger, how thrilling there the last several moments of this race?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I took my car owner hat off and became a car owner there the last two laps. But Tim had it under control. I listened to the radio all day long, and quite honestly, to get up there and work our way through the day was amazing.
With the red flags, everything, it could have been anybody’s race. But I think Newgarden showed what he’s really made of today. He was, I think, confident but yet cautious there at the end, and when it was time to go he made it happen. We can’t thank him enough from the team.
THE MODERATOR: Tim, your thoughts?
TIM CINDRIC: It’s amazing. Anytime you win this race, obviously he’s done it twice as many times or more than I have been a part of. But from the point in time where obviously we always want to win this place, but 2019 was the last time that we had won and somebody else owned the place before.
I apologize it’s taken four years to get him to start the race and put him back up there at the end of the race. We feel really good about that.
Then for Josef, obviously he’s shown throughout his career that he’s a championship-caliber driver, and he’s wanted this place so bad that it was kind of going to be checkers or wreckers there at the end. You kind of knew that.
The crew, I can’t say enough about. All day long it was flawless. I think the guys, all the engineers worked together, not just from the 2 car team but everybody else to really give him a great car today.
Fortunate to execute. Obviously it can be anybody’s race there at the end.
THE MODERATOR: The margin of victory was .0974. That’s the fourth closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history. The top three, ’92, Al Jr. over Scott Goodyear, then 2014, Hunter-Reay over Helio; and then 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. over Marco Andretti.
So incredibly tight finish there at the end.
Q. The celebration Josef did at the end, he goes into the grandstands, celebrates with the fans. You own this place; are you going to charge him a ticket?
ROGER PENSKE: No, I think he’s just trying to beat Helio and get up in the stands with the fans. We wouldn’t charge him for a ticket for sure. It’s great.
Q. I know you said your goal was to get to 20. That’s now one win off. How achievable do you believe that is now?
ROGER PENSKE: We’re certainly not going to stop here, I can tell you, with the team we have and the depth of our drivers.
The competition, though, everybody here today knows it’s never been tighter. You could see all during the race, maybe within four or five seconds you had 20 cars, and that’s what we’re racing every day. We seen it when we qualify. I think 16 inches was the difference between 1 and 2 in qualifying.
We’re going to be back next year. I think Newgarden, this is one he wanted to check off for years. He didn’t understand why he hadn’t won the race today. He earned it. He won the race today, which is certainly to his credit.
Q. For Tim, the tail of the dragon worked for Marcus last year. Do you think this year it was a case that Josef beat him at his own game?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, I know Josef, he knew in his mind what he had to do if he got the opportunity. We just needed to try and get him up in the right position, and between what he was able to do on the racetrack and what we were able to do in the pits today, we kind of methodically got there.
I think I told him at some point during the race that we were kind of ahead of schedule because there was a point there where certainly didn’t want to lead, and it’s hard to tell yourself that you start 17th and you don’t want to lead. But that’s the way it played out.
For us, we’ve been trying to get Shell a win here for a long time in that Shell car, and to have the contingent in the sport that we have from that group and to have all their top executives here and for what they’ve done with the renewable fuel and that type of thing for INDYCAR and the series to really set the stage, it was awesome to bring them home something that’s got the biggest trophy in the world on it.
Q. Mr. Penske, where does this rank in terms of your wins as a team owner?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I’d have to say the first win here back in ’72, but to come here and be the steward of the track and have the opportunity — I had to step away. I loved being on the box, running one of these cars here every year as I have been.
But I was up on the top there. I had my scoreboard where I could see what was going on, but to see him go down by the start-finish line number one was pretty important. I guess it goes almost to the top.
Q. Marcus Ericsson was fairly upset afterwards. He felt like it was unfair the way the red flags were managed at the end, and he felt as if the final red flag should have been flown earlier and that one lap wasn’t enough for a shootout to finish the race. I just wanted your thoughts on that.
TIM CINDRIC: Are you asking me or him or both or what?
Q. I’ll start with you.
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, I think it’s more of a race control program. Obviously you’re sitting there and it’s really hard to determine how that’s all going to play out. Each restart could have played out a different way, and I think Josef, when you look at the fact that we lost the lead on one of the restarts, as well, it can kind of go either way, and that’s kind of the way this place is now.
I think somebody has got to win and somebody doesn’t. We’ve been on the other side of that, too.
Q. Any thoughts, Roger?
ROGER PENSKE: Really I don’t have any thoughts. I had nothing to do with it, obviously. We have a group that is certainly the officials of the track, and to me, we’ve said this before, I think all of you had said, we want to see a checkered flag, not a yellow flag.
Q. As a track owner, I don’t know if you had a chance to assess this during the race, but there was a tire that went over the fence in Turn 2. Have you had a chance to look at that?
ROGER PENSKE: Yeah, I saw what had happened; saw it bounced on top of a building and went and hit a car over there, which obviously is very concerning. We have tethers on the wheels, and it was a rear wheel that came off, and I’m sure the guys at INDYCAR will look at it, will determine what really happened.
We haven’t seen a wheel come off in a long time. We have high fences here. But we were very fortunate we didn’t have a bad accident.
Q. Question for Tim. How is the 2 car in terms of downforce? It seemed as the race got hotter, slicker as it went on. How confident were you in the 2 crew’s setup and how good the race pace was all month?
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, I felt as a race car we just needed to get Josef’s confidence around it. This place is all about — especially with drivers that are going to need to pass from a little further back.
We just needed to be sure that — you see him do it at Texas and Gateway and Iowa and all these other places, and once he has the confidence, that’s what we needed to build on.
My hats off to Luke and that whole group because we didn’t touch the downforce. He didn’t ask about it. We didn’t even touch the front wing today. It was amazing, really, just the tools in the car. Getting the track position was really the key and trying to put ourselves in a position relative to fuel and all the rest of the things that happened.
Yeah, you have to have a flawless day here, and then sometimes you still don’t win, especially with the way the category is right now and the series and how competitive it is.
I’m surprised because I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a race here that we haven’t at least changed the front wing at some point during the race, so it was a pretty solid effort from that whole group.
Q. Tim, what made it so difficult for Josef to win here for so long?
TIM CINDRIC: I think some of it is circumstances. Some of it I think is developing a bit of a feel, because it’s different than any other place. You see people that come here and run really well, and we go to these other ovals and you wonder, why not. It’s vice versa. You see people on the other ovals — I mean, and I don’t think he’s ever — I think we’ve had a shot to win it here a couple times and it hasn’t really chosen us for different reasons.
It’s a track position game and it’s a bit of chess, and you see it no different than the Daytona 500 in some ways as far as how you position yourself at the end and what you have to — where you have to be throughout the race. It’s becoming closer to that.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a stock car race. But I think you have to be in that — you saw where he restarted third and was able to take the lead, and you see where you’re the leader and you’ve got to figure out, okay, how to give up one position but not give up two positions, because it’s really not a question whether you’re going to give up one, it’s just how you position yourself to get back to the next stride.
Q. Roger, you had a great crowd today, a great show. You won the race. You go to Detroit next week to throw a big party there. You go to Le Mans the week after that. Talk about what all of that means to you and what you’re looking forward to in Detroit next week.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I guess when I think back, I think back about coming here in 1951 with my dad to see the first race of my own with him, and of course never realized that many, many years would pass and I would be here today, our family as the steward of the track, and also to have 19 wins.
But we’re competitors. We love this business. We’re committed to this track, to this series, to make it better. And when I see the people today and the demographics and the kids and 70,000 people here on Carburetor Day, and we had the biggest crowd we had since probably 2016. You saw it yourself. Amazing.
But we go on to Detroit, and we’re excited because we’re trying to make this series not just Indianapolis, but it’s all around the country. I think we’ve got the fastest cars, the high tech cars. I think our group of drivers are amazing and teams that’s competitive. We just want to take this on to many, many key cities around the United States and maybe other places.
Next week to be able to come to Detroit. It’s ironic last Wednesday or Thursday the mayor and the City Council president took the speed limit signs down to 25 miles an hour in front of the GM Building and put up 200 mile-an-hour signs, so that’s what I’m counting on for next week.
Q. I know a lot of the races, a lot of this race is kind of out of your control, but what do you feel like is the biggest thing within your control over the past three years that’s helped you get back to Victory Lane again here?
TIM CINDRIC: Really I think it’s just a continuation of building forward and executing on race day. Last year I thought we had cars that were capable of running up front, and unfortunately every one of them we either made a mistake or we put ourselves in a position where we couldn’t get there.
I think halfway through the race last year, I remember pretty vividly we were up to fifth and it was going to be a really good day, and the engine shut off in the pit or we stalled or whatever happened there, and that ended the day halfway through. And we had a couple other problems coming along.
We needed to execute, and you have to have a good car. I think, like I said, it’s about the people, and the group that we have there on the 2 car this year, although we have a new chief mechanic, a new race engineer, people that haven’t been in their positions here at the Indy 500, I think Josef was really good at ensuring that he has the confidence in the group.
Before the race he made it clear that he felt like he could win from anywhere. Obviously he proved that today.
Q. The gaps in 2019 without a victory, how heavily has that weighed upon you and how much motivation has that given you to turn things around for this year?
TIM CINDRIC: I think it’s great when they talk about four years being a drought here, because I see some of the biggest teams here that went on 10- or 11-year droughts or whatever else.
So I think it’s a testament to the legacy that Roger has built here and the expectations we have.
Yeah, we do expect to come here and have a shot to win at it every single year, and unfortunately we haven’t been the ones at the front of the race when it starts the past couple years. I think that’s been a bigger weakness, because 2019 and prior, I guess I call it the pre-wind screen era for whatever reason, whether that’s basically a coincidence or not, we haven’t been able to qualify where we are used to qualifying. It’s a little harder to make your day exactly right from the front.
You saw today where a couple cars started in the front, had some problems, and were still able to be at the front at the end of the race. So it’s a lot more forgiving if you’re there in the beginning, and I think that’s been the key.
Q. When we talked in Mooresville three weeks ago and you were talking about how motivated you were to win and give Roger his first win as the owner of this place, he starts the day, you want to end the day with him, how did that feel to do that?
TIM CINDRIC: There’s nothing better. To check that box and to be able, like you said, to really as a team be able to reward him, and Josef in some ways. But really even Josef would tell you, to see Roger up on the lift that he put together, he made it what it is and made this place a lot younger, a lot more fan friendly.
It would be a shame if we couldn’t get him back up on there. I think it’s something that I’ll always remember and the team will, being able to, as I said, have him start the race and the enthusiasm that he gives at the start of this race.
I’ve been around this place a long time, and I love the, drivers start your engines. I always have. I think the energy he puts behind that and the preparation he puts behind that is kind of second to none, and then to be able to hand him another one of these Baby Borgs at some point in time is really cool.
Q. Tim, can you speak about the rapid evolution and training of Kaitlyn Brown, who I believe just made history as the first woman to win the Indy 500 going over the wall as a member of the crew changing a tire? She’s someone you told me within the last year or so, we’re going to try and get her ready, and look what she did today.
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, obviously Kaitlyn came — she had been on our NASCAR team. First of all, I signed her up. I’m her agent going forward.
So I told her all the notoriety she has, she’s going to have to have an agent, and it might as well be me.
She came to us on the NASCAR program and just wanted to work on race cars. When Beth Paretta’s program started up here we told everybody internally what was happening there and wanted to know if there were any females that wanted to be part of that program, and she was the first one to raise her hand and say, hey, I want a chance.
We watched how hard she worked at it. They came in at 5:00 in the morning, doing pit stops before the rest of our pit stop practices started internally, and she worked her butt off.
She earned the whole respect of the crew, and obviously we had some of our mechanics on that crew while it was here and they said, look, she deserves a chance on these cars if she wants it.
And then she worked really, really hard to earn her way and earn her spot changing the left front tire on Josef’s car.
She’s solid. She is solid. She’s all business.
I think she has the opportunity and really the work ethic to be one of the top people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I think her runway is really long, and if she’s patient and she continues to be in the right place and do the things she’s doing now, kind of the sky’s the limit for her.
Q. Can you speak quickly about Team Chevy? Last year was a rough year here; an amazing year-to-year rebound. Can you talk about them? They were doing pretty big things.
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, they were. I think everybody there, they continue to get stronger. Mark Reuss and his group, they’re here to win, and they’ve continued to put more and more resources behind it. It’s the details that win this place, and when you look at last year’s race, I think the Chevys needed a little more at the end when it was time to go, and they gave us more at the end when it was time to go.
I think we either closed the gap or at least gave us the tools to win as Chevy teams, and when you looked at it, there were quite a few Chevys. You look at going into whatever it was, the third to last restart, I think there was four Chevys up there in the top 5 if I remember correctly, and it’s a testament to what that whole group has done.
It’s been really good. The relationship they have with Ilmor and the two of them working together between GM there in Detroit and Ilmor has continued to pay dividends for us.
Q. Mr. Penske, you told me a few years back that one of your favorite Indy 500 victories was when Sam Hornish won because you knew what it meant to Sam and his dad. Knowing what this means to Josef and his father, do you see a lot of similarities in those two Indy wins?
ROGER PENSKE: I think it’s for the family really. When Sam won that race in ’06 it was the same kind of a race, coming from the back and executing at the end. His mom was in the car with us. She had his young son, Kota, and it was a family affair really, and that’s just yourself. We.
See it in our gut, I guess, when you think about what’s happening. But to see what it does, Josef is a proud guy. He’s been a great assimilation with the team. Brought McLaughlin on, worked really well with Will, and I think he’s 100 percent out for the team, and I think his parents were really focused on his future when we first met him, when he first came to work with us.
One thing Tim didn’t say, we really worked on our cars for the race. As he said, we were disappointed in qualifying, but I think you could see when it was time to go, we were there, and I think, Tim, it’s a credit to you and Ilmor and the guys — the little things make a difference, it’s so tight. I just wanted to say, I didn’t get a chance to tell you, but under your leadership, and as you know, Tim, we got the award for the other night, obviously the Hall of Fame, and I guess he is a Hall of Fame guy now for sure.
TIM CINDRIC: Any club you’re in is a good club to be in, I promise you.
Q. How long will it take to replace Mr. Penske’s parking permit down stairs? It’s obviously 19 wins now.
TIM CINDRIC: I hope it’s already done. I think that group was on that when the flag flew.
But yeah, it’s good to start looking at 19s around here. Yeah, glad we could be part of it.