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IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

Helio Castroneves
Tim Cindric
Roger Penske
May 11, 2003


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

MODERATOR: Tim, what finally convinced you that now was the right time to go out?

TIM CINDRIC: I think the key what we did today is to have the team and the driver that are patient. It takes a lot of patience to sit there and watch the weather go by, watch these guys put their numbers on the board and wonder when it's going to be your turn. Really, that was the biggest thing for us, is just tweaking the car a little bit at a time, then deciding when it's the right time to go. You have to have a guy you have confidence in, especially on a day like today. The more you run, the more risk you take. To have the confidence that he'll keep the thing off the fence when you get ready for this, and know your team has the other car ready to go, really gives you the confidence to go hang it out there and see what happens.

Q. How much of a chance did you take?

TIM CINDRIC: Well, there was a point at which we're sitting there thinking first two rows, then it became -- from the morning, if you go back to the morning, it was, "Let's get this thing in the show and go home." Then as the day progressed, we got him more and more confident in what was going on. Then it became, "Hey, first two rows. Looks like we can do a 29 something, maybe put it in the first two rows." Made a few changes to the car, did a 30 something. Then he got out, took the car back, changed gears. "What do you want to do? Do you want to go for it? Do we want to go just for the first two rows?" I said, "No, we're here. Let's go." At that point we took the drag out of it and really figured out how to utilize the tires on the run. Firestone came with a great, great set of tires. It was just a matter of getting the best out of them. Obviously he did that.

Q. Nine years I believe since you've had a car on the pole. How pole hungry were you getting with this long layoff?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I guess as Rick Mears said many times, there's two races here, you know, the first race is for the pole and the second one, you know, is the race itself. You know, we were not contenders for the pole the last couple of years. We knew that. But with Toyota motors and the opportunity to look at these two chassis, the fact that we picked different ones was interesting. I guess we'll see when the race comes which was the right decision. You know, we wanted the pole. We knew that if we waited, we'd have a better chance than just going when our number was drawn. That's the facts of life here. We took that chance. You know, obviously we were able to get Helio confident. Gil was never as confident with his car, never got as free as Helio did. At the end of the day, Helio had run almost 31 there before he went out. Just a matter of getting it out on those four laps, which obviously he was able to do.

Q. Andretti Green admitted they were sharing setup information. The fact you're running two different chassis, does that eliminate that and create a different challenge?

TIM CINDRIC: In some ways you could say that and in other ways you could say maybe you might lose your focus. There was no worrying about the other side or looking over your shoulder. And that may have paid off for us today, I'm not sure.

Q. I'm not really sure which of you two I want to direct this to. The Boys from Brazil the last couple of years have absolutely dominated at this track. I was wondering if either of you have any particular feelings about whether there's something in their aptitude or discipline or their aggressiveness that accounts for it?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, you've seen some greats with Fittipaldi, Adrien Senna, Tony Kanaan, Giaffone, Helio, all these guys I guess. Their families seem to start them in go-karts and start them in racing early. You saw a young Andretti, Michael, the same way with his dad. The Unsers. So I think it comes up to the way your family sets you up. Some people like to go ice skating, other people are hockey players. These guys are racers, there's no question about it. To see Helio get the pole and, you know, the confidence that he had, you can see he's just an outgoing guy. He's made a great, great difference to our team and a great contribution, he and Gil. So, you know, nothing wrong with a Brazilian.

Q. Your comments, Tim?

TIM CINDRIC: I think it really goes down to the work ethics. You know, I don't compare to anybody else. I just know the two guys that we have, both of those guys are completely dedicated to what they do. They don't hang out at night and figure out how to have a lot of fun until it's time to have fun. You know, you can have fun with the rest of them, with the best of them. But, no, I think it really comes down to their dedication and their work ethic. You know, they know when to say go. You know, with Helio, Gil, both of them, they work on the car for a while, and when it's time to put a number on the board, they give it what they have.

Q. Roger, how big a day is this for Toyota?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, obviously, you know, there was a lot of competition out there. When you looked at the numbers, probably midway through the day, and you saw the strength of Michael, the Andretti Green team, I'm sure the Toyota people are wondering: Was there an opportunity here? I felt Dixon this morning ran very, very strong, yet he wasn't probably as strong as he had been because of the wind. And for us, you know, we're representing Toyota here. Great run. Obviously I'm sure for them it really paid off. Now what we got to do is win that race. To me, you know, we have a business relationship with them, and you really feel good when you can deliver.

Q. Roger, going back to 1999, you had to make some very big decisions in personnel and equipment changes. What factors into choosing one chassis, one engine over the others? You've changed in this series, changed in stock cars. What led you to make these changes?

ROGER PENSKE: I think sometimes change is good. I mean, you can get in the same kind of groove. You don't get further ahead. There was no question as we looked at our performance over a couple years, it wasn't where we wanted to be. Obviously, the opportunity to hire Tim to come on the team, he's been a great, great resource for us. The people respect him. He's come up from the bottom. He understands what the cars are about, the engines are about, and he's a great people guy. And he's not afraid to make a decision, as he did today. So I think, you know, we do that every day in business, and we're trying to carry on the same aspects of our racing. To me, you know, coming to Indianapolis is a great challenge. You know, everything is there to look at it. If you make a mistake, people talk about it. When you win, you get the benefit of that. I think that's what we try to do every day at home and certainly in the business. You know, for me making the changes, you know, was not difficult.

Q. You mentioned your working relationship with Toyota. This is their first year here. Obviously they're having tremendous success. You get a pole your first year. How do you feel about that relationship?

ROGER PENSKE: We'll sell probably 75,000 vehicles this year for them in our dealership. All those people that represent Toyota dealerships, I'm sure are standing on the tables today. That can't hurt it.

Q. Are you going to attempt to enter a third car next weekend?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, we come to Indianapolis with a number of cars we're going to run, and I think that, you know, based on our sponsorship situation, the position we're in today, we do not have any plans at this point to run a third car.

Q. Because you have so many different makes of cars, both Dallara and G Force, would you possibly be interested in maybe selling one to a team that might be struggling to put team together for next week?

ROGER PENSKE: I think Tim will make that decision. Obviously, if it's in the best interest of the Speedway and the sport, you know, if we could supply a car to someone, we obviously would take a look at that for sure.

TIM CINDRIC: No one's come (laughter).

Q. What's the opening bid?

TIM CINDRIC: Maybe the hundred bucks you're going to make.

Q. Tim, the clouds started gathering out west about 4:30 this afternoon. Did that have any effect when you put the cars on the track?

TIM CINDRIC: No. Obviously, there was a bit of a sprinkle there while he was sitting in line. We're usually pretty informed with how the weather is, what's going on. You know, our pilots and Joe, the guys that work with Roger and his fleet, they take care of us. We make sure we have our bases covered. But you never know, no matter what any weather man says or whatever. We just stayed according to plan throughout the day and hoped it would work out.

Q. Roger, given the amount of success you've had at this track, is the thrill ever gone? Is the hunt always the same for you?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think, you know, it gets tougher and tougher obviously because, you know, we've set standards here in the race, you know, in qualifying and certainly on the poles. But to me it gets my juices running. You know, if I can't be competitive, I won't come here. I just feel I can't feel any better than I did today with Helio bringing the team to the pole position.

MODERATOR: Helio Castroneves has joined us. Congratulations.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.

MODERATOR: A quick note, of course, we've been talking about the No. 3 throughout the month with you. A couple of notes for you. The last time the 3 car won the pole for the 500 was when Rick Mears won the pole in '91. He went on to win the race. Prior to that the last time the No. 3 was on the pole was '81, Bobby Unser. Unser went on to win the race.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Okay.

MODERATOR: This would be the third time in a row the 3 wins the pole and wins the race. Once again, you have that working there for you. You were very emotional when you got out of the car to the point almost of not being able to speak.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes. Again, I have to thank Roger and Tim Cindric for giving me an opportunity again to be in this phenomenal team. When we came over here to Indianapolis, bringing two cars, they probably already said that, you know, it's a tremendous effort for everyone in the Marlboro Team Penske. As soon as I finish a lap, obviously I knew I could do the speed, but I didn't know I could do it that time. All of a sudden the conditions were so brutal. Everything was so tough out there. We just didn't know. I mean, when we did the practice this morning, the car was very difficult. My first lap was around 140. I couldn't keep going. I was like, "Gosh." It was always like that. Always starting the day and something not right. We were able to discuss, we were able to stop. We decided to (abort?) on the beginning and basically see those times. Basically came in handy, obviously. But the weather, and after Scott and somebody else was like spinning, crashing, and we were like, "Oh, my God, the track instead of getting better was getting worst (sic)." But we not thinking about that. We decide to test. All of a sudden the car start getting very comfortable, very nice. We start putting everything we did whole week, we put it back again, retry again, and things started getting be very nice. Last car on the track, seems like the car was getting much more balance. In fact, we did a run, was 231 and 230 and 227. I was like, "Wow. Now is the time. We can't hold it now. Let's go." I didn't get out of the car. It's like just another outing, you know. When we went out, the car all of a sudden was super fast. I don't know, was just everything coming very, very nice. Again, when it's unexpect, those times that you do, that's why I'm very emotional. I'm like, "I can't believe it, it happen again." So this place is magic, you know. I guess when you believe it, for sure make it come true.

Q. Helio, it was about an hour and 45 minutes between Tony's time and your time. How difficult was it to wait and to see Sharp's crash, not know if you were going to get out on the practice?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Gil and I were in watching those guys. I said, "Gil, stop, let's not watch those things. Stop it. Stop it." "No, the track might not be good." "Let's watch cartoons here, you know." All of a sudden we go back and have an attempt to practice. Obviously, when we start practicing, I at least was feeling the car much more comfortable. Again, we're calm. We're looking for four laps, running by ourselves, putting new tires. Basically the way it was supposed to be, simulating a qualifying. I guess all of a sudden it clicks, the car just went in a good setup. I start actually practicing myself inside the car to set up the car, doing the run. Wow, that's what happened. All of a sudden we came up with the 232.

Q. There was a lot of mention about the No. 3. I want to be the one to throw out you could be three-peating, of course. It seemed like you might have caught a bit of the break on the wind when you went out to do your qualifying. I was wondering if the fact that Tony was the guy who held the pole at that time and put the cake in your face the night before had any impact on terms of your competitive nature?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Maybe, yeah (laughter). Don't get me angry. Maybe get even the next day. No, just kidding. Again, I don't know if the wind came down or not, but for sure was very tough out there. It's like old days, we used to be teammates, Tasman. All of a sudden we're battling for pole position like old days. But this place here, it's incredible. You never can predict what's going to happen. How many winners, experience guys, all of a sudden didn't have a chance, and all of a sudden something bad happens? Again, I'm always learning. I remember my first year. We just want to put this baby in the grid. Next following year we were able to try to attempt for the pole, we didn't get it. This year we're just trying to work patiently ourselves to get in a good speed, and all of a sudden we end up on the pole. It's just this place is just come -- I don't know. All the time seems to be good for me.

Q. You had this incredible string of success now with two straight victories and now the pole in just 24 months. Your thoughts on the ability to accomplish that and what's gone into it so quickly?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I guess obviously the success was not only mine, for sure. It's the entire team. You know, that include my teammate Gil. Because we, both of us, working together. I mean, we try as best as we can. When you're out there, I know Roger won't (inaudible) me. But, again, when we inside the garage, we try to discuss, we try to make the team progress, the team develop in a good speed, you know. With all the situation, everybody's working together, I mean, obviously I win, Gil win, I feel that everybody in our team is getting a part of it, which is true. Again, I'm so happy to be part of the team, this Marlboro Team Penske, because they been successful before I was born probably. Is that right (laughter)? Anyway, but obviously the organization, Roger has been great successful businessman. Tim Cindric, it's been phenomenal when he start joining the team, as well. Again, we just not focused on what the history or what we have to do. We know that we have to work hard because at the same time we're winning or having good results, the same time next week we need to work hard to keep the same result.

Q. Helio, Tim, to try to get straight how the car or conditions came to you. Tim, I believe you said just before you went on that last run you took some of the drag out of the car. Helio, had the wind died down so you could take some of the downforce? Did you have so much downforce that the wind didn't affect you?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tell you, man, we trying whole week long to try take the wing out of the car to make sure we could go faster. Again, with the conditions that we had today, we got in a point that we so low in drag, my lap time this morning was about 140, I couldn't just stay on the track. The car was so loose. The wind was so strong. Even straightaway, the rear seems to go around me, you know. Was a combination of everything. I was getting comfortable. Exactly what we took off, we put back again, then we started patiently back off again. Basically seems funny, but we just back and forth on the same setup whole day long, you know. If the wind dies down or not, what a lucky man, you know. But for sure, didn't feel like it. The car was moving the same as this morning. We just were able to happen. Obviously, fantastic effort for Toyota, as well, to give us a great engine.

Q. The pole-winning run felt as hairy to you as the one this morning?

TIM CINDRIC: You know what he said right before he got in the car to go out? He pointed up to the top of the pagoda. There's an Indianapolis Motor Speedway flag there, white flag on top. Through the day, it continued to tear itself. He looked at that thing. I thought to myself, "I'll give him that for his birthday if he puts this thing on the pole." We have to figure out how to go on top of the pagoda and get that thing (laughter).

Q. The fact that you were able to get your fastest lap of the month in these kind of conditions, I mean, how much did you have to dig down for that?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm telling you, enough to not even need to come through. I'm sorry to say that. It was tough. Take a lot. Took a lot. But again, was in a condition to be comfortable. We don't want to put this thing in the wall. We want to make sure we're safe but same time fast. We're very low in downforce, I believe probably the lowest downforce out there. But Grant and I and Tim Cindric, everyone in my group basically crack our head to make sure that we could be able to make it happen. Things happen on the right way.

Q. All month long people have asked about winning three in a row. Now sitting on the pole, obviously it's realistic you can do it again. What's it going to take for you to win your third consecutive race here?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Now I'm going to enjoy this moment because so far it's fantastic, you know, for whole team. I guess I'm going to use the same strategy that I used the years before. You know. Actually, I have to think about. Now I'm starting outside Top 10 (laughter). You know, I'm going to talk to Rick Mears and then I tell you what I'm going to do.

Q. You said more than once that you don't race for money, you race for trophies. Where is this one going to go? You're going to have to build your own Indy 500 trophy case.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Hey, if you have to do that, I have no problem do that. But, again, it's just special. I'm very happy for everything that's happening this month so far.

Q. What kind of conversation do you think you'll have with Tony regarding the start of the race?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, he said yesterday, it's X-Man versus Spiderman. We need to figure out which Super Hero is going to come out first (laughter). But I'm sure he's not going to be happy what happened because I'm sure he would like to be sitting down here. But Tony and I, we're friend from long time, since racing go-karts, what, 12, 13 years. That's what happen when you have a good drivers, competitive teams racing against each other. You know, you have competition, high-level competition. But I'm sure we're going to still have a lot of fun racing against each other.

Q. Roger, I know this year's race hasn't taken place yet, but can you talk about what Helio has been able to do here with this track his first three years? Does it amaze you?

ROGER PENSKE: I think, you know, to come in as a rookie in 2001 and run as strong as he did from the beginning, in fact, both he and Gil, I think it was a credit to our ability to set the cars up. As he talked about this morning when the car didn't feel right, then be able to step back, then come back down and take the downforce back out, I think that's one of the credits we have to give to the team and the engineers. And certainly, you know, his ability to adapt. But Helio had run fast on the ovals before, you know. In CART I watched him when he was driving for Carl Hogan in St. Louis. I watched him sit on the pole at Milwaukee. He's always been fast on ovals. I think when he got here, he was right at home. He ran wheel to wheel at Michigan and California. I think both drivers came over here, having not run here, probably surprised them at how narrow the track was. But then last year, the discipline that he showed in knowing that he probably didn't have the fastest car in the race, but he was going to have to save fuel and track position were going to be critical, and he made that decision with Tim, that certainly worked out. I think today just authenticates how good he really is because when it was time to go, I saw some great times there, 230, 230 and a half, and knowing that he probably didn't show it all until it's time, both these guys are the same. When it was time to go, he put his foot down, the car was free, had four great laps. I think the results speak for themselves.

MODERATOR: Roger, Helio, Tim, congratulations. Looking forward to May 25th. Thank you all.



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