WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR, HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR AND JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 2 PPG TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR, met with members of the media at The Milwaukee Mile. Full Transcript:
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with today’s championship contenders media availability. We’re pleased to be joined by all three of our Team Penske drivers.
Will, we’ll start with you. All three of you with strong results here at Milwaukee, but we’ll focus on the championship. With teammates all competing for a championship, what is your focus heading into these last few races? A situation you’ve been in before heading into a championship run.
WILL POWER: Well, surprise, surprise, got two teammates fighting me for a championship.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been in this situation quite a few times. So has Helio and Juan as well. Juan usually wins (laughter).
But IndyCar is like that these days. It’s very tight. It’s so unpredictable. Like every race you go into, it’s just been so unpredictable, like, who is going to win.
At the end of the day with three to go, I just think anything can happen. You just got to keep your head in the game and keep focused. That’s my plan.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, a similar question. Having been in this particular position just last year, being second in the points heading towards the end of the season, what is your mentality? Speak to the diversity of the tracks you have remaining on the schedule to win a championship.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, to be honest, this is a good problem for the team. Team Penske is doing a great job having three guys up there. It shows we want to achieve our goals, no matter who it is. Obviously I want it, Will want it, Juan Pablo want it. The goal is to bring the championship for Roger. We’re going to do everything to make that happen.
In my plan, keeping my way to make that happen, we just got to keep going. Obviously, as Will mentioned, the competition out there is so difficult. We just got to keep our heads in the game and keep working together so we can actually give this opportunity for Roger.
THE MODERATOR: Juan, working together as a team, you joked earlier in the year that as the season went on, the team sharing and feedback was getting shorter and shorter.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: These guys are terrible (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: At the same time with three drivers competing in a championship, I have to imagine that trend is continuing heading into the last few races.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think the atmosphere is really good right now at Team Penske. We’re working together. I think everybody knows what they need to do. The position I’m in, an outside chance, I’m even surprised I have a chance to be honest. I’m kind of happy with that.
My goal is to aim top three in the next three races, try to win them all. That’s got to be my goal. I think their goal is to finish the next three races. If either of those two finish the next few races in the top 10, they win the championship.
Some are going to be aggressive, some are going to be smarter. We’re just going to see. It will be fun to watch.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up to questions.
Q. The last three races are a short oval, a road course and a street course. What do you think about the diversity of the last few tracks, and should the championship be decided that way?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We done plenty of street courses. I think personally for the team it’s really good going to Sonoma, then Fontana, two really good tracks. Here is a good track for us. Andretti is pretty strong here as well.
You still got to run the race. I was pretty happy with my car, so we’ll see.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, for me and the team, definitely three strong tracks. If I could do what I did last year on these three tracks, I’m pretty sure I’d win the championship. You know, things change every year and setups change.
Honestly, my feeling is this is the strongest position I’ve been in to win a championship. As far as my strengths go on street, road and ovals, they’re all pretty strong.
Like I said before, I’ve just got to put my head down and anything can happen. You just got to be smart and get the most out of every weekend.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, the same. We have to understand that the last race is 100 points. A lot of people in the game, too. That’s why we want to make sure we don’t give the chance to others, keep it between us. Hopefully that way it will work out.
Q. With two drivers competing for a championship, where do you draw the line on competing hard with each other but also focused on making sure the team gets the championship?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It’s not us. It’s actually Roger. He’s the one that draws the line.
The same way we approach the first one. Like I said, the team orders, you can race fair, hard, as long as you don’t take each other out. I think it’s been that way for many, many years. I don’t see why it have to change.
As long as we give an extra inch for each one, that’s the way it is.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it’s a tough balance right there, you know. At the end of the day the team does come first. I think it would be just terrible to see two of us in the wall and someone else win the championship.
But, yeah, the ultimate goal is for Roger to win one. Just let too many go. Too many times second. We got to keep that in mind.
Q. Has the line here at the Milwaukee Mile changed in the years you’ve been racing on it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it does change. We used to run turbo, aspirators, now turbo again. The older car was different. Parts and tires change a little bit.
It’s always something different, believe it or not. Even we’ve been here many, many years, you come back, it seems that it’s different again.
But the good news is we have three cars. You can actually try something different, see if it’s in the right direction or not. That help actually quite a lot to keep going. Especially on a day like this when you don’t have much time to test, you got to come back here pretty much sorted out what you have, and that’s what we do.
Q. There’s been so much focus on racing safety this week, and you probably saw that NASCAR established a rule requiring drivers to stay in their cars following an incident. It seems like from talking to people here that a rule like that might not be necessary in INDYCAR because that mentality is already ingrained in you guys. An example of that might be Juan’s crash in Toronto with Aleshin, when [Montoya] didn’t undo his safety harness after the crash. Is that an example of how you understand you’re supposed to react in an incident?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think for us it’s very clear. You have to stay in the car. If the belts come off, they won’t restart the car. They tell you that. If the safety crew gets there, the belt is off, they will not restart your car, so…
WILL POWER: If you crash, the car is destroyed, you want to get out quickly because there’s a chance of fire. It’s a tough balance.
Juan in Iowa, someone crashed him, you get out and you’re angry, it’s a different story.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You don’t get out of the car without the safety anyway. I mean, you don’t want to get out. First of all, you want to stay in the car until everybody really slows down because we’re going way too quick compared with the Sprint cars and Cup cars.
Q. A lot of people who don’t follow racing have seen footage of the sprint car accident last weekend and jumped to conclusions, perhaps unfairly. When you guys see that as drivers, what do you think?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, we don’t have any comment on it. Am I right, ‘we’? We didn’t watch it, we don’t have any comment on it.
Are you happy (laughter)?
Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: Yeah, a lot. I want it, absolutely. Like I said, I’m focused. I really want to get it right. You know, it’s IndyCar racing, anything can happen.
The lessons I’ve learnt from the past three times, you just got to keep your head in the game all the way.
Q. Helio, you’ve been close, too.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I want it more than him. Actually, I’ve been longer. I’ve been here in this business longer than him, too.
But the point is, you still got to make sure that we bring this to Roger. I feel that’s our whole mentality as a team. Yes, I want it as bad as anybody and I will do anything I can to make that happen.
Q. Juan, which of your teammates do you predict will win the championship?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To be honest, I don’t care, as long as the team takes it.
Personally, if the team can win it, it will be huge. It’s my first year in the team. If I could be part of it, help the team win the championship…
I know the team deserves a lot more championships than they have won. If we can be part of that, bring the team a few championships the next few years, it will be really good.
I mean, I think the chances of the championship this year are really high. Just got to do the races and be smart about it, see what happens.
Q. Does the track feel the same from 1999, or 2000?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The track feels about the same. I tested here in the Cup car. I don’t know, yeah, about 10 seconds a lap slower. It is. You got to brake here.
Both years we were really good. I mean, I don’t remember what happened the first year. The second year we were really good as well. I’m pretty sure the first year we were good here. I’ve always been good on the short tracks. I was pretty happy with the car today. Like I say, we’re okay.
Q. What has the DW-12 chassis done to the parity of INDYCAR?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it’s very tight. I mean, you can’t change anything. Everyone’s got the same stuff now. It almost comes down to the philosophy you use on the race weekend with the tools that you have, which everyone else has.
I think just the fact the series has become all good teams with all good drivers. You know, you can’t pick a bad guy out of the field anymore. That’s another reason it’s so tight.
Q. Juan, coming the close of your first season back in the Verizon IndyCar Series, are you where you though you would be?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I feel that if we started what I expected to start, it was going to suck. I was very realistic about it. I feel we’re in a really good position.
I feel like every week I can do a better job. I’m more comfortable in the car. I can push the car further. We’re narrowing on the setups that I want for the car.
It’s okay. I mean, I feel pretty good. I feel like my pace is getting better and better and better, starting to get more comfortable, get a little more aggressive with the car. Going in the right direction.
The problem with the series the way it is right now, before you used to miss it by 2/10ths, 3/10ths, you would qualify fourth or fifth. You miss it by 2/10ths, 3/10ths today, you qualify 16th because for some reason somebody that you didn’t expect in your group was too quick, you end up seventh in your first group and you start freaking 16th or 17th, you know. So it’s pretty tough.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, good luck this weekend.