An Interview With:
WILL POWER, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – race winner
ROGER PENSKE – Team Owner
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE – No. 27 GoDaddy Pink Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, – 3rd place finisher
THE MODERATOR: We have the winner, Will Power, from Team Penske. This is Will’s second victory of the season. He won in Sonoma in August. It’s his 20th IndyCar win. Congratulations. Talk about the race. The move you made to get past Scott on turn 3 in the race start.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I could see ‑‑ the restarts are slippery anyway. But I could see he was struggling a little bit, having moments everywhere, and the apex at the corner. He had a big moment in 3, saw that good run, and I went up the inside of him on 4.
From there, it was just a matter of trying to keep him behind. I was pushing as hard as I could. He was still staying there. At the end there, when I went full, I was able to pull a little gap. I think I was a tenth or a couple of tenths quicker in the lap. So I was able to get that gap and win the race.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about the difference in the weather. Yesterday really hot, really humid. Today rain in the morning, maybe washed off some of the rubber, a lot cooler. How did that change the performance of the car?
WILL POWER: Actually, it wasn’t that different, as far as the wheels degraded in the same way. The cars, honestly, it was more comfortable to drive. We weren’t getting the fatigue in the car. That was the biggest difference. But the car felt very similar.
THE MODERATOR: Roger Penske, the winning team owner. Roger, talk about the emotion of today, winning the race in a tough weekend and day for Helio and how hard the team worked to get him back out there to get one point, which could prove pivotal for Fontana.
ROGER PENSKE: Obviously, it was a bittersweet weekend, which was the issue yesterday. We thought we were in great shape. I guess Will ‑‑ or Helio went wide on the tenth lap, and the car was a little heavier on fuel and launched it and came down, and we broke the gear box away from the engine. So it’s just one of those things.
Obviously, with Will out there battling with the 9 car and taking some points away was key for us. So he got his job done. That was what we had talked about earlier.
And we got the car back in, which is a credit to our guys to be able to go back there. They worked all night to get the car ready from yesterday and make that move.
Look, the racing isn’t over. We know that. We’ve seen this thing go up and down the last several weeks, and I think Will’s performance today shows the speed that the team has to get their car. Dixon is one of the best guys out there. To be able to stay ahead of him and not make a mistake in all the restarts.
I think it was a great race. Sorry about the accident at the end. I hope Dario’s fine and that people are fine. But overall, we’ve been there before, and what we have to do is go to a track that we like. It’s a track we built in California. Maybe it will bring us some luck.
THE MODERATOR: Does your approach change at all going to Fontana now that you don’t have the lead, that you are chasing for the title?
ROGER PENSKE: I think the big thing there is our engine is right at the edge. We’ve got 200 or 300 miles left on it. We’ll probably have to change an engine and take a ten‑point grid penalty so we have a good fresh engine for the race. It’s a long race when you look at the race there, and we’re going to go for it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Roger and Will.
Q. Will, what did you see when you went through the scene of the crash in terms of the damage to the fence, what was being done to spectators in the grandstands, if you noticed any of that as you were going through there. Scott Dixon said it reminded him a lot of Vegas.
WILL POWER: Yeah, actually, I just saw ‑‑ I didn’t see him go up in the stands. I just saw Dario’s car and him sitting in it with a lot of damage. And, yes, that’s what it reminded me of, that I’d seen that.
Man, we try to keep these cars on the ground. I think they’ve done a great job with the floor, where now we can hit and don’t interlock wheels, and I think that’s prevented a lot of accidents in the last two seasons. But obviously, we need to have a good look at how he got up there.
The main thing, I hope he’s all right. Someone told me up there that he’s got a bit of back pain and a sore ankle but he’s talking and all that. So that’s great to hear.
Q. Will, obviously, protecting as much ‑‑ getting as many points as you can for Helio is the top priority. But how do you ‑‑ obviously, winning is important as well. How do you go about balancing those two things? And if I may have a quick followup to Roger. You mentioned the engine being on the edge. I’m assuming that engine is for the 3 car?
ROGER PENSKE: Yes. You have to change the engine after a certain time, or you can take a ten‑grid penalty, which is what we’ll do on the 3 car, correct. That’s the plan right now as far as I know.
WILL POWER: Yeah, today my plan was, obviously, to try to beat Dixon or just do the best I can to try to beat Dixon, and obviously you saw what happened with Helio, very unfortunate going into Fontana. It’s all about Helio winning the Championship, whatever I can do. Obviously, Helio needs to win the race, and I need to be somewhere in between him and Dixon. So that’s what we’re aiming for.
Q. Roger, you mentioned about an engine change. As I understand the rules, when you change engines, you could have an update to that engine within the rules, certain parts can be updated. Are you hoping for more horsepower for Helio for Fontana?
ROGER PENSKE: I hope we get more. I don’t know. Obviously, there’s standard engines. We pick them out of a batch, but this is nothing different than the teams have done all season.
Q. First question is for Roger. You said on lap 10 you thought the problem happened with Helio. Dixon had been complaining for many laps that he was shooting oil out, and he thought he saw it happen under a yellow after the first aborted start. You don’t think it was then?
ROGER PENSKE: It could have. We have to go back and look at the telemetry. But on that lap, when the car hit the ground, something came out underneath it. I think it broke something out of the back, and at the same time, there was so much force because he was running fine. I know that I heard they were talking about some oil coming out. We’ll look at the telemetry, I know, but there was definitely a big impact on 10, on lap 10.
Q. Is it strange to you that in this season where Helio had been the only driver to complete every lap that he has bad luck two days in a row?
ROGER PENSKE: It doesn’t make sense, does it? As far as I’m concerned, our guys have done a terrific job. The reliability and durability, that’s what it takes. Dixon’s got some bad luck, but when it’s time to
go, they know how to make it happen.
We’ll just have to see what happens at the end. Helio’s done a great job, and it’s a disappointment, but the fact is it’s a little bittersweet with Will winning the race, and he did what he had to do. He was aggressive at the beginning. He started back in ninth or 11th and came up and was battling right away. To me, the cars had speed. It’s just we didn’t execute with the 3 car.
Q. Will, I asked Dixon, sort of, as the race went on, he got to a point where maybe he should just settle for second place and take the points. He said, I was having fun messing with Will there at the end and trying to force him into making a mistake. Did you sense that out of him? What’s kind of going on between the two of you lately? It seems like there’s a little bit of a back and forth.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it seems like we’re battling every weekend. Sonoma, Baltimore, this weekend. He’s just very quick.
At the end there, actually, I was probably screwing with him a bit because I thought Tim said one to go, and it was three to go or four to go at that time. I backed up, and he got close to me, and then I pulled a gap again when I realized there’s three to go.
I’ve never driven so hard these last three races or these last three weekends we’ve had in battling with him. It’s been absolutely flat out, not any fuel saved. We’ve just been going at it and equally as quick.
We give each other respect. Obviously, what happened at Baltimore is very unfortunate. We’ve raced together for quite a few years and never had incidents. That’s the first one. Yeah, I mean, he’s a first class driver, and I enjoy racing him. He’s very, very, very quick.
Q. Will, I think James asked you about this yesterday, but your strengths compared to Scott’s strengths yesterday and today around the track. Seems like you were having a struggle in that left‑hand there beside the Astrodome, and then ‑‑ and so he’d pressure you, and then the Chevy passing would take you away from him around the suite, and then you’d pull out on the front straight. Is that what you sensed?
WILL POWER: I could see that ‑‑ yeah, he’s very quick into that left‑hander. That was my weakest. And following him, I was able to work out today where I was weak, and I added that all together there at the end and was able to pull a couple tenths of a lap.
In the middle there, I was kind of conserving fuel to make sure I got a lap longer to get him. Obviously, that didn’t work out. When I had to go, I think I could have put a tenth or a two‑tenths on him a lap if I really needed to. It was qualifying every lap. That’s what it felt like.
Q. Roger as well, I wanted to ask you, certainly over the last two seasons, Will’s pit crew, they made very, very, very few errors now. Was there a major change around certainly the style of this season? Because under pressure, they seemed to be pretty flawless today.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, Matt Johnson, you know, was the crew chief that moved to Will’s car this year, and that team is a great group of guys. I worked with them for a number of years. I think that, when it was time to go here today, they had two great stops. Yesterday I think the first stop was not what they wanted, but they’re consistent.
You know, we’ve got a trainer. You know we’ve got a gym. There’s lots of effort. This is a by‑product of the NASCAR guys working out. We have people that try out for the team, and I think we just got to keep that level up because you can see how good Ganassi is and the rest of the teams up and down the pit lane. If you can get the ability to get by someone in the pits and get track position, it makes a huge difference on the restart.
Q. Roger, from an event standpoint, this is very important to your sponsor, Shell PENNZOIL. Mike Lanigan’s crew overcame a few challenges over the weekend, it seemed to be very well attended. How did you assess the event?
ROGER PENSKE: I’d have to say that the Lanigan organization did an outstanding job. Being a track owner myself and putting the Detroit race together and the experience we’ve had over the years, I think these guys did an outstanding job.
The people were friendly. It was clean. We had some issues with the track. I understand the part we had the problem with was really covered over until a couple of nights before we started, but after that, I think it went well.
What I liked was there was a lot of young kids here, and to me it’s demographics that we need to get into our sport, and they were accessible. It’s not like
Formula 1 where you can’t get close. Today you saw, when I came over here, these kids were all having fun. That, to me, is a by‑product of the success for this sport as we go forward. I give them a AAA for the job they’ve done.
Q. Ganassi’s going to have Chevy engines next year like you do. How do you feel about that given he’s your number one rival?
ROGER PENSKE: I’d like to be sure I’m in the same level playing field as he is, so you never know. They do a great job. We race them every year, and they’ve had success. We’ve had success. I think it’s great for Chevy. He’s involved with them and NASCAR, and the ability for him to come over and join that Chevy camp, I think, is a great move.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks for coming in. Congratulations on the victory today.
THE MODERATOR: Like to welcome our third place finisher, James Hinchcliffe. James is third.
THE MODERATOR: A podium finish is always satisfying, but how much more satisfying is this one for you considering yesterday?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I’m really glad this was a doubleheader and we got a chance to redeem ourselves. Honestly, yesterday didn’t go ‑‑ I’m not going to say quite as planned. It didn’t go anything close to planned.
It was a solid race. We started eighth. We picked some guys off. Some guys had problems. But at the end of the day, when we cleared some cars there, we had decent pace, not quite up to the par of Scott and Will. They were the class of the field for sure.
But keeping guys like Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais behind you on the street circuit, we’re doing something right. We were good in the pits, and we had the strategy right, didn’t get caught off by any yellows. It’s great to have the Pink GoDaddy car especially back up on the podium because one off liberty, cool organization supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation there.
Like Scott said, we’re all thinking about Dario. We hope he’s not too bad and he’ll be fighting fit for Fontana. It’s a tough race for sure. I feel for these guys that had to do it twice. Luckily, I was a little bit less, and my hands weren’t too bad. If I had to do it again tomorrow, it probably would be. So it’s a blessing in disguise.
My team’s always operated on a it’s on the recovery mentality, and that’s what happened yesterday. That just proves we could have had a good race yesterday. We had the car for it. And we’re glad we could just pull it off.
Q. When you came around the scene of the crash, could you describe the scene that you saw in terms of the fencing, what may have gone into the crowd if spectators were being tended to, anything like that?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, no, like Scott, I wasn’t even looking at the fence. I saw a picture of the fence before I saw the replay of the accident. I didn’t realize he got up there, and that was a bit terrifying.
Like I said, it’s the biggest kind of field of cars and debris field I’ve seen since that race in 2011. It’s not really what you want to see. You know how fast that part of the track is. It’s bumpy. God, I mean, I saw you do it, I’ve seen Will do it, I’ve done it. Everybody’s done it. We’ve gone completely sideways over the bumps there. I don’t want to say it was a matter of time before somebody got it wrong.
Obviously, those are two guys racing side by side. Sometimes it’s hard not to have a single car wreck through that corner, which should be a pretty straightforward, flat‑out piece of racetrack. It definitely keeps you on your toes. To go that kind of speed and get launched up in the air, it’s not what you want to see.
Just glad to hear it sounds like he’s fine, and he’ll probably be a little bit sore tomorrow, but he will fight on. He’s come back from worse, that’s for sure.
Q. These bumpy tracks seem to be very entertaining for the fans. From the driver’s perspective, do you hate the bumpy tracks, or do you enjoy the challenge?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. It certainly is a challenge, and the last thing you want is a track that’s just so grippy that everybody’s running the same pace, and it’s a procession. Tracks like this make it, obviously, more challenging and make mistakes more prevalent, which makes essentially the racing better.
But you can go too far, especially when you’re talking about doubleheaders. Guys started the race today with holes in their hands. It’s just a tough situation. It’s not ideal. It can be dangerous.
Bourdais came to me after the race and said, 100 percent, my car was faster than I could drive it, and that’s not what you want to see. You can’t train for blisters on your hands. It’s not a fitness thing.
So I think you would agree, yeah, these tracks that we come to that are sometimes low grip and a little bumpier, they do make the racing really exciting. They have a propensity for causing a lot of yellows, which is sort of anti‑climactic, but at the same time, the bigger the challenge for the team and the driver, the better the racing.
Q. James, because you’re drinking out of that big bottle, I’m going to try to ask you this. TK was the first domino to fall for you to see what you’re going to do. When would you like to have a decision made? What are your ‑‑ what is your gut telling you at this stage?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: My gut’s telling me to take it easy on the champagne. No, obviously, it would be nice to have something done in time for the last race of the year and know what you’re doing going into the off‑season. But at the end of the day, we have a couple things in the works, and if any of them come together, I’m a very lucky guy.
So it’s an interesting thing. It’s a new kind of position I find myself in. I’m not in a rush. There are still some things I need to fall into place. I’m not ‑‑ like I don’t feel the need to find something tomorrow to make sure that I’m going to be in a car. I need to make sure it’s the right decision and that sets me up for the future. I can’t see short term in this.
Like I said, there’s still some things in the air that need to fall into place. But if something fell in line for the last race, that would be awesome while everybody’s still around and cares enough to hear the announcement. It will get done in the not too distant future, and hopefully it’s an exciting thing that can keep me racing cars for a little while.
I don’t want to sell insurance, no. I’m not a very good salesman. I could be a pizza delivery driver maybe.
Q. What would you say ‑‑ kind of touching on what Mark said, what would you say is the key to why there were so many passing places? There were a lot of people complaining that there wouldn’t be, and there was a lot of passing again. Was it just because of the low grip surface or mistakes or gear box or brakes running out or something like that?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think Firestone deserves a lot of credit too. I’ve always loved this multi‑compound racing, and we’ve seen guys have a lot of struggles on the reds. And I capitalize on some guys passing in places that you probably shouldn’t be passing just because the reds were falling off.
So the challenge of having a car that’s quick that can serve all kinds of tires is tough. So they deserve a ton of credit for the way the racing is and has been the last couple of years.
An Interview With: