HELIO CASTRONEVES, DRIVER OF THE NO. 3 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, DRIVER OF THE NO. 2 HAWK TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR, AND WILL POWER, DRIVER OF THE NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR met with members of the media at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
HELIO CASTRONEVES, DRIVER OF THE NO. 3 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR:
YOU WERE IN THIS POSITION A YEAR AGO. WHAT DID YOU LEARN THEN THAT WILL CARRY YOU OVER?
“Good question. Make sure the gearbox stays all the way to the end! Or if there is a doubleheader, make sure we change everything. It’s a very difficult decision to think through. You look back and maybe you take more risks in some areas. I don’t know. I always worry about a rain day. When I say that, it’s not literally but it’s in case something bad happens. At least you have something in your pocket. At this point last year, I think we were more comfortable. We didn’t think a bad thing could happen. It wasn’t a rain day but it was like a thunderstorm. You have to keep going and working hard and not worry about the guys. Right now, just push it.”
I WAS TALKING TO JUAN (PABLO MONTOYA), AND BEING IN F1 HE KNOWS THE DYNAMIC OF TEAMMATES. YOU AND WILL (POWER) SEEM TO HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP. IS THAT ACCURATE?
“Absolutely. I try to have a good relationship with my teammates. Team spirit is about that. You want the team to be the champion. Unfortunately the last few years we were so close but were unable to make that happen. Right now myself, Will and Juan Pablo have a chance. Yes, I want to be the one but at the end of the day we want to have this for Team Penske.”
BUT THE ONLY RULE YOU HAVE IS NOT TO TAKE EACH OTHER OUT.
“Correct. We can race hard and you guys have seen that. If you race your teammate, you give an extra inch. If you’re racing someone else, there’s no space at all!”
IF YOU’RE SIDE-BY-SIDE GOING INTO A CORNER WITH A FEW LAPS LEFT, DOES THAT THOUGHT EVER POP IN YOUR BRAIN?
“Try to make sure I don’t give the opportunity for anyone to get side-by-side is the key! Otherwise it will be a very difficult scenario. We all need to make sure at the end of the day we have to do this for Chevy and Roger Penske, especially.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS WEEKEND IS A CRITICAL MOMENT IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
“I would say yes. But anything can happen. I don’t think anyone can afford to come in and say they need to be strategic or thinking about this or that. It’s 100 points so it’s like two more races. There is still a long way to go. We are taking the necessary risks. I was very happy with the performance in Toronto. Unfortunately when we got shoved back, it was a little crazy and I ended up going too far back. But even in the wet and some areas where we were pushing quite hard, I liked it. Maybe it was because of having old teammates trying the best they can and having Juan also improved some of the areas where we didn’t have it.”
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH WHAT JUAN HAS DONE SO FAR AND THAT HE HAS WON A RACE?
“No because I knew he would do that when we announced him. I meant in a good way when I said it would be good but also a headache because you know for us that he would push us. And that has been very healthy. I’m not surprised at all.”
HAVE YOU NOTICED HIS EXPERIENCE WHEN IT COMES TO DEBRIEFS. DOES HE BRING A NEW MINDSET?
“His experience in Formula One helps us a lot – not only in communication but also in our cars the technology is probably the same as what Formula One had seven years ago. So it works. It certainly helps a lot for us, at least for me.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, DRIVER OF THE NO. 2 HAWK TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR:
ABOUT RUNNING THE BRICKYARD 400: “We really struggled with the car. I don’t think we realized, or I didn’t communicate well enough what we needed to do in the car in race trim. I thought I got the message across that we needed to work on the car, and we didn’t work on it enough. That was disappointing. It was good in qualifying trim, but even in qualifying trim we were spinning the tires in the corners, and when you are good there, you can’t be doing that. I’ve been good there, you know what I mean?”
THE FANS REALLY LIKED SEEING YOU THERE, YOU GOT A LOT OF CHEERS: “Yes, it was good. It was very different. It is funny that now that I have done the (Indy) 500 again, the atmosphere was so different for both races. Night and day.”
WHAT IS IT ABOUT BEING BACK AT MID-OHIO THAT EXCITES YOU?
“This place is kind of cool. My first race outside Columbia in cars was here in 1993 in Barber Saab. I won here in 1994 then came back in 1999 and I won. In 2000 we sucked, I do remember that. We broke down. Even if we hadn’t broken down we would have been 20th or 19th or something. It wasn’t good.
“I love this place. It’s a cool track and is very nice for the fans. There are lots of places for them to sit around and watch races.”
ROGER (PENSKE) SAID A FEW RACES AGO THAT IF YOU WERE STILL HAVING FUN NEXT YEAR, HE WANTS TO RAMP UP THE NASCAR SIDE OF THINGS WITH YOU. WOULD YOU EVER THINK ABOUT DOING THE DOUBLE (INDY 500 AND COKE 600)?
“Whatever he wants me to do. If he wanted me to do it, then I probably would do it. It would be cool. But I don’t want to force him into anything…qualifying those cars you need to get it to drive well. The hard thing is…to be honest we did one day of testing at Nashville. We went to Michigan and we struggled all weekend with the rear of the car. We struggled in qualifying being on the splitter. In the race we were the other way; we were so loose. We unloaded in Indy the same way – like sideways. Indy is a place where…I have a really good memory of what we need to do everywhere we go, and I think that helps. I don’t write the notes, I have mental notes, and it seems to work.
“I wouldn’t mind. Physically I don’t think it would be that hard, to be honest with you. If you want to do it properly, it would be a lot of fun. Their cars on a mile-and-a-half track run really, really good. If you could have a test day there or somewhere on a mile-and-a-half to get the car close to what I want and get an idea of what I want, it would be a fun experience. There are a lot of possibilities if you think about it.”
FORMULA ONE IS CHASING ITS TAIL TRYING TO GET FANS BACK. OTHER THAN BRINGING BACK V10s, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
“They should look at IndyCar. They have to get their noise back. It’s a really hard thing. They talk about saving money but at the end of the day, F1 has never been about that. They still spend all the money in the world. One team there could sponsor the whole series here.”
CAN YOU HAVE TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT AND GREAT RACING IN THE SAME PACKAGE?
“I don’t know. It’s hard. Sound is one of them. It has to be simple. I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after the fans. We have autograph sessions and other things. It’s very different to have access to look at the cars and actually get an autograph from a driver. In the garage in NASCAR, you can’t get in there. The cars are there but the drivers are never there. F1 is always closed. It’s so complicated because there isn’t a right answer.”
YOU’RE LURKING IN THE BACKGROUND OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP. ARE YOU IN A POSITION THAT YOU HAVE TO START ROOTING FOR GUYS IN FRONT OF YOU TO HAVE BAD LUCK?
“Yeah, I think we had such a bad weekend at Toronto that we put ourselves in a bit of a hole. Even being in contention is great. The No. 1 thing is trying to stay alive going into the last race. There are two or three races coming up that will be key to seeing what happens.”
WITH TWO OF THOSE GUYS BEING YOUR TEAMMATES, HOW DO YOU ROOT FOR THEM TO HAVE BAD LUCK?
“I don’t root for them to have bad luck. I worry about me doing a good job. The No. 1 thing for us is that I don’t care who is the champion but we need to make sure it’s at Penske.”
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT YOU LIKE?
“It has a very nice, classic setup. It’s not wide enough or long enough, but the layout is very technical. It’s very, very easy to get it wrong here. We were good at the test. I felt like out of the three of our cars, I was the best car but I didn’t feel we were good enough compared to the competition. It seems like we are better when it’s a bumpy street course or ovals. On road courses like Barber and here that we are good but not great. We need to be great like we are everywhere else.”
CAN YOU FEEL THE TRACK CHANGE LAP TO LAP HERE?
“It’s amazing. It’s weird because it doesn’t feel that much different because you’re always tweaking the car. You try to run a 1:09 in the morning, and then on an out lap in the afternoon, you can run a 1:09 with your eyes closed. It’s like you’re not even trying. It’s so weird. In 1999 we stunk until the race and we made a wholesale change and nailed it to win the race. In 2000, we never found it and sucked all weekend. Now, I felt like we’re OK but my car is in a different direction that the other two. I felt like what we had at the test drove well but it wasn’t fast enough. So we are going in a completely different direction to find some speed in the car.”
IN TWO WEEKS YOU GO BACK TO MILWAUKEE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GOING BACK THERE?
“It will be cool. We tested there and it was a lot different than when I was there last time. It’s a cool place.”
HOW IS IT WITHIN THE TEAM WITH DRIVERS FIGHTING FOR CHAMPIONSHIPS? ARE THERE ORDERS GIVEN?
“No! You look at it and we have the sweetest guy in the paddock and another guy with good looks and hair products! It’s like a family; we get on really well. We joke around a lot and we help each other and talk about things. If you go into the engineering office, it’s like three different meetings but one of us will ask a question and we help each other.”
YOU DON’T SEE THAT KIND OF COMMRADERIE IN F1 BETWEEN NICO ROSBERG AND LEWIS HAMILTON.
“It was fun at the beginning of the year for them but now that the championship is going on it’s not so much fun anymore. They are stress over each other. Here, Team Penske has been doing a good job of keeping everyone calm. We have four weekends left and we have to run four smart weekends for the three cars to bring the championship home.”
WILL POWER, DRIVER OF THE NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR:
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE BEING IN THIS KIND OF POINTS RACE AGAIN? DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE FROM WEEK TO WEEK OR DO YOU EVEN CONSIDER THE POINTS?
“Not during the sessions; then you’re just working away. But in between, for sure. You know you have a shot at winning a championship so you have to go for it.”
HOW STRANGE IS IT TO BE BATTLING A TEAMMATE?
“It’s the first time that I’ve had that situation of battling a teammate since I’ve been in IndyCar. It’s funny… you know that’s the car you have to beat but he’s looking at your data and has all the information you’ve got. You just have to do a better job.”
HOW DOES THAT CHANGE THE TEAM DYNAMIC?
“It hasn’t been bad but I know it can be bad. Inter-team battles can be a bad situation (Looking at Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in F1), that’s a bad situation and there can be a bit of ill feelings in the camp. That’s always bad for the whole team. But Helio in general is a pretty nice guy and someone who gets along with anyone in any situation. That makes it easy because I’m not! It’s pretty good within the team and between the three of us. Both Helio and Juan have a lot of experience with teammates, and Helio has had a lot of teammates. They know the deal and how it works. At the end of the day, it’s what happens on the track.”
WHAT DO ROGER PENSKE AND TIM CINDRIC TELL YOU THAT THEY EXPECT FROM EACH OF YOU? IS THERE ONE GUIDELINE?
“There is always a guideline in any team – you don’t take your teammate out. But Tim and Roger have a great battle. They enjoy beating each other a lot. I think Roger loves it; he loves to outdo Cindric. It’s fun for them. If I’m battling my teammate, there’s always a call from Tim to be smart. I really feel that I’ll look back on this part of my life as the most fun and enjoyable time of my life – driving for Team Penske with Tim and Roger. It’s a tremendous team. You have the best cars and the best chance to win always. If you don’t and you struggle, things get changed really quick. It’s a great position to be in. I really enjoy it.”
HERE’S A HYPOTHETICAL: IF YOU’RE SIDE-BY-SIDE WITH A TEAMMATE GOING INTO A CORNER WITH A FEW LAPS LEFT, HAVE YOU FOUND YOURSELF THINKING, “I CAN’T TAKE HIM OUT”?
“Either a maneuver is on or it’s not. You know when it’s a 50-50 chance. There is a time and place to do that, and it’s not with four to go. People like Rick Mears raced in a clean way no matter who it was. That’s how he raced and that’s a pretty example. Today it’s a bit tougher with the way these cars are built. There is a bit more aggression out there. But you race people the way you’d like to be race. I guess after sometimes this year, people would say ‘How can you say that?’”
DO YOU LIKE THIS PLACE?
“Yeah, I do. It’s a good track. Very nice and smooth. The grip changes a lot. You can lose six seconds off a lap time during a session. That’s very unusual.”