CHEVROLET - Winner's Post Race Press Conference Transcript
Will Power, Roger Penske, Tim Cindric and Jon Bouslog
THE MODERATOR: First sweep of Indianapolis in the month of May, you're the points leader. None of that matters right now, you're an Indianapolis 500 winner.
WILL POWER: Exactly. Overwhelming. Amazing. It's funny, you forget where you are, you're so immersed in the race. You don't even realize. On the white flag lap I started screaming because I just knew I was going to win it. Unbelievable. Never been so excited.
THE MODERATOR: They handed you the milk bottle. I'm not sure you realized that's what it was.
WILL POWER: No, I knew you drink milk here. Believe me. I've seen a few of my competitors do it. Yeah, no, I just hesitated a bit because I'm not supposed to eat dairy, but I didn't care. I just drank it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You drenched the 500 festival queen.
WILL POWER: I felt bad. When I turned around, the glasses, she was covered in milk. I didn't realize she was behind me.
Q. What did you say to her?
WILL POWER: I'm so sorry. What could I do? I didn't see you behind me.
She was all good.
Q. Can you talk about how you managed your last restart, not knowing the fuel situation. Also talk about restarts with clean air versus dirty air today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, that last restart I was very determined. I knew that I had to get, like, a run on these guys, at least get one of them in the first turn, which I didn't. I got Oriol I think a lap later or something. I didn't want Carpenter to have a shot at me. He was very quick. If he had gotten by, I think it would have been game over potentially.
Very aggressive on the restarts. In clean air, I was very aggressive on the restarts. I started in a different spot every time to get a jump on Ed. I knew if we were fighting into one, it just creates a problem. Very good restarts when you look at it. Never got challenged.
Q. Were you worried about a caution coming out with three or four or five laps to go?
WILL POWER: No, it was all pretty spread out. I knew after yellows, the potential for a yellow to come out was only after the first lap, first two laps. Once everyone kind of got in the rhythm, I didn't even think about it, to be honest. I just went for it. I had people to pass.
Q. A couple years ago we were talking at Long Beach, because you come to these press conferences, thinking about something else besides what we're doing. Were you ever thinking about this moment? How much does this moment run through your head?
WILL POWER: It runs through my head the last year more than ever because I've won so many races and poles, led more laps than anyone. I just hadn't done it here. I've be thinking, Am I going to finish my career without a 500 win?
This month was one of the best months I've had, very relaxed, in tune with my engineer, just working really well. It just came together. You got to have a lot of determination.
I watched the Super Bowl last year. It was the Patriots, what was the other team, but they had a lot more want. They wanted it more than the other team. That's why they won.
I think you have to have that. You have to have that in you. That's just the human spirit. You got to have that determination. That's what I had. You work hard at something, it comes to you. It eventually comes to you.
Q. That would be the Philadelphia Eagles.
WILL POWER: Right. They played their backs off.
Q. When you finished second to JPM here in 2015, how often did you reflect upon that might be the closest you ever got to an Indy victory?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I thought about that a lot, what I should have done, should have changed this and that. It's just not your day. It kind of worked out that like. That day I did everything, could do. Today I did it again, and it all worked out well.
It was through speed, pit stops, in and out laps, good restarts. It was a fight to win it. It was not an easy win. That makes it much more satisfying.
Q. Was this kind of the last remaining monkey on your back you had to get done?
WILL POWER: Absolutely, it was the last box to tick, to be considered as a very successful driver. I'm not done. I'm not done. Like, I still have plenty of time left to win more 500s and championships and races.
Q. (Question about two Australians winning.)
WILL POWER: Did Ricardo win?
WILL POWER: To be the first Australian to win the Indy 500, that's very special. Maybe they might recognize me down there now. I don't think many people know who I am down there, because we don't have a race there any more. Yeah, it's very cool.
Q. Does a Brisbane-born Kiwi count as an Australian?
WILL POWER: No, I don't think so. Took him under their wing, New Zealand.
Q. At what point in your career did you come to terms with ovals, actually maybe learn to embrace ovals?
WILL POWER: Definitely, like, just in the last I would say three years, been quite good. More than that. More than that. They all kind of come together. You don't realize how the years just tick off.
When I won the race in Fontana, what year was that, '13? I think since then But it just comes with experience. I would race ovals every week now because I'm just so experienced at it, I really enjoy it, have become quite good at it.
I feel like every time I go to an oval, I have a chance to win. That definitely wasn't the feeling at the beginning of my career. I would always think, Oh, it's going to suck. I never thought I could win. Now I know every oval I go to, like a road course, I have a great shot at winning. Yeah, that's the attitude you have to have.
Q. On Thursday you were talking about checking that last box, what it would feel like. What did it feel like to finally win this race? Were there emotions you got that you didn't expect?
WILL POWER: I just screamed like I've never screamed before. It was just amazing. The last two laps, the last lap, seeing the white flag, the checkered, I mean, you can't explain it. Like I've really come down off the high now, because I've exhausted myself being so excited.
Man, it's what I needed so badly, what I wanted so badly, and it came true. Anyone here knows how that would feel. You want something so much, it comes through to you through hard work and determination.
Q. It was all Liz could do to stand up.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I wonder what Liz was like. I haven't seen the footage. I'm sure she (indiscernible) some bottles there at the end.
Q. How much through the week of practice did Helio's feedback add to the team group? How much did you work with his setup? Was it valuable?
WILL POWER: Yeah, we all kind of went different directions. It was just a new car, so many different options you could run. We all ended up on quite different setups. Yeah, there's so many ways to get the balance.
It was actually a very difficult year. I don't know what Helio ended up with, but he had a pretty bad day on Carb Day. I think he just totally changed the car. I'm not sure how it was.
Yeah, I mean, it was just having lots of information that's so valuable, four very experienced drivers, good drivers, that drive this team. Yeah, it just helps a lot when you have that much information with a new car. You can get confused, too, because there's just so much of it.
Q. Did you feel any concern throughout the race seeing veteran guys spin out on their own, how your car felt in dirty air, clean air, overall handling?
WILL POWER: Yeah, hard in dirty air, hard to get close. My car was very close, a little bit loose, in clean air. Yeah, I really did not take note of who was crashing and whatnot. I don't like to look at the crashes. Yeah, so, my car was good all in all.
Q. The last few years we've seen the race being more of a slingshot, drafting. This year was completely different. Did you attack the race differently, different race strategy?
WILL POWER: This was a race you wanted to lead. At last they had a formula, if you had a good car, the leader could benefit and pull away. I liked it. It definitely made it harder to drive. Put the driver back into it more, where before you could hang back, third, no one wanted to lead.
Yeah, it was a race like it was in 2010 and '11, '8, '9, '10, '11, that kind of race. It was about your speed. The tires would degrade. You're never wide open. It put the drivers back into it more, in my opinion.
Q. You mentioned your attitude changed in the last couple of weeks. In what way? What needed to change?
WILL POWER: There's so much negative stuff out there you can see on social media. You just got to minimize the amount of negative people you hang around, negative stuff you read, and be in general positive.
But winning a race definitely makes you and the whole team be more positive We had that in 2015 when I won, then I finished second here. I've slowly changed to be a more positive person. It's hard when you're very negative (laughter). Belt out all those bad habits of thinking.
Q. Whenever you go back to the shop, you're looking down on the shop, pictures of every Indy 500 winner from Victory Lane. All those years you've gone in there, now you're going to be up there.
WILL POWER: Yeah, when you go into Penske, you see all the baby Borgs there in the foyer. In the IndyCar shop, you see all the pictures of those that have won. I've looked at that often and wanted to be up there. Yeah, it's going to be pretty cool to walk in that shop and see yourself up there in Victory Lane from the Indy 500. Pretty cool.
Q. On Lake Norman there's a lot of accomplished racecar drivers that have won a lot of NASCAR championships, but none have won an Indy 500. You're the first.
WILL POWER: Yeah, maybe I can just get a boat that's bigger than theirs, say I won the 500.
There are a lot of great racecar drivers from there, a lot of great racecar drivers that live in North Carolina. Pretty cool racing town. I feel like Indianapolis, I love Indianapolis, I love living here. Maybe when I retire, I'll move back.
Q. When you saw Wilson pulling away, did you think you could catch him or were you worried?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I was trying very hard to get Harvey. I had a couple big runs, pushed out wide. I was giving it everything, thought I was going to get them. Then Harvey is going to pit, I have a great shot at Wilson because he has no one in front of him to help him in the draft. Then they both pit. It's like, the gates opened, it was amazing. Just full rich go, go, hold on.
Q. Can you compare emotions today to 2015? Did you have any idea you would be screaming as much when you won this race?
WILL POWER: I must have screamed a lot? I didn't realize. Everyone is talking about screaming (laughter).
Yeah, no, I was so disappointed in '15. Man, so close. Yeah, this is a very different feeling. I mean, I don't know what to say. It's, yeah, amazing. I'll have to see the footage. Obviously I screamed a lot. I just lost my head.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Will.
WILL POWER: Thank you.
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Roger Penske, along with Tim Cindric, Jon Bouslog.
Congratulations, gentlemen. A familiar place at the podium, another victory, 17 now for Team Penske.
Talk about that as a team accomplishment, then we'll talk about Will.
ROGER PENSKE: All I can say is when I came here 1951, I guess something bit me. I can never get rid of it for so many years.
We started competing here, as you know, in '69. The success we've had has really been all about the team members, the people we've had, the great drivers, sponsors, and obviously Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As I said many times in the last couple days, to be able to race on Memorial Day in the biggest sporting event in the world, have America the way it is, that's what I'm going to take away from this race. To see what we have, to see what Will has been able, 10 years with his engineer Dave Faustino. He's won many road races, all sorts of poles. He won this race today because he was the best, there's no question about the speed at the end, his out laps, the pit crew I take my hat off to, Jon, and Tim Cindric, because we had four great cars. That's what you have to have here. You have to have four bullets, three bullets, whatever it takes.
I'm just so thrilled. 17 wins. Now I have to worry about 18. I'm not going to look back, I'll look forward. We have to be back next year.
THE MODERATOR: Tim, talk about the couple moments in Will's career, he stands in for Helio, then he breaks his back, but you stayed with him. Now 34 wins I believe it is, ties Al Unser Jr. on the chart and is moving up. Great career he's having.
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, when you look at it, there was a lot of discussion, took him a long time to win a championship. Had so many wins. When you see he's third in overall poles in IndyCar right now. The one thing he always talked about was, I have to win the Indy 500, I have to win the Indy 500 to get where you need to be.
Having seen what he's gone through with our team, what we've all gone through collectively, like Roger said, Dave Faustino has been at his side from day one. He's been the one that's listened to all the ups and downs. He's been on-call 24/7. The rest of us kind of check in and check out with Will. Faustino, he's there more than his wife, and she's a close second. Between the two of those people, they're really his support group at the end of the day.
The crew, like Roger said, they were prepared. Will was agonizing during dinner as far as what his setup was, what his gears were going to be. His mind never leaves this sport. He's fully committed. He has made a lot of sacrifices. To see the culmination. I think you saw how excited he was today. You don't see that out of Will too often. Great day for us and the team.
THE MODERATOR: Jon, talk about the strategy that was playing out, what may or may not have been in front of you with a few laps to go.
JON BOUSLOG: Well, we really didn't want to see the caution come out. I think the key to it was, like Roger said, he was good all day. When he got clear, he could run fast laps, which was big for us.
The thing was is he was so focused on the win, doing well, that it was his day. He was going to make sure it was.
The guys, great stops today. The whole team performed well. So many things go into it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Mr. Penske, talk about how this win essentially completes the journey for Will now that he's won a championship and the Indy 500, but the journey is far from over.
ROGER PENSKE: Look, this closes the book for what he wanted to accomplish in IndyCar: win a championship, now is tied for winning the most races as an Indy driver for the team, and the Indy 500 is something that he wanted to do from the very beginning. He's had some ups and downs. Championships slipped away from him, two or three almost in a row. You'll talk to him. He's in a different world right now, which is important.
TIM CINDRIC: He's always in a different world (laughter).
Q. Mr. Penske, will you go back on Will's radio at Detroit next week?
ROGER PENSKE: I don't know. I think I got fired. Won two in a row now. I'll have to have a discussion on that next week. We'll see.
Q. Quick memory check. I believe 12 different drivers had contributed to your 17 wins here. Their personalities range every aspect of the spectrum in terms of being different guys. Can you think of a common thread that might have united all of them to win for you here?
ROGER PENSKE: I think teamwork, working together. If you saw what these guys have done from Mark Donohue, Gary Bettenhausen in '72. They work together Only one guy is going to win. But if the team wins, you win, and that's what happened today.
Q. Roger, I saw you pump your fist when the two leaders came down pit road. How concerned were you they might be able to make it?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, the concern is that they were out there, had there been another yellow at the end with two or three to go, it would have been all over, the 64 or 25 would have won the race.
We knew they were close. My concern was, and Tim's, that they would run out at high speed or something, we'd get into an accident.
Look, he was coming. There was no way. We had the fuel, which we needed. They didn't. A great gamble, by the way. A lap or two difference, someone else would have been the winner.
Q. Roger and Tim, what did you see 10 or 11 years ago in Will Power that told you he could be that kind of racer?
TIM CINDRIC: If you remember back to the situation that Helio had there, Will honestly wasn't on our radar screen. I talked to him a little bit before, but we didn't really have a spot.
It was obvious Helio wasn't going to be there for the first race in St. Pete. Roger and I, we made a short list of kind of who might be the right one for that situation. But with Helio, we weren't sure how that was all going to turn out. I don't know anybody was.
When we met with him, the one thing that stood out for us, at that point we couldn't commit to a full season, we couldn't commit to more than one race, we couldn't make a lot of commitments because we were loyal to Helio's situation. We didn't really want to add another car.
He looked at us both and said, I'll run one lap, no laps, any laps. I just want to be on the team.
He was a team player from the very beginning. He did a great job. Should have won St. Pete. I remember being on his pit box. He was running the Marlboro car at the time. We ran the session, he was P1. Helio had just been cleared. I said, Do you want the good news or the bad news?
Well, you're P1 and you're getting out of this car after this session, we have another car for you. At that point Roger told him, that night, Hey, no matter what happens, you have a ride at the Indy 500. Verizon stood behind him. They were really a big part of his career, going to another level when he signed with us, and he took it from there with his talent.
Q. Roger, how has Will been able to turn a weakness, which was oval racing, into a strength?
ROGER PENSKE: I think most road racers have been able to transition into oval racers. Probably you've seen Wickens, some of these guys even this year. He just is a talented guy. He didn't like ovals to start with, I can tell you. He struggled initially.
Once he got going, what was the race, I think Texas, one of them, where he absolutely was dominant. I think that's when he broke through, was going to be a great oval driver.
You could see it out here today. Look at his line, 223 miles an hour the last couple laps. He drove everything he could. In fact, he said at the road race, he had never driven harder in a road race in his life when he was on those black tires. He had the (indiscernible) in his this month for sure.
Q. The strategy, were you aware that the rival engine could do it?
JON BOUSLOG: We knew they were close. I got to say I was a little surprised they pulled in like they did. We didn't want to see that yellow come out because it gave him a chance. But we knew with the pace of the car that regardless if they could make it or not, Will had pace to pass them. We still had a chance. We were still in it even though some of us were thinking might be over, especially if another yellow came out because of the length of the yellows.
Once it got down deeper into the race, five to go or something, a yellow came out, it could have ended under yellow. We were happy that they went green. That's been kind of the thing with Kyle Novak, tries to get back racing as quick as he can, which is good. That was good for us. Gave us a chance. He capitalized on it.
Q. Roger, Castroneves didn't end the way he wanted. As soon as he finished, he made a claim he would like to be back. Do you expect to have him back again?
ROGER PENSKE: It's hard to say no to him, isn't it?
I have to talk to the president here. He'll figure that one out for me (laughter).
TIM CINDRIC: He's going to be back. He will be here next year in one of our cars. I'll say it, so... That guy was sitting here this morning before I walked in, sitting in his fire suit next to his engineer ready to go, about 6:30 this morning. He's been in his yellow suit, I don't think I've seen him out of his yellow suit since we got here this month. He's ready to go all the time.
Q. This is the first time in your owners career that your driver is Australian. 17 wins you have, 10 U.S. drivers, seven foreign drivers. How do you see in the last couple of wins, you have always a foreign driver? Do you think the dominance of the U.S. driver is irrelevant? Why are the foreigners dominating?
ROGER PENSKE: I don't look at their passports when we hire them. That's the first thing. Number two, an American driver won the championship last year
Look, we're trying to get the best people we can. Obviously Will is kind of special from Australia. We're racing down there, having success. We have a big business down there. You could say this might be Will's home track away from home.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, guys. We'll see you next week.
Dave Chess has been writing for RIS since the late 1980s during the CompuServe days. His work has also appeared in Auto Week magazine, Chicago Gearhead News newspaper, ATA airlines in-flight magazine, National Speed Sport News and on many websites.