Q & A with Helio Castroneves, Tim Cindric
Helio Castroneves won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time on Saturday. That ties him with A.J. Foyt and Rex Mays, and puts him two behind the all-time record of Penske's current team advisor, Rick Mears. It was the 16th Indy pole for Penske Racing.
Q. Was the strategy about going out first in that last session to put up big numbers and deflate everyone else? What was the thought there?
TIM CINDRIC: There's a lot of different ways you can look at that. We knocked it around internally as far as when we go, what we do.
A lot of this place has to do with what you think, what you believe in, when you know the driver is ready to go, that's more important to you than a few degrees of track temperature. I knew our driver was ready to go.
Q. I asked Tim this on pit road. But were you kind of surprised that you did go out when you were already on the pole? Tim said he was very cognizant, didn't want to make it look like it was poor sportsmanship. He said the way the rules are, if you're in line, you may as well go ahead and make the attempt. Was it a situation where you were surprised you went out?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I had no idea about the rules. If you go out, it means you take your time out. That's what I thought. Certainly I'm not the one reading the rules.
TIM CINDRIC: Did you do OK in school?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We never talk about that.
TIM CINDRIC: Did you read the instructions?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: As you know, I don't read a lot of stuff. You know what happened last year (laughter). Anyway, my book has a lot of pictures.
TIM CINDRIC: Just drive it today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You did say that. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't want to go out because I didn't know that my time would stay. That's why I was kind of like arguing with him, "No, don't put me out." If I knew that...
TIM CINDRIC: I'm glad he didn't know that.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly when he said that, I was just trying to go and fix the car for the second run. In fact, I made a little mistake on the open lap. But, you know, in fact, after that, Brian (Barnhart) sent the No. 9 car out there. He caught me a surprise. I had no idea what was going on. I was completely lost.
But in the end of the day, kind of turned out to be a favor for us. That's a good day.
TIM CINDRIC: Just to clarify. The reason why you do that at that point in time, the line game, 15 minutes to go, there's four or five cars behind you. If you pull out of line, at that point in time you're not going to have any time to defend your spot. At that point you either have to go or just say, Hey, we're not going to run the rest of the day.
You have all these cars lined up behind you. You can't pull out of line and go behind them anymore because you're out of time. We were asked if the polesitter was there. There was one car that had a chance to go. They were going to let the one car go. I knew there was more than one car that had a chance to go after Helio. I waved it off because I knew he wasn't going to be better from his time.
From our end, you're in a Catch-22. You can pull out of line or try to improve your time. We're here to sit on the pole. I said, Let's try to improve our time. If it's not good enough, we'll wave off so the rest of the guys can go.
Q. Helio, I asked this question to the two guys alongside of you in the front row. Did you feel you got your money's worth today?
TIM CINDRIC: We did. Roger (Penske) did.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think I need a raise after today (laughter). Man, let me tell you, it was the hardest thing to go out there. The second attempt was really crucial for us. I'm like, Dude, we won here not starting the first pit. He knows. That's why he's the strategy guy. That's why I trusted him. It's a good combination.
From that we learned a lot. We made some adjustment on the car. When we went out there on the Fast 9, it was just perfect. A great credit for Ron, because he was looking at data probably more than anything else in the world. So great job.
Q. It looked like you blew everybody away in the Fast 9 shootout. Did you expect that or was that kind of a surprise?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: This place, you got to expect the unexpected, my friend. It was a great result. It was the right thing to do. As Cindric said, I was ready. I didn't want to keep waiting to see other times. I want to go for it.
By this time today he just know when I'm ready. He asked for two numbers, first or last. I said, "You know me, just pick whatever decision you think is right." He was right again. See, that was good.
TIM CINDRIC: I like it. Thank you. Thank you.
Q. Helio, the new format, how much more physically and mentally demanding is it on you? Same question for Tim.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly, is very mental. Physically, this place is already very tough. You know, if it's good for the fans, it got to be good for us. It's very tough to compete in this level of teams and drivers, to go there sometimes over the limit in this place. It is very, very difficult.
Sitting right here, it's fun. But sometimes today it was not fun. But you got to do what you got to do. That's why you running in a great team and in a great league.
TIM CINDRIC: From my perspective, it's a lot easier when you know you got a guy in the seat that you can put in any situation. This is our 10th year together at Indy. We've been through basically every situation here. You know, I know that I've got every confidence in him in every situation.
I think a lot of people don't realize that last year's format, if you whiffed, you took your time off the board, if you had the fastest car in town, you would probably start 12th. Today you started 25th if something went wrong. 12th and 25th are two big different things on race day. Those are the risks that you're taking.
You don't see it, because it didn't turn out that way. If something goes the wrong way, you got to know the guy in the seat really well, have confidence in the crew that you're going to get the four laps in.
I have every confidence in him. You know, as you go through, for someone in my position, you have to be on your toes all day long. If you miss one little thing, one opportunity, then you can't get it over again, you can't get that time of day back, you can't get that situation.
You try and pick the right time. You got to roll the dice here. Here that risk and reward, it's big.
Q. Helio, can you describe the difference between a 225 or 226 and a 228? How much prayer and faith is involved to get to that 228?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I was joking with Dario. I saw Jesus three times out there. Dario said, Well, I spoke with him many times (laughter).
Just to show you, it's tough. It's tough. From 225 to 227, it's a big difference approaching turn one. You guys know this turn one is the toughest one on the track. People try to explain, I'm not here to explain, it's very difficult. Somehow the wind was change. The top nine, the wind seems to be dying. I'm like, Come on now, you playing on me?
It was certainly a big difference. That's why you saw increasing on time on the Fast 9. But you got to have a good car and a good team and good setup to make sure that can happen. You can just not go the wind minus whatever and just go. You got to make sure you know your car very well.
For other guys out there, you can see sometimes they struggled. But it's tough. It's not easy.Q. Helio and Tim, this is a question about the unusual teams in the top nine. Graham Rahal, Ed Carpenter, Tagliani. Can you give me your thoughts on how did that happen or is that just the way the competition is now?
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, I really appreciate your question. I grew up with my father coming here. The engines and the cars that he typically worked on were the ones that came in on Bump Day. So I have an appreciation for that side of the field that maybe some people don't realize.
One suggestion that I made earlier about this format was that, you know, I felt like those guys are as big a story as we are. You know, the expectation is that this guy should contend for the pole. The Graham Rahal program, Bobby and those guys put that group together, don't know how it's going to all turn out. Obviously I know a lot of those guys. You see the 20 car, that to me is as big a story as what we did, for them to beat some of the big powerhouse teams to get in that top nine.
One suggestion that I made is that although it might make it a little bit more difficult, when we come here on Saturday, the fans are the ones that need to determine this, if you determined your top nine all the way to 6:00 today, then if it rains tomorrow, at that point in time that's the pole. So today we're running for a provisional pole and we're also running for the first pit box. Then you guys can help explain to everybody how tomorrow goes down. But those guys are then the stories, too. They become as big a story tonight as the rest of us. And then you go into Sunday and you bump till 4:00 tomorrow, then you shoot this thing out until 6:00 on Sunday.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: What, 24 hours waiting (laughter)? You're kidding me. One day is enough. This guy is unbelievable.
TIM CINDRIC: You only had to go three times today, two times tomorrow. You get a rest.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, right.
TIM CINDRIC: But to me, then I think everybody understands even better. Then I also think that those guys that were in that group get a lot more accolades than maybe what they'll get tonight.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have one suggestion. Please, today write about those guys, too. That's it. Will be over (laughter).
Q. Helio, can you speak to your thoughts about Tony and his misfortune today, not to be able to compete with you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it's tough. When you have a situation like that, that's exactly my point. You got to go and try your first attempt not knowing much, especially this morning. I was turning 224 this morning because of the weather. Just to show that the weather makes a big difference, sometimes when you going out there, the weather change, and you don't have much choice, you just got to go. Even an experienced driver like Tony, he gets surprised.
It's a shame. Certainly it's a shame. I don't wish this to anybody, especially in this place. But I'm sure he has a great team. He's a good driver. He'll be able to bump that, overcome that blip on the radar, and come back strong in the race.
Q. Getting back to your pole-winning run, it almost kind of deflated the other eight drivers. When that number got to be that high, did that almost even surprise you? Seemed like you threw down the challenge.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That was the plan, man. "Deflate" is the word? That was a good word. I wanted to deflate them, make them in the panic mode. I wanted to do everything to make them, Let's give up and go home. Didn't seem that way. They were trying, trying and they were getting close. Even Ed achieved 228. You see my teammate coming back every time. I actually have my hands tight because there is not much I can do. We really reached the limit.
Sometimes out here, even that is the toughest thing, but you encourage especially your teammates. If he did it, I can do it as well. You go out there, Bam.
The good news is this track is very tricky. As Cindric said, you got to go at the right time. We went at the right time. Turned out to be great.
TIM CINDRIC: Today I felt we had to be on offense. You saw we just missed Tagliani there in the first run of the day. I was really hoping for a break in the line. But, you know, again, that risk of being 25th today, you know, I told him, I said, We have to see it, we have to see that we can go faster than Tagliani and then go do it. We did exactly that.
When it came time to figure out when to go, I knew in those conditions what he was capable of. I knew he was in the right mindset. Again, you have to be on offense here. That's what we did today. Another time, another day, you know, that might not be the time to go, but I thought that was for us.
Q. What does that domination today mean for the race? Is there that much domination in the race setup?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I have to say that qualifying is a totally different scenario than the race. Again, sometimes not the fastest car is the one that win the race. We actually had that experience in 2003. So we don't want to fall in that situation again. We want to learn from those situations and make it better.
So certainly to say 'intimidate the other guys,' it's not, because they are trying. But they might respect. They know that 500 miles is a long, long race. Everybody here is very capable, the level of the teams and drivers are incredible. So saying that, everybody's going to turn the page, including us, focus on what we need to focus on the race, continue finishing the job.
Q. We're here talking on qualifying day a lot. We're also talking on race day a lot with if not you one of your teammates. What is it that Team Penske does that allows you to be so successful?
TIM CINDRIC: We hire the right guys. We hire the right people to drive 'em. We hire the right people to work on 'em. We have the right people to engineer 'em. We have the right guy that sets the tone. He's the catalyst for what we do. He'll be the first one to tell you it's about people.
Obviously, you have to prepare the right things, have to bring the fast car, that type of thing. But the people are the ones that do that. At the end of the day, I think that anticipation, we had to go through all the different scenarios today. Everybody has to know what their role is. If everybody is trying to determine when we go in line, tell him what the line is around the racetrack, what gear to be in, everybody has to know their role and be the best at what they can do.
The thing I say in times like today is you have to focus on what you can control as an individual. If you can't control whatever you're talking about, then it's not worth talking about today. You need to worry about what you can control, otherwise you're going to make a mistake. That's what kind of our focus and our mindset is throughout today.
Q. I kind of expected Ryan to be alongside you. Are you surprised at all to have a new wing man starting next to you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Let me tell you, sometimes things happen. Ryan was working as hard as anybody in our team, especially yesterday. Everyone was helping, you know, changing engine, changing car, to make sure what happened to his car. Certainly we know what he's capable to doing.
And I have to say, fourth place was to his credit. That team, that group, No. 6, was working extremely hard to find the issues. Till this day, we don't know what happened.
We're like, What happened?
But I have to give credit to him. It's all to the guys. It's not Will. I'm not the asset in this team to make everyone push each other, to hopefully we have three guys out there. If whatever happens during the race, we have another one, happen to that guy, we have a third chance, I do believe that.
Today sitting here in the pole position, it's a credit for those guys as well. Will and Ryan, as the atmosphere continues in the team, we all benefiting from that. Hopefully we continue like that.
TIM CINDRIC: Will proved today he's one of those guys that is going to evolve into an Helio type here in terms of being able to put him in those pressure situations. He understood what his role was last year. He learned a lot from last year.