Earlier today, Penske Racing announced that Will Power will be driving the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Honda-powered Dallara full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2010.
Q: Will, it's very exciting news for you today. Almost like a dream come true to kind of stick with Penske Racing for 2010 full‑time.
WILL POWER: Yeah, absolutely. Very happy to be part of the Verizon Wireless Penske Racing Team. It is a dream come true. It's something I've worked very hard for my whole career to end up in a place like this. I think that we have a very strong driver lineup for next year, and we'll be expecting to win a lot of races.
Q. Tim, what does Will bring to Penske Racing and why make this decision to bring him on board full time?
TIM CINDRIC: Obviously, the results speak for themselves last year. We're excited to be able to give (Will) the opportunity to come on full time, because he's done an excellent job in a very difficult situation. It seems like so long ago that he was sitting here and his fate was depending on Helio (Castroneves') fate. Now he's independent of all those things and continues to perform. It was great that Verizon was able to support us going forward, and we were in a position to be able to keep Will, and that Will continued to believe that this is the place to be, even though he kind of had to wait this out a little bit.
Q. This the first time since the mid '90s, that Penske Racing will field three full‑time cars in the IndyCar Series. Last time you had Paul Tracy, (Emerson) Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. Can you tell us why the team made the decision to expand?
TIM CINDRIC: The opportunity was there. It's not every day that you have an opportunity like we have to put three proper programs together with your three very capable drivers. All the moons aligned for us, and we feel obviously that this is a great opportunity for all of us.
Q. Will, last time you were in a car, a little bit of a nightmare situation, getting injured at Sonoma. What is your status? How are you feeling?
WILL POWER: I'm feeling good. Everything's going well. It's actually ahead of schedule the way my back healed. I'm in the gym every day. I'm working out with the PitFit guys. I can't believe in a month, in just one month, how far I've come. I'm swimming. I'm on the row machine, doing weights.
I don't think there's going to be any problem getting back in the car in January. That is sort of my plan. I'll probably be cleared to drive before then, but to get back to full cardio fitness I think I need to wait until January.
Q. Tim, you've got two Aussies now with Will and Ryan Briscoe. You've got three very aggressive drivers, good guys. But how do you temper them or see tempering them next year? Each one will want to win a championship. Will it be team orders or will every race be won on the day?
TIM CINDRIC: I think they are known quantities, which is a good thing. We're not going into a season with three drivers who we haven't worked with one of them or multiple guys. With Helio and Ryan, they've seen two seasons together now to where their circumstances have been different. Where Helio was challenging for the championship in 2008, Ryan had to play a bit of a role there. You know, the shoe was on the other foot at the end of this year.
Those guys I know that they understand what's good for the team is good for them. You know, they also understand – and Will can attest this year with the races that he ran with us – that we were able to supply them all equal equipment, and let the best man win. That's typically been the philosophy.
The number one rule is always, “Don't run into each other.” So, I think that, again, I'm just glad that we're going into a known situation. These are people who have all worked together, and we've been through some good times and some tough times together with all three of them. Last year I think everybody got to put their feet on the ground, and I think we know where we're headed.
Q. Last summer, you said if Roger Penske can't find a sponsor in this economy, nobody can. And you guys ran Verizon on Will's car a couple times. Can you talk about the length of the contract at all? What would have happened if you couldn't have secured a sponsorship with Verizon full time? Would you have still retained Will for six or seven races like you did this year?
TIM CINDRIC: I always hate to speculate, because I don't know how it would have exactly turned out. But we would have done everything we could to keep him in the fold. We certainly would have approached him with, “Here's what we can do.” And we would have done everything we could to at least run him in Indianapolis next year and see if there was something that came ahead of that time, depending on how long he was willing to wait.
But, obviously, with the result that he had last year there's probably going to be more people knocking on his door if they found out that he was available. So we did everything we could on that front. And (Verizon Wireless CEO) Lowell McAdam and everybody at Verizon Wireless, they certainly have really put together a good relationship with Will. They've got a great relationship with our organization, and really this program is an extension of the whole Verizon Championship Racing program that already exists within Penske with Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series, and Brad Keselowski in the (Sprint) Cup series.
So it was a great fit for us. Obviously they also were participants in our Grand-Am program last year. So we're essentially running an IndyCar program for the first time full season for them. So, that's how that all turns out. It's certainly a multi‑year extension from the programs he we already have.
Q. Is Will's contract multi‑year also?
TIM CINDRIC: We haven't even talked about that, have we, Will? We're just trying to worry about this coming year. All Will has to do is win races and he'll be fine.
Q. Will is considered to be a gasser, a guy who's not afraid to push it. You have two other guys there who are pretty good drivers themselves. How much do you kind of see the three of them pushing each other and getting all three of them maybe to step up a notch or two?
TIM CINDRIC: It's always a challenge, but it's a good problem to have. The guys, not only the drivers, but the crew itself, you know, we have to remember that we're an organization. We're not three one‑car teams. That's always a challenge.
Whether it's this series or the Cup series or whatever else it is. For us it's pretty easy when you have a guy like Roger, it works for us – or we work for it, I should say. For us when things get out of line, we usually hit the reset button and sit down and talk about it. The good news is we've got the right kind of personalities to be able to do that.
We're all competitive, and sometimes that gets the best of you. But I've seen all these guys in difficult situations that way. They've all come to the right conclusion at the end of the day. You know, that's the respect we have for the guy we all work for.
Q. Will, with the victory that you had at Edmonton and all that, even after you got injured, how confident were you that you were going to be able to stick with the plan and stick with this team?
WILL POWER: It was like Tim said, it was a matter of waiting it out. I think I would have stayed there no matter what, because it was a great situation for me to be driving there. Every time I was in the car, it was a good car. It's no use running around the back of the field with a team that's sort of not up for the job, because you don't do yourself any favors.
But it was for me a great year, although it ended badly, now it's turned out to be, it was just a very good decision for me to go there. I really look forward to it. I'd like to thank Verizon Wireless, and Lowell McAdam, and John Stratton for putting all this together and giving me this fantastic opportunity.Q. What was the motivation behind signing Will for a full season? I ask that because looking at Ganassi last year, where Dario (Franchitti) and (Scott) Dixon basically every race were running more in tandem and scoring maximum points. Ryan more often than you would have liked seemed to be out there by himself. Helio certainly had great races, but in terms of a two‑pronged attack, didn't really have that happening all the time. Does Will kind of represent the ability for your organization to have the race‑in, race‑out minimum two cars gathering as many points as possible to help fight back against the Ganassi Team?
TIM CINDRIC: To be honest, we don't make too many of our decisions dependent on what one team is or what the competition is. We have to look at the things that we can control and the things that we have to do a better job of. So, definitely, these decisions aren't based on what Ganassi's doing or what they're not doing. They may change their game as well. You can't be reactive; you have to work on anticipation.
When I look back to Edmonton and the opportunities we had to run one, two, three there at Edmonton, we didn't quite get it done, but we were certainly in the right position. That's what these guys are capable of. When I look at the championship and so forth, if you look at laps completed last year and you look at the two guys who are at the top of laps completed, they're also the two guys at the top of the charts.
To me that was the difference between this year and last year. They made less mistakes and they did a better job when the opportunities were there. They were able to execute to take advantage of those opportunities. And we just missed it on that front.
With Helio it was a difficult year and one that he certainly wasn't full stride there at the beginning. So next year we're looking at hitting that in a whole different way. We're looking at ourselves very constructively to determine what is it that we need to do to be better. Because we certainly didn't get everything right on the teams at the end of the year.
Q. Speaking of what makes a Penske driver a Penske driver. Will seems to fit into the classic mold of someone who is right for your organization. What is it that you see Will brings to your team that maybe fits some of that classic Roger Penske mold of a driver he knows that can deliver for him?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, one thing is Will's an opportunist, for sure. When we sat down and talked to him, he's doing what he does for the right reasons. That is the thing that stuck out to us when we sat down and talked to these different candidates last year when we were in that situation.
He's a guy who wants to come here and do a good job. All the rest of it will come. He's certainly a team player. He's shown that. When you look at the guys who have had long careers with Roger, that's probably the thing that fits those kind of guys the best. When you look at Rick Mears and Helio and the guys who have driven for him for multiple years, that's usually an attribute that they have. It's a way to understand the team concept, and have respect for the accomplishments that have been made here. I think Will fits that. He's humble enough some days to offset the Helios of the world, which is a good thing.
Q. This question is for Will. Beyond getting yourself fully healthy again, do you see any areas of improvement that you can work on to kind of bring yourself up to the level of a title contender? And by areas I mean getting better on specific tracks, car setups, things of that nature? What is your perspective on that?
WILL POWER: I believe you have to learn every year. Every year you have to come away with a plan for the next year at places where you're going to be better. I've always done that throughout my career. I already have in my head where I'm going to improve on the tracks that I raced at this year. So that's just a constant process with me. I'm always searching. I think to be successful in this business you have to be because it's always a development going on. It's always moving forward. So that's my normal plan of attack.
Q. If Will hadn't been available for you, for example, if he signed with another team in the off‑season, would you have bothered running a third car? And was it the fact that you could get Will in it that is what pushed you into doing this?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, we knew that we had certain – to be honest, I hadn't really thought about that. And probably not real prepared to speculate on how that would have all turned out. But, had we not been able to, we've had obviously people approach us, wanting to know if this doesn't work out, could they bring funding to run a third car with us. And the answer to that would be the same answer we've had for years that we don't really have any interest in taking our focus away from the two guys we already have.
It's a known quantity in a lot of ways. Obviously, there are a lot of tracks that Will didn't go to this past year or he's been to but hasn't had success at. But he's shown us that given a good car, he can be successful at tracks that he wasn't successful previously. So we knew that we were in step with Will. We knew that, yeah, he wasn't in a position to sign with anybody here for a little while. So our focus was completely on getting this deal done. If it didn't get done, it probably wasn't going to happen in terms of a three‑car team next year anyway.
Q. Will you be looking to improve your performance on ovals? Do you expect that is where you most need to learn the smarts of racing for a team like Penske?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it is, actually. It's something that I haven't had as much experience as I have on road courses. It made a big difference having a good team and a good car under you. It gives you a lot of confidence. I know I'll continually have to work on it. And I couldn't be in a better place to learn. So I expect to be running up in the front from the very beginning.Q. How did you react when Tim called you either on the phone or into the office and said we've got a deal done for you for the entire season? What was your initial reaction?
TIM CINDRIC: Stop taking so long.
WILL POWER: That's exactly right. Tim answered the question. No, it was a long process. I knew that it was in the works. There was a good chance it was going to come off, but I was very happy when I heard the news. Very relieved and it was just a great opportunity.
It was something that I wouldn't have dreamed would ever have happened, to end up at Penske Racing and driving the Verizon car. Yeah, it's unbelievable. I really need to focus on it, and do a great job.
Q. Does this essentially become the same team that worked the car, the yellow car for Will, the Edmonton crew? Is this the Grand-Am team just shifting to the IndyCar Series side?
TIM CINDRIC: No, not at all. The approach next year will be very different from that approach. Because that approach was in a lot of ways what was possible last year. And, you know, we've taken the approach in the off‑season here looking at everything from I guess a clean sheet of paper with the fortunate thing – you know, fortunate and unfortunate, the Grand-Am situation probably we're not planning on it being a team next year.
We're not planning on participating on that front, so we have a built in workforce, if you will, or resource. And with that we're combining that for the different areas, different positions and trying to optimize the three best programs for next year.
We've hired a new racing engineer for Will, going forward for next year. Dave Faustino who was with KV Racing Technology last year, and had worked with Will at Walker Racing. He's on board. He started this week. He and Will are very familiar with each other. I think we're going to hit the ground run running from the association that they've had in the past.
Again, there will be some of the guys that were on Will's team last year will be on the 3 or the 6. And some of the guys that were on the 3 and the 6 will be on Will's car. So we're looking at it from a three‑car perspective rather than a two and one, and a third car once in a while.
Q. So who is going to call Will's races?
TIM CINDRIC: Clive Howell will be the third man.
Q. I know that Ryan did some work with Rick Mears, and Rick is always there to offer advice. Will you be seeking him out particularly for advice on ovals before the season starts?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I did that this year. I'll be doing the same. I'll get as much as I can out of Rick. He's there every weekend. He's got unbelievable amount of experience. He always answers your questions very well because he's been there and done that. So I'll be doing everything I can to learn as much as I can.
Q. Might he perhaps spot for Will at any races or is that out of the question?
TIM CINDRIC: Right now, to be honest with you, Clive Howell has been Helio's spotter. I think Helio had some experience with Rick as a spotter before, so I think we'll leave that unchanged and have a different spotter for Will next year. It's not something we've really gone through, but just throwing it out here on the call that I anticipate Rick being on Helio's car next year.Q. You guys have run three cars before. Kind of talk about some of the advantages of having a three‑car team and also some of the disadvantages?
TIM CINDRIC: I wasn't here, to be honest. I haven't worked in a three‑car team that's run full season that way. So I can only tell you from my limited experience on a part‑time three‑car basis or what I see in the past. The challenge there is, obviously, I would say it's very different from when Penske ran a three‑car operation before. Because a three‑car operation in the '90s, when the rules were more open and you could actually create a lot of different pieces and parts. From my vantage point it was very difficult to ever put three cars out there that had identical opportunities. Because in the R & D sectors, you were constantly evolving the car. So to provide one that was ready to run, let alone three of them that are ready to run, it's a very difficult game.
The game that exists now to where the majority of the pieces that are readily available to run multi‑car teams at the same level is much more obtainable and much more realistic than what it was in the '90s and the '80s. So it was a much bigger challenge to have three cars running up front, in my opinion, than what it is now.
Now, it's obviously logistics. You still have to have the right people. You have to have the right drivers, and you still have to execute. But having the pieces and parts available and put together in a way that they're equally competitive, that opportunity is a lot better than it was in the past. So I certainly think it can be an advantage, because of the limited testing that you have – if you have people that can work together, which is the key. If I felt like we had one of these guys couldn't work with the other guy, then it wouldn't make any sense in my opinion to try to make it happen, because you'd end up doing the opposite.
So that's my vantage point of where it is. I can't tell you that I've managed or worked in an operation that's run a three‑car full season. But I saw enough of it last year where I think the good is certainly going to outweigh the rest.
Q. What is your biggest disadvantage to the three‑car thing?
TIM CINDRIC: The biggest disadvantage is some days you're taking points away from each other. Some days it's difficult to hold one guy. There's a lot of days where you wonder, ‘Hey, is that the right thing to do or not, in terms of letting them race?' And we've always been in a position where you let it happen as it happens and see where it all ends up.
The guys have been around enough to where they've been in different positions, whether it's a supporting role or the guy that's running for the championship. You don't give everybody a spot, but you certainly cut them a break when you understand that they're running for a championship. Whether they're your teammate or not.
Q. How does your three‑driver arrangement play off against Jay Penske's (Luczo Dragon Racing) program? Or does Jay have a program?
TIM CINDRIC: As far as I know Jay has a program. But while Jay's obviously Roger's son in name, he runs a completely independent program from what we operate. So there's really no crossover or interaction there, aside from we do whatever Jay needs. He's obviously a friend of ours. Very close to our organization. But from a technical exchange standpoint, there is none.
Q. Under a pressing situation in a race, say you have a sudden yellow, you wouldn't want to bring all three of your guys in at the same time, would you? How do you normally do that with two cars? You want them one at a time or two at a time? How does that work?
TIM CINDRIC: You pit when you need to pit, and whatever happens happens.
Q. Will's an aggressive guy, but, he seems to kind of know when to turn it on and when not to. How rare a quality is that? You've got a young aggressive guy like Brad Keselowski over there in Cup, and a lot of times in the Nationwide Series from a time or two, a lot of people think he's aggressive. How difficult is that for a driver like in Will's situation that kind of has that balance?
TIM CINDRIC: The good ones from the average ones. The ones who find that balance are the ones who are typically winning the championships and are successful. And the ones who can admit that they made a mistake are usually the ones that don't make that mistake again.