Helio Castroneves. Tim Cindric, Will Power, AJ Allmendinger and Rick Mears meet the media at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
MODERATOR: Tim, I know you have something to say regarding Roger Penske, who is unable to be here with us today.
TIM CINDRIC: I just wanted to, on behalf of Roger, send his regards. He's a bit conflicted this week for sure, as he had promised he would be at the Mille Miglia in Italy this week. When he made that promise, he wasn't quite sure how it all conflicted with pole weekend. So anyway, it's in the midst of it – next they'll or four days competing in the Mille Miglia with Mario Illien. So he started that process last night – actually ran in to a bit of a mudslide, so he called me actually at 10 o'clock here. So he'd just gotten to the hotel for the first round of that. So he's having fun. It's good to see the boss do something a little different than work. But he certainly misses being here at this place, but obviously he'll be here next weekend.
MODERATOR: Start with the junior member of the team, AJ Allmendinger. So was this on your bucket list, seriously?
ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, back when I was in Champ Car and growing up through open-wheel racing, this was the pinnacle. I always wanted to be here and, you know, as the split happened and Champ Car wasn't here, and I never got the opportunity to run here, It was always disappointing. The Memorial Day weekend, it was always difficult sitting at home watching it and not having a chance to run it, especially being a Indy car driver at that point, and obviously over the last seven years being in NASCAR, just to watch it on TV was kind of always a thing Sunday morning before the Cup race – I'd sit there and watch Indy 500 and just always wanted to be here. Always did, and, you know, happy to have the opportunity to be here with Team Penske and for Roger to give me the opportunity to kind of live out a dream and to be here with no better team than Team Penske. It's kind of a dream come true. And having to deal with Will and Helio a little bit for two weeks straight gets a little much. Today Helio was singing Taylor Swift to me. It was rough. It was hard. (Laughter). But other than that, it's been a lot of fun so far.
MODERATOR: Is there anything similar from the Champ Car that you drove to these things nowadays?
ALLMENDINGER: No. Not that I remember. The problem was, since I've got back into this racecar, I'm just trying to remember, was it this hard to drive a Champ Car? You know, seven years of a Sprint Cup car, it's – everything that I've learned back in my open-wheel racing that I've gotten used to, you know, it took a couple years switching to stock cars to really feel comfortable in the car. And the roles have gotten reversed since I've come back here. Try to get used it to again and understand what this car likes and how hard you've got to drive it to be fast, especially on the road and street courses.
It's been a tough challenge. I really enjoy it, though, and I feel like the first two races I've had decent speed in the racecar, decent race pace. Haven't had the finishes to show it, but Will and Helio have helped me out a lot since I have come back to really just bring me into the race team and, you know, make me feel like actually a member of the race team, not just a part-time, third-time car. You know, it makes me feel like part of the team, and hopefully there's little things that I've brought to the team that hopefully help them, my energy level, my excitement. My charm and good looks. (Laughter).
MODERATOR: Of course, Kurt Busch was here and did the rookie orientation, a lot of speculation as to whether he might do the double. Is the double something that you might want to do some day and think you can?
ALLMENDINGER: I think I could, but it's got to be the right situation. This year wasn't the right situation to try it. There's so many things that have to line up perfectly to be able to make it happen, and do it the right way, not just to say do it. And that's the big thing.
You know, one day, you know, one year maybe, maybe the right opportunity is going to show up and everything falls into place at the right time and that's the right year to do it, but I hope we're all celebrating after Indy. I wouldn't be worried about the 600.
MODERATOR: Now, Rick, you are in a great position of being experienced, needless to say, on this racetrack. What do you teach these guys? Or can you teach them anything?
MEARS: Can't teach these guys anything. Obviously, all three of these guys know what to do, they know how to get around these joints and how to drive racecars. I think with A.J., obviously, it's more of a matter of laps. Like he said, getting comfortable, getting back in the swing of things, getting comfortable with the team, working with the guys. With these cars working on the timing on the racetrack as far as traffic goes, that kind of thing. That's just laps. That's all it is. He obviously knows how to drive a racecar; all three of them get around this joint pretty well. So I just kind of stand back and watch if anything pops up that I might be able to help with I try to help. That's the main thing.
MODERATOR: Now, if Helio is leading on race day, and he's got a full lap on the field, and you're seeing him as a member of the four-time winner club, will you throw a bottle on the track or anything to keep him from joining your club?
MEARS: I haven't decided yet. (Laughter).
MODERATOR: Helio, what do you have to say about that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I say that Rick, he didn't win four, he actually won six and a half. (Laughter) Because he's – he's been there since my first one. And certainly without him and the Team Penske I would not be able to do what I did. So hopefully, at the end of the race I will get another one, and it will be a dream come true.
MEARS: I'd go for that.
CASTRONEVES: OK. Good. I dream every night, obviously. But we're working very hard to make that happen. We have three fast cars, very competitive fuel. The course today is a different day, we'll focus on qualifying, increasing the boost level. So speed's going to increase, and it's going to be interesting.
MODERATOR: Do you still get the chills when you get out there for the first time?
CASTRONEVES: When I walk into this place, I get the chills. It's just amazing. We went to the museum the first night and to see all the history of this place, it's incredible. It's never the same. Always there is something different. And obviously in the situation that we are right now, we're certainly feeling very confident, but we know what we need to did, as well, there. So now we're looking strong.
MODERATOR: By the same token, is it different the night before the race here? Do you have a little more trouble sleeping or relaxing?
CASTRONEVES: Certainly you don't rest as well as you wish. Because first you got to beat the traffic, which is always a good thing. And second, you know, you're thinking about a lot of things. We're talking about 500 miles; there's a lot of circumstances that could play in your favor and could go against you, as well. And I have to say every time in any race but especially this one, when you start playing the national anthem, and the Indianapolis song, everything. It's just kind of like "(Back Home Again in) Indiana," thank you. (Laughter) So I knew it was something like that. I didn't know how to say it. (Laughter).
So basically that's when the butterfly goes in your stomach. And it is awesome. Especially when you have the crowd there, oh, my God, guys, it's the best feeling in the world.
MODERATOR: Will, how's the month gone for you so far?
POWER: It's been interesting. You know, I think just trying to work out a good racecar. Obviously qualifying is such a different thing because you have a different boost levels, so probably going 6 or 7 miles an hour quicker.
ALLMENDINGER: Really? That fast? You didn't tell me that, Rick.
POWER: So you probably won't being as good as you were. (Laughter) But yeah, I mean, we're just trying to get good car in traffic. I can tell it's a very competitive field this year. You can't really see anyone that's sticking out as being the quickest. So it's going to be interesting, I guess, come qualifying day to see when everyone's on the track by themselves see where they stack up. But we're still working away and, you know, just hope to have a good solid racecar and see if we can qualify up front somewhere. Pole would be nice.