Ford Performance NASCAR: Indianapolis (Paul Wolfe & Walt Czarnecki Post Race Press Conference)

Ford Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN)
Monday, September 10, 2018

Paul, on the big win today. This is the team’s second victory this season with a win last week at Darlington, followed by the win at Indianapolis. That’s not a bad week. And then also your 14th top‑10 finish this season. Just give us a few thoughts on the race. Being able to deliver this win to Mr. Penske, I know, was a big goal for all of you guys.

PAUL WOLFE, crew chief, No. 2 Ford Fusion: “Yeah, it’s hard to believe. You know, last week was one of those races, as well, that Team Penske hasn’t won at since ’70 whatever it was, I can’t even remember now. That was such a big win and one on the list to check off. Coming here to Indy this week, this is always a pretty special place for the boss and for the team, as much success as they’ve had on the open wheel side. We’ve just never been able to get it done on the Cup side, and we were close last year, we were on the front row restart towards the end, but weren’t able to execute. You know, it was a little bit of an up‑and‑down day for us. We didn’t have a lot of speed in the Discount Tire Ford, but we were kind of hanging in there. We gained some points in each of the stages with different strategies flipping around, and we knew our opportunity to make something happen was going to be get on a different strategy towards the end, and gosh, it’s hard to believe that we did that and we caught the break. Sometimes you’ve got to have a little luck on your side, and we definitely did when the caution fell, and from there, it was up to Brad just to hit his marks and execute on his end on that last restart.”

How much emphasis does Roger put on the Brickyard coming in, knowing that you guys ‑‑ that Team Penske hadn’t gotten a win here yet?

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PAUL WOLFE: “I wouldn’t say he really puts any more pressure or any more emphasis. I think everyone just goes without saying, you know, that all the success that they’ve had here ‑‑ just been close many times, just haven’t been able to get it done. You go to every race every weekend putting all the effort you can into it and doing all the things you can, and can’t say that Indy is a whole lot different for us. We didn’t prepare any differently. But it didn’t is pretty special and means a lot to be able to kiss the bricks today and get that first win here for Team Penske and for Roger. There’s things on the list, the bucket list, right, that you’re trying to check off, and this was definitely one of them, and pretty special that we could get it done. The only thing that could have been better than winning last week at Darlington and then winning again today at the Brickyard was if the boss was here to celebrate with us. Unfortunately he hasn’t been here for either one of the ones, but just really proud of this whole Discount Tire team and Brad just hanging in there. This sport is so tough, and we’ve heard this a lot, but the fastest car doesn’t always win, and there’s a lot more to it than just being fast, and it comes down to execution and pit road and making the right calls. I feel like our team has done a great job of that this year and trying to get all we can, and we’ve just got to keep working. We need more speed in our cars, but if we can get a little more speed to go with the execution we’ve had, I think we’re really going to be a contender in the championship.”

Walt Czarnecki. Thanks for joining us. Give us a few words on what it means to finally check off that NASCAR win here at Indianapolis.

WALTER CZARNECKI, Team Penske: “Well, yeah, at the risk of sounding a little trite, winning here 17 times with the 500 sets the standard, and this is something we’ve been trying to do for 25 years. Been close, I guess we finished second five times, so to be able to do it today with this Discount Tire Ford is really special. On that last call, Paul just made a tremendous call, and that last restart with three laps to go, I really knew that Brad was not going to be denied. He had fresher tires, but that notwithstanding, I knew he had the desire. I knew how much he wanted to win the race. He and I spoke about it before the race, and he assured me that he was going to do everything he could to win the race. In fact, he did. My only regret is that Roger is not here. He really deserves to be here because this race means so much to him. He was here all day yesterday, and we didn’t get a chance to run. He and I have been exchanging texts, so he’s thrilled about it. But again, thanks to everybody at Team Penske, Roger certainly for his vision, his commitment to this team, Tim Cindric and everybody else who made this happen. Thank you, Paul.”

Paul, obviously you guys have pulled off two great wins back‑to‑back at two great tracks, but as you stated, you haven’t had the speed. You guys have won it through execution. How much can you do that in the playoffs? Can you get away with this type of thing, or how much of a concern is it not to have the speed and kind of having ‑‑ it’s great that you’re maximizing things, but can you do that 10 weeks in a row?

PAUL WOLFE: “Well, if you asked anyone coming into the last two weeks, they’d probably say we couldn’t win either way. I guess I’d say anything’s possible. But you’re right. Like you say, we want more speed. We know we’re off a little bit there. But I believe we can get through the first round for sure by just executing and not making mistakes. As I look at second and third round, there’s some great opportunity races there. We know we can go to Talladega and win, and we know we can go to Martinsville and win. We have a little bit of work to do on the intermediate tracks to find a little more speed, but winning the last two weeks definitely is a little booster for everyone at Team Penske. We’ve just got to find another level, another gear to work in, and I believe we can get there. And like I said, if we can get just a little more speed with the execution we have right now, I think we’re going to be a real threat when it comes down to the end of this.”

When you talk to drivers, they’ll tell you that certain tracks, whether it’s the short tracks or road courses, those are driver tracks. Talk to spotters, they feel very invested in the restrictor plate tracks, they feel like they make more of a difference. Is it a track because of strategy calls challenges you guys on pit boxes more than any other?

PAUL WOLFE: “It does. There’s some drivers that obviously are better than others here, and it’s a unique style racetrack, not like anything else we run at. But strategy always seems to be a big factor in who wins here. If you look at obviously last year with Kasey winning, they weren’t the fastest car, either. It’s definitely a challenge. Obviously if you do have the fastest car, it can be frustrating at times when you don’t get the win, but when you’re off a little bit, you know there’s always opportunity. There’s a lot of different scenarios that played out today, especially with the stage racing, and as we saw the field get jumbled around as guys were on different strategies. That was our best shot. Sometimes you catch a break, and sometimes you don’t. The way it all shuffled after the end of Stage 2, I think we finished sixth or seventh in Stage 2, and we came out after that cycle 14th or 15th, and at that point the difference of maybe getting up to 10th or finishing 18th, I was willing to take the gamble and run long, and that’s what we did, and we caught the break when we needed it. You still have to have a car that’s fast enough when you do get that clean air. Even though you’re not the fastest, you still have to be competitive, and we definitely have that, and when we put ourselves in position like we did this week and last week, we’re able to get the win.”

Paul, is what has gone well for you guys the last two weeks that hasn’t earlier in the season to where you weren’t able to get those wins? I know you’ve had that struggle with speed all season. Have you not maximized things as well, or is there something else? Why are you guys doing it now as opposed to being able to do it earlier?

PAUL WOLFE: “I can’t say in my mind that there’s anything really a whole lot different. You know, we know in this sport sometimes you get good breaks and sometimes you get bad, and I feel like just the beginning of the year we caught a lot of bad breaks, and now maybe it’s our turn to catch a couple. I don’t feel like I’m calling the race a whole lot different than I did earlier in the season. I try to always make the best educated decision I can. Sometimes obviously they’re a bit of a gamble, but we try to use as much data and history and try to understand how the race is going to play out to make some of those decisions. Sometimes you’re just not going to catch the break, and we were able to do that the last couple weeks. The pit crew executed last week when we needed them to. It’s been an up‑and‑down year on pit road for us, and there’s been stops where we’ve been really strong, but there’s been some bad ones, too, and we just caught it on the right side of it last week, and then, like I said, this isn’t the first time we’ve done this sort of a strategy, and other races it didn’t work out this year, but today it did.”

Walt, now that you’ve been texting back and forth with Roger a little bit and you’ve had a little time to think about it, has it set in for the organization that you guys won the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year?

WALTER CZARNECKI: No, and I really hadn’t thought about it until you reminded me about it a few minutes ago. This was so big, I think, in all of our minds to win this race and we were so focused on it that we forgot about the great win that Will had here back in May. So to do this, again, makes this an extra special year. Again, I would remind everyone that this also is our 499th Team Penske win. In a way this morning when I got to the racetrack, I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if we won the Xfinity race for 499 and won the Brickyard 400 for our 500th win. That little wishful thinking, half of it came through. But no, it really means a lot. I want to thank, too, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, the Hulman George family and Doug Boles and everybody. I know they had a tough weekend here having to deal with the weather that we all had to deal with, but I know as a track operator myself, I know the challenges that it brings. I want to congratulate them for the great job that they did here this weekend.”

Looking ahead next week to Las Vegas, I know you talk about looking at history and things like that. Obviously it’s a new date for that race. The temperature is going to be hotter than it’s ever been for any of the races in the spring. Obviously you can take some data from the spring, but what are the challenges in looking ahead to that race and trying to put things together for that one?

PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, it’s definitely, to your point, it’ll be a new one. We have a lot of history and notes on the spring race, and we’ve had some good success there and always seem to run well. But to your point, there will be some new challenges going into ‑‑ being a playoff race, and track conditions change things a lot. It was pretty cold there from what I recall in the spring, and from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be close to 100 degrees, track temps up. But with that being said, I think we’ve got a good enough group that we’re going to dig in and try to ride this momentum, and I feel like, like I said, we’ve had some good success there in the past, and there’s no reason we can’t go out there this week and have a strong car and put ourselves in position at the end. I look forward to this first round as a pretty good round for us. We run well at Richmond, and then obviously the Roval is a little bit of an unknown for everyone. I think if we go do our job and not make any mistakes, we’re going to be just fine.”

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