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Interview With Sonoma Race-Winner Will Power & Roger Penske

Will, congratulations. Walk us through your day.

WILL POWER:  Thank you. It was a lot more yellows I think than anyone anticipated, so you really had to survive a lot of restarts. A bit of a different strategy there between a bunch of cars to survive that.

Kept putting ourselves in good position. Really happy for all the Verizon guys, my crew, all the people that worked so hard to put us in this position.

Q :  Roger, your team has had a lot of success here. Talk about the race today and why you’ve been so successful here.

ROGER PENSKE:  I think when we come here, we look forward to it. Racing in northern California is pretty special. Many years I raced here at Laguna Seca and here obviously.

This is a key part of the season for us, for Helio, and obviously Will was looking for that first win. With his skill here, he got that bad accident where he got hurt, coming back here and doubling down as he has the last three years is pretty important.

There’s a lot of strategy. Restarts looked like a NASCAR race, guys moving, pushing and shoving. At the end of the day, I don’t like to see the call that had to take place. Everyone saw it. It’s unfortunate. That’s the way racing is. So we’ll move on.

Q.        Will, just how huge of a relief is this for you to finally get a win?

WILL POWER:  It is. I’m actually very happy for my guys. I think we all expected to be a little bit more competitive. Not that we haven’t been, we’ve just had some bad things happen to us.

Very happy. I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve been in the back of the pack. I’ve learned a lot about restarts. When you have a tough year, you really start searching, looking. You pick up things. Really feels like next year I’ll come back more a complete driver.

Q.        Will, yesterday after practice and then during qualifying, the wind became an issue. We watched that flag go different directions. Was the same thing happening in the race?

WILL POWER:  Yeah, it actually changed from the beginning to the end. The wind went a full 180. You got to read it. You drive the track a lot differently depending on the wind direction. That was the case again in the race today.

Q.        Will, what is it about Sonoma that brings out the best in you?

WILL POWER:  It’s actually a pretty tough track. To me it’s a real driver’s track. It’s about understanding where to overdrive and where to underdrive. You can easily blow corners here.

I think the team, we do have a very good setup here. As you saw this weekend, it looked like Andretti and Ganassi had pretty much caught us and passed us. But in the race I feel we had a better car. So, very happy.

Q.        Will, Dario is clearly less than happy about the restart. Can you take us through how you saw that.

WILL POWER:  I mean, we barely touched. I’m surprised. That’s just racing. I’m surprised at his displeasure. Dixon did exactly the same thing to me when roles were reversed on the first restart. Dario seems to have a short memory because in Detroit at the first corner, he hit me a lot harder and I lost a bunch of positions.

It’s just racing. He’ll cool down. Double-file restarts, what do you do?  We’re side-by-side. Cars are going to touch. It’s not like I KO’d him into the wall.

Q.        Roger, you mentioned it’s a shame to see a call like that made. Safety is the number one key on pit lane. If you can talk about the profound impact that that call may have on the points championship. Now Helio’s closest pursuer looks like he was going to gain points.

ROGER PENSKE:  I think the difference, we were 33, now we’re 39, so it’s 6 points. Not anything catastrophic.

That’s racing. To me, I didn’t call it. I wasn’t involved in it. Obviously when you have a pit crew member going up in the air… If you look at it, our pit crew actually lifted the tire up, went behind the car.

To me, I think judgment there was made by whoever makes that call. We certainly didn’t. You know, those are the way things go.

Q.        Roger, what do you think about the tire compounds this weekend?  It seemed to help the competition. The reds were uniquely different than we’re used to seeing.

ROGER PENSKE:  There’s no question that the softer compound, at this track today, the temperature, they were probably 1 second to 1.2 seconds faster and held on. The blacks were running in the 82s. Will was actually quick there on blacks for quite a while.

That’s the difference. I think that makes strategy. We have to run one set of reds or one set of blacks in the race. We used some of those to qualify. They’re not all brand-new. You could go all blacks and one set of new reds.

I think it’s added a little bit of ingenuity for the crews and the drivers. Taking care of your tires was key today because the car would get a lot of oversteer if you didn’t take care of your rears, whether it was on reds or blacks.

Q.        Roger, quick question about Helio’s race. I know he’s working on a points championship and the lead. But he seemed to be faster in practice and qualifying. Was today disappointing for him?

ROGER PENSKE:  Not at all. You saw on the restarts, he was taking care of himself. We got jumped by Marco (Andretti) twice where we were behind the car ahead of us, and Marco was three-wide going through the corner here before we got to the acceleration cone.

I told him, We cannot afford to knock the wheels off. Certainly once Dixon had his problem, our goal was to finish. He finished ahead of (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, (James) Hinchcliffe, some pretty good cars. I don’t think we have to take a backseat on his run today.

When you’re running for the championship, get six points today, I think that’s a big win for us.

Q.        Will, by the points you’re mathematically still alive, but by the positions there’s an awful lot of guys ahead of you. How much do you miss being right in the middle of a championship fight?

WILL POWER:  Yeah, in one way it’s more relaxing because you can be more aggressive. Like Roger was saying, Helio had to kind of look after himself. But of course I would love to be in the battle right now. We just have had one of those years where things don’t flow. But it’s slowly coming on here.

Yeah, you know, obviously next year’s mindset. This year is to make sure Helio wins the championship. We’re going to help him any way possible for the next three races.

Q.        You said you learned a lot about yourself this year. Can you detail that a little bit more.

WILL POWER:  I just think you start really looking close at your weaknesses. My oval performance wasn’t very good. This year I definitely had to get points on ovals because we weren’t winning races on road courses. Also the mental aspect. I really believe it makes you stronger, having a year like this. You’ll come back next year a serious contender.

Q.        Roger, not to belabor the point, but you said your crewmen lifted the tire up trying to avoid contact. Is it clear, the dividing line between the two pit areas, and was your guy where he was supposed to be?

ROGER PENSKE:  I think you should look at the tape. Our man who changed the tire picked the tire up, was running behind the car. It wasn’t that he stuck the tire out. He didn’t leave the tire on the ground where it could have been in the way.

I think they’re way overplaying this thing as far as I’m concerned. Someone got hit, went up in the air. Obviously the 9 car was too close to our crew, had an accident there. The outcome is obvious.

So I feel bad for Scott. On the other hand, you know, it could have been the other way. We’ve been in situations where it was called the other way. Running over the hose, we’ve had to do a drive-through.

These are things that are pretty clear in the rule book. You go to 7.10.1.6 (contact with personnel; under the pit procedures heading) in the rule book, if a team member gets hit in the pits, there’s a drive-through.

WILL POWER:  Kanaan had a penalty last year in Toronto by touching a tire. He didn’t hit a crew or anything. You know, it is clear-cut.

Q.        Roger, how are the crewmen?

ROGER PENSKE:  As far as we know, the boys are OK. He landed on his elbow. The other guy went up because the hose got around his leg and flipped him up. I’m sure they’ll be sore tomorrow, but so far, so good.

Q.        You have a competitor directly accusing you of unsportsmanlike conduct. Would you like to respond to that directly?

ROGER PENSKE:  Who is that?

Q.        Dario said a quote to that in the press conference earlier.

ROGER PENSKE:  At what time during the race and what was the issue?

Q.        Dario said in the post-race press conference that he thought the usual decorum that is exercised for those competing in the title fight was not displayed in the incident in the way the pit crew member walked around the car.

ROGER PENSKE:  What was he talking about, the incident with our crew member?

Q.        The one that drew the penalty.

ROGER PENSKE:  I’d love to have Dario here. As far as I’m concerned, he’s off base. Our guys were doing a job, changing the tires, picked the tires up, got hit by a car from behind.

You start to get personalities into this, what we’re doing running for a championship, it’s ridiculous.

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Posted by on August 26, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,Indy Car. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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