YOU’RE WITH FORD NOW. HOW DOES THAT FEEL AND HOW HAS THE TEST GONE SO FAR?
“It’s hard to get a great read on the whole manufacturer change because, obviously, it’s a different car, but I think all the signs are there that we have the potential to be just as strong, if not stronger, than we were last year, which is very, very encouraging. We still have to work for it and make it happen, but the signs are there. It’s been a lot of fun having the first day today working with Joey, which I think has been probably more of an adjusting process than the actual car itself, and a good adjusting process. I’m curious to see over time how we can work together and push each other to be the best we can be, so I’ve had a lot of fun with that so far. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re only a half-a-day into two really important days, not only for Penske Racing but for the sport itself and, hopefully, we can continue to show progress.”
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS YOU CAN LEAP INTO THE FORD AND DO AS WELL?
“Those are hard questions because you get into things that are somewhat proprietary, but I think the level of engagement from the Ford camp is very, very high, which is extremely encouraging and that’s from the top on down. That makes me feel more confident than anything else because at the end of the day this is a people sport. You look at the cars and you look at the aero or whatever it might take to be the best you can be and those things tend to work themselves out when you have the best people and when you have people that are engaged and all are sharing a common goal and work ethic. So I look at that as it stands right now and I’m very happy with that desire and passion we share as a team and from the manufacturer perspective as well. That commitment is across the board and it feels really good and makes me feel like the potential is there to be just as good, if not better than ever.”
HOW DO YOU BREAK IN A NEW TEAMMATE AND WHAT DO YOU NEED OUT OF JOEY TO PUSH YOU?
“The best way I can break in Joey is to get him one of those championship glasses and take him out for night. I think he’d really enjoy that and I’d really enjoy it (laughing). I think it’s really important to keep going and in order to have the same success in the future that we’ve had in the past that you don’t necessarily feel like you can’t be any better, and I certainly don’t. I feel like there are a lot of areas that I can improve and be better and I think there are things Joey does right out of the gate that are better than what I do.”
“I think he has the ability to unload at a place like this and just instantly be fast and that’s not my style. It’s something that I would like to add to my arsenal because there are times where that’s really, really helpful, so those are some of the things I look at. There is a whole list and I don’t want to get into all of them because some of them are, going back to proprietary, something that Joey has worked very hard on and he deserves not necessarily the recognition, although he does deserve that as well, but he deserves the quiet dignity that goes with that success, but, either way, at the end of the day, I think that Joey is an elite talent in this sport and if we can work together that we will both be better. I would rather finish second to him next year in every race and even the championship, than to rest on my laurels, not get any better and the whole field does, and run fifth, 10th, 15th, 17th – whatever it might be – and beat him. I think it’s that spirit that is gonna drive us to be the best we can.”
WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST FOR THIS YEAR?
“People. It’s really tough for any championship team to be able to keep all of the people motivated because you’ve achieved a goal. I think everybody starts out their career wanting to be a champion and wanting to be the best and that keeps you motivated, but once you get that, it’s easy to lose your motivation and we have to find ways to motivate ourselves. The best employees we have at Penske Racing are always gonna be self-motivated, but, also, we have to find ways to make sure that there is no temptation to lose that motivation and I think that’s probably one of the biggest challenges we have. The switch to Ford itself is good because it lends itself to having something to prove, and I think that in itself is a point I maybe didn’t make earlier. One of the best advantages of switching to Ford is it gives us something to prove all over again, that we can continue to be successful no matter what the manufacturer or no matter what the circumstance is and I think that’s very healthy. I also feel like, as a team, we have that motivation right now.”
DO YOU THINK WHOEVER GETS THE BEST AND FASTEST GRIP ON THE NEW CAR WILL PLAY A LARGE PART IN DETERMINING WHO IS SUCCESSFUL THIS YEAR?
AND DO YOU THINK THERE ARE SOME TEAMS AHEAD OF OTHERS IN THAT AREA?
“Obviously, the faster you get a hold of the speed, speed is the basic necessity of a winning team, but that’s not all it takes. It takes a lot more than speed to win and you still have to have some of the other things that go with it, which are execution and good fortune, and you have to have all of those other pieces that we could list out for days, but speed is the backbone of this sport and any team’s success. Anyone who comes out of the gate with the most amount of speed has the potential, so it tends to be an area where we all go first, naturally, but it takes a lot more than that to be a winner and to be a consistent winner or a champion, and we know that too. You can’t get too carried away and sacrifice everything else to just get speed from a resource management standpoint, but we’re certainly gonna work there first. It appears that there are a few guys that are just a little bit ahead of everyone else. I think the Toyotas have shown that they’re gonna be really, really tough to beat with this new car. I really like the way they finished last year, and, for them, I think they have the capability of starting out next year even stronger than the field, so that will be interesting to watch, but there’s still a lot of testing and a lot of development left to be done. However, if I was to venture a guess, I would definitely say that they’re at the
top of the list.”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A ROUSH FENWAY TEAM HERE AT THIS TEST AND IS THERE ANY APPREHENSION ABOUT HOW YOUR TEAM WILL WORK WITH THEM?
“Yes and no. I think the best ways that we can work together are not gonna be at the race track, they’re gonna be off the race track. It’s maybe not something that’s right in front of me on the radar, but the more involved our two groups can be, the better we’re gonna be. I guess the priority is set more on projects that are off the race track.”
WHERE IS YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY?
“It’s not at my house, it’s at Penske Racing on display for the team guys.”
WILL YOU HAVE ONE AT YOUR HOUSE EVENTUALLY?
“No, I don’t keep trophies at my house. I don’t believe in building a shrine to myself. It’s kind of weird.”
WHY DO YOU THINK A TOYOTA MAY HAVE AN ADVANTAGE?
“You rely on multiple things to build a sense for those speed potentials or whatever you might want to call it. Obviously, the way they finished last year was very strong and even though it’s a different car with the body per se, it’s still a very similar chassis to what we’ve run the last year and whatever advantage they seemed to have there seemed to be a lot in the chassis or based on that, so they’re gonna retain that. And then from a resource standpoint it appeared they were able to build cars at a little bit faster rate than everyone else and get them on track at a further design point than most everyone else based upon what little information we were able to garner there.”
YOU HAVE A MUCH DIFFERENT FIRE SUIT. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT AND DID YOU HAVE A HAND IN HOW IT LOOKS?
“It’s a work in progress. This is something I’m working on to try to keep up with the Joneses. All of these Hendrick guys have their new lightweight, cool fire suits and I don’t like getting beat on our off the race track. I want to be the best everywhere, so I’ve got them helping me out. It’s a work in progress. I’m not all the way there, but I don’t like getting beat at anything.”
WHERE ARE YOU AS FAR AS THIS WORK IN PROGRESS?
“I’m about 80 percent there.”
Ford Racing PR