THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and start our post race press conference here at Talladega Super Speedway for today's YellaWood 500 at Talladega. We've now been joined by our race winning team owner, Roger Penske, and race winning crew chief, Jonathan Hassler. Thank you both for joining us for a little bit after this win, and congratulations on Ryan taking that victory.
Roger, we'll go ahead and start with you. Tell us a little bit about your vantage point on the final laps?
ROGER PENSKE: I was on the outside before the start/finish line. It was hard for me to tell who won, but what I did see was the teamwork with the Ford, with the 36 with Herbst and certainly for Harvick, in his last race here, working like he did with Ryan. It was really amazing to see that.
Hendrick's freight train was coming, and we stayed together. I think that was the call that Ford had earlier in the day when we talked, but Ryan did a great job.
He was doing a good race. He was beating himself up last week because of the speeding in the pits, but I said let's forget that. Jonathan gave him a great car, and certainly when you think about Roush-Yates horsepower, it didn't hurt us. You could see that today.
It was just a perfect execution. Good pitch, good strategy. And he was very calm, which is key for him, and during that middle part of the race, right, Jonathan, when we were a little bit behind, he stayed in the right lane and saving fuel at the end. It worked out.
THE MODERATOR: Jonathan, for you from the box I'm sure you were watching those final laps a little bit intensely knowing the Round of 8 is cutting after Charlotte, but just tell us a little bit of your thoughts as well?
JONATHAN HASSLER: I feel like over the last couple of years we've had a really good speedway program. I feel like we've been in contention to win several of them.
So coming into the day we thought we had a really good chance. We just needed to -- I told the guys this morning we don't need to go out and do anything different. We just need to do what we've been doing, execute, and we'll be in good shape. They did that, and we were in position, and Ryan did a great job there at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to questions.
Q. For both of you, just how much of a relief is it just to not have to worry about next week at all?
ROGER PENSKE: When you come out of being a champion in 2022 and we're in a tight situation here, it was a huge event for us today, and we knew we had to execute.
This place, you never know what happens. You have the best car and end up in a wreck or something. It's a tremendous amount of momentum that it will give us in this next stage, and then hopefully we get to the Final Four.
Q. I'm curious, Jonathan. You guys have this really odd stat. I think you only have five top-5s, but two of them are wins. What do you make of that?
JONATHAN HASSLER: I don't think our speed has been as good this year as maybe what it was a year ago. We've certainly had -- we've been strong on all the speedways. I feel like Atlanta and that as well, I feel like we were in contention for those, but we've struggled in a lot of other tracks. We've been trying to grind it out, and obviously we hit on it at Charlotte, but we've had some weeks where we haven't.
So, yeah, just really haven't had the speed we wanted to, but we've been working hard and making some progress.
Q. So if you don't have the speed, how do you feel moving forward?
JONATHAN HASSLER: I think we've been making good progress. Honestly I thought we could have been in contention to win last week at Texas. A little bit of that was strategy, but obviously we had to have a car that would hang in as well too.
Like I said, I think we've been working making our program better. I'm excited for sure to go to Vegas. A rough track seems to be one of our strengths. Obviously it has a lot of similarities to Charlotte, so yeah, we're just going to keep working and if we have a chance to get to Phoenix, Ryan is as good there as anybody else.
Q. Roger, I think I saw video of you the last two nights at the BC39, and you made your way here. I know you have called racing your golf game, your fishing, your hunting, but can you get enough racing?
ROGER PENSKE: As you know, a special BC39 for Bryan Clauson, they've had that event there, and we've invested in the short track.
It's amazing to see these kids drive these. I see where Larson got it. These guys, every single lap. It's just great to be there, and to thank the fans for coming.
There was a female driver there that I didn't see the night before. I don't know her name, but they said she is outstanding. So, again, we had some diversity there, which is also good, but the fan base is really great.
And with Kyle coming to race at the speedway for the 500, just think about that how many Midwest fans that he has.
Look, it's just a great little track. Obviously wish you all come at some point, but I had to show up, didn't I?
Q. Roger, what are the emotions like seeing a defending champion be knocked out of the first round a couple of weekends ago and now seeing another driver make it into the Round of 8, like Jenna said, without having to worry about the Roval anymore?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, we've had lots of discussions. In fact, up to just an hour up to the race things we this to change. Maybe I'll take some of those back. It's terrific.
That's the sport. I mean, you can be on top and you can be on the bottom because all these new teams coming in, I mean, you see the success they're having, so we just can't ride on our laurels. In fact, we won the last year. It doesn't mean anything when you roll out at Daytona. I think we saw that.
We've won races, which is good, but we didn't have the speed, as Jonathan said, but I think each week we're getting better. I felt last week other than the speeding penalty, we were right up front, and I think as we go into these next races, we have some things that we know we want to do, and hopefully we can execute.
Q. Obviously with the third win at the track, he is starting to get up there with some pretty historic names in the Series. What do you take away from his success at this track?
ROGER PENSKE: Our success here?
Q. His and yours.
ROGER PENSKE: Oh, Ryan's success. Well, he, as you know, has won races here, and he has been in the hunt all the time.
I think it's a combination. I think he doesn't take a lot of chances when he gets shuffled back. I think he stays cool and realizes at the end, and you can listen to him on the radio today. He was very good, and I think with Jonathan and certainly his spotter, you have to give these guys a lot of credit.
I listened to two or three of them at one time, and I can't believe the commitment these spotters are making because I think they're driving the car sometimes. It's a tremendous team effort.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for both for your time.