NSCS/NXS: Ford Wednesday – NASCAR Charlotte Media Tour (Team Penske)

Photo Credit: Noel Lanier

Ford Performance NSCS Notes and Quotes
2016 NASCAR Media Tour – Charlotte, NC
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ROGER PENSKE, owner, Team Penske – HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO STRIVE FOR MORE AND PUSH ALL YOUR TEAMS TO DO THE SAME? “I think once you are in this business it is so hard to get out and when you are dealing with the people we have been able to bring on our team for so many years in terms of quality and commitment personally and the sponsors and OEM’s, to me it is my day job on the weekends. I will be at the races as long as I can stand up and that is for one reason, to win. When you look at the group of guys to my right you can see the quality and what they have given to our team and we are looking for 2016 to be a great year with continuity across all aspects of your team.”

YOU’VE HAD VERY LITTLE TURNOVER ON THE 2 AND 22 TEAMS. HOW DO YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT AND HOW DOES IT POSITION YOU FOR 2016? “I learned in business many years ago that you don’t want turnover. Some might be good but on a race team it is about continuity. Pal Wolfe and Brad came up through the XFINITY series and also Todd and Joey, being able to bring those guys along is a huge difference. With that process we have built teams around these great drivers and crew chiefs and that is key going into 2016. Most of the people we have are home grown. The ones that have been over the wall with us, had adversity and had success. They have one thing in common; working together as one outfit. I take my hat off to Tim Cindric. In this business you can have two or three or four teams that are all separate teams. We build our cars all the same. The only way you know which car it is is when they put the decals on it. It is like a 7-iron, everyone holds it a little differently. The setup they put on the car might be a little different but at the end of the day it is the results and we can look and see why someone is fast and see the differences. I take my hat off to Paul and Todd for what they have been able to do working together. You see the speed we had in 2015 and 2014 and I think we will carry on where we left off at the end of the season.”

WALT CZARNICKI, Executive Vice President, Penske Corporation & Vice Chairman, Team Penske – WHEN YOU THINK BACK ON YOUR TIME, WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU THE MOST? “First of all, it has gone by very quickly. In retrospect, there are four or five things that really stand out. First, that Roger asked me in 1970 to become part of the company, just a fledgling enterprise then. Without that, none of the rest occurs. When I think back over 50 years, knowing and working with Mark Donahue who was the best and set the standard. Winning our first Indy 500 in 1972. Ryan Newman winning the first Daytona 500 in 2008. Brad’s 2012 Sprint Cup championship. I also think about Rick Mears and the pass he made on Michael Andretti for his fourth and final Indy 500 win late in the race. That stands out in my mind. An absolutely gutsy move that won the race. Rusty winning 10 races in 1993 and eight more the following year. Watching Helio Castroneves climb the fence. Bobby Allison winning the Southern 500. We could stay here and talk a lot so I will stop with that. It has been a great career.”

YOU ALSO HAVE GREAT CONTINUITY WITH YOUR SPONSORS. TALK ABOUT SOME OF THOSE RELATIONSHIP AND PROGRAMS. “I think one of the hallmarks of our team over the years has been continuity of sponsorship. Miller Brewing Company has been with us since 1983-84, Snap On tools and other companies like that. PPG for example. Over the course of time we have expanded that context to sponsors and we are at a point now where we are happy to announce here that we have extended our relationship with Bosch. They have been with us for more than 30 years across all our motorsports disciplines. Coca Cola will be coming back to be featured on the 22 Ford Fusion. Joey is part of the Coke family of drivers. Auto Trader is an important partner of ours in our retail business and will be with us on the 2 and 22 cars this year. I think we bring a leverage with those sponsors because we are able to give back more than the value on the race track. We are able to establish business to business relationships so they get real value from our partnership.”

TIM CINDRIC, Team Penske President –  YOU HAVE BEEN HEAVILY INVOLVED IN THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE LOGO. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ITS DESIGN? “It is an honor to be part of designing a logo for this organization. Roger is our main art director. As a kid I idolized the team and the old badge was as I call it really the iconic symbol. Nobody back then really had chrome decals back in the ‘70’s when that was there and it evolved in its own way over time. When I started working for Roger, this would have been 1999-2000, 2001, there was Marlboro Team Penske at that time and also the Penske Racing logo and you didn’t use the Marlboro words if you will. I constantly tried to talk to Roger about trying to bring the old badge back. I just wanted to wear the old badge one day. At that point in time the speedways that Penske owned had what we call the swoosh on the speedway and it all tied into the race team. At that point those were going back to ISC and I felt like it was time to get the badge back and about the third time I asked him he goes, ‘look, we have one logo and it is not that one now’. So we moved on. When the 50th anniversary came, I thought it was the time to try it again. It had been 10 years or so since I almost lost my job talking about this last time. When you look at the logo, it was so iconic to me as a kid. It defines American, racing and Roger in terms of the spotless, shiny look. To bring that back and for all of us to be able to put that on our shirts and race cars and whatever else was really neat. So we brought the art director back in to put the final touches on it and even the number 5 symbolizes the font we have used with Rick or Danny or the other guys. I am proud to be a part of this and have it displayed today.”

YOU HAVE A NEW FACE ATOP THE PIT BOX ON THE XFINITY SIDE. WHY WAS IT SO IMPORTANT TO PROMOTE FROM WITHIN IN NAMING BRIAN WILSON YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF? “It really goes along the same things that Roger mentioned. Growing from within and Brian is somebody that is no different than Todd and Paul and Jeremy and the guys that are sitting up here with me today. They have all gone through the ranks. Brian has been with us for 13 years. He has paid his dues in the engineering department in a lot of ways and went up through the XFINITY series with Paul and spent five years as a very successful Cup race engineer. Guys like that, if they don’t have room to grow they try to figure out where they can grow somewhere else. He was a guy we needed to keep in house and continue what we have done with those before him. We are looking forward to that continuity and how he has worked plenty with Brad before. We will start off the XFINITY series early with Brad to establish that and Greg Erwin will be there to continue to help him grow in that role. Greg has a lot of experience there and can help Brian from a leadership perspective but also as we run the 12 cars and things we do internally, it gives us a lot of depth.”

BRAD KESELOWSI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion –  NOT MANY DRIVERS CAN SAY THEY DID SOMETHING THAT NOBODY BEFORE THEM AT PENSKE OR AFTER THEN HAS ACCOMPLISHED. “First I want to say thank you for being here today and taking your time to come here and the Charlotte Motor Speedway group for putting on this event. It is always fun to get it started this way. We are going to have a tremendous year as you can tell already having a party the first night out. I think for me, looking at Team Penske and 50 years, I came in six years ago. This will be my seventh year. I came in year 43 and there are not many firsts left at that point. It is like being married 43 or 44 years, there aren’t many firsts left. Looking at it that way, to win the Sprint Cup championship and for that to be a first was something that I dreamed about but never really thought it would be that real of an opportunity. As it came together with Roger and the team and Paul Wolfe and everybody here at Penske, it is kind of a dream come true and a signature mark that I will always hang my hat on. Of course that doesn’t mean I am happy with just one championship. We have an incredible opportunity with the proper people and resources that the team provides and Mr. Penske provides to go out and win many more races and many more championships. We are committed to that today with an eye and respect towards the past. I think we have had that opportunity the last two or three years and came up a bit short which is of course disappointing but we are right there between the 2 and 22 car. If we are not beating down the door to get another championship we are at least knocking very loudly and we will continue to do so with the continuity that we’ve had for many years to come.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED — THERE ARE CHANGES WITH AERO, DASHBOARDS AND TIRES THIS YEAR. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE THERE? “I see a tremendous opportunity but maybe I have too much optimism in me. The two races we ran with the rules package, Darlington and Kentucky, were two of the best races for Team Penske between the 2 and 22, leading the most laps with our two cars. I think I sat on the pole at least one of them and had the cars to beat. That will be the rules package for the whole season and I am thrilled to death at that. It will put an increased level of importance on the driver to navigate cars that will just be harder to drive. I am looking forward to that challenge. I think it will be good for the sport and I am very much embracing the opportunity.”

RUSTY WALLACE, 37 time winner for Team Penske – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE SUCCESS OF THIS TEAM IN NASCAR? “Well, it was a very important day in my life when I got that phone call. A great friend of mine, Don Miller, facilitated it all. I was just a young short track racer in the Midwest and I kept driving by St. Louis, Missouri, seeing all these Cam2 trailers and I kept saying, ‘who is this guy?’ and it was Don Miller who worked for Roger Penske. I was doing a lot of winning in the Midwest and I was always on his doorstep asking to be introduced to Roger. He finally decided to give me a crack. My first time was Atlanta and I finished second in 1980 there and that was the start. It is a neat feeling knowing that it started back a long time ago but I was part of it in 1980 and able to drive for Roger and then firing the team back up in ’91. He has been a great mentor of mine, taught me a lot about driving, life, finance and a lot of things. I consider him a great friend. It means a lot to me. When I mention Rogers’s name, everybody perks up and pays attention. That feels good.”

DID YOU KNOW BACK IN 1980 THAT THIS WAS A TEAM YOU WANTED TO GO BACK AND DRIVE FOR SOMEDAY AND WHY? “Absolutely. Everybody in the world wanted to drive for Roger. For me to be able to drive the car in 1980, I thought that was my big break and that I had made it. But I gotta tell you, I went out in 1980 and had a great run, finished second and thought it wasn’t that hard. Then I go to my next race and get my rear end handed to me, then crash the next time and you have to remember at that point we had a stock car that was up in Redding, Pennsylvania, in front of all these Indy cars and back then, which I can understand now, thought it was kind of a disruption to the Indy Car team. Here was this kid from St. Louis coming in wrecking everything. So Roger sat me down and was really great to me and said, ‘You go back and get more experience and we will look at you getting back in a car down the road.’ I was disappointed but I went back to short track racing and won a ton of those and won the ASA championship and finally got a break to get back into Cup. I won the championship in 1989 and when that team started to go away I called Roger up. He and Walt used to always send me notes. After I won the championship I thought maybe I had a shot to get back with Roger. Roger didn’t really know that though. I called him up and said, ‘RP, I just won the championship, how is that?’ and I told him I thought we could get Miller Brewing Company to be a sponsor too. He said, ‘Kid, you have enough experience, let’s get this thing going.’ So with that, 1991 we kicked it off and we were back in racing and it was a great time, right to the time I quit driving the car in 2005. I consider everyone up here great friends of mine. I am forever grateful to them, no doubt about that.”

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion – YOU HAD MORE WINS THAN ANYONE LAST SEASON AND THE LAST TWO SEASONS, HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO STRIVE FOR MORE? “I guarantee you there is no complacency with this guy sitting on the end. I think all of us know that. We have lived through that. We want to win trophies for Roger and win a championship. Anything less than that we don’t consider it success. I am proud of what our team has done the last three years I have been at Team Penske and being able to improve each year. The first year we won one race, then five races and now six races. It gets harder as you keep going but we have to keep going. That is what keeps us driven. Todd Gordon is a great crew chief and we work really well together and keep building on that relationship. I think us sticking together and growing and doing the same things we have been doing but refining it to get better each and every area keeps the results coming that we have gotten and hopefully the big trophy at the end of the se3ason.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A PART OF THE RICH HISTORY OF THIS TEAM? “It is incredible. I look forward to the stories tonight. There are so many that I haven’t heard yet. Having only been here three seasons, one of the coolest things I got for Christmas, Team Penske made a book with all the wins. It has all the big victories over the last 50 years from the beginning all the way through. First off, I am a race fan from when I was little. I start looking at it as a race fan and all the cool pictures and how amazing it was. Then you get to the end and see your picture there with the Daytona 500 win and it all comes together in that one moment. To think you are involved with greatness across so many different aspects, not only in motorsports but within business. The more time I spend with Roger and Walt and learn so much about life has been so rewarding. I cherish that book and being involved with it in any way I possibly can, it has been very special for me.”

RICK MEARS, 4 time Indy 500 champion – WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ROGER AND TEAM PENSKE, THEY SAY IT IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE HISTORY OF MOTORSPORTS. WHY WAS THAT? “Really I think I was practicing the team concept growing up unknowingly. My brother and I grew up racing together. We would go home at night and pick each other’s brain. We both felt that if we could raise our level to another level above the other guys and all we had to do was deal with each other, it would be great. That is just the way we always approached it. I think that is basically what you do. You work together as a team. It is tough sometimes working with teammates but also he is your yardstick and that keeps you digging. There are times you can get complacent unknowingly but when you have a teammate that has the same thing you have and is putting numbers on the board, if he beats me with what I have then I am not doing my job. That makes you strive to do better all the time. I think growing up with my brother and practicing that team concept led to a natural fit when I came on board. I fell right into it really.”

YOU AND RUSTY ARE STILL THE FACES OF NASCAR AND INDY CAR FOR MANY. WAS THERE EVERY ANY THOUGHT OF SWAPPING RIDES? “No. You have to remember back then I couldn’t figure out what to do with this big steering wheel in front of me. I ran some short track growing up and a few years of the IROC series and I know every year when I went to the IROC series I would say they had to raise the seat or get a smaller steering wheel so I could see over it. You have to be a lot more animated in the stock car than the open wheel car. The open wheel car is my main interested. I really enjoyed running the stock cars but really open wheel was my main focus.”

RYAN BLANEY, No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang –  HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO FOSTER A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NEW CREW CHIEF AND THE NEW SEASON THIS YEAR? “I think they said it earlier and Tim said it best. They filter people through Penske so well through the ladder system and I have been fortunate enough to work with great crew chiefs on the XFINITY side like Jeremy Bullins who is my Cup crew chief now. I got to work with Greg Erwin last year and to be able to work with Brian Wilson who has been on Brad’s team for a long time is really good. I think he does a great job and I am excited to get some races in the XFINITY car. It has been really cool to be a part of those three championships and share the car with Brad and Joey. It has been a dream come true to be a part of this race team and be able to win a couple championships and races – I am just really glad to be here and forever thankful for the opportunity.”

YOU ARE SUCH A YOUNG DRIVER TO BE A PART OF SO MUCH HISTORY THE LAST TWO YEARS. “It means a lot. To be a part of such big historic milestones the last two years is incredible. To be a part of two historic race teams and get to know everyone is incredible. I still hear new stories from the Wood Brothers and the Penske side. I am a big historic race fan. I grew up in it. My dad raced ever since I can remember and grew up at the race track and that is all I cared about as a kid. How can you not be a fan of those two teams growing up and the drivers behind the wheel of those race cars on both the NASCAR and Indy Car side? You sit back and look at it and meet all these drivers tonight at the 50th anniversary party and it makes you appreciate where you are at and the opportunities given to you. It is really special to me being such a big race fan that I am. My family as well, knowing what they have done to get me here. It is really neat to be a part of such great race teams and have this alliance with the Wood Brothers and Penske this year and do the full time Cup deal will be really special to me and I am really looking forward to this year.