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November 2, 2020

Paul Wolfe

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. We know it's a busy Monday. We appreciate you spending a few minutes with us, Paul.
Just give us your thoughts as you head into the championship week here headed to Phoenix later this week.
PAUL WOLFE: Well, yeah, obviously we've had a couple weeks to think about it, which I guess is different than some. It's probably a little different feeling for me. I've had some time to think through it a little bit.
Obviously it's a great accomplishment for our team, being our first year together with Joey, whatnot, all that's gone on this year with how we've had to go about racing. To still be able to have a shot for the championship means a lot.
We're excited and feel like our team is in a great spot to contend for this thing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to questions.

Q. You're the only crew chief in the finals with a championship. You've got the only driver with a championship, even though you didn't do it together in this format. Are you at any sort of advantage with this experience?
PAUL WOLFE: The way things have turned out this year, the way this format is any more, it's hard to say anyone has an advantage honestly. I don't feel that way going into it.
I feel like we have an advantage because we won at Kansas, like I said, have had maybe a little more time to put thoughts into how do we want to approach the race, things like that.
With that being said, you look at the cars we're racing against at Phoenix, and to me it's really hard to say there's one guy that stands out that's the favorite honestly. I think all the teams are obviously very good, have run very good at Phoenix earlier this year.

Q. Yesterday the 9 escaped a penalty with the jackman. Were you aware of that rule? Is that something you know about?
PAUL WOLFE: Yes, we do. That was a close one. That jackman definitely responded well to that. That was very close.
Yeah, any time a guy loses balance, I don't know if he lost his balance or jumped too early, it's basically just a reset, from what we've been told. As long as you get off of pit road, back to the wall, it kind of resets. It was questionable whether or not he was all the way back up on the wall, but he definitely made a great effort.
I guess NASCAR felt okay about it. So, yeah, that was not a surprise at all.

Q. Fans are a little bit sad about the 20 not passing the 11 there. What is the responsibility of teammates in that situation?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I mean, I think everyone knows the big picture, kind of what's going on throughout the race. We all are individuals as we're out on the racetrack, but we all work under the same roof, have the same goals. We're there to help each other.
I think as long as everyone is being respectful in how they race one another, I don't think that's anything out of the norm for any team out there with what's on the line with all of that.
At least the way it works here at Penske, we're all one team, as Roger tells us. If one team wins, we all win. We all work together to help each other.
I wouldn't expect a whole lot different here. I mean, we race hard, but we race respectful and know what's on the line, trying to help the end goal. That's just getting a Team Penske car to win a championship.

Q. What is the plan this weekend in terms of communication, working together with two Penske cars racing for the title?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I think as we get down to this last race, maybe it's a little bit different than the races leading up to getting to here. I think as we prepare here at the shop this week, as we've been preparing our two cars, assuming the 2 was going to make it in after yesterday's race, we're always working together.
The 2 and the 22 will have identical equipment when we line up on Sunday at Phoenix. We've all got the same parts and pieces, tools to work with. Jeremy and I and everyone within Team Penske has continued to work together to make both cars as strong as possible.
Then once the green flag flies, we kind of have to run our own race. Now, we'll continue to share information during the race. Jeremy knows of any changes I'm going to do on pit stops and vice versa. We'll continue to share that information to ultimately help both of us.
There's no guarantees of who's going to be in position to ultimately take it. Maybe we'll be racing each other for it in the closing laps.
We know the 9 and the 11 are strong. Our best shot, like I said, bringing the title back to Team Penske is us continuing to communicate not only this week in the shop but as the race is going on. We'll continue to do that.

Q. Is it a little weird, how does it feel to be racing for the championship against a driver that you worked with for a long time in Brad?
PAUL WOLFE: It's different. I don't know if I put a lot of thought into it. I've been focusing so much on what I need to do for Joey and this team. Yeah, I think it's great. I can still remember some of the conversations Brad and I had after the switch happened before the season started.
I think it's exciting to see we've both been able to make changes and still find ourselves racing for a championship within the same company. I think it just shows the strengths of Team Penske, how well we all work together. We've been able to accomplish the goal getting a couple cars to have a shot.
When there's four cars in it, you got 50% of them, your odds go up quite a bit, right?

Q. There's been a lot made about the rules package used at Phoenix, how maybe that benefits you guys. What is it with this aero package that it suits you guys, what you've been able to do this year?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I think as we came into this season, going back to the lower downforce stuff, we were excited, anticipating good things out of the Mustang. It was our first opportunity to run the Mustang in this configuration, which is really what this car was designed around when Ford was designing this car. We were still under the low downforce package. That's what the focus was.
Then when the rules changed in 2019, we really never got to see the strengths of it. I think hats off to Ford, congratulations on the manufacturers championship to those guys. Just goes to show that all the work that was put into designing this really paid off when we got to see the low downforce configuration.
I think history in general, we've been fairly strong on short tracks, kind of our approach and things we've done have worked well. All the Penske cars have been fast at all the short tracks. Brad has been pretty dominant at a couple of those races.
We have a lot of confidence going to Phoenix. At this point in the season I can't think of a better place to go to take a shot at this championship than Phoenix.

Q. I know all the teams are good, all the drivers are good. You guys are the elite. We have a good, strong group of four. How much would you say at Phoenix it will be car and who has the machine for it versus driver and decisions on pit road?
PAUL WOLFE: That's a great question. It's going to take all of it. I got a lot of questions after we won Kansas, trying to see who's going to make it to Phoenix. Who would you rather race against?
Everyone's good. It's so hard to say. The 9 is strong. They were strong in the first race. We raced them a lot. The 4 obviously didn't make it, but he's tough. The 11. The 2 we know has been dominant. It's going to take everything because everyone is so competitive and so close that it's going to take all of that.
Pit road, the car is going to have to be right, the driver is not going to be able to make mistakes. It's going to be intense. It's going to come down to the total execution.
As we see so many times, very seldom is it the fastest car on the racetrack that ends up winning these things. I think we'll all be fast. That's where I feel it will just come down to the execution on pit road and those types of things.

Q. You're a racer so I know you would say you wanted to race Kevin Harvick or whoever for the championship. He didn't make it in. As a competitor, is it a relief that Kevin Harvick, even though you wouldn't want that, is not a guy you're going to have to race at Phoenix for the championship?
PAUL WOLFE: I think kind of like I said before, I don't know that it changes a whole lot. Like if I was picking between my teammate and the 4, it's hard to argue that Brad hasn't been stronger on short tracks.
For me, it didn't really matter. I know all these cars that are in it are strong. The 11 is capable. Is running as good as any of them. The 4 is capable as any one of them. Too bad for the 4. They had a strong season going.
I don't think that changes anything for us. I don't feel this is going to be any easier now that the 4 is not in it because the 2 and the 11 are just as strong when they put it all together.

Q. Phoenix with the shorter race, how does that impact strategy? As a crew chief if you're going to make a call because there should be fewer opportunities to pit, how committed do you have to be to doing things? How tough is it to make a pit call with maybe not having as many opportunities to make up if it's a mistake?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, I think that's one piece for sure. That could be a little bit different for all of us this year in the championship race versus the past at Miami. I think Miami was a noĂ¢â‚¬â€˜brainer. Tires were very important. There was no question if a caution came out, guys were coming for tires, right?
This week at Phoenix, based off of race one, it's a different Phoenix than what we've seen in the past with the new tire, obviously going back to the lower downforce, the PJ1 aspect of how the track's wider. There's more opportunities to pass. The dirty air, not so much single file as maybe what we've been used to at Phoenix prior to this year.
There's still going to be opportunity I think in this race where we may get off on different strategies depending on how the cautions fall.
Kind of to the question earlier, that's where it's going to take everything being perfect to win this race and championship. Not only having the fast car, the driver doing his part, but getting that strategy right if the cautions fall a certain way. I think we could see it play out differently.
We kind of saw that in the spring race. There was a couple cycles there where the 2 had stayed out and us and the 4 pitted. It kind of got us off on different tire strategies. There's definitely potential for that. It's going to make it very challenging from that aspect this Sunday.

Q. For the most part you've raced against these other crew chiefs for many years. Gabehart may be different because he hasn't been in Cup as long. As any competitor, while you're focused on yourself, you're studying what the competition is doing. Is there something in particular that you picked up from the other crew chiefs in the years of competing or in Jeremy's case working with him?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, I think everyone has a little bit different style in how they're going to approach the weekend. I guess I kind of look at it more as I feel like I know where our strengths are as a team, try to stay focused on that.
I think if we play to our strengths, I feel like we're strong enough to beat those guys. I'm not going to go into a bunch of details what I think how those guys run their team. I feel like the biggest thing for us is to make sure we play off our strengths. I think if we do that, we can beat these guys.
THE MODERATOR: Paul, we appreciate your time. Best of luck this weekend in Phoenix.
PAUL WOLFE: All right, guys. Thanks. I appreciate it.

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