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March 11, 2014

Paul Wolfe

JENNIE LONG:テつ Good morning, everyone.テつ Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference.テつ We're joined by Paul Wolfe, crew chief of the No.2 Miller Lite Ford for Team Penske and driver Brad Keselowski.テつ Paul led the No.2 team to its first win of the season last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and they head to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend where they have two Sprint Cup Series wins under their belt.
Paul, congratulations on your win last weekend.テつ With the win, the No.2 team has likely earned a spot in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.テつ Talk a little bit about the significance of that and how it will affect your strategy moving forward.
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Well, obviously it was a huge win for us for a lot of different reasons.テつ One, like you mentioned, of pretty much getting us locked into the Chase.テつ Obviously it's not a guarantee if multiple cars get a bunch of wins, but we feel good about that, and I think it was a good momentum builder for this team and kind of what we needed to get this season started off right.
Obviously 2013 didn't go the way we hoped, not even having a shot to defend our title.テつ I think this gets everyone excited and shows that we're back on track to where we want to be and will allow us to explore some more things.テつ Obviously there's been a lot of change this year with the new rules package, and we've put a lot of work into that and trying to understand what that meant, and until here over the last few weeks we didn't really know how we were going to stack up.
So far we're pleased with where we're at but know there's still a lot of evolving to do with this new package, and our goal now is to continue to push hard and try to stay on top of it and continue to build as we get towards the end of the season and Chase time.

Q.テつ Paul, I wanted to ask you some stuff about qualifying.テつ There's been some kind of suggestions floating around, at least from fans, about could you just‑‑ could they make a rule that says you can't put tape on the front of the car, or could they just say you can't drive around to cool the engine?テつ What would be the impact?テつ Are those even feasible solutions to the issue?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Well, I think maybe saying we can't run any tape, I don't know that that would be a great choice.テつ But I don't know, we've talked through it as a group of trying to understand if any type of rules would come out, how would guys get around it, I guess, and policing some of these things would be tough.テつ But I don't know how you could police the not going out and cooling down.テつ That would be tough to do because technically you could, like you said, take some tape off and go out there.テつ At what speed are they going to regulate whether you're cooling down or not?テつ I think some of those things are hard to police.
I think guys are concerned about maybe the safety aspect of the cars obviously running around slow on the racetrack while others are at speed.テつ I know at this point from what I've heard that's probably the biggest concern.テつ I know guys would like to see cool‑down machines being able to be used.テつ That just introduces a whole 'nother thing when you start bringing cool‑down machines out to pit road.
I don't know, it's a tough spot.テつ I guess for myself and for our team at this point, we're just trying to be able to react to any type of change that there is and do the best job, and that's kind of where we're at at this point.テつ As far as the 2 car over the last two weeks, there's only one instance really where we needed to go out and cool down.テつ I think it's those guys that are right on the edge that need to make multiple runs.
I think as we go to different tracks with different tires and things like that, it's going to‑‑ it's all going to continue to evolve. テつNow, the first two weeks of it, we've been at tracks where the tire, where a scuffed tire potentially has more speed than a sticker.テつ Obviously as we get to tracks like a Texas or an Atlanta, I don't even think running a second time is an option to pick up speed.テつ So that'll change the dynamics, as well.
From the 2 car team, we're just trying to continue to understand all those dynamics, and as we get to different tracks with different characteristics, just trying to stay on top of it and continue to have strong efforts like we have had the last two weeks.

Q.テつ Is there enough room at Bristol for people to drive around to cool down their cars, or with it being such a short track will it not be as much of an issue?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Yeah, it's going to be a tough one.テつ I think the cooling will be obviously a little bit better this week just from the fact that it's 15‑second laps.テつ The engine temps won't get quite as high.テつ But yeah, trying to go out and cool down at Bristol, yeah, that could be a potential issue.テつ There's really no room to get out of the way, unless you're just running around on the flat part there on the apron.
Yeah, it'll be interesting.テつ Like I said, every week is bringing a new challenge, different style of racetrack and tire changes that up some, and like I said, we've just got to prepare for the best.
Temps I don't think will be as big of an issue, but there's still an issue there.

Q.テつ I was kind of wondering, I heard Jimmie Johnson this week say that they were kind of behind on the 2014 rules package where they ran so hard last year trying to win a championship.テつ You guys seem to have the 2014 rules package figured out pretty well with qualifying and the win Sunday.テつ What has allowed you guys to get off the ground running so much quicker than some of the other teams trying to figure out this new rules package?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ I don't know that I can necessarily pick out one thing.テつ I think it's all about the people and the group of guys we've got working on it, from our test team with Kevin Buskirk and that group to the engineers on both of the race teams to all the support we have back here at the shop.
I don't think any of us really knew what the rules were going to be until December, so I don't know that us not running for a championship really gave us any type of an advantage because we didn't have parts and pieces and know what the final rules were going to be until, some of them not until January.
But it's just doing the best job we can trying to use the resources and tools we have, and I feel like as a group we've done a decent job at it.テつ But the challenge now is continuing to evolve from what we've started here and continue to try to make gains and stay ahead because the way it works in our garage, it's very‑‑ everyone sees what other teams are doing, and some of the components that were on our car when we won last week will be on display at Bristol this weekend, and over time everyone in the Cup garage is smart enough to‑‑ if you are struggling to maybe pay attention to what's going on around you, and if you're not continuing to move forward with say what we ran last week at Vegas, if we continue to sit on that, we'll surely fall behind in a hurry.

Q.テつ Paul, Brad is certainly no stranger to winning, and had the rules been changed last year you guys might have had a better chance.テつ But my question is do you feel like the new delineations, the new qualifying and everything else, it kind of fits Brad's driving style, kind of fits what your team puts together for him?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ I wouldn't disagree that the new qualifying format has directionally maybe helped the 2 team.テつ Qualifying for us if you look at our track record over the last three years is really not one of our strong suits, but with that being said, anything that maybe has to do with strategy or things like that we tend to have done really well with.テつ This has definitely opened that up.テつ It's not necessarily all about just putting together that one‑lap speed, it's putting together multiple runs and understanding how to make changes as you go from one round to the next round.テつ We like the challenge of that, and that's been something that is different than what qualifying has been in the past.
So we'll see.テつ It's still early on, and like I said, obviously so far it's been really good to us, and hopefully we can continue that trend as we go later on into the year.

Q.テつ With all the changes, do you think that the bond between driver and crew chief is even more important now?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Well, I mean, absolutely.テつ The communication part and understanding what we need to do, what changes we need to make, that's obviously very important to qualifying now, where in the past you practice and you put together what you think is your best package and you go run one lap, and it is what it is, where now if you go out and make a run, even if you're off a little bit, you still have opportunity to continue to work on your car and try to better your speed.
From that standpoint I think communicating well, and the short segments of breaks we have there is very important in understanding what changes the driver needs.テつ So I think that's definitely helped us.

Q.テつ I just wanted to ask, from everything we understand that you can submit new parts and pieces until March 31 and then there's kind of a moratorium for at least a couple months.テつ I'm curious, especially after the test at Vegas, are you guys kind of scrambling right now to get new parts kind of designed and submitted before that end of March deadline?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Yeah, it's definitely a challenge because you think about your season and preparing for a Chase and a championship run, and in the past obviously you've pretty much been able to develop all year leading right up to the Chase, and for that matter at times coming up with things do you work the Chase, as we've done in the past, is really no longer an option, I guess, unless it's really a safety item.
So it's definitely been a challenge, and our engineering group has worked really hard to try to speed up that process a little bit, and we've continued to, over the last few weeks, as we've started to run each weekend, understand our setups and different things that we'd like to change moving forward.テつ We're definitely pushing as hard as we can and trying to get all those out on the table as the deadline is just around the corner.
It's definitely been different, and like anything in the sport, we go out there and race on Sunday, but all the other aspects leading up to it you have to treat as a race, as well, because at the end of the day it's going to have an outcome on your performance on Sunday.

Q.テつ And how does that impact as well as I would guess your win will impact kind of your decision on whether you hold tests until later in the year or not?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Well, that's definitely‑‑ that's big, to get that win now, because you're right, it allows us to hold those tests until later in the season.
Now, obviously we still have the 22 car that we need to see get a win here real early.テつ We work really close as teammates here, as I've said in some interviews post‑race, so it's important for us to do all we can to help get that car in the Chase, as well.
If it comes down to a point where they're not in yet and we need to go test somewhere that could possibly help them get in, then as a team that's what we'll do.テつ But otherwise, yes, we would definitely save these tests until later in the season as we continue to develop these setups and pick out the tracks that we think are going to be critical to being strong in the Chase and being able to continue to advance through the different cutoffs through those 10 races.

Q.テつ You know, Paul, crew chiefs, a lot of people don't understand, but they have to be taking a lot of gambles.テつ You've always been known as an aggressive crew chief.テつ Because of the way the season has started so nicely, does that mean you have a chance to be more aggressive this year?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Well, I think you're right.テつ As you look back at history, and as we started to have some success in 2011 and the way we did that, some of those races weren't necessarily all‑out speed, but like you said, different strategies and things we did on pit road that were maybe not the norm in the past.テつ We were able to have a lot of success that way.
So coming into this season, you know, Brad and I sat down and talked through different strategies and things we wanted to change or do different this year, and one of the things we told each other was let's get back to being aggressive; don't be afraid to take chances, and try to get back to where we've been in the past.
I feel like that was some of what we showed over the first couple weeks here, and now that we've got that win and gets us pretty much real close to being locked into the Chase that now that maybe opens that door even a little bit more.テつ You know, I think an example of that was probably the 88 car this week.テつ They knew they were short on fuel, but the risk versus reward for them right at that point in time was‑‑ it was worth the chance.
I guess you could see ourselves being in similar situations in maybe some of the races coming, and yeah, we're definitely not afraid to be aggressive.テつ Brad is‑‑ we're on the same page when it comes to that, and that's the important part of calling a race and doing some different strategies is that this is stuff that we talk about ahead of time is somewhat as planned as it could be in understanding different scenarios and how they play out and how we would react to them.
So as the race is unfolding, it allows us to make those decisions.テつ There's a difference between being maybe a calculated risk and just totally not understanding the flow of a race or how it's going.テつ I'd like to feel like we've‑‑ to be successful on different strategies, you kind of have to understand how the race is playing out and how you feel it might unfold, as well, because we like to take risks and do things different, but at the same time there's definitely a lot of thought that's gone into those decisions.

Q.テつ By the way, how is that first‑born new baby doing?
PAUL WOLFE:テつ He's doing great.テつ It's definitely an exciting time in my and my wife's life, and we're trying to take it all in and enjoy the experience for sure.
JENNIE LONG:テつ That's all the time we have today.テつ Paul, thanks for joining us, and good luck this weekend at Bristol.
PAUL WOLFE:テつ Absolutely, thank you.

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