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August 22, 2015

Helio Castroneves

Simon Pagenaud


THE MODERATOR: We'll begin our press conference with the front row. We'll start with the second-place starter in tomorrow's race, Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske.
Simon, you held the top spot for quite a bit of the session, then Helio got you towards the end. Talk about your run today.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It was a good run. This morning we did a good job on the Penske Truck Rental car, understanding how it's going to work in traffic and during the race. Quite challenging now is the rear bumper filled up. It makes it very difficult in traffic.
Yeah, the car was great. It was an interesting run. We had a bit of a scrub in turn one, a bit of a lift. We missed the balance there a little bit, but then the car was really fast overall. Just had too much degradation on the second lap to hold on to it.
Super proud of the guys and Team Penske, 1-2-3. Good job for the team on the car preparation.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Simon.

Q. Now that you have the first three positions, will Roger give you the orders to keep everybody behind you when Juan gets near the end?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, you know, I don't know. I don't think so. You'd have to ask Roger the question. Usually there's no team order at Team Penske. The thing is, we're all the same, we're working as a team. At this point in the championship, I've got nothing to gain, nothing to lose.
For us, if Montoya is not winning the race, it's better that we go ahead and try to take points away from Rahal and Dixon, for example.
It's going to be a long race tomorrow, a lot is going to happen. If I can do anything to help Montoya, I will for sure, but that's from my own heart.

Q. Simon, Sage Karam was here and said that turn three is tricky. What is your feeling? Is this a key position for the race?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's the tricky triangle. Everything is tricky here.
Actually, this morning turn three was difficult because the front was sliding a lot. Turn one was great. Then this afternoon, it was the opposite. We don't know why yet. We need to understand what changed the track so much so we can be ready for tomorrow.
I think the biggest thing is obviously the balance difference you have. Everybody has it between turn one and turn three. That's what can really handicap you in the race. We need to find a way to reduce the delta as much as possible.

Q. Charlie Kimball said he made a small adjustment just before he crashed. How do you make those adjustments without overdoing it?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's pure judgment. Your butt is telling you basically what to do (laughter).
Obviously what was happening, all of us, looking at the onboards, we all had quite a bit of understeer in turn one, which was very different to this morning. Natural adjustment is to try to compensate that for the next few corners. Turn three was the opposite where the car was turning a lot.
I guess depends how much on the edge you are. You could overstep, overdo it, I would say. But, yeah, I mean, here you really have to change every lap, corners to corners, depending on what balance you want to have in each corner.
It's a bit of a guess, anticipation, from what you got from the lap before, then you're going to guess for the next lap. It's certainly a mind game.

Q. Simon, here at the superspeedway of Pocono, is this any comparison or similar to Indianapolis with the aero kit versus Texas versus Auto Club Speedway? The bumper guards are filled in. Is it similar to those other tracks?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, it's similar to Indy, for sure. The difference is where the bumper filled up now the back, the cars are a lot more draggy than they were at Indy. The air is very disturbed behind someone. It's actually difficult to follow close.
Whereas in Indy, as you could see, we were sometimes on top of each other in the corners because the air was really clean out of the car in front of you. You could actually follow someone close.
Now the game has changed since Texas because we obviously are running little downforce, similar to Indy, but we can't follow as close. It might be a different race than you've seen in Indy.
Choosing your downforce level is going to be key. I believe it's going to be a different thinking process than it was for Indy because of that reason.

Q. What about on the tires over a full stint? I don't know if you got a chance to run a full stint in practice, but if you did, can you talk about how that affects the car.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It was pretty consistent this morning, although the temperature was low. That could have been one of the reasons. I guess tonight we'll have a better understanding. We'll do more long runs and try to fill up the car with fuel to see how it's going to behave tomorrow.
Track temp and outside temperatures played such a big role this year with the aero kits. Obviously it's more efficient, but it's also more sensitive than it used to be. It's going to be interesting to see what it does tonight.
Honestly at this point I can't really say. I mean, I didn't have any tire degradation. I had some front tire degradation, but very normal.

Q. With this being the second to last race of your season, how would you rate your season, how you feel you've done?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Listen, it's been an interesting season. First of all, quite a bit of changes in my life. Moved to North Carolina to be near Team Penske, new team. I'd been with Schmidt for three years. We built a team around me. I came over here and it was a brand-new forth car that we built at Team Penske around me.
This year, I didn't expect it to be exactly like that, to be honest. I thought it would be a little easier to, I would say, get going as a team. But that was just me being candid, I think.
Now I think things are going really well. I think everybody's gelling. Everybody is understanding really well what we need, when we need it. You almost don't need to talk anymore. People understand. That's what you want as a team. It's like when you start a new job, I always say that. Now it's really starting to gel.
The strategies with the engineers, me with the mechanics, all the mechanics together, crew chief with his mechanics. It's fun. It's really fun now.
I think we've built something good. One of the things I can't wait to do is go testing this winter because one of the things that I don't feel like I have a clear understanding of is every racetrack what the aero kit does compared to the previous one. That's something I really want to lean on and understand, learn, I would say, this winter. That's what we're going to focus on, understanding the toolbox.
Not the results I wanted, to go straight to the point. But overall I see a lot of potential, and that makes me feel very confident for next year.

Q. How about being around Rick Mears, how much of a help has that been?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's great. Rick is a fantastic person. As a driver, he's probably one of the best we've ever seen. He's a fantastic guy. He has no ego. Happy to help. Always there for you anytime.
We have very similar, I would say, attitude or approach to racing. It's fun to talk to him. We're becoming very close. I enjoy talking to him. It's incredible. It's like he's still driving. He still has the thinking. He still thinks about it every day, so it's pretty cool.

Q. You're all in one shop, Keselowski, Logano. Have you had a chance to talk to them?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I went to the Brickyard this year to see that, exactly that, spend a weekend with them, see how was their world. Obviously they're the oval master. I wanted to see how they tackle their weekend, how the communication goes within the team. Is it different to what we do?
It was very interesting actually. I had a great time. My good friend is Joey Logano, Brad and Ryan as well. It was a good time to be a spectator, as well.

Q. You've been able to qualify well all season. Obviously you did it again today. Your race finishes aren't as good. How important is it going to be to finish the deal on Sunday?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, yeah, I mean, like you say, qualifying is two laps. There's not much to it. Obviously there's balance, you want to balance your car, but there's a lot less factors in play, right?
The race, there's strategy, so many pit stops, especially a 500-mile race. Obviously we have a fast car. It's obvious we've had a fast car all year. Now we need to put it all together as a team.
I feel like it's getting there. We're definitely getting to that point. But just like I explained earlier, it's a process when you build a new team. Like I said, it's a four-car team. It's a brand-new team at Team Penske.
When you build, it's a process that takes a little bit of time. You have to be patient and accept it and deal with it. One of the things that we've done is work really hard at having good relationships going with everybody. So far it's really nice.
THE MODERATOR: Simon, thanks for your time.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: What did you do?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Same thing you did.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I didn't life. In a good way. Don't say that. The thing is, if it wasn't because of him, I wouldn't be sitting here in the pole position because of the setup. I have to pay a compliment for this guy.
It was a good day. It was a solid run, man. I could not believe it, especially with the delay. Good thing Charlie is okay. When you start building up anxiety with the wind picking up, you don't know what's going to happen, you're like, Oh, boy, let's get going.
Thankfully everybody did an excellent job fixing the track and we were able to continue qualifying.
With that, the car was unbelievable, flawless. Basically like I said, didn't lift, just keep going.
THE MODERATOR: This is the fourth pole of the season for Helio, his 45th all-time pole. Talk a bit about your place in history there, moving up on the all-time list again.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, well, it's great. I'm not done yet. I want to keep going. I am full of energy. I still love sport, want to keep having fun. Records and laps and victories and all the things like that, it's come natural when you do your homework. Right now it's paying off.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Helio.

Q. Helio, can you maybe compare the aero kit to last year's?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The track changed a lot in terms of getting grip. Remember, 70% of the downforce creates from the front wing. Sometimes that's a tough thing when you run behind someone, you lose basically a lot of downforce.
In the end of the day, it's all about balance. I felt my car was really good. So compared to last year, this year was better than last year. The car was really well-balanced. Speed and things like that, we might have lost a little bit because of the panel we add on the rear bumper. That probably lost two miles an hour.
But it's the same for everyone. With that, you just got to see this afternoon practice session. At this point I'm very glad starting in clean air.

Q. You knew in order to win the championship, the guys in front of you were going to have to have some problems. Just so happened one of the guys that had problems is your teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya. I suppose you're not heartbroken to see him starting so far back.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's so unpredictable at this point, the way the season it going, some of the races, strategy and things like that are becoming completely out there. I wouldn't even count on that. Qualifying is one thing. 500 miles is another thing. It's a three-hour race. A lot of things can happen.
Remember, the guy that started in the back won the Indy 500 coming from the back. Just to remind your memory, if you don't remember that.

Q. You said you wanted to give credit to Simon for sharing his setup. Can you talk a little bit about it. Did you have something different?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was all of them. Obviously Simon is part of the team. It was him, it was Will, Juan Pablo as well. All three of my teammates were able to share information just before qualifying, my turn came up.
Believe it or not, it's small details, but it's enough details for you to go out there and be confident and push to the limit. I cannot tell you what it is, but trust me, it was important (laughter).

Q. I know it's not your first time on the track, but how do you feel about Pocono?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's a great place. Everyone from the track did a phenomenal job on fixing. I heard there was a bump in turn two. Right now I don't feel any difference from last year to this year. So they did a great job fixing that.
Plus, again, with the accident we had in the qualifying, fixing the track very quick, it's another plus for the track. It's a beautiful sight. If you see everything around, it's just so beautiful. Plus I feel that the fans really enjoy having the Verizon IndyCar Series here. It's great to have this kind of environment.

Q. With two races left, a championship in grasp, what does that feel like? What is the importance to you? Sort of rate your season, if you will, to this point.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's extremely important for us. Something that I still don't have it. It's extremely important.
My season has been very consistent. Some of the places we should have won, some of the places maybe we took advantage of the opportunity. When you put it all together, it's been consistent. We got to win one race. Hopefully this will be the one, for the chase for the last one.
Since it's a double points last race, it's extremely important having an opportunity to go to the last race in a position to win.

Q. Every now and then when you talk to the NASCAR drivers, some of them say they treat this like a road course. Are you able to shift on this track the way they do?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, for us it's different. For us it's still an oval type. We shift in the corners here, but we also shift in some of the places like Fontana, Texas, Milwaukee.
The speed we achieve, it's so big. Like I said, it's extremely hard to pass. The only thing is, once you lift, you in trouble. You got to try to stay on it. Turn one is the toughest one. This year, I think the aero kit might help turn one and turn three become the toughest part of the place.
It's kept changing. Like I said, we still have one more practice. I'm looking forward to this practice.

Q. Last two years this race has been defined by fuel strategy. Do you expect tomorrow's race to play out similarly?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. It's interesting to find out who is going to be able to take that gamble sometimes. You still got to have a fast car. But in the end of the day, it's 500 miles. Seems like the Firestone tires keep getting better, which helps in terms of lap times. But the good news is I have the best guy in the business, which is Roger Penske, on the strategy. I will leave it up to him. I'll just shut up and drive.

Q. We've asked this question of Simon. You're in a different situation, fifth in the points.

Q. Fourth in the points. Sorry.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Don't put me down. I work hard to be in the fourth position (laughter).

Q. What about within the team, is it every man for themselves? It's wide open with Sonoma having double points.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Listen, it's a team. It's Team Penske. We want to bring this championship for Team Penske no matter what.
In the end of the day, the team has individuals. We all want to give this to Captain Roger Penske. Each number on that car means a lot to give him the championship.
Today is a perfect example what happens. It was a team effort. We got 1-2-3 on the grid because of that, because of the way we've been working for the entire year, and because of the philosophy we have inside the team.
At this point we want to make sure we have the best opportunity as possible, all three of us. Simon unfortunately with the season he's having, it might be a little bit different, but the point is no question we want to have all three cars in that position.
In the end of the day, we still got to remember, we got to bring this championship for Team Penske.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, thank you. Congratulations. Good luck in practice.

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