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September 2, 2018

Walter Czarnecki

Paul Wolfe

Darlington, South Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by two members of our race winning team. We have crew chief Paul Wolfe and vice‑chairman of Team Penske, Walter Czarnecki. Congratulations, gentlemen.

Q. Paul, everyone was talking about that final pit stop. What was going through your head knowing how close it was and how that was likely going to end up determining the race?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, it was kind of an up‑and‑down night on pit road. We had some good stops. We had some where we lost positions. But honestly, we were just hoping to have a good stop and maintain where we were at. We had a‑‑ it's a long race, and we ran top 5 most all night there. It was just really‑‑ I was hoping to at least maintain, and when the guys got us off pit road first, I was like, all right, we've got a shot at this now. I knew we were fast enough, if we had the clean air then likely we would go on our way, and that's exactly what happened.
Just can't say enough about the pit crew on the Miller Lite team. We've had an up‑and‑down year on pit road. We continue to try to work on that and be better. We did some different things tonight, and we're still learning, but it's a good bit of confidence for those guys and going into the playoffs here.

Q. Paul, besides playoff points, what's the difference going into the playoffs having won a race in the regular season versus not having won?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, it's been a tough year. Usually we've won a race by now, and you start to feel that season coming to an end, and yeah, we were kind of locked into the playoffs on points, but you know, most of us that I'm aware of on this team are here to win races. That's why we do this. That's why we get up every day and go to work is to win races, whether we're in the playoffs or not. It's all about winning races and contending for a championship.
Couldn't come at a better time, right before the playoffs. Never hurts. Gets everyone's confidence up to know that we can do this and get back to Victory Lane. I'm not going to say we were the best car tonight, but we were a top 5 car, and like I told Brad before the race started, let's work on this all night, and we'll put ourselves in position at the end. That's exactly what we did. The pit crew executed, and we put ourselves in position, and Brad did his job on the restart, which was great, and hats off to everyone at Team Penske.
Like I said, it's been a tough year for us. We don't have a lot of wins, but everyone continues to work, and I think those results showed tonight.

Q. Paul, how has this year challenged you compared to other years, and for a team that's expected to win and you're seeing another Ford car dominate a lot of times, how have you guys pushed forward or kept things together without it breaking you apart?
PAUL WOLFE: I think one of the things that helps is the chemistry between the core group on this team. We've been together for a long time. We've been through a lot of ups and downs, and I think we all have a lot of confidence in one another. Yeah, the Fords have been strong all year. The Stewart‑Haas cars have been good, and we know we've been behind a little bit, but you've got to take the positives out of every weekend and try to build off of those and learn where you can. We've still got work to do. We know that. But I think tonight was a good confidence booster, like I said, and gave everyone a little motivation here as we get ready to go into the playoffs here in a couple weeks.

Q. Paul, I walked by the pits, and I saw that you guys had at least one set, maybe another, of tires. We had heard tire issues, wear, all weekend. This was a gritty track, etcetera. Did y'all try any strategies, or y'all were okay?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, the way we had‑‑ we had a lot of longer runs at the beginning of the race, and it kind of set us up where I still don't know exactly, but I believe we still had three sets laying towards the end. We didn't have a lot of quick cautions where we'd burn up tires until the very end there where we'd only run four or five laps and we got the caution, but we had run such long runs early in the race that tires really never became anything in the strategy as maybe we've seen in the past. We had plenty of tires.

Q. Paul, you mentioned a few moments ago that you did something different tonight on pit road with the pit crew. Can you explain what that was maybe?
PAUL WOLFE: I mean, I think with one less guy on pit road this year, we've seen a lot of different styles or choreography from different teams, and there's a few different ways to do it, and I think you've got to look at the strengths and weaknesses of all your guys going over the wall now and decide how you want to make your plays there.
If you watch close enough, you'd probably see a difference, but I'm not going to talk about it a whole lot.

Q. You're always kind of the contrarian when it comes to pit strategy. You were working out some short pits, then you'd do one where you kind of ran with Larson, and then you had that lucky break where it was you and only two other guys on the lead lap. Can you talk about that a little bit?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, we‑‑ the engineers that work with me, we try to do the best we can at taking all the information we have and trying to make the best decisions we can. Sometimes it's always going to be a little bit of a gamble, but you try to be smart about it. The scenario at the end, we felt like stopping one less time than some of those guys did was going to be the way to go. It's less chance of the caution coming out and getting behind like it potentially did for some of those guys that pitted an extra time.
Yeah, sometimes you're on the winning side of that, sometimes you're on the losing, but just try to make the best decisions we can with all the information we have, and it seemed to work out all right for us tonight.

Q. Walt, you've been around this with Roger about as long as there's been a Team Penske, and it had been a long, long, long time since a Penske car had gone to Victory Lane here at Darlington. For the organization, what does a night like this, to break back through, one‑two finish, and Brad carrying Rusty's colors no less, what does that mean to the organization?
WALTER CZARNECKI: Yeah, it's a special night for Team Penske. First of all, for Brad to get his first one of the year, we knew we had good cars here tonight. I wasn't really expecting one‑two. I felt, as Paul said, we probably had some top 5 cars. So then to finish one‑two and then to do it at the Southern 500, to your point, we won here in 1975 in the Coca‑Cola Matador with Bobby Allison. So it's been a long dry spell. It's really huge for the organization.
Some of you may know that we're approaching our 500th overall win, and this was win No.498. This would have been a great spot to get No.500. But I can tell you I've been in touch with Roger. He was in Portland today for the IndyCar race, was in transit back, and he's about as excited as he can be. So as we approach that. But to win here tonight after 43 years is really special. Thank you.

Q. To kind of follow up on that, because probably most people in here don't even remember the American Motors Matador that you won with with Bobby Allison here, did you kind of look at Darlington as maybe your achilles heel, but with what Paul said, it being a difficult season this year, you've gotten past this one now, and how you think that will affect the team, as well?
WALTER CZARNECKI: I saw it with both‑‑ I saw it with all three of our teams here after the race. It was just an uplifting experience with everybody. To have that momentum going into Indianapolis, which is also a special race for us, and then the playoffs beginning, I think it's really been a boost for everybody. We know this team has been close. They've almost won one or two races earlier in the year. Other guys have been close. But again, to win this one, this could be a tipping point for us. Thanks.

Q. For Walt, on a throwback weekend in NASCAR, is there anything more appropriate for Team Penske than to be celebrating a win in Victory Lane with Rusty Wallace?
WALTER CZARNECKI: Rusty and I had a nice conversation before the start of the race, and for him to come to Victory Lane after and celebrate with Brad and Paul and the team was really special. He was just as excited as I've ever seen him. I was telling someone earlier tonight, when Bobby won in '75, I think the closest we came to winning a Southern 500 since then was Rusty, and I think it was '92 or '93, and I believe he finished third. Other than that we really haven't had much success here. To have Rusty be here with us tonight, that really put‑‑ that just kind of put the cherry on the ice cream sundae.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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