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September 16, 2018

Walter Czarnecki

Paul Wolfe

Las Vegas, Nevada

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by members of our race‑winning team, which is the No.2 Autotrader Ford with Team Penske. We have the crew chief, Paul Wolfe, and we also have the vice‑chairman of Team Penske, Walt Czarnecki. Would each of you talk about what this means for Team Penske; three in a row with Brad and the 500th for Team Penske.
WALTER CZARNECKI: Well, of course I couldn't help but think we had our 200th win with Ryan Briscoe, and then ‑‑ I think actually that was 300th. Our first win was at the Daytona 24‑Hour back in 1966, and maybe some of you were there, I don't know. But in any event, and then Brad got No.400 at Richmond, and of course then this one. But this is so huge for the team. I was looking at the banner that we had out there on pit road, and I think about all the people that really contributed to this starting with Mark Donohue. Obviously starting with Roger Penske first, but then Mark Donohue and Rick Mears and Rusty Wallace and Bobby Allison and all the great drivers that have driven for this team, Emerson Fittipaldi, and they all share in this, the Unsers, for example.
So it's been‑‑ I can't tell you what it means to the team. We've all been excited about it. We had our fingers crossed that today was going to be the day, so I'm really happy for Roger and happy for the whole team.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I'm a little bit speechless. You know, the last three weeks, if you look at these races, they're each such big races for different reasons, you know, winning the Southern 500 and the Brickyard and the 500th win and the first win in the playoffs of round 1 means so much as far as being able to advance to round 2, and the bonus points. There's just been a lot on the line the last three weeks, and it's just amazing to see how this team steps up and is able to execute without any mistakes when there's a lot on the line, and it's something to be proud of, and I'm excited to be part of it. I know it means a lot, like to Walt's point, there's been a lot of great people that are part of this‑‑ that have won races over the years, and we're just a small part of that, and glad we could add to it.
We've had some special moments with the 2 team, and I'm thankful for that, thankful for the opportunity, and Roger gives us all the tools and things we need, and it's up to us to put it all together, and I'm glad we could do that for him today and for Team Penske. A big win.

Q. Walt, this is the second time, I believe, there's been a big race that Roger wasn't here‑‑
WALTER CZARNECKI: It's actually the third one in a row.

Q. Is he going to stay away now?
WALTER CZARNECKI: I don't think so. I'm sure you'll see him at Richmond next week, but he had the commitment there obviously at Sonoma, and last week he had a business commitment on Monday. He's that kind of person. He honors those commitments. I know he would have loved to have been here. I know he knows about it; we've been communicating. But he's got a race to run up in Northern California right now.

Q. For you, Paul, this win gets you guys past the Roval. Do you breathe a sigh of relief for that?
PAUL WOLFE: It's definitely nice. It's a great feeling for sure. We talked about it a little bit in the hauler on Friday as we look at the playoffs and each race and what we're capable of, and you know, the Roval obviously is an unknown for sure, but at the same time there's only so much you can control, and that's kind of what I told Brad and some of the guys. Yeah, it may be stressful, but at the same time, it kind of is what it is. We've got to just go out there and do what we can do, and sometimes you catch the breaks and sometimes you don't, and you just hope you've done everything you can do and have all the pieces in place when you do get the breaks, as we've got some over the last few weeks. Yeah, it feels great that we don't have to worry about the Roval; it sure does.

Q. Paul, disappointing qualifying effort, I know, and no stage points for Stage 1. How did you guys do this? It didn't seem like it was your typical strategy play, seemed like just good pit stops and Brad picking up spots on restarts. Is that how you did it?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, for sure. We never really had all the speed we wanted all weekend. We know we've got a little work to do there. We had moments in Happy Hour where I thought our car was pretty good. We also had moments where I thought we were off a couple tenths.
As the race started and it went on through Stage 1, we weren't terrible. It was really about track position, and as you see towards the end of the race with who gets the clean air, our car was close there in the first stage, but you're just sitting there 12th or 13th, and you need to be so much faster to pass the guy in front of you because the clean air is worth a tenth or two.
So then it came down to pit road and having good restarts. Our car was very good on restarts, would run fast for a few laps. I think our car had some good stability. That's really what it comes down to those first couple laps when everyone is jammed up and you don't have a lot of clean air is having a lot of security, and our car seemed to be able to fire off really well, and the pit crew was really flawless today.
Man, we've made gains there, and we've had a good couple weeks on pit road, and I feel like they were a big part of our win at Darlington, getting us off of pit road there, and gosh, I wasn't expecting this out of them today. This was a whole 'nother level, what I saw out of our pit crew today. It's something really to be proud of and excited about at the same time. I mean, this is‑‑ the days when you don't have the fastest car but your pit crew can carry you on pit road and get you off of pit road first, it's huge.
The 78 had the most speed of anyone we saw today during the race, but like I said, if you can get that clean air, we were able to hold them for a long time, and then when he finally got by us there, we came down pit road and beat him off of pit road again. We know pit road is a big part of it, something we focused on and something we put a lot of effort into being better, and I'm glad we're seeing the results of it.

Q. Paul, when you did win the race off of pit road, did you feel good or did you feel like you were going to need three, four cautions and really short runs to hold off Truex?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I mean, as I look at the past three weeks, I don't think any of the races I went into it saying, oh, we're going to win this race or we need to win this race. It was doing everything we knew how to do to the best, getting the most out of our car, and that's what I told Brad before we rolled off today was there's going to be some struggles I'm sure throughout the day, but let's just get the most we can out of our car and move on, and that's kind of what we've done the last few weeks, and we kind finding ourselves towards the front at the end of these races, and the pit road crew is stepping up and getting us off of pit road.
But yeah, the short runs at the end were our friend, and I think just the whole level of all these guys wanting to win, how important it is to win these playoffs with all these guys that are in the playoffs. Fighting so hard with Truex was obviously a little bit of our friend, as well, because as things got separated out and over the longer runs, Truex was eventually going to get by some guys. But great execution on the restarts and the shorter runs was playing into our hand.

Q. From the season kind of being a "meh" kind of season where you were struggling to find wins and find some traction and now three in a row, what's the formula been? Is there anything that sticks out that you've done that's making it what it is?
PAUL WOLFE: I wish I could point to one thing that really has changed it. You know, we've executed well. I mean, we haven't had mistakes the last three weeks. That's a big part of it. Just it goes in waves. I've been in the Cup Series for nine‑‑ I guess going on nine years now, and we've been on both sides of it many times where we feel like we couldn't do anything wrong and win multiple races. Now, we've never won three in a row. That's definitely big. But we've won‑‑ had years where we've won five, six races. But then we've also had moments where you look at through the summer months this season where we struggled and doing all we can do to run fifth to tenth.
You've got to continue to stay focused and try to be smart and work on the areas you know you're weak and get‑‑ play to your strengths. Strategy and some of the things we've been able to do over the last few weeks have been good, and the pit road has been a big part of it.

Q. How long have you waited to have the 500 hats? How long ago were they made before you brought them out?
WALTER CZARNECKI: They've been around several weeks. In fact, all of our teams, truth be told, they have some up at Sonoma. We actually had some in Australia with our Australian Super Car team that actually raced this weekend. They raced our time last night. But we were able to break them out and wear them here in Las Vegas today. But they've been around for several weeks thanks to Jonathan Gibson and his team, so we've been fully prepared for this eventuality. But as Paul and I were talking coming in, 498, 499 and 500, it's quite something.

Q. You got yourself the first win into the Chase and get to the next round. You head to Richmond next week, a short track. Will you be trying anything different over there, looking at Martinsville down the road?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, we have, what, three short tracks, I guess, in the playoffs between Richmond, Martinsville and Phoenix we kind of categorize as a short track. But the thing about it is all three of those short tracks are so different and so unique. Richmond next week is a track that really wears out tires. And as you look at Martinsville, there's no aero there, it's all mechanical. And then as you look at Phoenix, that's an aero track with tires that don't fall off. Richmond, Martinsville have been really good racetracks for us, and for sure we've been in this position before of winning opening races in the playoffs at Chicago, and it's good. It gives us a little relief and gives us an opportunity to maybe experiment a little bit more at Richmond, but like I said, Richmond is different than‑‑ quite a bit different than Martinsville and Phoenix for us. It gives us time.
We feel like we have a direction of where we need to be better to be able to run with the 78 and the 4 and some of those faster cars, so I think this is nice and will give us some time to continue to push and get where we need to be as we get into the next round of the playoffs.

Q. Walt, this is for you. I know that every time there's a win, there's a big party at Penske and all the teams come together. What will this celebration be like when everybody gets into the building, and do you have any idea what the big surprise is from Roger?
WALTER CZARNECKI: I do not. I do not. But the 2 car, of course, the Autotrader Ford won this race today, but I really want to give a shout‑out to our other cars because Ryan and Joey had great race cars, too, and their pit work was good. So I think the team approach that we've taken in all aspects has benefitted those two. Ryan particularly had a shot early on in the race as you probably know and ended up I think finished fifth or sixth, something like that, and Joey was in it right until the end. So it's really gratifying to come to that last restart and three of the four top cars of your cars, so you feel the odds are pretty good. But nothing is for sure until it happens.
But this is really a team win in many, many ways. And I think it's a testimony to the way we've set up the company over the last several years, where there's a‑‑ I know it's a bit of a cliché, but there's a lot of information sharing‑‑ maybe some revenue sharing later on, I don't know, but information sharing. All the teams work next to each other, so I think what we saw today is really demonstrative of that.

Q. Paul, the last three races, a lot of cautions at the end, so a lot of short runs. Do you feel like that's a trend, something that you see more as you get into the playoffs? Or is it a case of things are falling your way and it's been‑‑ I don't want to take away the work, but it's been as much luck as putting yourself in the right position?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, there's obviously been a lot of late cautions and runs down pit road that we've been able to execute on. It's hard to say. Just like I said, sometimes we could go race 10 races without late‑race cautions. I think it's just kind of how it happened to fall. One thing I'm proud of is‑‑ and Brad may get mad at me, but in the past, restarts haven't been his strength, and something we've‑‑ we've given races away on restarts when I feel like we've had good cars to win races. So it's definitely nice to be on the other end of that thing now, and the same thing with pit road.
Speaking for the 2 team specifically, pit road over the years hasn't really been a strength of ours. It's something we've continued to work on and tried to find ways to be better, and this year we've really stepped up, and these guys have done a great job.
We've been on both sides of it. Like I said, our cars aren't fast‑‑ yeah, have we had some luck here along the way the last few weeks, absolutely. But you've got to be able to execute when you get put in those positions, as well. So it's not all luck. I mean, a 30th place car isn't going to get lucky and win the race. We just try to get the most out of our car and do the best job we can every week on pit road, and we're getting rewarded for it now.

Q. Paul, if I had told you before Darlington that you'd win three races just by the end of the year, would you have thought that was likely?
PAUL WOLFE: Probably not. Probably if you asked the guys, I'm probably not the most positive guy on the team. But I never give up, and I continue to work and push the guys, and I think Brad is probably the same way. Maybe not always the most optimistic. But when we're put in position to have an opportunity, we seem to be able to handle the pressure, and he does a good job with that, and I think he's shown that the last three weeks with what he's been able to do when there's so much on the line. It's really amazing. It's something I'm really proud to be a part of, and there's a lot of people behind the scenes that are a part of this.
You know, to the point we get to celebrate a little bit every Monday with all the guys in the shop, and the guys that don't get to come to the racetrack and be part of spraying champagne and stuff, so that's always a fun time there on Monday afternoons, and just to see how many people it takes to do‑‑ to put race cars out here and do what we do every week is really amazing, and I'm just glad I can be a part of it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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