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November 18, 2018
THE MODERATOR: If we could have your attention, please. We are here with the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion owner, and that is Roger Penske, owner of Team Penske. Roger, your second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, first with Joey. The 22 scored more points than any other team throughout the playoffs. Clearly a deserved win. Talk about the playoffs and tonight.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think the playoffs, obviously with 16 down to four, there was lots of emotion, lots of good racing, and certainly to see it today with all four of them up on that pilon almost all together for the whole 267 laps just shows you how good these guys are and how good the racing is.
There's just no question that Joey wanted it bad. I think Todd Gordon, the team gave him a terrific car. We had the benefit of being able to work on our car after we got in at Martinsville, which certainly gives you a couple weeks to not have the pressure, which I think was definitely a benefit for us.
But there's no question that the speed we had for say 30 or 35 laps was pretty outstanding. That 19 with that spin was absolutely opportunistic for us to be able to get back in line. We had some great pit stops. I think our guys on pit road showed just how good they were today, when you look time and time again they put us out there.
For me, it's a thank you for all the 450 people that work at Team Penske back in Mooresville and our sponsors, certainly for Ford. I think it's the first time they've had a championship since 2004, and to get the owner's championship for the manufacturers and also the driver's championship was amazing. I think Kurt Busch was the last one that had that victory.
Those are all special milestones, and for me, 33 championships that gives us as Team Penske, and certainly to get the Indianapolis race, the Southern 500, and now to think that we're the champion of 2018 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is something that I never imagined it at the beginning.
We started out strong, I think, when you looked at our speeds at Daytona, and I think we had a little bit of a shallow spell there and our guys got to work, and Travis Geisler and Tim Cindric and Mike Nelson and the whole team along with Todd Gordon, our crew chief, they were stellar today. Joey's run there at the end with Martin, it was clean, and it was amazing. Part way through the race I said, hey, we're not in this thing, and then you get up front and run, and then I feel a little bit better. I'm not sure if anybody when you looked at the first 150 laps knew who was going to win, and I think that's what the fans wanted.
Q. I wondered if you could speak to the point that the four championship drivers really settled this race among the four of them. This was tight the whole way, and it was all four of the guys that were going for the championship that really fought and decided it.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think this is what it's supposed to be, the four best at the end. I think the stage points gave drivers that competed and won during the season the chance to get to the end, and I think winning races during the playoffs were important.
Four great drivers. Obviously I got a great admiration for Kevin and Kyle and certainly Martin. Obviously a lot of noise about Martinsville. I really‑‑ my key thing for the 78 team is to thank Barney Visser for coming to our sport, a guy from Colorado. He's an individual, a guy of high integrity, and certainly I know he didn't want to shut down his team, but he brought a lot to the sport, so I want to really say this victory certainly‑‑ I want to thank him based on our team.
Dewayne Felkel, who you saw his name on Joey's car, the 22 car, was one of our key guys that died in a car crash a couple of weeks ago. Joey was carrying his name on the car. A couple of special points there I wanted to make.
Q. Roger, you've obviously watched Joey throughout his year. I'm curious when you think maybe he changed from being a fearful driver to being a fearless driver?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I don't know. I think he was‑‑ he's a tough guy. You know, Brad and I sat down when we had an opening, and Joe Gibbs didn't have a full ride for him in the Cup side, and then when I talked to Joe, in fact, he said, will you give me a couple weeks, and I did, and he didn't really have anything for him. And Brad and I thought that he'd be the guy to come to the team, and I think it's been from that point straight up to the championship here. He's won ‑‑ he was down here a couple other times I think we had a chance. Maybe he wouldn't have won, but I think we were competitive.
But I think when it's time to go, he's the guy. I mean, there's no question, you've seen his restarts. You see him even when he's in the back he's able to go for it. To me, I couldn't ask for a better result and a guy that delivers it for the whole team.
Q. Along those same lines, when you talked to him about the opening, I assume‑‑ did you see anything in him in terms of the potential? You'd seen the potential on the track, but what about the personality? Did anything stand out from the moment when you first talked to him and then offered him the ride?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think I saw him as a winner because he won certainly‑‑ I don't know if it was a Busch Series or what it was, but he was a winner and driving a good car for Joe Gibbs. He'd race and beat Kyle sometimes. But overall, I sat down with Joey and his dad. It was no agents, it was just us sitting down and shaking hands on what we were going to do, and I think that he's the first right guy you see. I said it earlier, that what he did this last‑‑ just last night, to go to Publix and be able to give 100 families turkeys for Thanksgiving is a little bit that you don't see on Joey. He's been such in the limelight for the things that maybe people want to talk about, but his philanthropy and what he's done for these families is just amazing and just continues to go week after week.
I saw that in him. I saw that his dad was behind him, and he and I have become great friends, his mother and sister. So look, these people become part of your family, and like Rick Mears and Helio and just many, many other‑‑ Rusty and certainly Brad, and Blaney coming up, and our support of the Wood Brothers. This is a close‑knit team, and I think that's why we're on the top.
Q. You had a pretty good year. You got elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, you celebrated a 500th victory as an organization, 17th Indy 500 victory, second Cup championship. Are you still going for the V‑8 championship?
ROGER PENSKE: Yeah, it's ironic, I'm going to leave Thursday morning to go to Australia. We're 14 points ahead for the driver championship with Scott McLachlan. That would be a season to remember, there's no question, when you think about the milestones and all the times we tried to win at the Brickyard. Winning all three races there this season, the Southern 500 and Bobby Allison I think back was the last guy that won that for us.
You think about that history and the time and people we've been together, and Don Miller and some of the people that were really at the beginning of the start of our team. Jimmy Makar was one of our best guys, and you see some of these people that are migrated into other teams, but high respect for our people. We've got great sponsors, and one of the things that I'd have to say, we delivered for our sponsors, and that's given us the opportunity to fund this team at the level it needs to be.
Q. All those accomplishments in your hobby. Not your job, your hobby; what do you credit that to? Is it your people, or is it something that you set from the top that trickles down?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think I've said it before. There's really three things that are really‑‑ I think‑‑ every time I think about how we succeed and how we can be better, one is what's your brand. And this kind of winning, not only on the racetrack but in business, drives a great Penske brand, which has been terrific.
I think technology is so important when you think about what technology has done to us in business, and think about the technology up and down that pit lane today. You've got to be on top of it.
But underlining that and the foundation of everything else is your people. If I can manage those three pillars, I think we'll continue to have success.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the championship‑winning crew chief, and that is Todd Gordon. Talk about Joey, this championship, but especially your pit crew with that money stop at the end there and sort of the restart and the jump you got to take the lead and hold it for the rest of the race.
TODD GORDON: Yeah, definitely. I said at the time, that's in our wheelhouse. You give Joey Logano a sniff of it with a shot at the end and seeing the front of the pack, I think all weekend we had phenomenal front‑run speed. We could go 15 laps I think better than anybody. We knew‑‑ I felt like and we had talked about this, this race typically has a late caution. It's just how it kind of unfolds, but there's typically one somewhere late in the race. And when it came up, there it was, our opportunity, and Joey's, and you give him that opportunity of here it is, it's right in front of you, he steps up to another level.
Great run there. We tightened him up and got him tight enough to what he could really hustle and made good work of making speed and getting to the front and getting clean air.
Q. Roger, you talked earlier about some of what you saw in Joey, but it still seemed like for a while it was a building process. Can you speak a little bit to kind of the maturation and growth of Joey into the championship driver at Team Penske that we've had tonight?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think he led a streak of wins in Xfinity, he and Brad, which really showed us, and then when you think about the guys that we have today on the Cup side, Todd being one of them and Paul Wolfe, and certainly Jeremy Bullins, these guys all helped Joey grow because they were crew chiefs in the Nationwide or Xfinity, and I saw that continued evolution.
And then this partnership, I think Todd‑‑ you've been together now, what, five years?
TODD GORDON: Yeah, this is our‑‑ '13 was our first year together.
ROGER PENSKE: So five years. Again, turnover hurts you as a team‑‑
TODD GORDON: Six years.
ROGER PENSKE: And you think of that continuity, that's also made a difference. And I think these guys have their days. Obviously I don't agree. On the other hand, we know when we go to the racetrack we're going there together, and that's made a big difference. And I think you give Todd a lot of credit and certainly the guys at the shop building these cars. I mean, remember, these guys drive them and bring them to the track, but there's 450 other people who are doing wind tunnel work, all the simulations, all the things, building these bodies. You know, you can see it. The evolution is just amazing.
I think Joey just continued to mature as a person‑‑ look, he's a young guy. I can tell, I've got kids that are 20 and the one is 26, seem to have more maturity than the other one, so I guess that's all the way to go up, and I guess with the right parents you might say or the right guidance that we gave Joey and support, I backed him all the time, and you know how I've felt on some of the comments that have been made over the last several weeks, but I think today he proved‑‑ he put it on the line, and he delivered.
Q. Todd, you sit here tonight as the champion crew chief, but probably less people in this room know that you used to race, actually ran a limited super modified back at Oswego Speedway, way back when. Did you ever think you'd sit here tonight at the pinnacle like this?
TODD GORDON: No, when we packed up and moved south I was just hoping to work in racing, and that was back in '98. But you know, it's a testament to opportunity, and this guy to my right, he believed in me. I got a shot at the Xfinity program, then Nationwide, and showed a little bit of promise and got this opportunity.
I think you've just got to keep your head down and good things can happen.
Q. Todd, you and Joey were both adamant going into this season that you were not going to repeat 2017, and you guys got off to a much better start, but you also had the big three kind of pull away with a lot of wins. That's something that doesn't happen a lot. You actually got really your best as the season came to an end. That doesn't typically happen a lot. I just wondered what was it about your team that made it the best when it counted the most?
TODD GORDON: Well, I think a couple things happened this year. If you go back to last year here, we had a solid day here, ran in the top 5 most all day, and I think it was the first step of what we needed to focus on to make '18 be a successful year.
We took that, and we did, we came off with speed to start the year, and that win at Talladega put us in an opportunity where we were pretty much guaranteed through with the way the wins had stacked up for a couple drivers, you knew that a win was going to get you there.
So we took the summer to really look at different avenues of how we make our cars handle, and given the struggles that we had in '17, we needed to find a different path. So we took the summer actually after the win to try to understand what works for our race cars. That path, I think, at least you wander on the wrong path there, but race by race we worked on what we could, and when it came time to be playoff time, we kind of focused back on, hey, what have we learned and what do we need to do to be successful through the playoffs.
I think if you look at it, about the 1st of August, we got back on this path and said we've got to tune ourselves up for where the playoffs are. I read a thing on NASCAR.com, but our average finish from Watkins Glen to here was pretty decent. We got back and we took the time to learn what we could, and then we turned it around and said, how do we make this charge into playoffs now because we didn't have the playoff points that some of the big three did.
Q. But you did score the most points of anybody during the playoffs.
TODD GORDON: Execution. Execution. We had speed. I think that's one thing that people didn't‑‑ we didn't have all the win stickers down the seat post, but we had speed, and we just needed to work on some things, and we took‑‑ with the struggles last year, we took the opportunity to learn more this year and not necessarily race the wins as much as race the knowledge so that we could put ourselves in the right position to lead into the playoffs and run to the playoffs, and it worked.
Q. Roger, given your close association with Ford Motor Company, what does it mean to you as an owner to be the one to break their drought and deliver that first driver's championship?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, delivering the manufacturer's championship and the driver's championship, where it's been a drought for them and for Edsel has been a personal friend of mine for a long time and Joe Hendricks and Jim Farley and the whole team, Mark Rushbrook and Lance, Dave Pericak, all the people that have done so much at Ford, and they've stayed committed with us. We came on with Roush and then a tremendous‑‑ they came to me and said, look, we're going to sign up Stewart‑Haas. I said, that gives Ford a real offense. I think as the brand, as I talked earlier, this is part of building a brand.
Q. What did Edsel say to you after the race?
ROGER PENSKE: Oh, he was thrilled. I mean, he came up to me, and we live over in Detroit together, and he just said thanks. I never believed I'd be standing up here. I mean, he was thrilled.
Q. I have to ask you, knowing Joey as well as you do, what kind of champion do you think he will be? We asked Steve Phelps earlier today about trying to get personalities back in this sport, but if we had to pick somebody to represent the sport as its champion, could you find someone more fitting for that role than Joey Logano?
ROGER PENSKE: Look, you had four great champions vying for this total championship. I think Joey, it's his first one, so everything is going to be new for him. He knows that he has to carry the NASCAR emblem, the NASCAR sport champion, and certainly from a Penske perspective, Team Penske. He's got to represent us in a first‑class way, and I'm sure you'll see that throughout the season or the off‑season here.
He's a great guy, and look, he's a champion. I think that's number one. And a champion, I think, whether it's Harvick or Martin or Kyle, these guys are very smart. They're great athletes, and I think they understand what this means to carry this crown over the next several months. So I think he's going to be a great champion.
Q. What do you think about a guy who was out last night doing philanthropic work when he could have easily been spending time with Todd and the rest of the team? That's kind of what keeps him centered and that's kind of what makes him different.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I mean, that's a side of him. He got the philanthropic award the other night but I think it was NASCAR, and to me, that means something. They had a lot of people that had delivered a lot back into the community, and I think that his commitment and the things that he has done gave him that championship.
I guess at the end of the day, as you get older, you say, that's a real championship. We can race on the racetrack, we can win races, but to get that as a philanthropic person in NASCAR I think is pretty special. I think we couple that together, we've got an A+ guy.
Q. Todd, I asked Roger this, but is there any special appreciation for what you guys did tonight because it was one, two, three, four, it's the first time the championship has turned out like that where the four contenders were one through four and you guys really had to beat them?
TODD GORDON: Yeah, I think when you look at it‑‑ I mean, I'm probably biased here, but I would say it was the best Championship 4 that we've put together, because we were the and‑me. If you look at it, it was the big three and me, right. So we were the fourth wheel of the group and able to race all night long.
You can't‑‑ that's just surreal to think about he got to race Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch for a championship and execute. Phenomenal group of guys, and again, we proved you've got to win, and Joey elevated himself to do it.
Q. Todd, Joey had the reputation of kind of‑‑ I don't want to say being weak, but people could take advantage of him when he was at Gibbs, and I'm curious, when did he become kind of this fearless driver that we see now?
TODD GORDON: Well, I think when he walked in at Team Penske he owned the opportunity. He walked in‑‑ and I think Roger believed in him, as I did, and I looked at it and said, here's a kid who he wins more races in the Gibbs Busch cars at the time than Kyle did I felt like, so he's capable. He just needed an opportunity.
So he came in and believed in himself, and we believed in him, and at that point he was not weak. He was going to race his way forward, and I think the '13 season we won a race, we were very competitive in several, and that just continued to build a confidence. You can't say enough for what the whole team, everybody on the Shell‑Pennzoil team, they believe in him. They're friends. I think that's the biggest thing is we've got a group that are all friends and comrades, and they believe in him and would do anything for him, and he came in standing his ground.
Q. Todd, did the penalties at Texas on the 4 car change the game for you guys at all, and do you think it played any role in how the rest of the championship played out?
TODD GORDON: No, I don't. You know, it's unfortunate we ended up with situations like this, but at the end of the day, do I think that that made a huge difference in‑‑ I mean, it makes a difference, yes. But I mean, you saw the 4 car rise. They were dominant at Phoenix. They were very good at Texas. But if you look in the past, they've been really strong at Texas last fall and this spring. They should have won both of those races.
And again tonight, we‑‑ if you looked at practice, you'd have said the 4 was a little off, but they were dominant in the race tonight. They drove forward and drove away. Great depth in that organization, as well. I think Kevin had a great run, and just it fell down to a situation where it played into our hand.
Q. Todd, how does one bounce back from the gut punches that you guys have had the last few seasons toward the end of the season, and particularly in here, '14, '16, obviously '15 so strong, '17 not making it to the playoffs, that's a lot for anybody to take. How did you get through it? How did Joey? How does anybody get through something like that?
TODD GORDON: I think the biggest thing is that this whole group believes in everybody, and it wasn't like‑‑ you know, the driver is not my age. That's a good thing. He's got runway left. He's got a lot of years to be successful. You take every situation, obviously '14 and '16 we were in the hunt. We just didn't completely cleanly execute. That's a learning opportunity. You look at those things and say, hey, we made it this far, now how do we clean up what we need to to get through. I think it helped kind of mold the path of what we needed to focus on this weekend, and it was successful in understanding that.
You take situations when I think you learn more from your mistakes and your faults than you do from your successes, and those are learning opportunities.
Q. Is '16 the most painful, and does this help with that?
TODD GORDON: Boy, I don't know that‑‑ I don't feel like they were painful. They're learning opportunities. You know, this is the format we have. It's a winner take all, one opportunity. It's a Super Bowl. It's not how you do it every day, and you're going to be racing. We're racing hard. Sometimes it's going to work your way, and sometimes it's not. Yeah, '16 I thought we had a shot, but Carl was really strong, too. We were going to have to race Carl pretty hard, and that's why we ended up tangled together, because the two of us both knew we were going to have to race each other pretty hard for that last start, and that was part of what Carl said to us when he hopped up on the box.
I don't see it as disappointing as much as just it's encouraging to‑‑ something to build off of.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports