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October 18, 2020

Paul Wolfe

Kansas City, Kansas

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winning crew chief. We'll get right into questions for Paul.

Q. You worked with a great race driver in Brad Keselowski. What about Joey Logano now makes him a title threat? What makes him tick?
PAUL WOLFE: I think obviously his talent. He's got the talent. He's shown that. But his drive, motivation, never give up. Just kind of look at today's race. Through the middle part of the race we kind of had faded there, lost some track position. It was very easy to give up on the day.
We kind of took two tires there, got ourselves back up into some clean air. The car is not too bad there. Ultimately the pit crew on the four‑tire stop got us off pit road first. From there he knew what he had to do. He's smart enough. He knew the 4 was a very fast car, especially short run. Seemed to have less drag on his car.
He's pretty smart. Obviously some people call him a good blocker. Whether you want to be good at that or not, he is. In these situations, he knows where to position his car to dirty up the air the most to affect the guy behind him.
Especially with this style of racing any more, we ran wide open I think all but a few laps maybe where he had to lift for some lap traffic. I mean, you're running wide open, just steering your car around the racetrack trying to, like I said, dirty up the air for the 4 to get him in a position where he has to start lifting.
Like I said, very talented, but also aware of what's going on with a lot of experience behind the wheel. Different in certain ways, but both obviously championship caliber and very capable of putting this Shell‑Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane down in Phoenix.

Q. How much confidence does he give a team and a crew chief in the fact that he'll do what's necessary to get the job done?
PAUL WOLFE: It's a lot. I mean, that's the one thing I've noticed with working with Joey for the short time now, is how big of a team player he is, effort and things he does to make sure we have a strong team all working together, pulling in the same direction.
After Phoenix there, with the shutdown, when we got back racing, it was kind of a rocky road there for a while, a lot of ups and downs, some struggles. Towards the end of the summer, before the Playoffs, we kind of got together and talked a lot. It was very important for him to make sure everyone was focused and pulling in the same direction. He's a great leader from that standpoint, keeping the team and the guys around him motivated.
Everyone knows you're getting all the effort all the time. It really makes everyone want to step up and do their part. The pit crew was phenomenal today. Hats off to those guys for getting us off of pit road.

Q. Two of the last four years the team that won the opening race in this round went on and won the championship. I think a lot of people look at it that you have won this, you have two weeks off to science out the Phoenix car. From your point of view, what are the challenges of relaxing and what are the advantages of having the extra two weeks to tinker on Phoenix?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I definitely think it's somewhat of an advantage to us. Whether we want to look at stats of who won the first race winning the championship, that's great. I look at it as we feel like Team Penske's short track program is strong. We were obviously able to win Phoenix earlier this year. Just knowing that, that we are advanced now, yeah, definitely gives you a little extra time.
It's so competitive, as you see. So hard to win these races. For me personally, it's hard for me to do anything but focus on that race that week, what I want to do with my race car, how I'm going to play my strategy. All the time I put into thinking of the strategy piece, it's really hard to be thinking about Phoenix when I have to think about how I'm going to maximize points at Texas, then the same going to Martinsville.
Not that we're going to give up and still not put any effort in the next two weeks, but definitely going to spend a lot more time, to your point, just really thinking about Phoenix and how we can be our best there, give ourselves the best shot we can.
Like I said, the short tracks have been strong. The stats are good there for the short tracks for all our cars. But with that being said, we know how good Harvick is at Phoenix. Obviously the 11 is good, as well. There's nothing about it that's going to be easy, but we'll take every little advantage we can. If giving us two extra weeks is it, we're going to take it.

Q. Texas could be viewed by some as a meaningless race for your group. Is there any value of you actually going to Texas? Why not forget about that race and focus more on Phoenix, how tight the competition is?
PAUL WOLFE: The biggest thing to me is keeping our team and our momentum, our flow, things like that going. Like I said, while I may be spending a lot more of my time during the week working through some of my Phoenix stuff, things like that, yeah, I probably will for sure, but I still think it's important for all of us to go and race every week just like we're going to race at Phoenix in three weeks.
If I'm not there, someone is not there, something is different. We want to keep in sync. Like I said, I feel like our team's made strides as we've got into the Playoffs this year, starting building momentum, having strong races. We were very strong last week, as well, at the Roval. We were able to come out here today and back it up with a win.
We want to kind of keep that flow and rhythm going, but we'll also be focusing a lot more on Phoenix.

Q. How difficult has this season been for you, the fact that Logano hasn't won since Phoenix, just seemed bizarre from the way you came out of the box so fast despite the fact it was a new relationship? Are you kind of surprised it took this long?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, especially with the way the season started. Didn't think we'd have the struggles we did through the summer there, early part of the summer. Once we got back going, not having the practice really affected us a lot. Trying to really figure out what we needed to do. Obviously a lot of different style tracks we visited to get Joey comfortable and get speed out of the car with him.
It's been a little bit different than where I was at with Brad at times, what maybe Brad is looking for versus Joey. Trying to understand all that seemed to be a struggle without practice.
But as we got more races under our belt and started to get to go back to tracks for a second time, just learn more as a team, get a direction, that's where I say I feel like we started to make progress and understand kind of somewhat of a direction, the target.
Now, I still feel like there's a lot of room to grow, which is encouraging. But we've made a lot of strides through this year with, like I said, very limited practice, no practice I guess you'd say, just the racing experience, trying to learn on the fly.
Like I said, still a long ways to go, but we've done a good job as a team. I can't say enough about our pit crew. We've continued to work with those guys and build that up. Man, those guys are really in a great place right now. That's going to be so important to us.

Q. There's two different Joeys. There's the Joey out of the car that is kind and gracious and philanthropic, then the Joey behind the wheel that puts it on kill when it's go time. Even though you've been under the same roof with him, what have your observations been since moving into this role as crew chief?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, like I said a couple things, out of the car, how he handles himself, the team, working with our guys kind of building up our team from the mechanics working on the car to the pit crew, making sure everyone is on the same page, continues to work hard, push, stay motivated.
Especially, like I said, through some of the races and weeks where we struggled, weren't running at the level we were kind of expected, where we should be, he was able to keep everyone motivated, flowing, trying to understand what we needed to do to not get down on each other. Knew we've all been successful at Team Penske and in the sport. Even though we're struggling, as long as we're learning from it, that's key. He's very good at that.
Behind the wheel, once he puts the helmet on, he's a fierce competitor. He needs a lot of information. He doesn't like to do a lot of thinking in the car. He'd rather just me give him the information, tell him what he needs to do, those types of things.
I spent a lot of time with Brad. He's kind of the opposite of that. There's definitely been an adjustment period for me with that. Joey needs a lot of information where Brad already would be processing a lot of the information, what's going on out there.
It's just interesting. I'm not saying one is right or wrong. There's a lot of things. Really the ultimate goal when you make a change like this is to marry together the best parts of the teams or drivers, how all that works. Been trying to do a lot of that.
By no means am I telling Joey he needs to be like Brad. There's things that Brad is really good at, things that Joey is really good at. To be the best, we have to continue to learning about all that. That's what we'll continue to do as we move forward.

Q. Now that you're going into the Championship 4 at Phoenix, do you embrace the fact some people have questioned the 22 being a guy that may not have a shot, similar to now being in and having a shot? Do you embrace it?
PAUL WOLFE: I mean, like I said, it doesn't really bother me. I'm sure this was the last thing that a lot of these guys wanted to see today, was us get to Victory Lane. The 11 had some trouble today. The 4 obviously I think scored a lot of points today. I don't think he's definitely a must‑win guy.
This round was tough from that standpoint because you had a couple guys that already had such an advantage on bonus points, right? It doesn't leave a lot of spaces left for the rest of us fighting for it. With us taking one of those now, it's probably the last thing anybody wanted to see. They wanted to see the 4 win, right, because they knew he was pretty much a lock already.
With that being said, I try not to worry about what people think from the standpoint of whether they think we should be there or not. I mean, like I said, since the Playoffs started, we've been a competitive team. No, we haven't won a bunch of races. The last time we won was Phoenix.
As far as a car that's shown a lot of strength on the short tracks, definitely capable of winning the short tracks, there's no reason to believe now with getting the opportunity to go to Phoenix that we're not going to contend as good as anyone else could.

Q. What is the bigger deal for the championship, the fact that you won Phoenix months ago or the fact you won this race and get the extra time to prepare for Phoenix?
PAUL WOLFE: What if I told you both (smiling)?
Yeah, I mean, I think the extra preparation's great, having the win today. Things continue to evolve. We can't unload the same exact car as we raced earlier this year at Phoenix and think that's going to be good enough, right? We've got a whole pretty much season of racing, development. Everyone's getting better.
With that being said, the last short track we were at, we were strong obviously. That's encouraging. We didn't lose anything on our short track program throughout the year. But we got to continue to be better and really, like I said, take the time now to sit down and really understand what exactly we're going to do.
Without practice, it's really challenging, right? You always find yourself this works, this won. How much are you willing to go away from that without being able to practice and understand the changes?
This will give you a little more time to think through a lot of stuff like that. Like I said, Brad obviously has been the dominant one here of late on the short tracks. Just try to look through everything. Like I said, we've told a bunch of people earlier this week, obviously the 2 and the 22 are still fighting in this deal to get to Phoenix and race for the championship.
We're still going to continue. Jeremy and I work very closely together on a weekly basis, and that won't change. Ultimately the goal is for a Team Penske car to win the championship. We'll continue to do the best we can and help the 2 along the way. I'm not sure what his situation is, where the points stand after today. I haven't really studied it yet. At the moment it doesn't really matter to me. We'll obviously continue to do everything we can to help the 2, make sure he can race in Phoenix as well.

Q. Two of the last four who won the first race in this round went on to win the championship, but you can also say it's two of the six since this format started, and nobody who won Texas went on to win the championship. I'm trying to figure out what it means. Do you have a sense of what it means?
PAUL WOLFE: I think other than just the whole keeping the team motivated, keeping the morale up. I don't know, a lot of guys feed off that. It keeps everyone motivated knowing we're the best. Gives everyone confidence, right?
No, we don't need to go to Texas and run well. But if we go to Texas and run 15th, that doesn't feel very good. It doesn't motivate too many people. I get it, Texas is totally different than Phoenix, but it's still nice as a team to be able to go out there and perform.
The pit crew, like I said, they're very strong now. They want to continue to go out there and continue to lay down stops like they did today. When you can perform like that, it keeps the pressure on everyone else and lets them know we're going to be a real serious contender for the championship when we do get to Phoenix.
THE MODERATOR: Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. We'll see you at Texas.
PAUL WOLFE: All right, guys. Thanks. Appreciate it.

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