March 19, 2023
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by crew chief Paul Wolfe of the No. 22 Autotrader Ford for Team Penske.
Paul, you put together a really dominant car today. A lot of drama at the finish. Walk through the car today and how it performed, your excitement for this victory here at Atlanta.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, obviously very excited. Coming into the weekend, we expected to have speed, but we knew based off of Daytona we were going to have to work on handling much more, not only from a speedway perspective, but then you come to Atlanta, a tighter track. We knew based off of last year we were going to have to work on that.
No practice makes that tough because you just don't know how much of a change to make. But proud of all the guys and all the work on simulation to figure it out.
We were fast in qualifying. Made quite a few adjustments going into the race. Was a little concerned about how far off our balance would be. But honestly, I did a little bit of air pressure during the race at a few stops. Other than that, it drove really well.
Excited for the whole team effort. Obviously the 12 and the 2 were very strong today, were able to work together, help us a lot at the end. That was key to be able to make that surge on the bottom line.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor up for questions.
Q. A lot of the race was single file, a lot of the race was two lanes. How were y'all able to determine how you might be able to make both lanes work?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I think our car was strong enough when we were leading early in the race. I think at a couple points a couple guys tried to make the bottom work. I think you had to have a really strong car and guys that could work with you very well to make the bottom work.
I think after the first stage of the race, Joey realized how strong his car was. We lost the lead off of pit road there at one point. But I was okay with that. I wanted to save a little fuel for that final stop to speed that up. Then we got shuffled around and lost our track position in that sequence.
From there, it was really trying to stay out of trouble. Obviously he dodged a couple wrecks and we were able to get back towards the front. Once we got our teammate back behind us, we were able to make the bottom work.
Like I said, I think there were only a few cars that could really do that from a handling perspective. You had to have speed and handling to make that work. The Autotrader Ford was strong today. I'm proud of all the effort.
Q. You know Brad, Joey. What was it like from your perspective to see those two racing for the win the at a speedway-type of race?
PAUL WOLFE: Obviously, it was exciting. I about lost my voice at the end of the race screaming on the end of the pit box. It was exciting. I thought it was great racing till the end.
Obviously Brad is great at this type of racing. I was listening to him and T.J., racing side by side, all the information he was getting. Obviously he's very good at blocking, being able to manage the lead. I know that.
The fact that Joey was able to make some of those moves that he did on him was pretty impressive. I know, like I said, how well Brad understands this type of race, how good he is at it.
Joey was at another level today. I think he had confidence in his car. When he has confidence in his car, he can make some magic happen out there, for sure.
Q. If you look around at the guys around you at the end, Brad is trying to win for the first time in a long time, Tyler Reddick with a new team, Corey LaJoie, a lot at stake. What does a win mean for you? What was at stake for you today?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I think we say this every year. I think all teams feel this way. Winning early is what it's all about in this format. Win and you're in the Playoffs.
Just a bit of a relief. I think we haven't had the start to the season we'd want or hope for. The West Coast swing was pretty rough on us. We had speed at times, but not really where we need to be on any of those tracks. So we've got our work cut out for us.
We know the speedways with all the aero changes to all the manufacturers, the speedways are probably the strengths for the Fords right now. I think we saw that in Daytona as well. If you look at qualifying yesterday, that will probably point to that same sign.
We have to take advantage of these races right now. If this is our strength, we got to make sure we execute. That's probably what I'm most proud of, is we were able to come here and get the win. Now we've really have to squeeze hard to get more speed out of our cars on the downforce tracks.
Q. The vibe, the atmosphere around the team after the last two weeks? Last year you won Vegas and Phoenix. Didn't look like you were all that great at either track last couple weeks.
PAUL WOLFE: No, and that's what I said, it's tough. You go to both of those tracks, and we weren't there very long ago, just at the end of the season, were able to win at both of them, in dominant fashion. You kind of go back there with things that you know work from a setup perspective, and you don't have the speed, it's a little alarming, for sure. Trying to understand it all.
We know from an aero perspective things have changed. So I'm not saying we don't need to adjust our setups a little bit to accommodate that, but it comes to a point where there's only so much you can do with the amount of downforce you have in your car.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL WOLFE: I mean, yeah, we're down. We're disappointed. We don't like it. We want to win. We expect to win. Our sponsor, all our supporters, expect us to win. So it's tough.
That's why I say, getting this win here now gets a little bit of confidence maybe. We still know how to do this. It may be a little more difficult, like I said, at some of these other tracks.
We're going to continue to work hard. By no means we don't feel like we can't compete at those tracks. When you go there with stuff that you're able to have success with last year, then not have the speed, it's frustrating.
Q. You won the first stage, the second stage. Middle of the third stage you're in 20th place. What was the conversation on the radio with Joey? Was he stressed, worried? How did he handle the circumstances?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I think obviously we were all a little bummed. We lost track position. Knowing how hard it was, as you watch the race play out, especially when the race would get single file, it was very hard for guys to move. It was a little concerning.
I felt like our car seemed to have pretty good speed and handling compared to most. I commented to him about that at one point. I feel like we're quite a bit better than these guys in front of us. You got to have some help to go with you, too.
He made some good moves and was able to miss some of the wrecks. We did get some of our track position back just by steering clear of that. As we got ourselves in the top 10, I think guys know we had a strong car, are willing to go with you. You got to have that help to really make the bottom work.
Ultimately at the end with our teammates pushing, we were able to show our strength again.
Q. A technical question. This race was run under relatively cold temperature conditions. When you're coming back here later in the year in July, it will be hotter. How big is the influence of hot and cold temperatures on the setup and aero package of the car?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, it will definitely make a difference. It was quite cool here. Once that track heats up, it starts getting slick. At that point you're going to have to add more downforce to the cars.
We'll take what we had today, learn from that, but understand that when we come back, if it's 80-degree temperatures, we'll have to put some more downforce in the car, which we definitely have that adjustability with this new car. Working with your ride heights and those types of things, you can change your downforce levels.
Obviously you're going to add drag at some point. For us, it's about being able to keep the pedal down at these style of tracks.
There's definitely a tradeoff, but you try to find efficient ways to add downforce. That's what we'll have to do to come back and be able to have that same success.
Q. Did you feel like you were watching a chess match between Brad and Joey there?
PAUL WOLFE: Absolutely. That's why I say it was so exciting to be able to get the win because I knew how hard they were both working to try to manage the race and lead the race. It was super exciting to watch from the pit box for me. Even more exciting that we were able to come out on top, of course.
Q. You said you lost your voice. Were you shouting?
PAUL WOLFE: I was just shouting after we came across the line and won the race with the guys. I don't usually get too emotional. That was a fun race to watch, to be able to pull it off.
Q. The final laps, the crew chief's role here is different than other tracks. Here it's really driver-spotter. The last six laps, what were you doing, saying, or just taking it in?
PAUL WOLFE: Really just taking it in. Once we pitted for the last time, like I told Joey, everyone is good from here to the end. At that point you're not coming back down pit road unless you have an issue or something.
Obviously the tires held up good today. There's plenty of grip in the tires. There would be no reason to give up track position and pit again.
At that point it's kind of up to Coleman and Joey. Obviously they did a great job. Coleman and Joey's relationship is strong. They're really on the same page when it comes to this style of racing.
Q. We hear a lot about with the superspeedway races the manufacturers working together. It seems like that is not as much the case here at Atlanta. Is that visual? Do you spend as much time working on that for this race?
PAUL WOLFE: No, it's not quite as much. I think obviously we were strong with our teammates. Worked well with the 12 and the 2. I wouldn't say we put as much time and planning with the rest of the Ford teams here as what we would at Daytona or Talladega.
Kind of the way the pitting works here, you don't really need help during the pit cycle. If we were to pit under green, it's easier to get on and off of pit road here with the uniqueness of it, so we didn't really feel like that planning was necessary.
They still help each other when they're out there racing, when they can. There's not like a specific order or anything like that when we come here.
THE MODERATOR: Paul, congratulations again on the win. Good luck next week at COTA.
PAUL WOLFE: All right, guys. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports