Charlie Rose Talks to Roger Penske & TeamBy
Roger, your drivers have won a record 15 checkered flags at Indy—and Helio has a shot at tying the record for the most wins there if he gets his fourth. What is it about the Indy 500 for you?
Roger Penske: I think it's the greatest race in the world. There is something about the history. I go back 60 years with it. When I attended with my dad, we didn't have good seats. We could hardly see the cars go by, but it was in my blood and the race has helped me, from a business perspective, to build our brand. We couldn't afford to buy the advertising on TV that we get when we're racing and leading the Indy 500, so it's been terrific.
And you're there in the pits every time?
Roger Penske: Absolutely. I say it's my fishing trip. It's my golf game on Saturday or Sunday. I have been at every race, and I typically run one of the cars. We have a contest amongst two or three of our key guys. We're racing each other. I'll be with Ryan Briscoe this year. We have Tim Cindric, who has always worked with Helio, and Clive Howell will be on the radio with Will.
What's the biggest change since you first started out? Is it the speeds?
Roger Penske: There's no question. If you think about back in 1981, we had these stop watches, and when we went over 180 miles an hour they didn't know how to calculate how fast we were going. [The gains in speed] came with the wings, the down-force we have on the cars. Today, Helio has a record lap of over 234 miles an hour. The speed through the corners has gotten so high it's almost impossible to catch a vehicle if it gets sideways. The soft walls have helped from a safety standpoint. So we've seen increased safety, we've seen higher corner speeds, but the straightaway speeds are the same as they were back probably 50 years ago.
What makes a winner, the driver or the car?
Helio Castroneves: It's a combination of everything. I always say 50 percent is the driver, 50 percent is the car. For me, especially in the oval, you'vegot to have a great car. Otherwise, there's not much you can take out of it.
What does the driver add?
Ryan Briscoe: At the end of the day, when we're in the race, you have to execute. You need to be mistake-free, and you need to tune the car during the race, give good feedback to your engineer and to Roger during the race so we can make setup changes at the pit stops. It's the longest race we have on the calendar. A lot of rubber goes down, the conditions change, and you need to keep up with the conditions with the setup of your car. That's where the driver input makes a difference, and obviously, concentration. It's a grueling race. Very narrow groove, and no room for error.
What about the pit stops?
Will Power: A lot of races are won in the pit. It's a team sport, and last year we all had problems in the pit—and that pretty much cost us a championship.
Will Power: Little mistakes like leaving the fuel rig in [as the driver was returning to the track].
Does it add pressure for you, knowing you could tie the record?
Helio Castroneves: No, because I want to win as much as Roger wants to win and as much as these guys want to win. Certainly I'm in a very unique position, I'm honored to be in this position. And I dream about it because I think you should dream big. But I've got to work four times as hard to get the fourth win.
How many times have you thought about buying a car company?
Roger Penske: As you know, I tried to put together the purchase of Saturn as it was being sold or shut down by General Motors (GM). And I got, I think, to third base, though I didn't quite get our friends at Renault on board. That would have been terrific. The Saturn brand, we had millions of owners of that particular brand. ... When you think that Toyota (TM) spends $30 million a day in research and development—and you see some of the problems they have had— I think it's very tough for a small entrepreneur to be able to take a car company and move it.
So Roger, will you sit back and smile on Sunday or do you say, "Helio's won three. Let's let him go"?
Roger Penske: My comment will be, "Boys, have at it." I hope that's my biggest problem—that we've got all three of them coming down the straightaway.
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