CHEVROLET RACING ZOOM TRANSCRIPT: Power previews Toronto
Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, met with the media via Zoom conference to preview the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race July 17 in Toronto. Power, who advanced 18 spots from his starting position to finish third July 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, is a three-time winner and two-time pole sitter on the 1.78-mile, 11-turn Toronto street circuit.
HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING BACK TO TORONTO?
“Yeah, very much so. I love the city there, and the track is very unique. Really isn’t a track that we go to that’s like that. It’s near impossible to get a good balance in the car, so it’s a lot of compromise. Feel like it’s a real driver’s track. It’s pretty hard.”
LOOKING BACK AT YOUR MID-OHIO DRIVE – A CHAMPIOSHIP-SAVING DRIVE MAYBE. HOW BIG WAS THAT WEEKEND FOR YOU?
“It was a very good recovery. I would say we had a car that, I feel like, could definitely challenge for pole. It was unfortunate what happened. Our fault. We weren’t on top of that. We should have been. Obviously, the strategy and the car was great in the race. Yep, did not expect to make it all the way back to third, but I knew our car was strong. With yellows and restarts, good pit stop sequence, we were able to make our way all the way up to a podium. I was hoping at the beginning of that day for a top 10. I said that a few times this year, like at Detroit, like at Barber, but we’ve made it much further. Definitely showing my race craft ability with all these bad qualifyings, which I haven’t been able to do for most of my career because I’ve always qualified right up at the front. Plus, you learn when you’re back there, as well, when you’re in the mix of stuff.”
YOUR TEAMMATES HAVE WON MULTIPLE RACES. WHAT DO YOU SEE THE REASON FOR WHY THE ENTIRE TEAM IS BETTER?
“The tire changed a little bit. Basically, the Firestone tires that we were running last year had sat around a lot, so the tire was obviously hardening over time. I think the tire’s simply better this year, which brought our cars into a better place for where we live. We also did a lot of development in the off-season. I actually feel like last year we had bad luck. I wouldn’t call it luck, but just strange things happened when we had cars in position to win and such. Yeah, last year wasn’t as bad as it looked on performance. It was just one of those years that was just a little bit messy and things didn’t flow our way. Newgarden should have won Road America. I should have won in Detroit. We should have challenging for the win in Laguna. It’s just races like that that kind of made it look worse. Yes, we’re certainly firing on all cylinders this year.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE ALEX PALOU, MCLAREN, CHIP GANASSI SITUATION?
“I’ve heard rumors around the paddock of exactly what’s transpiring right now. Yeah, it’s kind of good for the series really to have a bit of action in the paddock. Yeah, obviously I don’t know the details of everything that has gone on there. Yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how that whole things plays out.”
DOESN’T IT ALSO CREATE A HUGE DISTRACTION ON THAT TEAM AS THEY’RE TRYING TO BATTLE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP?
“Well, I think that’s been a distraction all year for those guys because this whole thing has been going on behind the scenes. Yeah, not ideal if you’re fighting for a championship within a team. Definitely not ideal.”
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE IN YOUR CAREER IN INDYCAR?
“I have not seen this in INDYCAR. I mean, this sort of thing goes on obviously all the time, various businesses. It’s just one of those things where it’s going to come down to the wording in the contract simply.”
HOW DISTRACTING CAN CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS BE FOR A DRIVER MID-SEASON?
“It can make some drivers perform better and some perform worse. Yeah, some need that sort of pressure to bring the best out of them, and some don’t do well under those situations. Ideally, I think you want everything settled and you want pretty good vibes in the team. But it totally depends on the individual.”
THERE’S BEEN NINE DIFFERENT POLE SITTERS SO FAR. WHY DO YOU THINK QUALIFYING HAS BEEN SO UP IN THE AIR THIS SEASON?
“Simply because it’s so competitive. There is no one that is dominating, no one stands out. You can try to pick the polesitter for this weekend. You simply couldn’t. Even the drivers, you couldn’t pick who might be on pole, which to me is a great thing.”
WHICH DRIVE WAS MORE IMPRESSIVE FOR YOU – MID-OHIO OR DETROIT?
“I think Mid-Ohio, coming from the very back, having spun, to get to the podium was definitely, yep. Tires weren’t a big deal there. Like reds and blacks were pretty similar over a stint. Yeah, that’s a great job from the team overall with strategy and staying in the game, and also for me to keep my head, slowly chip away at it.”
YOUR TEAM HAS WON SIX OF THE NINE RACES. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE CONFIDENCE YOU GUYS ARE WALKING IN WITH EVERY WEEK?
“I’ve always had that confidence being in that team, that you will turn up to a weekend with a chance to win. That’s always kind of been my feeling. Like, I never walked into a weekend thinking, Man, we’ve got no chance. When you start having good runs on the board, you’re right there in the points, it does give you confidence. You’re obviously feeling good about the situation. You’re not feeling like you have to do anything desperate, you’re just having to execute. You’re sitting in that sweet spot of performance.”
YOU SAID AFTER MID-OHIO THAT YOUR PARENTS HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE FOR A WIN. IS THAT LEGITIMATE OTHER THAN THE TIME YOU WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN ’14?
“Yeah, my mother was at the championship when I won in ’14. But, yes, my parents haven’t been to a race for years. I can’t remember the last time my dad came. Might be 2009 or something. No? ’11 was the last time my dad came to a race. Yeah, they haven’t really seen much of on-track action. My brother has come twice. ’18 when I won the 500, then on to Detroit when I won Detroit. I have two other brothers as well that have never been to a race.”
YOU’RE IN THE TITLE FIGHT WITH EIGHT RACES LEFT. ANY DISCUSSIONS OF THEM COMING OVER HERE, BEING HERE BY MONTERREY?
“No, they won’t come. I don’t know that for sure. My wife might surprise me. I doubt it. I doubt I’ll see my parents. I doubt it, yeah. I don’t think they’ll come.”
A LOT OF ROOKIES AT TORONTO THIS WEEKEND. THIS WILL BE YOUR 14TH START. IS THAT AN ADVANTAGE OR DOES THE AEROSCREEN KIND OF NEGATE EVERYTHING?
“I think it will be different. The tire’s probably a little different. It’s so tight these years. The little tiny things do make a big difference. Yeah, the field is so good now, there’s so many good drivers, it really doesn’t matter if someone has been there or not because they seem to get up to speed so quickly. Yeah, you can’t feel like you ever have an advantage in this game.”
THERE’S A GOOD SHOT WE COULD BE COMING TO INDY IN A COUPLE WEEKS AND YOU THREE PENSKE GUYS ARE FIGHTHING FOR A TITLE. IS IT A TOUGH ACT TO BALANCE WORKING WITH A TEAMMATE, FIGHTING THAT SAME TEAMMATE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP?
“It is a very tough balance. To me, the most awkward thing about motorsport is that you have a teammate, and you’re absolutely compared off your teammates, you have the same equipment. Very tough balance. But Penske, I don’t think Penske would ever allow it to get to the point where we’re having big issues with each other on track. We understand that. We understand that it’s about the team and not about the drivers. You never put yourself first. You work hard, you work together off the track. Obviously we’re kind of separate teams on the track. I have to say with both Scott and Josef, it’s been very good as far as the information that we share. Like, they are both super quick. It has helped me a lot. That’s to me an advantage.”
IT SEEMS LIKE STREET COURSES COULD GO EITHER WAY AS FAR AS QUALIFYING POSITION. TORONTO SEEMS TO FAVOR STARTING POSITION MORE. IS STARTING POSITION GOING TO MEAN A LOT THIS WEEKEND?
“It looks like that way just reviewing the race. I’ve thought that a few times this year. Obviously tracks I feel like are tough to pass. We’ve actually made some hay. Like who knows, it could be a straightforward race, it can be pretty green, not much chance to make passes. But INDYCAR at the moment is so competitive that who knows. Like, at the end of the day you can never give up. Don’t be too down in the mouth if you don’t qualify well. But it matters, though. Qualifying up front, if you execute well, you’re certainly going to finish up front.”
WHAT MAKES TORONTO SO DIFFICULT, AND WHY IS THAT THAT THE GUYS THAT ARE CHAMPIONS OF THE SPORT ALWAYS SEEM TO PERFORM WELL THERE?
“The track is just difficult because there’s so many different levels of grip. Like, you never feel in the track, on top of the track, it’s sliding. The car never handles well. It’s kind of difficult to tell your engineer what to do because there’s so much compromise. Maybe it’s a track that it’s easy to make a mistake on. That’s why maybe veterans or people being around a bit longer don’t end up making mistakes. That might be the reason that you’ve seen champions win.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT HOW YOUNG GUYS CAN SHOW UP AT TRACKS AND BE ON THEIR A GAME. IS PART OF THAT BECAUSE OF SIM WORK – THEY’RE MORE PREPARED?
“Definitely simulator work. You know the braking points, you know the gears, you know the track. You don’t know the track condition. But, yeah, that’s a pretty big chunk of time you cut off trying to understand where a track goes by being on a sim the week before. That is a big, big help. Obviously video these days, so much on-board footage, there’s so much information to take in before you get there. You turn up, you’re going out first session knowing the track.”
A LOT OF DRIVERS PERFORM WORSE AFTER A MISTAKE, BUT YOU SHOWED THE OPPOSITE AT MID-OHIO. DO YOU THINK MISTAKES CAN MAKE YOU MORE POWERFUL ON TRACK?
“Yeah, honestly after I spun, I just gathered it up and didn’t really reflect on it, and just started passing people. Obviously it’s not even on your mind when you get to that point. Then you just start progressing, doing your job. I think that’s the only mentality you can have. I think the mistake people might make, I’ve made in the past, you get desperate. Oh, my God, I’m at the back, I made a mistake. That is right there, the mindset, that will make you have a worse race. I wasn’t even upset or mad. It’s like, OK, how do I keep going? Don’t stall the car. Got right back into it. Didn’t even think about it. The sooner you can get over that stuff, the better. You can’t be thinking about it three laps later. You have to keep chipping away. Still at that point in your mind every single point matters, so every position does matter. Maybe that’s your bad day that you spun. It’s your bad day. But every point matters here. That’s kind of the mentality I had at Indy when I went back to pretty much last in the first stint. I was like, This is double points, every position I get matters at the end of the year. That was the mentality. You’re not going to win every race, so it’s just getting the most out of every situation. That’s really what I have been doing this year.”
WERE YOU SATISFIED ABOUT THAT PERFORMANCE? YOU WERE FRUSTRATED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED?
“I was extremely happy about the finish. I was very, very happy with third. I couldn’t honestly believe that I made it to third. I was really, really happy. Just felt great for the team. It was a weekend that we had a lot of potential to win. But, like I said, you can’t win them all. You do have bad races. If you can come back from a mistake, that’s even better. Yeah, I was very, very happy with that day. Very happy.”
DO YOU SEE AUSTRALIA FOSTERING NEW TALENT TOWARD SINGLE-SEATER RACING, PARTICULARLY IN NORTH AMERICA?
“Yeah, I was really happy to see Hunter McElrea doing so good. I think he’s a super fast driver. Has definitely, definitely the potential to get to INDYCAR and do well. But, yeah, I don’t know what’s going on down in Australia so much these days. I haven’t been back there for a long time. I have to say, though, I’m sure Drive to Survive is helping just open-wheel motorsports in general. Like, I think go-karting is more popular now. I think all those series. I think it’s great. It’s giving open-wheel racing relevance. People understand the cars now. When they see an INDYCAR, they can identify, Oh, yeah, that’s just like a Formula 1 car. I think having Scott (McLaughlin) come over and do really well from Supercars, I think kids would see that and go, Maybe I want to go that route. If you do some Supercar driving, doesn’t mean you can’t come and race open-wheels. You’ve seen how well Scott adapted pretty quickly. Yeah, I would love to see more Australians over here. I think now Roger has taken the series over, the ladder system will get stronger. You already see there’s more Indy Lights cars. Hopefully more again next year. That’s what it needs, is a very good ladder system with three categories before INDYCAR. If you start doing more than that, it starts watering the three down. I hope that we can get three strong series together, massive fields. Yeah, it helps that ladder system.”
THERE’S A LOT OF NEW ZEALANDERS AND AUSTRALIANS THAT GO ON TO DEVELOPMENT SERIES WITH SUPERCARS. WHAT MCLAUGHLIN HAS DONE HELPS.
“What you have to look at, too, look at the past champions of Indy Lights. Not even champions, but guys that have competed first and second. Look at Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta. Those guys are testing Formula 1 right now. Who was last year’s champion? Kirkwood. I mean, if you go through that ladder system, you win on each rung of those ladders, you get money to go to the next series. There’s nothing like that anywhere else in the world. It’s a good place to go, it really is. It’s not as expensive as Europe. You are guaranteed to continue if you win. I think that’s a pretty good deal.”
THE CANADIAN FAN BASE LOKING FORWARD TO A RACE THERE. I’M SURE THAT WILLMAKE THE RAE THAT MUCH MORE EXCITING FOR YOU AS A DRIVER.
“Yeah, I think speaking to Kevin Savoree, he said ticket sales are really good. I think we’ll get a massive crowd. Always do. I think the Canadian fans are some of the best in the world. They love their sport. A real party atmosphere. Nothing better than racing in front of a big crowd. I expect it to be a pretty good event.”
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT TEAMING UP WITH YOUR BROTHER AND HAVING HIM GIVE HIS SHOWS SURROUNDING INDYCAR VENUES?
“No, obviously really enjoy him coming over because we share a similar sense of humor. Obviously enjoy his company massively. No, I’ve often thought about what we could do together after INDYCAR, on the comedy side of stuff because obviously he has a lot of contacts in Australia. Maybe we can do some sort of TV show or something. Yeah, haven’t ever really thought about him. He has talked about coming to the U.S. and doing gigs. I think he’d just have to follow what his management puts in place for him. Yeah, no, I would love him to live over here. That would be cool. I think he’s going to at some point pretty soon.”
TORONTO HAS VARYING GRIPS AND IT’S HARD TO PASS. IS THAT TROUBLE IF YOU DON’T START IN THE FIRST THIRD OF THE FIELD?
“Yeah, these days if you get in the top six, you’re pretty happy. You know you can do a lot from there. God, man, it’s so hard to predict the races. Like, it could go green. It could be a very straightforward race. I don’t think Toronto is all that difficult to pass. There are places to pass. You can pass. What’s happened is the field is so tough now, everyone is about the same speed in the race. That’s what makes it hard to pass. It’s not necessarily the track. I think Firestone has done a good job of making a big difference between blacks and reds. There’s another way that you can just switch up strategy and just be on a different tire than everyone else, different to the conventional strategies. Yeah, based on the three races I’ve had this year where I’ve come from way back, you would stress less about qualifying badly, just knowing if you keep your head you can definitely make hay. The points situation also changes the way you race a bit. You’re not in this ‘I have nothing to lose’ sort of mentality, so you do race a little differently because of that, as well.”
SEEING YOU ON TRACK THIS YEAR – VERY MATURE, A LOT OF FUN. YOURE’ JUST MAKING IT ROUGHER FOR EVERYONE ELSE.
“Everyone makes it tougher on each other. It’s a great group, great series. There’s nothing like it in the world, honestly. The disciplines you have to do, the competition, the different nationalities, it’s a pretty unique series.”
ANY CONCERN ON YOUR PART OR THE TEAM’S PART ON CHEVY RELIABILITY GOING FORWARD?
“Yeah, obviously always concerned when you see that. I will say that all the Chevys are switching out engines because they’re all up on mileage for this race. They are all on new engines. (Indiscernible) Indy 500 race engines. Chevy obviously does a big investigation into what happened. Usually a failure creates — it doesn’t happen twice, put it that way. I don’t know the findings of their investigation. I know one of them was not a Chevy issue.”
THE TEAM COMFORTABLE WITH THE SWAP-PUT, JUST FEELING NO ISSUES?
“No. No. I think we’re all pretty comfortable. We’ve had this engine for a long time. It’s been pretty reliable. Sometimes oddball things happen. They take care of it.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU SEE THE AEROSCREEN AFFECTING THE RACING IN TORONTO?
“Yeah, it definitely changed the car a lot because it moves the weight further forward. But I’ve actually found at Toronto, as the weight has gone forward, it’s really helped. On those really slippery cement patches, the actual weight downforce matters, so you get more weight force on the front tires, and it actually helps turn the car. That was a big problem when the car had really rearward weight, that the front tires would not work over that cement. Obviously at some point, when you have high grip, that weight matters laterally. But the grip is so low that the lateral — the actual weight downforce is more than the actual lateral force. So, yeah, it’s interesting. To me it actually helped at that specific track, at Toronto.”
YOU’VE BEEN STRONG THIS YEAR. WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOU AND TEAM PENSKE NEED TO DO TO BE EVEN STRONGER?
“For me personally is to qualify better. It’s not always been about pace. Last week it was just strategy and the lack of communication that got us. I actually feel like we would have definitely made it through to the Fast Six and potentially had a pole. Yeah, the last couple, Road America being P2 in practice, then not converting that in qualifying, that’s the sort of thing we’ve got to be on top of. I’ve just had a messy year of qualifying as far as being in the wrong place on track or not getting a big enough gap to the car in front, or simply not performing, not being fast enough. I’ve had all those situations. That’s the area I need to improve on for the next half of this season. I think that will put me in a really good position, if I do.”
DO YOU FEEL THE COMPETITION LEVEL IS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH?
“Yeah, definitely the all-time high as far as driver talent, the quality of teams. Yeah, it hasn’t been this tough ever. Yeah, three big teams now, four big teams: Penske, McLaren, Andretti, Ganassi. You add Shank into that. I don’t think there’s a series more competitive around the world than this.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE WHOLE TEST SITUATION WITH COLTON HERTA AND FORMULA 1?
“Yeah, man, I wish there was Zak Brown around when I was that age, when I first got to INDYCAR, because I know I would have got a chance in Formula 1. It’s cool to see that because I know how that feels. I know how awesome that would be for Colton. I really hope, if he goes there, he does really well. But, yeah, I mean, a great opportunity. I think it’s just so fantastic to have a team like McLaren and Zak Brown in INDYCAR. I think it’s great for the series. It’s good for the young guys here obviously. I think it’s great what Zak Brown is doing, I do. Cool to see.”
DO YOU THINK MCLAREN, ARROW MCLAREN SP HAS AN ADVANTAGE CORNERING YOUNG TALENT BECUASE HE CAN DANGLE THIS F1 RIDE TO JOINING THE TEAM?
“Yes, absolutely. That would be 100% why Palou would want to go there. I don’t blame him honestly. I mean, I would be the same. If you had a chance to go and race in F1, as big as F1 is now, yeah, you would want to go there. It’s pretty cool. You think about the reach that McLaren has, Formula E, Formula 1, sports car. Man, it’s a pretty good place, pretty good organization to be involved with.”
HOW FAR OFF DO YOU THINK ARROW MCLAREN SP IS TO JOINING THE PENSKES AND GANASSIS AT THE VERY ELITE LEVEL OF INDYCAR?
“They’re right there. They’re right there. It will be interesting. Obviously they’ve had young drivers, so it takes a while for the young guys to understand exactly what you need as far as development goes. But adding Rossi to the team, there’s a guy with a lot of experience. I think that’s kind of what it needed. Yeah, they’re there, man. They’re very, very strong. They’re a very good team.”
WITH HALF THE FIELD NEVER BEING IN TORONTO, DOES THAT GIVE YOU A CONFIDENCE BOOST BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN THERE BEFORE AND DONE WELL?
“No, no. Basically with simulators and video and everything, it doesn’t really give you an advantage any more. I think people turn up, they pretty much know the track. Yeah, it’s anyone’s guess who will be the quickest there and what the top 10 would be, honestly.”
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