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Paul Wolfe New Hampshire Media Availability

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
New Hampshire Media Availability | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Joey Logano and Team Penske in the NASCAR Cup Series, answered questions from the media about this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

PAUL WOLFE, crew chief, No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang Dark Horse – JOEY SAID LAST WEEKEND THAT NEW HAMPSHIRE MIGHT BE YOUR BEST TRACK. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? “I think in general our short track setups, I guess, or maybe philosophy has just always worked well back to the days that I worked with Brad. I think that was always a strength and then we were able to adapt that to Joey and find some things, and I think he’s studied a lot over the years as well, having Brad as a teammate and understanding some of his techniques and what-not. I think we’ve been able to carry some of that same type of approach and things that have worked in the past, and Joey was able to adapt and we’ve had good success. Even as you look at the past couple years with the Next Gen car, at times when we struggle for speed on mile-and-a-halves or road course, we always kind of have our short track program to fall back on and we’ve been able to find some success there, at least have good, solid runs. I think that’s obviously continued for us this year as well, so definitely with what we’ve been able to do there the past couple of years, I’m really excited about getting back there this week and continuing to build off our strong runs. Obviously, our teammates have been able to find Victory Lane on the short tracks, so we’re hoping it’s our turn this weekend.”

HAVE YOU GUYS DISCOVERED SOMETHING WITH THE DARK HORSE OR IS IT JUST A CASE OF BEING MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THE CAR BECAUSE YOU ALL HAVE IMPROVED? “I think it’s more of what we’ve been able to put together with the short track aero package, I guess. Phoenix was early in the season and I wouldn’t say we were great there, but, honestly, I have to keep going back to the test opportunity we had at North Wilkesboro early in the spring and really capitalizing and making the most of that. Obviously, Joey gets a lot of credit for that. We put in, I think almost 900 laps at North Wilkesboro. It was a Goodyear test, but we were able to work through a lot of questions we had and things we wanted to look at and gathered a lot of information that we’ve been able to apply to these recent short tracks, so I don’t know that it’s anything related to the Dark Horse specifically. I think it’s more just of what we’ve been able to find with the short track package. It’s obviously quite a bit different aero package than the other tracks.”

WHAT KIND OF CONFIDENCE DOES IT GIVE YOU THAT YOUR TEAMMATES HAVE FOUND VICTORY LANE RECENTLY? “I think it’s great. It’s great for the company. I mean, don’t get me wrong, as the 22 team we want to win too, but I think Roger’s always expressed this over the years – when one team wins we all win, and I think the way we’re structured and specifically as well as we’ve been working together with the 12 team here recently, we wanted to be the team spraying the champagne the other night, but you’ve got to look at it and know that we were a part of that in a way in helping build the program and the way we all work together, so it definitely gives us confidence. Like I said, if we can’t be in Victory Lane, there’s nothing better than seeing one of our team cars because it gives you another data point of, ‘OK, we’re on the right path here,’ the things we’ve been working on are correct and we’ll keep massaging on it as we move forward to Loudon this weekend.”

YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT TIRE COMBINATION AT NEW HAMPSHIRE THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR, BUT IT’S ONE OF THE SAME TIRES YOU RAN AT NORTH WILKESBORO AND WHAT YOU JUST RAN AT IOWA. CONSIDERING HOW GOOD YOU WERE AT BOTH PLACES, DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT THAT IT MIGHT GIVE YOU A LEG UP THIS WEEKEND? “Good question. I’ve said this over the years. Anytime there’s a tire change in our sport, whether it’s a construction, compound, big stagger changes, those things can really affect your setup, obviously, quite a bit. So, with that being such a big factor, yeah, I think as we’ve seen the consistency now on this tire for us and what we’ve been able to do in the past at New Hampshire, like I said, I’m excited to get to the track. I think we have as good a shat as anybody to get to Victory Lane this weekend, so obviously the loads as we talk about our short track package and the things that have worked for the 22 team and Team Penske on the short tracks, you’re making small changes because Iowa to New Hampshire the loading, the size of the track is a little different. I guess what makes as you focus on a certain part of the corner what makes success at Loudon versus Iowa is a little different, so you’re fine-tuning off from a base setup and settings in a race car, but when you find something that works until there is a big change in the tire or aero package, I’ve found over the years you can really just take it from one track to the next and do your offsets or your changes for the different loads or speeds and you can continue to have success with it. I’m really optimistic about this weekend with all that being said.”

WHAT IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL OF MAKING THE PLAYOFFS BASED ON WHERE YOU ARE NOW AND COMBINED WITH THE FACT IT SEEMS LIKE PENSKE AND FORD ARE ON THE UPSWING? “I think that’s good. It gives everyone confidence as we move forward. I think as we started this stretch here, I guess you look back a month ago after we won the All-Star Race at Wilkesboro, having a lot of confidence in where we’re at with this aero package as well as short track setup stuff. When Joey and I sat down I said, ‘This is our stretch. This is probably gonna be some of our best opportunities to get a win and get ourselves locked in.’ That being said, unfortunately we haven’t been the one in the winner’s circle, it’s been our teammates and now they’re both locked in, but I still like what’s coming up here, obviously, this weekend. Richmond is still on the schedule before the playoffs, and then I look at Daytona. The speedway program with all of the Fords has been strong. Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff out of our control there, but know that’s a realistic opportunity, and then there are some races, just being honest, that I’m not really sure how it’s gonna go. Nashville has been a little bit of a struggle for our company with this Next Gen car. With that being said, I think the way Iowa turned out and the speeds and the loads and the things that we learned from Iowa, it’s not extremely different from Nashville. It kind of falls maybe somewhere in between the intermediate and Iowa, so there’s maybe some takeaways from Iowa that we can apply at Nashville, but I think as a whole – Team Penske – I think our biggest area for improvement is gonna be the high-speed tracks and we’ve got Pocono, Indy, Michigan. Those are the tracks that we have to figure out to feel like we’re gonna be realistic contenders. It’s good to see that RFK has been able to find that speed on those tracks. I think that’s been their strength and on the flip side of that I don’t think they’ve been as good on the short track stuff as we have, so we know it’s there. We’ve seen Brad and the 17 bunch be able to have speed on those type of tracks, so we’re gonna continue to try to find something there. Listen, we’re not gonna change what we’re doing. We go to every racetrack trying to be the best we can and put the best car out there. Obviously, we’re not in the situation we want to be in – we’re below the cut and where we’ve been at on some of these tracks speedwise, but we’re gonna continue to work and hopefully it’s gonna put us where we need to be.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW NEW HAMPSHIRE AND IOWA ARE DIFFERENT IN THE CORNERS AND HOW BIG OF A CHANGE TO YOU HAVE TO MAKE IN THE CAR TO ADAPT FROM ONE TO THE OTHER? “Like I said, it’s quite a bit different loading and speed with Iowa being quite a bit faster. I’d say it’s our fastest what we consider short track, flat track mid-corner speeds you’ll see. To go along with that, the loads were pretty high. All of the manufacturers did a wheelforce test there a month or so back and I think as we got back to the track, I think we saw even higher speeds and along with that goes the higher loading, which I think is all part of a lot of the tire failures we saw in Iowa in practice. It got a little better in the race. There still were issues, but essentially they’re just very hard on those tires and so to go along with that there’s quite an air-pressure change to account for that loading. Shocks and springs could change as well, just depending on the aero platform you’re targeting, but I think guys try to get aggressive. There was speed in the lower air-pressures as well as cambers at Iowa. Obviously, it bit some teams with ours being one of them – the 2 car – but I think we all learned from it and got much more conservative for race day and were able to do those longer green flag runs without issues. I think as we look to Loudon, you’ll look to guys probably adjusting back down to more aggressive cambers and air-pressures to find that grip on the flatter track at New Hampshire.”

HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE FIRST PART OF THE SEASON? WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED ABOUT THE SPORT IN GENERAL THAT HAS BROUGHT US TO WHERE WE ARE NOW? “I think the parity more than anything. I think we’ve continued with this car each year. Guys really fine-tuning and dialing it in, and I think I’ve spoken about this earlier in the year, but, at times, when you feel like you’re struggling because you’re running 22nd, you’re really not as far off as it may seem. You’re accustomed to a history of a bad day for a Team Penske car may have been running 15th. Well, with as close as the field is now that gets magnified and you have to be perfect. When I say perfect, that means not only from maybe a philosophy of a setup approach, but even the simple thing as just a balance being a round of wedge or something like that, or a pound of air-pressure. The difference that can make from running position in a race now is unbelievable from what you’re used to over the years, so to go along with that I think just the level of consistency you need on pit road to be able to make positions as well, I think we’ve seen that get to a whole other level. A lot of consistent eight-second pit stops. We’ve got to continue to push there to keep up on pit road, but everyone is just running so close and at times as we talk about strategy and those types of things and how to pass and whether we think racing is good or bad at certain tracks, it should be expected with where we’ve gone with this car – with the box that all the teams are in now and guys figuring out. I mean, everyone in the garage has made it to this level because they’re very talented. Yeah, maybe they didn’t have it the first year, but each year they’re eventually gonna figure it out. Once everyone figures it out, now you’re down to the minute details and everyone is running so close. Frankly, it’s hard at times. I’ll use the 51 as an example with Justin Haley. In the past years, you would never even think. If you were racing with him, you knew something was really wrong, but the fact of the matter is now those guys are good. All those guys in the back are good and now they’ve got their cars close to where we’re at and you’re gonna have to race them. It’s just made it super competitive and it’s made it feel like days where you’re off just a little bit it feels like you’re a mile off, so it’s all about the details right now. That’s all I can really express on that.”

AS A DRIVER, YOUR TWO BEST TRACKS IN NXS WERE LOUDON AND NASHVILLE. DOES THAT HELP AT ALL 20 YEARS LATER? “That’s a great question. I’m pretty removed from it now. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years already since the Busch race I ran there in 2004. I think I finished 12th, but we were doing this little segment with NBC this weekend when they follow the crew on the pit box and they were wanting some photos of when I raced at New Hampshire and I just pulled back up that race I did there and just looking at the guys I was racing against there at New Hampshire was pretty crazy with Harvick and Kenseth and Ron Hornaday. There were 48 cars that tried to make that race in New Hampshire in that year, so it was kind of neat to look back because I haven’t really done that a whole lot. You get so into what I’m doing now that those days are behind me, but I did take a minute this morning and it was kind of cool to look back at that race I did there. The cars and this sport has changed so much now that it’s hard for me to say that that has a big impact on what I do to our race car now. It is neat to have been around the racetrack and know what it feels like, but, like I said, the cars are so much different these days that not a lot applies I wouldn’t think.”

WHY HAVE THE RECENT REPAVES PRODUCED SUCH GOOD RACING? WHAT IS CHANGING? “That’s a great question. I think we all, anytime we’ve heard repave here recently, it makes us all nervous and you’re right, the racing has been as good or arguably you could say better on a couple of these repaves. Now, the surface at Wilkesboro, the aggregate, the make-up of the asphalt they used there was definitely quite a bit different looking at it from what we’re used to. It was much more coarse and the way they’re repaving them these days must be different because I remember going to that test and typically when you do a repave test in year’s past, it would take a day or two before the track would even begin to come in and have any type of grip and North Wilkesboro had grip instantly. I think from run two of the test I don’t know that we really picked up speed from the track surface gaining grip other than just changes we made to our race car, so the grip is there instantaneously. Maybe that has something to do with the car as well. I think that’s obviously a big factor in the tire from the repaves of old with the old generation car and the 15-inch tire. Maybe it’s a combination. I think as you look at the groove getting wider now I think these cars without all of the big side force in them, I think you can run on the outside of someone a lot better – the right side of them. I think that’s something the drivers comment about a lot, where getting to the outside is much more doable with this car, and I think both Wilkesboro and Iowa have that progressive banking the best I understand, so I think that helps make that top groove work as well. It’s definitely encouraging and at this point it would be hard to say it couldn’t work at other tracks as well that are in need of a repave. I think another piece to that too is the whole strategy side of it. Although we don’t have tire fall off, you have strategy from a different angle. You saw it again at Iowa. The guys stayed, two tires, a lot of different options there where when you talk about going to Richmond, which is wore out and most of the drivers say that’s what they like, they think that’s good racing, you’ve got to manage your car, that strategy for the most part is pretty straightforward. There’s no opportunity to mix anything up because you’re coming for tires no matter what. Iowa, Gateway, the no tire falloff definitely changes up the strategy game and makes it exciting from a different level, I think. I don’t know that I have a strong opinion of what style I like, but I’m definitely a big strategy guy and I enjoy that side of it, especially if you don’t have the best car. It still gives you an opportunity to try to mix something up and make something happen.”

LOOKING AHEAD TO CHICAGO, SVG WON THAT RACE AND THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT HIS TECHNIQUES. JOEY SAID HE WATCHED VIDEO OF WHAT HE DOES, BUT SAYS HE DOESN’T HAVE THE TIME LEFT IN HIS CAREER TO ADAPT TO WHAT SVG IS DOING. HAVE YOU TALKED TO JOEY ABOUT THAT AND CHANGING HIS DRIVING STYLE? AND IF JOEY CAN’T DO THAT, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU AND THE TEAM CAN DO TO CATCH UP TO WHAT HE’S DOING? “We’ve definitely talked about it, for sure. Obviously, Joey mentioned it and I think he recognizes it. We all, as a sport, when you see someone come in and doing something different you’ve got to understand why and what the benefits could be, but for sure Joey knows as well as anybody if it’s something he can adapt to or not. That’s obviously I’m sure years and years of doing something a certain way and muscle memory and all those types of things. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t adapt to it, but I think the limited practice and testing these days make that even more difficult. Are you gonna figure it out in 20 minutes? It’s like, ‘Are you willing to sacrifice a practice or a whole race weekend to try to learn this or get better at it?’ That’s a tough one. The days of testing or the days of three practices in a weekend, I think that makes that conversation different potentially, but, yeah, I don’t know that we’ve pushed it hard on him or anything. It’s been talked about a little bit, but he’s gonna know best what he thinks realistically at this point in his career he can do. With that being said, obviously, we had some good cars – us, the 2 and the 12 were very good at Sonoma, which was encouraging. The street course is a whole different animal, but I still do think there are some learnings from that weekend at Sonoma that us and the 12 will apply and hopefully get ourselves a little bit better, but the second time around, all the drivers are gonna be a lot better at the street course racing. SVG is incredible on road courses in general as he’s been able to have the success he’s had, so he’ll still be a factor, but I think the gap, as good as the guys are in this series, will close up on that and hopefully we can put together a little bit better car as well.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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