THE MODERATOR: We are joined in the media center by two of our race winning team members. We have Crew Chief Paul Wolfe and Team Penske Vice Chairman Walt Czarnecki. Gentlemen, congratulations. Thanks for coming on in.
(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)… more NASCAR Cup info can be found here.
Walt, we’ll start with you. Today is a big day for Team Penske. Had a win in INDYCAR and here in St. Louis. What’s that mean for the organization?
WALTER CZARNECKI: It means a lot. We didn’t have a great weekend in Indianapolis last week, and we didn’t have a great weekend in Charlotte last week either.
So to come back and win Bell Isle and then win this race really means a lot. I was trying to remember the last time we had a twofer, so to speak. I can’t remember. Clearly, pre-pandemic. A great day for all of us. It really was.
Before I finish, I want to make sure that I congratulate Curtis Francois and Chris Blair on the team here at World Wide Technology Raceway for a premier race. We’ve been track operators, and we are track operators. We see the way things are done. They did everything properly.
I think the thousands of people here enjoyed themselves. Congratulations to Curtis and Chris.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks. Paul, for you: Can you talk to us just a little bit about the strategy and those last few laps of the race as well?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, going into the race today, obviously, we knew the tire fall-off. We didn’t see a lot of it in the practice we had on Friday, so we knew there were going to be some situations where it was going to be a tough call whether or not to pit.
As the race got going, I realized it was even more so than really what I initially thought it would be. I had kind of seen the 19 did the two tires earlier in the race or mid part of the race and was able to hold the lead well.
We came down to that last pit stop, and I don’t remember exactly where we were. Right around the tenth place or just out of the top ten. Was concerned about left side tires and the failures we’ve seen, but at this stage of the race this was our opportunity if we were going to have a shot to win.
We have a win this year already, so it gives us an opportunity to be a little more aggressive. I knew that was going to be our opportunity was to be to get off of pit row with two tires.
From there, Joey did a great job on those restarts. You never really knew what was going to happen. As big as the track position was in the clean air, he did a great job of being able to get by the 18 when he was leading.
It was fun to watch, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and open it up for questions. If you have one for Paul or Walt, please raise your hand, and we’ll bring a mic over to you.
- Paul, I’m curious what you looked at for this track trying to get a setup to balance one end to the other? Is it anything like maybe Pocono, Darlington, or the way that you had to work this track?
PAUL WOLFE: I think for us we consider this a short track, and it is the same tire combination we run earlier this year at Phoenix as well as Richmond.
I would say the way the surface is, Phoenix was probably more along the lines of what we would look at. Phoenix is very different from one end to the other. Still quite a bit different from this, but I think we kind of lean on that race track.
As the tire and how the tire reacts to the cars is always a big part of our setup as well. I feel like whenever there’s a tire change, that could change our setup a good bit.
So being on the same tire as Phoenix, knowing that the surface has been repaved here recently, we kind of looked at that and kind of what we would expect based off of that race earlier this year.
- Paul, a lot has been made about being able to use cars at various different tracks. I’m curious if you know when this car was used last or if it’s a new car?
PAUL WOLFE: It’s a good question, Bob. Unfortunately, I don’t know off the top of my head. That just means it doesn’t matter anymore. There’s not cars that we take specifically to certain tracks. I’m not sure where this one was run last, but for sure there’s just nothing different.
This could be the same car we’ve raced at Daytona. That’s the part about this that we’ve all looked forward to is not being able to have track-specific cars. We can definitely move them around and take them from one track to the other.
- So we were seeing with the tire fall-off didn’t really have much of an affect today. Yet, we still saw teams and cars cutting tires, like your stablemate or with the 12 team. So is it just teams not running what Goodyear is recommending, or why exactly are we seeing tires being cut like this?
PAUL WOLFE: I don’t know that anyone in the garage is running maybe what Goodyear is recommending for air pressure. There’s just a lot of speed and grip in pushing the limits on the tires, and as a competitor, that’s why everyone is doing it.
I don’t think you see it just amongst one organization. I think if you look throughout the year, we’ve seen every team having issues. Like I said, that really just comes down to trying to get every last little bit.
I think we’re still learning as well where those limits are, and we’re obviously right on edge. Definitely it was concerning to see the 12 have an issue.
I made a small adjustment just because. I know we’re not extremely different in our setups amongst all our cars, so I made a small air pressure adjustment just to be a little more conservative once they had their issue.
I think as race teams, we’re still trying to learn where the limit is every track we go to. And the loading is different and how we get around each race track, so we’re still continuing to learn that and understand it.
- Paul, you mentioned the last time that you were at Gateway, you won in 2010 in October with Brad Keselowski. How neat is it to come back here for the inaugural Cup race and win that too?
PAUL WOLFE: It’s obviously special any time you can win a race. Especially at this level, it’s so hard. To be able to do it at the Cup level, that’s a whole other league, obviously.
It was neat to me. The last time I was here was more than 12 years ago, and coming back here you have forgot a lot of things about it.
But to Walt’s point, what a great job they did putting on the race here. It’s a lot of fun to race here. I know Joey had a lot of fun out there as well.
- Paul, two wins in the last four races. You had some back-to-back top tens, but you have also had some finishes outside the 20s or even in the 30s. 15 races into the season with 11 to go in the regular season. Do you know how good you guys are or where you are at this point with everything that’s happened this year?
PAUL WOLFE: Not really, and it’s funny. Walt and I were talking about that a few minutes ago. It’s just how up and down it is right now with the learning curve and going to new race tracks and trying to understand the car.
As good as we were this weekend right off the truck, you look back to Dover is probably our worst race of the year to date, and it was terrible. We couldn’t get nothing right.
It makes it even harder without practice, right? It was nice this weekend to get 50 minutes. It’s not a lot, but it gives us the opportunity to try a few things and try to build our notebook as we move forward.
Obviously, it’s nice to have speed. Now we just need the consistency and try to continue to put it together. I don’t know that any team has really shown every week. I feel like you never know what to expect every weekend when you show up.
At this point we have to just keep learning from our struggles and continue to build on our successes and get ourselves in a good spot as we start the playoffs.
- I understand that, but I know each summer is kind of the unique schedule with the different types of tracks. You have a concrete track coming up. After you have Sonoma, a concrete track. Road America. You have a speedway race at Atlanta. These are all different types of things. How much does this help in terms of playoffs, or what does this stretch of all these different types of tracks help you guys with because it seems like it’s hard to kind of get a read now and even in the next few weeks.
PAUL WOLFE: Like I said, we kind of look at what we learned or did at Phoenix earlier this year. I think as I look at this track, it was another data point for, I guess, short track racing for us as we know that we have those in the playoffs. Obviously, Loudon is coming up, another short track.
I think, in general, you would say short tracks have been our strength. Especially the 22 team. I think that’s where we’ve had speed at most every short track.
But, yeah, there’s a good stretch of road courses coming up here that there’s a lot to learn there as we have one of those in the playoffs as well. It’s definitely a good mix.
We used to look back in the past and say the mile-and-a-halfs were where it was at and what you needed to be good at to have a shot to win a championship. As you really look at the schedule, there’s more variety than just those mile-and-a-halfs.
With the mile-and-a-halfs not being our strength right now, I’m not disappointed in that either.
- Just kind of curious. You said short tracks are your strength, but let’s face it, the short tracks earlier this year, the action just did not seem like traditional short track action. It just wasn’t scintillating. I know they’re going to work on a Martinsville test to try to figure some things out, but I guess with the heat and having time to work on your short track program, this race did not disappoint from an entertainment value. I don’t know what it was from where you were sitting, but I think from a spectator standpoint it was pretty sporty. Is it just the gains that the teams are making on the car at this point that kind of made this a more competitive race?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah. Obviously, we’re getting smarter about it, but I think some of the strategy stuff and how that played out today, I think we saw that flip-flop at times with guys staying out versus coming to get tires. I think that kind of mixes up the field a little bit.
The track widened out really well I thought here, and there was multiple grooves, which any time we can have multiple grooves, we’re going to be able to put on a better race.
From there the other piece I think that makes the racing really good is tire fall-off, and unfortunately, we didn’t have that here. But I think for what we had, yeah, I agree it got exciting. I think the restarts and those types of things always make it interesting, and we were able to see guys pass.
Honestly, I thought whoever got the lead was going to win the race. To see Joey be able to make that move on the 18 once he had cleared them and had the lead, I was impressed by that move because it seemed like once you got the lead, it was hard to pass.
I think that just speaks to being able to run a different lane. We ran a different lane down three and four. So I think they did a good job with the race track, and multiple grooves make for better racing, obviously.
- Follow-up question from earlier on. The team is not running what Goodyear is recommending. So at what point should NASCAR step in and take a page from Formula 1 and actually enforce what Goodyear is recommending teams should be running?
PAUL WOLFE: I don’t know if that’s a question you should be asking me, but I think from a team side, I think we could work together as an industry to understand why we’re having the failures and maybe as a group come up with a solution because nobody wants to go out there and be thinking who is going to blow the next time, right?
At the same time, like I said, as a team, you can’t just leave that on the table. There’s speed there, so you are always going to push to the limits.
I do remember when I first got in the Cup Series, there was a minimum air pressure where Goodyear would set and NASCAR would try to police that during the pit stops. That’s really hard to do when you have 40 cars out there and trying to make sure everyone put the right air pressure in before the pit stop.
I don’t know that we need to go there. I think just as a group we need to try to come up with a solution to get ourselves in a spot where we’re not that on edge.
- Paul, where are you guys at with inventory, parts and pieces? Do you feel comfortable yet?
PAUL WOLFE: No. (Laughing) I don’t know when we’ll feel comfortable. Yeah, we’re still just getting by, and I think we’re doing a great job with what we have to work with, but we’re definitely not in a spot where we can feel comfortable about it.
Hopefully we’ll eventually get to that, but I think right now it’s just everyone is on equal playing field here, so it’s whoever can manage what they’ve got the best.
- Coming into the year, we kept hearing the summer months hopefully was going to be that mark when inventory and parts and pieces would be a little bit better, so you say, hopefully we’ll get there. Do you have an idea of when you feel good about where you are at?
PAUL WOLFE: Honestly, I probably can’t answer that question well for you. I don’t personally.
Fortunately, we have a great group back at the shop that kind of manages that more than I do. I try to just worry about getting the setups in the cars and what not. I probably can’t answer that question great for you.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us. Congratulations.
WALTER CZARNECKI: I had one other comment. I meant to say it earlier. I want do give a shout-out to Ryan Blaney for what he did for his teammate.
It was a great team win today for Team Penske, and I think Ryan demonstrated that with that push on that last start. I want to make sure that he got the recognition for what he did.
Here’s the star of the show, so Paul and I will exit the scene.
THE MODERATOR: We will continue our media availability with our race winning driver, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford for Team Penske.
Joey, you seem to have a knack for new venues. Is there a strategy behind it? Is it lots of studying? Is it getting a feel once you go out there? Can you talk to us a little bit about all these new venues and your success?
JOEY LOGANO: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. For one, I think our team does a good job at adapting quickly. This weekend is probably a little different because we just unloaded pretty good. All three, even the 21, all of us unloaded with pretty good speed in the cars.
For whatever reason, we hit it. For not having much data and how to set up the car for this race track, it was pretty close.
There’s that, but I think there’s also how quick you’ve got to adapt at these race tracks when you go there for the first time as far as how you call the race, how you restart, how you pass cars, those things.
We don’t know what those are going to be until the race starts. You know, what lines you’re going to run. I was surprised see how high we got on both ends at the line. That kind of changes the way your car drivers.
I think in general just you’ve got to be open-minded and do things quickly, learn quickly. I think that’s what it’s about right now.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.
- This is kind of silly, but of all the fabulous Italian restaurants in this town, you went to Spaghetti Factory?
JOEY LOGANO: I Googled ‘Italian restaurants,’ and Maps only came up with that one. That was it. I don’t know what to tell you. Yeah, I know. I know. I felt the same way. (Laughing)
- If you could line up with anybody to try to get a win. Kyle Busch, to have the two of you go (inaudible) — in overtime for a win and to pull that off, I mean, that’s got to be a huge boost for this team.
JOEY LOGANO: Absolutely. Kyle and I have raced each other for a long time now. I even think back to when we raced Xfinity cars before I moved up to Cup. We were racing each other for wins a lot earlier in my career.
To still do that today, it’s pretty cool, right? Kyle is one of the best in the sport. I knew it was going to be a slugfest right there until the end. To be able to have Blaney behind me, he gave me the push. That was what I needed.
To be able to have position down in the one. He knew the slide job was coming. He knows me pretty well, and he crossed me back. Then I kind of figured it was coming back at me. If I’m willing to do it, he is going to be willing to do it.
I just kind of saw it coming and crossed him back and was able to clear him by two, three car lengths off of four to take the while flag. That was kind of the deciding factor.
If we came off that corner side-by-side still, I don’t know what the finish would have looked like. But once I was able to clear him two, three car lengths, I felt like, okay, just normal lap here, and I’ll be all right.
- In overtime how much of that is going through your head? Is it all about tendencies of another driver? If it was somebody else, not Kyle, do you think they would not throw sliders and crossovers? How much do you have to take into account that it’s him that you are racing against?
JOEY LOGANO: We all have notebooks on each other, mental notebooks, of knowing the way each other races and what’s probably coming our way.
You try to think about all the stuff, but you don’t really know what the play is going to be until you get there sometimes. You think of all the different things, and you just have to do one thing at a time. Restart, execute the restart, and get into turn one with an advantage. We were able to do that.
Then it’s, what’s the next play here? Well, it’s making sure you get to the top side. You make sure you clear them. After that it’s kind of you just go back to racing at that point.
Coleman did a great job at clearing me when it mattered the most, but also giving me the information I needed to cross him back in three and four.
The 12 is too close to me down the back stretch, I wouldn’t be able to execute the crossover back. If the 12 stuck his nose there , I couldn’t pull all the way back down and wouldn’t be able to cross him back.
Having that information of knowing what move to make in three and four. Do I stay on his door and try to get him on the outside, or is it best off for me to cross him here?
Knowing that I had three car lengths or so down the back stretch, that was enough room to back up the corner and turn it down.
- (Off microphone)
JOEY LOGANO: What do you mean? How do we have enough room?
- (Off microphone)
JOEY LOGANO: It’s because clean air means so much. Clean air is everything in our sport right now. It meant so much.
There’s times when they’re two wide in front of you and, you are, like, oh, yeah, I’m going to get a twofer here, I’m going to get both of them, and you don’t. You stay behind them. Clean air just means so much.
Even when you are offline and cars are checking up and crossing each other, all this stuff, clean air means so much.
- Maybe it’s kind of a similar question, but the last three restarts you and Coleman were kind of going back and forth trying to figure out, well, if I do this, if I go there, who do I have behind you? What are all the factors that go into what you want to do either as the control car or even as the second place car?
JOEY LOGANO: It’s a lot of questions asked, right? One being, who are you lining up against? I knew I was going to be against the 18.
He got the lead on the bottom on a restart earlier. So I felt like he was pretty strong on the bottom of the race track. Now we were on older tires, so you could almost argue the top would be better. Kind of thought at the end of the race I knew, hey, I’m willing to pull a slide job to get the lead. So I felt like the most comfortable spot for me was on the bottom.
And then we restarted, and he was on the top and took the lead back, and I was, like, oh, geez. Coleman said to take the top. That was his suggestion, and I wanted to stick with my gut, and I was wrong. I shouldn’t have learned to myself. (Laughing)
Then the final restart, we were at the bottom, and we took the lead back. I guess you can argue either side. With this Next Gen car, it just seems like the restarts are more 50/50 on the front row than ever before.
I would say with the old car it’s almost 100% you take the top, but now it’s a little bit more 50/50 for sure.
- Then you mentioned the clean air especially right now on short tracks or flatter tracks. Do you have any sort of input for NASCAR whether it’s the rear diffuser or spoiler or maybe a little bit more power or whatever? Do you have an idea?
JOEY LOGANO: I don’t know. I mean, you are never going to get rid of dirty air in racing, period. You look at any form of motorsports, it’s there.
You can look at Sprint Car racing. You can look at INDYCAR. You can look at F1, NASCAR, you name it. We’re going fast, and aerodynamics makes speed. We can’t unlearn the things we know as a race team. We can’t unlearn these things. You are always going to have dirty air. Can’t fix it.
But the way it all is — this year is a lot different where the wake used to go to the right a lot because the cars had a lot of yaw on the cars.
The wake, you kind of think about a boat. That’s kind of how the wake works. It would act like the wake would go way to the right. We could never move to the right side of a car to pass them.
On the flip side, the left side was pretty clean. If you can get your left front headlight out, it was almost like clean air. So now with the cars straight and it’s symmetrical on both sides, so if you can get to the right side of someone, it’s as good as getting to the left side of somebody.
It’s more concentrated behind a car, so if you are directly behind the car, it is more intense than it’s ever been, but it’s better on either side of the car, left or right.
It is what it is. I don’t know how you fix that, right? You’re punching a hole in the air. I don’t know how you don’t — you have a smaller car? I don’t know. You look at other forms of racing that have smaller cars; they fight the same things.
So I don’t know if there’s really a clean, true answer to fix it. I think you can make adjustments and probably make it better. We’ve seen in the past smaller spoilers make it better. We’ve seen that.
We’ve already got a fairly small spoiler on the car already, so I don’t know how you adjust to fix it at this point.
- You won Bristol dirt. You won the Coliseum. You win here. What is it with you and first time Cup races at tracks?
JOEY LOGANO: Beats me. I don’t know. Like I said earlier, I think it’s just kind of being able to adapt quickly as a race team. I don’t think it’s just me.
I think all of us as a race team, we were able to call the right strategies, adapt to restarts quickly, understand what lanes are going to move, where the track is going, how to adjust on the car. All those things are new.
I don’t know. I enjoy the challenge. It’s fun. Honestly, this weekend we were just fast. We unloaded fast. Like I said, for not having much data, we unloaded quick, and the car went fast this week.
- Joey, MRN mentioned I think maybe about halfway through the race that you and Ross Chastain had gotten into each other. If that’s true, what exactly happened there?
JOEY LOGANO: He got in the back of me in the three when we were three-wide, but I think he just drove in the corner a little hard. I don’t think it was anything intentional.
We were racing really hard, and I checked up because I was three-wide on the bottom, and I think he just over-drove the corner and got in the back of me. No harm, no foul.
- A couple of questions. Joey, I was asking Paul this earlier, but two wins in the last four races for you guys. You’ve had some top tens back-to-back, but you’ve also had some races where you guys have been off or struggled and even had a race like Dover where you were way off. After 15 races, do you know how good you guys are? Do you know where you guys are in relation to anybody at this point?
JOEY LOGANO: It’s a roller coaster ride, that’s for sure. (Laughing) We’re up and down.
Charlotte last week we were in position to win the race. We took two tires, maybe four tires, maybe we win the race. I don’t know. We end up wrecking there.
So you are in position. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve seen here is that fast cars, yes, win races, and it’s nice to have a fast car, but it seems like there are so many different things going on.
If you can just get yourself to the front, you have a chance no matter how fast your car is or not fast your car is. You have a chance if you are in the front.
You just have to figure out a way to get there. It’s different for each track and how do you that. I don’t think anyone has it figured out yet.
And there’s just tracks that, like I said, we’re pretty good at. I think the tracks where you come out of the gas pedal, the cars are pretty good. Some of the tracks that you are in the throttle all the way around, doesn’t seem to be our wheelhouse right now. It goes back and forth. I don’t know.
I mean, you say that, but then you look at the 12 was pretty decent last weekend. The 2 was as well. It’s just a razor’s edge where you’re good or not. It just goes back and forth quickly.
- Also, I know winning is always special, but to do it on a day when essentially your teammate won, Will Power, over on the INDYCAR side. Other than making the boss man happy, what does it mean to have a Sunday sweep?
JOEY LOGANO: That was news to me, so that’s fantastic. I did not know that, so that’s cool that they won on INDYCAR side as well.
I think a lot of real special things this weekend. Obviously, for Team Penske winning a couple. I think what you look at for St. Louis what we did here this weekend is a huge success for the city, for our sport, for the fans.
You look at the racing was good. It was good action all the way down until the end. The fans were on their feet coming for the crew. Every one of them were here. I think they’re all still here down in three or four enjoying a concert with somebody.
I think the track did a tremendous job promoting the event. You see the billboards on the highways. They were ready, and they really promoted it. They did a fantastic job, and I think that’s something that we shouldn’t just look past because they promoted it correctly. They had good racing. They cared about the racing as well.
Then they had good entertainment when there wasn’t racing. They have concerts. I think they had Nelly here last night. They had cool stuff. It makes for a fun weekend for fans to be here. Home run on every department, if you ask me.
- A lot of drivers yesterday called this track one-dimensional, but it seemed like it really kind of took rubber as the way today was going on. You were able to move around. There was a lot of side-by-side racing deeper in the pack. How would you describe what you saw and kind of adjust throughout the race for this race track?
JOEY LOGANO: The track definitely took a lot of rubber early in the race. Cars were kind of fighting for the bottom, and then it was, oh, you want the top. And then it rubbered up so much that it was pretty equal top to bottom.
Early in the run maybe you could run the bottom a little better. Before you know it, one and two were a lane off the wall, and three and four were pretty close to that as well. The track just took a lot of rubber. That part was good.
Not a whole bunch of tire fall-off, but took a lot of rubber, and the track got wide. That was a key thing for racing. If we didn’t have fall-off and the track wasn’t wide, we would be in trouble. At least it was a wide track to where it promoted good racing.
- (Off microphone)
JOEY LOGANO: Not so much. I definitely expected it in one and two. Maybe not that high, but I expected it to widen out.
And then three and four I thought it was kind of 50/50 which way it would go, and it seems like with the Next Gen cars the outside is more inviting because of the way the wake is, as I was saying earlier. It kind of makes the track a little bit wider because the right side is better, moving to the right side. So that was good.
Thank you, guys. Safe travels.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports