NASCAR Transcript: Brian Wilson and Walter Czarnecki – Press Conference – 06.02.24

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Brian Wilson, crew chief of the No. 2 team, and Walter Czarnecki, the vice chairman of Penske Corporation.

Why don’t you talk us through the final laps, what is feels for the No. 2 team to get the first win of the season.

BRIAN WILSON: To start with, it was a great day for everyone at Ford. To have two of our cars up front, the 22 ran well as well. It was a great day for the 2 car specifically. It was going to be a good day.

All of a sudden within a lap, it turned into a great day for us. For our team, it’s great to see. We’ve had a lot of progress this year. Feel like we’ve been building towards this to be able to compete for wins. So to be able to get it was a great day.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up to questions.

Q. I know the 12 had some fuel issues. Did you all feel like you were short late, or did you feel confident in what you had?

BRIAN WILSON: No, honestly at that point we felt we were in a good position. Obviously on that last stop, everyone is trying to be as quick as they can. We were in a fortunate position where I felt pretty good about it.

Q. How would you describe Austin’s kind of attitude or approach? Do you feel like he’s racing as if he feels like he’s racing for his job? Do you feel like he’s racing feeling that he’s still a young driver trying to improve?

WALTER CZARNECKI: I think I wouldn’t use that former description. He’s a fellow who has been frustrated. But he’s come along, in particularly the last five or six races we’ve seen a great deal of progress.

He’s never lost his desire, his intensity. I use the word ‘desire’ to win. If we give him a good car like we did today, like Brian and the team did, like Brian said we had three good Dark Horse Mustangs today.

I thought towards the end of the race when the 12 and the 20 were putting on such a great show for the spectators, it was worth the price of administration. As a fan I enjoyed that. I was watching Austin, he was patient. He didn’t push the issue. There were some guys on him. He hung in there and drove.

I will tell you, he has not lost his desire. This is a reaffirming situation, circumstance for him today. In fact, we just talked about it in Victory Lane.

We’ve never lost faith in Austin Cindric, I promise you.

Q. You had a lot of speed today. You put yourself in the right position. How does that build momentum for you going forward?

BRIAN WILSON: Yeah, I feel like that’s been a focus of ours. We feel like we’ve had a lot of good Saturdays. Practice has been strong, qualifying at times. For us to be able to have a complete weekend, start the race with good speed, make sure we executed it, stay up front, running in the top five for a majority of the day, says a lot about the progress of our team, where we’re at.

Being able to take the speed we found on Saturdays where you’re practicing by yourself, clean air, qualifying where it’s single lap, take all that speed and translate it into a strong Sunday where Austin is happy with the car. We made minimal changes throughout the day to keep up with the track. I think it just speaks to where the team is at.

WALTER CZARNECKI: If I could comment on that, as well.

The strategy that Brian and Paul and Jonathan utilized, when some people went to two tires early on, they maintained their game plan. They stuck with their game plan. Who knows when you’re back 23rd, 24th, something happens, a caution, all of a sudden you’re in trouble.

These guys stuck with it, and it paid off at the end for basically all three of them.

Q. From a storytelling standpoint, can you talk about how special this is for Austin and his family?

WALTER CZARNECKI: Well, I know his father very well, as you might imagine (smiling). I just talked to his dad. I called him. I know how important it is to him.

There may be an extra measure of pressure on Austin, frankly, because we’ve given him the responsibility for our race team operations.

Austin is a driver, his dad is a manager. The two don’t meet at all. Well, they meet. In fact, he probably holds Austin to a little bit higher standard than everybody else.

Again, this is a great day for Austin and his family. As I said, his dad was overjoyed when I just talked to him.

Q. Brian, you win, so that puts you in the Playoffs now. How does that change your strategy for next week? Makes it a lot easier, doesn’t it?

BRIAN WILSON: In some ways it makes it easier, for sure. We’re also in a situation where we know we need to keep making the progress we made. Where we started at the beginning of the year isn’t going to be good enough for the time of the Playoffs. We know we have to keep trying things, making sure every facet of our game, all the track styles are strong.

I think that gives you a little bit of flexibility to maybe try something if you need to. But I don’t know that we’re going to get too far off the path we’ve been taking that’s been showing progress for us.

Q. Brian, Joey Logano won here a couple years ago. Ford, very fast this weekend. How much did you lean on your teammate Joey Logano? How much did you lean on other Fords glean some information?

BRIAN WILSON: Yeah, I think that’s when a notebook works at its best, when you can take something that worked well. Austin was happy with his car last year. We knew what we needed to work on. He had a solid day. We have notes from the 12 car who ran well last year and the 22 a couple years ago.

The way it works the best is when you can take pieces of that and try to look at what was different, what maybe made them better than what you were, incorporate those into your setups.

Without a doubt we took a lot of that information. To be honest with you, a lot of the information from where the 22, they tested at Wilkesboro, there are some short track aspects to the setup here. Some of the work that the 22 had done recently was incorporated as well. Within the Ford wheel-force program, we gained a lot of information there, as well.

That’s when a notebook really works well, when you can combine that all and give your driver what he needs.

WALTER CZARNECKI: If I could comment on that. Those of you who are familiar with the shop where these men work, we have one big floor. The crew chiefs all have their offices next to each other. One isn’t here and the other over there. They’re all together.

At 2:00 tomorrow afternoon, win, lose or draw, there will be a two-hour debrief call where this race will be dissected. Brian and his colleagues are there, the drivers are there, engineers.

You asked about learning. Those have all been learning experiences. We gleaned a lot of information from what happened here today. So good question.

Q. Brian, yesterday after qualifying, Cindric was joking saying he didn’t really know what in particular made him so good here ’cause he qualified second yesterday. What do you see from him that makes him good at this track?

BRIAN WILSON: Yeah, I think it really does suit him well. Any time that you have to combine braking zones, managing different lines, knowing which way the track is going to go, any time you have shifting incorporated in it, I think it gives him a lot of tools that he can work with.

He really is a student of the game. Any time that you have those opportunities, he can really keep up with the track well as it changes. I think it’s a lot of those type of tools that pay off for him.

Q. Some drivers compare this track to Phoenix. Anything you can take away from this track that might be applicable in Phoenix?

BRIAN WILSON: I hope so. Each track it different. You can definitely take some trends from it. A lot of the tires are very similar. A lot of the construction is similar. The thicker gauge tire that we’ve been running recently is something that’s carried across a lot of tracks.

End of the day, when you’re working off of a notebook, that’s what you’ll typically do, say what is common from this racetrack to whether it’s Loudon, Richmond, Phoenix, places like that. You’ll try to apply whatever makes sense. Typically with short tracks it ends up being a lot of tire settings, cambers, tire pressures or tows.

Yeah, back to the short story, I definitely hope that it crosses over.

Q. All three Penske cars stayed out, didn’t pit at the start of stage three. When was that strategy formed and the reasons behind it?

BRIAN WILSON: Yeah, a lot of that conversation starts during the week. We’ve got a great team of engineers that do a lot of research on what’s worked and what has not worked. We have a meeting on Wednesday where we all sit there and review the history. Then we also have a meeting in the morning where all the crew chiefs get together and talk about now that we’ve seen the tire falloff from practice, we know what’s history was, what we expect, it gives us an opportunity to talk about what we think we’re going to do throughout the day.

We oftentimes will challenge each other, bounce ideas back and forth. Oftentimes we do come to the same answer like you saw today.

Q. You all pitted a lap before or after Blaney?

BRIAN WILSON: One lap after.

Q. You think that was the difference?

BRIAN WILSON: No, honestly, I would have preferred to pit the same lap as him. They did a great job of disguising that. We felt that was going to be a half second gain in lap time by pitting early. Felt like that was enough where we would come out even with him, like you saw.

Honestly, it’s a situation where we would have liked to have been one lap early. We talk about all the communication, but a lot of times when it comes down to that, when you’re racing each other, it’s hey, we’re still competing.

Jonathan made the call, and they came a lap before us. As far as the fuel situation, I can’t really speak to that, whether or not that was anything that had to do with the lap that they pitted on.

As far as my strategy, I wanted to be the same lap as them.

Q. Enough for a burnout?

BRIAN WILSON: Yes, we had enough for a burnout.

WALTER CZARNECKI: No team orders (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: Thank you both for your time. Congratulations.