CHEVROLET INDYCAR AT INDIANAPOLIS 500: Post Qualifying Press Conference Transcript

Following the conclusion of the Firestone Fast Six competition for the pole for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, pole winner Scott McLaughlin accompanied by teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden met with media to discuss the Chevy/Team Penske front-row lockout, the all-Team Chevy first two rows and other topics:

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. As we wrap up qualifying ahead of next Sunday’s 108th running of the Indianapolis 500. Obviously the pole winner for this year’s race, Scott McLaughlin, once he wraps up celebration down on the Yard of Bricks. Will Power will be up momentarily as well.Fi

Joined now by Josef Newgarden, who will start third on the outside of row one for the Indy 500 driving, of course, the No. 2 Shell Powering Progress, Team Penske Chevrolet, 233.808 miles an hour, his four-lap average. Second front row start for Josef in the Indianapolis 500 as he qualifies for his 13th 500 mile race here in Indy.

THE MODERATOR: Of course, Josef, congratulations. Starting on the front row for the second time in your Indy 500 career. Just your thoughts on a Team Penske sweep here to kick off this next couple of weeks.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It was a great day for the team. This is a huge result. We’ve been working for this for the last three, four years. We’ve certainly not had an easy time in qualifying and trying to regain the speed that we had lost probably since 2019.

It’s just been a nonstop effort ever since that point. We hadn’t turned the page, and I think today is really the first time we’ve turned the page. We’ve got the speed back, and it’s a testament to the entire group.

It takes a whole year to find this. You don’t find it in a week. You don’t find it in two weeks. You have to take the whole year to show up with this type of speed.

Really proud of the team. I’m sure they’re over the moon and excited for the race weekend. It gives us a good shot at going for this race win together. We’re going to be able to work together hopefully and have a clean day.

But yeah, really, really proud. The Shell car was fast, and we’re in position. Yeah, great day.

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

THE MODERATOR: Obviously joined by Will Power, who, of course, qualifies for the middle of row number one, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Business, Team Penske Chevrolet, who it’s the third 

THE MODERATOR: Will, we were talking about another Team Penske front row. Just your thoughts on that?

WILL POWER: I was pretty certain one of their cars would get pulled back at Long Beach. In the offseason, to be honest, I just knew how much work we had done.

Pretty cool to get a front row lockout. I definitely like second place this year. It’s just every single weekend it’s either second in the race or second in qualifying, so I’ll continue that for the rest of the year. Maybe I’ll get a championship, and that will be a first, so it’s good stuff.

THE MODERATOR: That’s the plan. We’ll pencil you in for a second in Detroit next week or two weeks?

WILL POWER: Yes, and qualifying too.

Joined by Scott McLaughlin, driver of the No. 3 Penske Chevrolet, four-lap average 234.220, which is the fastest pole speed ever at the Indianapolis 500. Second NTT P1 Award of the season, 7th of his career. As has been talked about, front row sweep for Team Penske for the first time since 1988. Team Penske’s 19th pole at the Indy 500 and 301st all told. Congratulations. Are you going to celebrate this for a while, I’m assuming?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, absolutely, but we have next week, but very proud of the crew. I think it’s our first front row sweep since 1988. I think to do it now with these two boys but also Roger’s house, and I think we’re all really happy for Roger. It’s been a tough few years, obviously, at least with the car speed.

Josef winning last year was fantastic, but a lot of the objective was to bring faster cars, and I think we certainly have, obviously. So proud of the effort.

Yeah, that was just a gnarly run. It was so cool, man. Really proud of everyone.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for any of the three drivers.

Q. Pretty cool since 1988 was the last Team Penske was on the front row together. You’ve all said the team has worked hard in the offseason on your pace here. Can you maybe walk us through a few of what those things are, and did your new partnership with AJ Foyt Racing help at all?

WILL POWER: It was a few things. The push rod was one. That was a gain for us. I was the only of the Top 12 last year that didn’t have that, and that might be half mile an hour. Chevy worked hard in the offseason. That was gain. All the other little details we did, including working with Foyt was a little bit of it.

Q. Either of you guys, anything to add?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s not one thing. Look, like I said earlier, we’ve been working on this for the last four years, and every year we show up we felt like we’ve put in as much effort as we can, this must be a turn-around for us, and it hadn’t been.

SO when you go that many off-seasons combing every detail, they’re bound to add up, and I think we probably were still missing a couple of things this last year. When you compile a couple new things with three years prior of just stacking little details together, it’s hundreds of items. It’s a lot. It’s not there was one magic bullet.

It’s a testament to the team. This is pretty cool that they were able to put — look, this is what Indianapolis is all about is showcasing the talent of the team as a whole. It’s every individual. I mean, we definitely — we’re driving it, and it sometimes is hair-raising, but it is about the team and what they build for race cars.

It’s a badge of pride for everybody in this garage that we have at Team Penske. They’re going to be really proud of this one to have one, two, three.

Q. Will, it was Friday at Long Beach. They brought you in after practice, and you were so excited about Chevy power that you guaranteed a Penske driver would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500. You even went one step further and said we might even sweep the front row.

WILL POWER: Yeah.

Q. Now, what was it all the way back in April that gave you that confidence that today was going to happen?

WILL POWER: Well, everything we just talked about, the hundreds of little details that add up to speed around this place with this current formula.

Yeah, for everything, the engine was a big upgrade from last year. We certainly struggled last year against Honda, and just all those little things that add up. It’s crazy. It just blows my mind how many things you have to do to be fast here.

To put it in perspective, if you put a standard Dallara that looks exactly the same as our cars and all the cars on the grid, it would be about 10-mile-an-hour slower than what we run. That’s how ridiculous it is. There’s so much work you have to do to get to this speed.

Q. Your INDYCAR’s all-time leading pole winner, but this is the one race you haven’t won a pole in.

WILL POWER: Yeah.

Q. Something that eats away at you a little bit.

WILL POWER: Yeah, I just keep getting seconds this year, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get this positive. For some weird reasons I just think it’s one of those things, you know, where racing Gods go, Yeah, you can have the pole record, but you’re certainly not going to get this one.

That’s just the irony of life, you know. Like I said yesterday, it’s not the end of the world if I don’t. It’s just a box to tick. It’s a good one. Obviously the race winner is much bigger.

The two days of qualifying is very stressful. You put a lot on the line, and it’s really hard to have the quickest car and the quickest team on that year. To put all that together, that’s a lot of things that have to align, and that’s very difficult because you see every team. There’s one car that just seems to be a little bit quicker for whatever reason, but I have to say that our cars have been the closest they’ve ever been, so it shows the quality control that we have.

Yeah, second again, Bruce. I’ll tell you (laughing), that’s it.

Q. For Josef and Will, I was just wondering, baseball analogy, watching all three of you qualify, it was like watching the Yankees in the 1960s. You know Slugger’s Row? Would you rather be last at-bat or where you went? You understand what I’m saying? How much faster can you drive if you — does it really make a difference if you know what you got to beat, I guess?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, man, I think if you were going to choose, you would go last for sure. To Will’s point, Indy is such a curious little place, particularly with the pole.

It is funny that he is the all-time pole winner and that he has not had a pole at Indianapolis. I think it speaks a little bit to this facility. That’s why for me the emphasis really comes to the team because to put three cars at that level of speed is incredibly difficult. I don’t think there’s another team in this paddock that can have their cars stacked as tight as we’ve had them. I can’t tell you how difficult it is.

There’s always a little quicker car. One day your car is the quickest, and the next day it’s not. To have them as close as we’ve had them is very difficult to do. It’s impressive. It’s very, very impressive. The team should be proud.

Q. Will, is it likely standing here somebody shooting at you? What does it feel like to watch somebody else out there with that last shot?

WILL POWER: It sucks, man. When you see the first lap — as soon as I saw the first lap, I knew it was over. To me if I was going last and I saw my run, I would have definitely taken a couple of steps of rear wing out because mine was extremely consistent. My car never slid. I finished that, and I was, like, Man, that was easy. If I’m Scott, I’m —

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: We took three out.

WILL POWER: That’s what I told Dale. I said, He went minus-three. You could go minus-three or four there. The condition was quite good. That’s basically what we needed in speed. Minus-three degrees is around half a mile an hour.

Yeah, that was the benefit. He was quicker in the 12, and he was able to take that step.

THE MODERATOR: Scott, when you saw 234.5, what were your thoughts on that first lap?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Holy cow. Just don’t spray it. Just wanted to make sure I brought it home. Look, we work really hard to get a really good balance in the Fast 12, and I felt like my best run of the weekend was actually the Fast 12. I knew going last was going to be advantage, and we used it.

To execute the way we he have as a team, that’s what’s really cool. You see the time, and then it’s all about just executing. After that your weight jacker and figuring out, okay, what was the car doing and what do you think the car is going to do the next lap. So you are playing with bars and weight jacker and trying to hold on to it.

Yeah, we all have been really working that this week and understanding it, and I was glad I was able to put it to the test when it mattered the most.

Q. Will, just to piggyback off that last answer, had your rear wing been at negative three, would you have gotten pole?

WILL POWER: Impossible to answer. My run was comfortable enough to certainly trim. It was very consistent. Hardly any drop-off. Hardly sliding even on the last lap. I don’t know if the condition just got nicer from Ferrucci because we watched Ferrucci’s run. It looked sketchy. I think he was at zero or minus-one. Man, it’s just the circumstance it is.

Q. If 100 is fully trimmed out and zero is like nothing, no trim at all, how close to the edge were you?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I could have gone to 40 if you are using that spectrum. Minus-four, because he went minus-three, so you would have gone one more step. Minus-three would have been good. It would have been bloody close, to be honest.

Q. You guys said that you all have been at this four or five years working out the details of things. Just kind of curious, with that Foyt technical partnership that’s still relatively new within the team over the past year, how much did maybe that help provide a missing link, if any, to this?

WILL POWER: It did provide just a little bit of information, yeah. It certainly wasn’t a big chunk of what we have done here.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: It felt like it was a confirmation of a couple of things.

WILL POWER: Yeah. We weren’t missing a big chunk. Just a couple of little things, as it is around here.

Q. Then the second part is, I think — I have to double-check this, but I believe that session started — that last session started and the track temp was close to 130, and it dropped down to about 122 when Scott went out for his final run. How much does 8 degrees of track temp make a difference around here?

WILL POWER: A lot. It really did. Compared to my run in the 12 to then, I just was solid, solid, consistent, hardly slid.

I think Josef even a run before was a little bit worse. He was sliding a bit more. That happens quickly. Maybe they should have the Fast Six in the heat of the day when the condition is stable if you want to be completely fair, but you know, it is what it is.

Q. Scott, you gave it a bit of (indiscernible) today, didn’t you?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. We just held the (indiscernible) down.

Q. This makes you the second New Zealander to ever qualify on pole for the Indy 500.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I knew obviously Scotty had. I thought someone else had already. That’s cool. Proud Kiwi, and absolutely pumped to be able to fly the flag. I’ve always dreamt about being in the front row, doing the front row photo shoot tomorrow morning. That’s just a bonus to be on the pole with the New Zealand flag behind me.

Q. I was watching you come into the pit lane and know that it had all happened. What’s going through your mind as you are coasting that car in?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: You just want to get out of the car as fast as you can. You go back into the procedures and making sure it’s all right, but at the same time you are looking around, and it’s the first time you sort of enjoy and soak in the crowd. I felt like we had a hell of a crowd here today, around the banks and even at four and down the front straight. It was incredible can.

Just soaked it in as much as I can. You just never know when this moment will every happen again, especially at this place. As the boys said, it’s a pretty weird joint. But then when you get out of the car, you celebrate, and we’ll enjoy this, but it’s hard work next week to make sure we win the big one.

Q. Then I’m sure I’ll pass this on to two people in Cambridge tonight. Emotion from them being as well. That must run very high in the family. They’ve seen you take pole position at Bathurst, but this goes another layer again, doesn’t it?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: It’s a completely different kettle of fish. Bathurst is one lap. This is basically four and four good ones. I said to myself, you know, it felt like a shoot-out at Bathurst, but I’ve said I’ve done this many times before. It’s just a matter of nailing it again. I felt like those two runs that I had today were some of the best laps I had ever driven.

Q. Just quickly, Will, because I know it’s been touched on, but you have said to me on numerous occasions, also on Zoom from Long Beach onwards, that this would potentially happen today, a front row shoot-out. Is this just sheer belief in what Team Penske are doing this year that gives you that confidence to be able to say something like that?

WILL POWER: It was just knowledge of what we were doing, what we have done over the last four years and just a couple of things that went our way as well, such as a better engine this year and that push rod thing. That’s just a couple of things that went our way that the Top 12 had last year and we didn’t.

Yeah, I was going to be shocked if we weren’t on pole. I was going to be shocked. We would have been really scratching our heads with as much as we’ve done. We would have been scratching our heads if we weren’t on pole this time or fighting for it. We would have just been, you know, What are we missing?

THE MODERATOR: Scott, could you hear the fans cheering?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: When I turned the engine off and coasted down pit lane, for sure, yeah. Yeah, it was an amazing feeling.

Q. Speaking of going down pit lane, I was just actually curious seeing your emotion in the car before you came down pit lane and all the craziness. What was that last cool-down lap knowing that’s probably the last time by yourself before your celebration? What was that moment? What was going on in your head knowing that you just won the pole for the Indy 500?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: It’s cool. Another thing I said to myself before I went out, I’m the last one to qualify. How cool is that? I just went out and enjoyed it. And then, yeah, that last into four and what not, I was just enjoying and gave a wave to the fans for staying out so long. It was a hot day today, so appreciate everyone coming out.

It’s just incredible. It’s going to take a while to sink in. Super cool place to be on pole, but like I said, the big focus is next week.

Q. When you made this move to come over here in 2020, I remember you talking about how challenging — how competitive you were in that conversation with Tim, and here we are a few years later, and you are an Indy 500 pole winner. If somebody told you in 2020 that you would be to this point, I know you want to win a championship in the 500 race, but what would you have told somebody when they told you that?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I felt like I could do it. I felt like I believe in my talent and believe in my team around me. I’m very lucky to be able to drive for the captain to give me this opportunities. A big part of me coming to INDYCAR was to be a part of this race and to be part of the biggest race in the world.

I’m glad I came to INDYCAR. I’m loving every minute of it, and then to compete it with Team Penske and good cars each time has been a lot. It’s been a roller coaster, as everyone knows, my Indy 500 experience. Ultimately, there’s the only way to keep working and keep trying to get up the front, and bit by bit we’ll get there, and this is just the start.

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