Team Penske looks forward to season of little change

Team Penske (formerly Penske Racing) provided the finale for Wednesday’s Sprint Media Tour acitivities, aside from Wednesday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction. During the Penske portion of the Media Tour, team owner Roger Penske, Walt Czarnecki, team president Tim Cindric and drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney (Nationwide Series) spoke to the media. Here’s a transcript:

ROGER PENSKE

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR YOUTH FROM 2013 BUILDING TO A BETTER 2014? “First I want to thank everyone that is here in the media who has supported us the last several years and thank you for last year. I think as I look at 2014, you talked about consistency and you talked about continuity and I think that’s key from the standpoint of our team. When I think of our drivers I think about youth. If you take our two Cup drivers the average age is 26 years old, and then you put Ryan Blaney in there it’s 24 years old, so I think we’re looking at continuity and certainly these drivers have the ability to win. They’re winners today already. They won in their series in 2013 and we expect a lot in 2014. Our sponsors are continuing with us. When you think about Miller Lite has been with us for a number of years. We’re adding Wurth and Alliance Truck Parts at SKF in 2014. Shell/Pennzoil coming on with us last year and had a great year with Joey, and AAA, so continuity with sponsors and the team and certainly the crew chiefs. When you think about our friends around the circuit, I think we’ve got a real edge because with Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon and Jeremy Bullins these guys are winners, and then Mike Nelson and Travis (Geisler) who have done so much for the team. This is key for us. I look back at 2013 it was a early year for us getting to know our friends at Ford. Jamie, thank you for the support. We need to get to the top and it’s up to us as teams. The rules are the same for all of us and what we need to do is execute. So, for me, youth, continuity and consistency is gonna be the difference with us and with a couple new associate sponsors it’s gonna make a big difference as we go forward in the support of our team from a financial perspective.”

IS THERE ONE ACCOLADE OUT THERE FOR 2014 TEAM PENSKE IS SHOOTING FOR? “We’re here talking about NASCAR and obviously it’s to win the championship. Over the last four years we’ve had three championships. We won 16 races last year as I said earlier, so we’ve got some work to do. The competition has never been tougher, so our goal is to be at that head table in Las Vegas in 2014.”

WALT CZARNECKI

DOES THIS SECOND YEAR WITH FORD GIVE YOU A JUMP START TO THE SEASON YOU DIDN’T HAVE A YEAR AGO? “I think to answer that question, first of all, Ford Motor Company made a long-term commitment to us a year and a half ago. I think we had a little bit of a jump start in 2013 because as you recall we made the announcement part of the way through the 2012 season, so we had the opportunity to get to know the Jamie Allisons and the others at Ford, so I think we hit the ground running with Ford last year for the most part beginning in 2013. Having said that, I think the real positive with our relationship with Ford is we enjoy the support and good communication with the highest levels of the company. Right at the very top of Ford Motor Company they’re supportive of our program, so we’re in alignment. Roger talked about winning a championship, we also want to be part of Ford winning a manufacturer championship as well. Then given their great earnings announcement yesterday and the global success they’re enjoying in the marketplace it’s great to be part of their team.”

YOU HAD TO TRANSITION TO BECOMING AN ENGINE CUSTOMER LAST YEAR. HOW IS THAT MOVING FORWARD THIS SEASON? “That was a source of a lot of conversation in the media and elsewhere, but it really turned out to be virtually seamless. When we sat down and talked to Jamie and his team and his colleagues at Ford, they outlined what their engineering strategy was and we bought into it right from the beginning. That was an integral part of it. I’ll tell you that they’re vertically integrated in everything we do and we’re an element of that. It’s been seamless for us and as far as Doug and his team are concerned at Roush Yates, they’ve been collaborative and responsive and these guys like the horsepower.”

TIM CINDRIC

ARE THERE ANY CHANGES FOR THIS YEAR THAT WILL BE BENEFICIAL? “Fortunately this is a year where we don’t have a lot of change. As I reflect, there are a lot of white shirts in this room right now and as I look around I realize that every one of the white shirts was here last year and I’m not sure a lot of teams can say that. For me, I look at it and say this is the first time that we’ve had the same driver and crew chief lineup in at least the last 10 years. If you look at the last 10 years we’ve either had a different driver or different crew chief at the Cup level at that point in time, so the continuity for us as far as the engine program, as Walt spoke to, and the key people within our organization we continue to build those relationships. I think that’s really where our strength is and now we’re really focusing on the details and the things we feel have to change are really the results. We need to continue to get better because if we’re not winning a championship and there is one thing that we want to make sure we give Roger at some point in time is a Brickyard victory because I think if there’s one guy in this room that needs one of those it’s him. All of the other things are obviously very important, but that’s one of the things we need to make sure he has at some point, but I feel like in our execution we need to be better. In the off-season we’ve really focused on our pit crews. Our pit crews over the years have been among the best and last year we felt like we needed to be better. We brought on an athletic director to really look at that and we looked outside of the sport for that. A fellow by the name if Jim Beichner has come on. He was actually the wrestling coach at the University of Buffalo. He’s been a race fan all his life, but as we looked at how do we get better, we need to take a different approach. I think you’ll see our pit crew has some different faces. You’ll see some of the same faces, but we think that over-the-wall position is something that we need to continue to focus on.”

ONE OF THE CHANGES IS THE TERM TEAM PENSKE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? “Most of you are very familiar with Team Penske from the IndyCar program, but it’s not only the IndyCar, what we’re looking for is consistency across our organization. It hasn’t always been in racing as far as Team Penske, but it’s also been in our Penske Truck Leasing organization, within that organization it’s been Team Penske and it’s all-inclusive. Whether it’s our sponsors, our manufacturers, our fans, that type of thing, they’re all part of Team Penske and we wanted consistency as we went forward. Obviously, we all work for Penske Racing. When you come to our race shop it’s still Penske Racing, that’s who we work for, but as a racing organization we remain as Penske Racing, and when you see that across our IndyCar team, our NASCAR Cup team and our Nationwide team. One change that we’ve also made within our organization is we’re not gonna run two Nationwide cars full-time, but we’ve taken the strength of that program with Greg Erwin and put him in the competition director position within the Nationwide program and he’ll obviously help our Cup program in some areas as well, but we’ve taken people from that Nationwide program and continue to promote them within our Cup program, but also with our IndyCar program. It’s been documented here lately that we’ve taken some of the guys out of the Nationwide program and put them in the IndyCar program to cross pollinate our organization.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR CONSISTENCY WITH PAUL WOLFE AND THE TEAM PLAYING OUT THIS SEASON? “First off, I want to say I get goose bumps at the start of every season because it’s a new opportunity and that really comes to fruition starting on media day and Daytona testing because of you guys being here, so I want to say thank you to the media members who showed up. It seems like the turnout this year is a bit higher, which his nice to see, and a special thanks to the convention hall and the hall of fame for putting this all together and even bringing in our friends from NASCAR.com. Hopefully a lot of people aren’t getting in too much trouble with their bosses watching on the internet, but we’re glad to have all of you and we’re ready to get going here for 2014. I think we do have a lot of continuity and certainly Paul Wolfe falls into that. Like Tim said, all the white shirts here all have the same name tags on them from last year with just a little different logo on the Team Penske side, but we think we’re where we need to be to go out and run for another championship. I feel like we’re reloaded and one of the key areas as Tim mentioned was the pit crew. Going back from 2012 to 2014 we have two of six from that same cast on the pit crew, so a lot of changes over the last few years. We retired a few people and we’re finally getting into a situation where we’re reloaded. Another year working as well with Joey. That’s gone really well, I think. In a lot of words, consistency and continuity are important and for me personally and the 2 team specifically a reload in the sense of energy and excitement.”

HOW KEY IS IT BEING THE SECOND YEAR WITH FORD? “The Ford relationship is obviously critical and that’s a piece, like Walt said, we’re very proud of. The Roush Yates engine program has grown a lot since we’ve been with them and we’re very thankful for Doug Yates and his group over there, and we’re gonna continue to push on that. But I think the Ford piece Jamie Allison is here that shows the commitment that they have at their level and we’re committed to working with them, so a lot of pieces moving there as well, but I think they’re all moving in the right direction and that’s so important for us. We’ve talked here about the same people, but also having the same partners and then growing a few partners and not losing them. That’s a huge deal in this sport. I don’t think that’s a coincidence that you see the sport evolving that way, and I think that’s gonna give us even more strength to add to that continuity because we want to be able to do what we did in 2012 every year, and I think we’re getting to a point where Penske Racing and Team Penske specifically is getting to that spot and I’m feeling more and more solid that we can do that in 2014.”

JOEY LOGANO

LAST YEAR MUST SERVE AS A GREAT FOUNDATION TO JUMP INTO A NEW YEAR. “It is for sure. It was one of those years you didn’t want it to end. You wanted to keep going and keep that ball rolling, but over this off-season that’s what we’ve been doing is keeping the momentum going and working on staying together. The continuity between myself and Todd Gordon and virtually all of the 22 team has stayed together. It’s the same guys and we’re able to build off of a lot. If you look at last year coming into the season, the 22 team in general couldn’t have had more changes throughout the team and now that we’ve built that chemistry up between each other we’re able to build off that and keep going. We’re looking for a year that we try to win this championship. I feel like we’re in position to do it. We’ve got the best owner in the business. We’ve got the best teammates in the business and the best crew chiefs, so we’re ready to go and I can’t wait for Daytona.”

IT SEEMS YOU AND TODD GORDON CLICKED RIGHT AWAY. HOW DO YOU SEE THIS YEAR GOING? “I wouldn’t expect it to change much. We have a great relationship and a great friendship, and that’s very important when you look at a driver-crew chief relationship. I see that throughout all of Team Penske here with Brad and Paul and Jeremy Bullins on the Nationwide side with Blaney here. We all get along really well and we’re all very open. I don’t think we’re scared to hurt each other’s feeling, and I think that’s something very important. We have thick skin. We can handle it and that’s the only way you get better. I see that it’s just gonna keep going and forging forward. I’m excited for it and can’t wait to get down there.”

RYAN BLANEY

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE IN THIS EXPANDED ROLE WITH TEAM PENSKE IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? “It means a lot to me that Mr. Penske and everyone from Team Penske and Penske Racing will give me the opportunity to go out there and compete in more races at higher levels. As a young driver it means a lot that they trust you with that and the sponsors trust you to be able to go out and compete for wins in their car, and it was such an honor to be a part of that championship team last year with the Discount Tire car to be a part of it with Brad, Joey and AJ and Jeremy Bullins. That was so cool to be able to do my part and kind of help us get there, so I’m just fortunate to be in the position that has been presented to me with such great people here at Penske Racing and giving me the opportunities. Hopefully they’ll pay off for us. I’m really looking forward to this 2014 season.”

YOU HAVE 15 NATIONWIDE RACES THIS YEAR AND YOU’LL MAKE YOUR CUP DEBUT. THAT’S A LOT GOING ON. “It just makes me feel really good to have people that trust me to make my Cup start and do all these Nationwide races and try to win that owner’s championship again in that Nationwide car and then try to have good Cup runs in those few starts that we’re gonna have, and hopefully being able to run against my dad there in the Cup Series with his ride. It would be cool to compare notes with him at the race track when we’re running the same car, so I’m really looking forward to that. And I think the truck program is gonna be great at Brad Keselowski Racing. We’ve all talked about the improved relationship with Ford that we’ve got over this past season and we’re really thankful for them to put forth to the truck program, so I think we’re gonna have a great year on that side also, along with the Nationwide and Cup starts.”

WHAT DOES YOUR DAD (DAVE BLANEY) THINK ABOUT ALL THIS? “He put in so much when I was younger and spent so much time and money on me that I think he can finally sit back and relax and know that he’s done his part and has taught me as much as he can. He’s still teaching me things nowadays that will help me week-in and week-out. He’s always the first one in the window net and the last one to leave, whether that’s a good thing or not it’s always helpful. Like we said, we hurt each other’s feelings sometimes and that comes over to my dad’s side too, but you need that and that kind of makes me push harder and try to be that much better than I used to be. It’s special for him. I think he can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I’m in a great home like Penske Racing and just kind of sit back and help me out the best he can.”

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Tags: Brad Keselowski Joey Logano NASCAR Team Penske

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