Part 13 of the 15-part feature series ‘How Roger Penske Changed The Indy 500,’ which celebrates the most successful entrant at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 50th anniversary of his first which took place in 1969, welcomes Team Penske president Tim Cindric.
Since his arrival, Cindric has played a sizable role in turning The Captain’s declining fortunes in IndyCar around and restoring it to glory starting in the year 2000.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
A CHILDHOOD DREAM
“I grew up here in Indianapolis and as a kid sat behind Roger’s pit. And they were almost the untouchables. When I’d go in the garage area there in the old wooden garages, they were at the end of the garage from where my dad’s was — the end of the row, I should say. And Rick Mears — he was the guy that set the stage in a lot of different ways. But the professionalism of the team was always the thing that I admired.
“The team always seemed to keep to themselves. They were different. They weren’t in Indianapolis; they were in Pennsylvania. What race teams were in Pennsylvania? So there was always a mystique around it — and always one that you wanted to be part of it, but you didn’t really know how.”
RIVAL AND OUTSIDER
“There was, honestly, in some ways, an unwelcomeness for myself … because when it was announced in ’99 that Gil de Ferran was coming to the team, [along with] Greg Moore, if you remember that press conference. And that was before I was even on the radar screen. Wow, that’s a great lineup. If they can’t win with those two guys, they’ve really got a problem.
“Well then, all of a sudden, Roger goes to make this introduction to the team and I’m part of it. And it was not until that day that anybody knew that I was part of that program. And the team really didn’t understand that part of it because Roger had never talked to them about it. He had never talked to any of the leadership. He had never talked to anybody. He just pretty much dropped me in — ‘Oh, by the way, this guy’s going to run the show.’
“And Clive Howell, at the time, he was the general manager of the team, and I had known Clive from afar but I couldn’t tell you I knew him well. And I remember the first meeting we had. He and I laugh about it [now]. We were sitting in the conference room there in Reading [Pennsylvania], and we finish this meeting, and I could tell that I was the outcast in some ways. It was kind of like, ‘Why is this guy here?'”