Team Penske IndyCar Program General Manager Kyle Moyer
PIT PASS INDY– SEASON 2, EPISODE 51 – Deep dive with Team Penske IndyCar Program General Manager Kyle Moyer
December 20, 2022
With the holidays upon us, Pit Pass Indy Host Bruce Martin has an exclusive interview with Team Penske IndyCar Program General Manager Kyle Moyer. Moyer is a 30-year veteran of IndyCar racing, beginning in the 1980s when he swept the floors at Gary Bettenhausen’s race shop in Monrovia, Indiana. Moyer was with Galles-Kraco Racing from 1989-92, working with the great Al Unser, Jr. when that driver won the Indianapolis 500 in 1992.
Moyer had an extremely successful tenure at Team Kool Green, which ultimately became Andretti Autosport. Moyer played a key role in the team that include Indianapolis 500 victories by Jacques Villeneuve in 1995, Dan Wheldon in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2007 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014. The team also won IndyCar Series championships with Villeneuve in 1995, Tony Kanaan in 2004, Wheldon in 2005 and Hunter-Reay in 2012.
Moyer moved over to Team Penske in 2015. Since that time, Team Penske has won three of its record 18 Indianapolis 500s including Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015, Will Power in 2018 and Simon Pagenaud in 2019. Josef Newgarden won IndyCar championships in 2017 and 2019 and Power won his second IndyCar title in 2022.
In addition to overseeing the entire Team Penske IndyCar effort, Moyer also calls race strategy for driver Scott McLaughlin on the No. 3 Chevrolet.
In Bruce Martin’s exclusive interview for Pit Pass Indy, Moyer looks back at a successful 2022 season for Team Penske and looks ahead to the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season.
For more INDYCAR coverage, follow Bruce Martin at Twitter at @BruceMartin_500
"Penske" means performance ... and winning
For good reason. Since 1966, Team Penske has won 43 national championships, 17 IndyCar alone. Its 19 Indy 500 victories are a record. And last year, Penske was the first team in history to win both the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series championships in the same season. Those are results that are tough to top.
Bruce Martin:IndyCar fans, it's time to start your engines. Welcome to Pit Pass Indy, a production of Evergreen Podcast. I'm your host Bruce Martin, a journalist who regularly covers the NTT IndyCar Series.
Our goal at Pit Pass Indy is to give racing fans an insider's view of the exciting world of the NTT IndyCar Series, in a fast-paced podcast, featuring interviews with the biggest names in the sport.
I bring nearly 40 years of experience covering IndyCar and NASCAR, working for such media brands as nbcsports.com, si.com, ESPN Sports Ticker, Sports Illustrated Autoweek and Speed Sport. So, let's drop the green flag on this episode of Pit Pass Indy.
Welcome to this week's edition of Pit Pass Indy. With the holidays upon us, it's time for a deep dive in the Team Penske, with the team's IndyCar Program General Manager Kyle Moyer.
Moyer is a 30-year veteran of IndyCar Racing, beginning in the 1980s when he swept the floors at Gary Bettenhausen's race shop in Monrovia, Indiana. Moyer was with Galles-Kraco racing from 1989-92, working with the great Al Unser, Jr. when that driver won the first of his two Indianapolis 500s in 1992.
Moyer had an extremely successful tenure at Team Kool Green, which ultimately became Andretti Autosport. Moyer played a key role in the team that included Indianapolis 500 victories by Jacques Villeneuve in 1995, Dan Wheldon in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2007 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014.
The team also won IndyCar Series championships with Villeneuve in 1995, Tony Kanaan in 2004, Wheldon in 2005 and Hunter-Reay in 2012.
Moyer moved over to Team Penske in 2015. Since that time, Team Penske has won three of its record 18 Indianapolis 500s including Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 Will Power in 2018 and Simon Pagenaud in 2019. Josef Newgarden won IndyCar championships at Team Penske in 2017 and 2019 and Power won his second IndyCar title in 2022.
In addition, overseeing the entire team Penske IndyCar effort, Moyer also calls race strategy for driver Scott McLaughlin on the No. 3 Chevrolet.
I caught up with Moyer at the Team Penske Race Shop in Mooresville, North Carolina for this exclusive interview for Pit Pass Indy.
Bruce Martin (interview):Joining us now on Pit Pass Indy is IndyCar Team Manager at Team Penske, Kyle Moyer.
Kyle, another outstanding season for the team, culminating with Will Power's second NTT IndyCar Series championship. The driver that you work with on the timing stand with Scott McLaughlin, who had a great season himself.
So, as we sit here entering December, how do you reflect back on the accomplishments of 2022 and look ahead to the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season?
Kyle Moyer:I think overall for 90% of the season, it was a great season. We had a couple little mistakes here and there that we got to work on. The biggest thing other than Indianapolis, that's the one that's leaving a sore taste in everybody here. We didn't perform too good at the 500, that's two years in a row. We haven't been on top of our game compared to where we were.
So, a lot of focus is being put on that to get ready for next year. But you take the other 17 races and it was a fantastic season. I felt we came out of the box running. All carswere fast at St. Pete. I believe we were a little bit behind on the street courses the year before. I think there was a couple teams that were ahead of us and we did some good catching up there.
So, I think, pretty much every place we went we had somebody competitive, if not all three drivers. So, that helps a lot. I think that's all preparation. The guys back at the shop, engineering staffs going into places, being prepared. I think the team settling down with the same drivers for again, Scotty was new the year before, now all of a sudden, it's old hand for him and everybody else here.
So, I think that all in all I would give is like a B plus for last year, but no way into the A with our performance in Indie. So, that's the one we're going to correct for next year.
Bruce Martin:So, a team that wins 9 out of 17 races, including the championship, gets a B plus, you guys must be pretty strict graders here at Team Penske.
Kyle Moyer:I don't know if it's that. It's like, you got to set some goal posts out there all the time. If all of a sudden you think you've reached your goal, then you're falling behind, the way I look at it and I think most of the team looks at it that way. So, how are we going to improve?
There's plenty of places to improve. Josef should have been closer in the championship. Scotty had some bad runs, not just because of him, one for me and some bad pit stops here and there. Even though all three teams finished in the top four in the pit stops, we still got some improvement to do there.
So, there's never the perfect season. There's never going to be the perfect season. Even if we won all the races and finished 1, 2, 3 in the championship, I think would about to be the only way you could say it's a perfect year.
Bruce Martin:Team Penske President, Tim Cindric said that in his mind, Scott McLaughlin is right where he expected him to be in year two. He expects in year three that he will be right in the battle for the championship entering the last race of the year, which really he was this year to a large degree, but thinks that he'll be even more into the battle.
How realistic do you think that is and what do you think of the rapid level of progression that Scott made in his second season?
Kyle Moyer:I think the possibility is definitely there, just like TC sort of put it that the possibility's there and he should be the way he finished the season. Now it's up to us to make sure we continue with that going forward. You can't get ahead of it and you look at the competition, not just between his teammates, but some of the other teams that are out there.
Scott Dixon's not going to go anywhere. Colton Herta is good. Pato O’Ward, the McLaren team seems to be getting better. Andretti, they've got bullets over there, so it is not going to be easy.
But having said that, I think Scott learned a lot in his second year. I think the first year it was a bit of a shock with everything that was happening for him. The car's not the problem, it's just to drive an IndyCar is way different than anything he's ever driven before.
And to see him really from a Tin-top or a car with doors to all of a sudden come open while racing and do his good, just shows you why he won so many championships down there.
In return, it's taken him a while. He found the speed. He's always been fast. But then it was a matter of when do you use it? When do you not? I think we started the season off gangbusters and then you saw a big low there. We crashed the car pretty hard in Indianapolis. We had some bad performances, Long Beach, Detroit, and that put his back behind the eight ball.
And then we got back to like, “Okay, we need to get our act together here a little bitand smooth it out.” And once he got smooth, man, he can drive, nothing's above him, nothing's too fast for him or anything. And he's having fun and he took the stress off of him.
I think he finally realized that like he belongs here. I think everybody agrees with that, if you ask any of them. Top of that, he's just a nice guy. So, good things happen to nice people and I think that's what he’s got.
Bruce Martin:When he joined Team Penske, although his dream was to drive in the Indy 500, he thought he would probably end up in NASCAR. If he had taken that route, do you think the transition would've been easier for him?
Kyle Moyer:I don't know. It's hard to say because even though it is a car with doors, it is a definitely different car. I think the car that they came with this year for NASCAR probably would've been a little bit easier for him.
I think if he would've came the year before, in the old style, I don't think it would've been so easy for him because everybody — you just look, they had 19 winners this year and I think this car's evened up a lot.
I think this car is a lot more, I should say driver friendly, because it's a handful in the Cup teams, but I think the drivers are having a lot more fun driving it. And I think Scotty's a guy that I think you could put him in anything and give him a little time, he's going to learn how to win with it.
Bruce Martin:So, as we sit here in December, Tim Cindric, told us in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway, “Not doing an extra car for the Indy 500. It's going to be three drivers in Indie.” Biggest reason is because of the Porsche Penske motor sports operation. He says, “I don't want to bring another driver over for a one-off and not have him have the same chance of winning the Indy 500 as any of our other drivers.”
So, knowing that so early, does that help you prepare for the Indy 500 knowing that you don't have to get a crew together for an additional entry?
Kyle Moyer:I can go either way with it. RP and TC, they look at the big picture and I'm here to build cars and try to win races. So, whatever they ask me to do, that's what we're going to do.
Our preparation for Indy started the day after Indy last year. Be it three cars, two calls, six cars. It doesn't matter. Right now, we've got plenty of people here to run whatever we need to run. The biggest thing is, is that everybody agreed that our performance wasn't very good.
So, the day after we started working on it to fix that performance, I don't think it's a matter of just waiting till now to understand what we have in our hand. We knew what we had in our hand right then, that we needed to fix the problem. So, that's what we've been working on since the day after the Speedway.
Bruce Martin:When you were involved in IndyCar, there was a period there where the top IndyCar talent was being asked all the time, do you want to switch series and run in NASCAR?
Now in 2023 there's three high-profile, big-name NASCAR drivers that want to run the Indy 500. Kyle Busch, a Chevrolet driver with Richard Childress Racing next season. Kyle Larson, a Chevrolet driver with Hendrick Motorsports next season. And a driver who's been in the IndyCar series the last two years, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is now a Chevrolet stakeholder at Petty GMSRacing.
What does that say about IndyCar and the Indy 500, that has changed since the days of say, when Tony Stewart and Sam Hornish Jr. and a lot of your top IndyCar drivers at that time were constantly being asked if they wanted to go over to NASCAR instead?
Kyle Moyer:I'll just look at it from the Indy 500 standpoint. It's the biggest race in the world. I think a lot of people have seen it that way. I think seven-time Jimmie, he's done a really good job promoting it. I think he's had fun while he’s been here. So, I think that that also helps it.
The cars have got a lot safer. I think that helps. These cars don't go any slower to make them safer. We've just made the car themselves safer. The windscreens came along, the walls that the Speedway have put up are way safer than they've ever been, but still the speeds aren't going anywhere, every year they get faster and faster. Last year was the quickest qualifying of anybody and I think that's the thrill.
But you named the three guys you name, seven-time champion, other — both of them named Kyle of course, which always helps making good drivers. But both of them have won championships. So, it's like, where's your next stick that you want to put in the ground? What do you want to put on your resume?
Being an Indy 500 winner’s something that I think any driver in the world would want to put on their resume. So, I think they look at it as being intrigued. I think it's easier to do now. I think the quality of teams from top to bottom now can cover it.
It used to be three or four teams, you better drive for one of those. That's why Kurt Busch came. He knew he had a good ride. He knew he was with a good team and gave it a good shot.
But now there's several teams that you can get on to be able to do that. I think IndyCar's more competitive than it's ever been. The cars are a lot closer. So, the driver has a lot to do with it. You aren't going to get beat by motor, if you got a Chevy, they got the same Chevy. You aren't going to get beat by Dallara because everybody has a Dallara.
So, what are you going to get beat by? You're going to beat by yourself or performance or how you prep for the thing. And I think everybody looks at it that like, “Hey, I can do a good job at that now. So, it gives me a shot.”
Bruce Martin:Because of his racing background in USAC and also World of Outlaws, is Kyle Larson the most intriguing of that trio, a lot of people would love to see what he might be capable of doing in the Indy 500?
Kyle Moyer:I would say he’s very intriguing. I think he's got a good following from top to bottom for everything. He just drives everything. So, everybody likes that with anybody. Tony Stewart was that way. He drove everything.
There's those guys that'll drive anything every day and it brings them back to the days of A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, that would just jump in and go anywhere and drive.
So, I think Kyle sort of sparks that in people now, since Tony's gone. So, I think that's probably intriguing. But at the same time, to be honest, I wouldn't mind seeing Kyle Busch do it either.
I know when Kurt did it, Kyle was checking in every day to find out how it was going. I think if he could have at that time, he would've, now he can. I just want good drivers. I don't care if it's Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson. I don't care if Lewis Hamilton wants to come. I just want the best drivers that come and experience what we get to experience every single year, which is the best race in the world.
Bruce Martin:It seems to be a priority with General Motors Vice President of Motor Sports Jim Campbell, to get one of the Kyles in the Indy 500. When you've got that type of horsepower behind you, do you expect that we'll see that in the next year or two?
Kyle Moyer:I think you will. I don't know if it'll happen or when it'll happen, I think it will just because I think they want to do it. And I think Chevy's behind it, I think the Speedway's behind it.
Everybody's behind it because again, we want everybody to come and have a shot and experience it because I can walk into any race and yeah, I get a little nervous before every race, but when I walk into Indianapolis 500, I've done it 41 years and every time I walk into it, man, I get goosebumps before the race. I can't sleep the night before the race. And once you experience it, you want to keep on coming and coming and coming and try to win that thing.
Bruce Martin:We'll be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
Welcome back to Pit Pass Indy. And now here's the rest of my exclusive interview with Team Penske IndyCar General Manager, Kyle Moyer for Pit Pass Indy.
Now, of course, team Penske this year did something that had never happened before with any team and that was winning both the NTT IndyCar Series Championship and the NASCAR Cup Series championship in the same season.
Of course, it was Will Power winning his second IndyCar Series title this past year, and Joey Logano won his second NASCAR Cup Series championship this year. How big a Joey Logano fan were you on November 6th in that championship race at Phoenix?
Kyle Moyer:I was a big fan of Joey Logano, but I've always been a big fan of Joey Logano. I think he represents the team good. He drives the wheels off of anything.
But if you go back a little bit and fortunate enough, yes, we were able to win both championships, something that's never been done. But if you go back to both series and before that last race and look at how the teams prepared for that, I think everybody looks at the last race and they always come out the last race and say, “Okay, you were fast. You guys won the race, you came in, won the race. With Joey, you came in, you covered with Will.”
But you got to go back like three or four races before then. What helped Joey or really put him forward to win the championship was winning Las Vegas, hands down. What got Will to win the championship? You got to go back to St. Louis and you look at St. Louis and okay, that three stretch run, second at Portland, then he goes into Laguna and he knew what he had to do.
Joey went into Phoenix knowing what he had to do, and the team executed good pit stops. The teammates helped out a bit, the whole team helped out and everything was executed. Every single base was covered to make sure we won the championship, the last two races.
So, you really have to look at the preparation execution beforehand, which ended in the full result of two championships.
Bruce Martin:Now, because you work with Scott McLaughlin, the last race of the year at Monterey, he was basically going to be Josef’s wingman. How difficult is it when you tell a driver who's still mathematically alive for a championship that his number one priority that day is to try to cover his teammate?
Kyle Moyer:Well, it was a matter of making sure that we made sure this team won and that's all that matters. Scotty knows that more than anybody, he's been in that situation. His teammates have been in that situation. Nothing's bigger than the team here at Penske. It's a team effort.
You don't have to look at the last race, again, execution through the year to make sure our guys never touched each other. They ran very close to each other all year, but they never … you look at the Texas races, you look at the St. Louis races and stuff, these guys raced each other square and fare all year long and everything. And it's all about the team getting the win at the end of the day.
Bruce Martin:Last week I asked Ron Ruzewski, the Managing Director of IndyCar at Team Penske, his thoughts on whether IndyCar needs a new car, whether they need an upgrade, anything like that. A lot of the fans would like to see it. From a business standpoint, however, a lot of the team owners and IndyCar, owner Roger Penske thinks it would be an added financial burden when the series is already up to 27, 28 car fields for every race. Where do you stand on whether the series needs a new car or not?
Kyle Moyer:I wouldn't put it as a new car. But I think that you look at this car and to me it's a new car. This car is 10-years-old, but I look at back what came out in 2012 is nothing like what we're racing today. There was no windscreen, there was no halo, there was no zylon panels.
The body work now sits outside the tires to protect the driver better. The radiators have been resituated, the gearbox has been different, the nose. So, I can go on and on all the improvements of this car.
So, to me, we had a new car a year ago with the windscreen. They added more to it last year. Now this year it's going to be, there's a few little changes. Bargeboards are coming, another set of those, will help performance and help the racing.
But I think IndyCar has a nice four/five-year plan here of just improving this car. So, to me, I wouldn't say we need a new car because we already have one. But I'd go with the series that like over the last 10 years, almost every year we've improved on the product we've got.
As long as we keep on improving the product, that's what matters. Motors are coming, so that's going to make a change. So, as long as we keep on improving, do we really need a new car? Because it already is
Bruce Martin:With 27, 28 car fields, that's going back to the days of the glory days of CART,when you had 28 car fields for practically every race.
Of course, things are a little bit different. There was more engine manufacturers, there was competition among chassis makers, competition among tires. But do you start getting that same sense now with the car count, at least as to the growth of IndyCar that you felt back in the glory days?
Kyle Moyer:Yeah, it's just a different era. Yes, we had a lot of cars there, we had a lot of teams. But still at that time I felt when the year started, there's 12 guys that are going to win races, maybe 14 that you could put out there.
Nowadays you qualify 20th and you look at the people in front of you and you go like, “Who doesn't belong?” It's hard. So, I think it's a different type now. We've got more cars, but the competitive of it and almost all these drivers that are here now won a championship somewhere along the way to get here.
And I think that's what sets Indy car pretty high standards now that like, you better be good if you're going to come here. And a lot of people have … all the guys have came in, even the ones that have come good. You look at Scotty; his first year wasn't great.
Marcus Ericsson wins the 500. His first year wasn't great. It's taken him three years. Grosjean, he came in pretty much on fire and he's had a little bit of a wake up and he's understanding it now, but you're just not going to come in here. But at the same time, everybody that's coming is a winner. So, you come to IndyCar and it's hard, but that's what makes it so fun right now.
Bruce Martin:You also have added depth in team ownership since Zak Brown of McLaren came over with Arrow McLaren SP, but in the Sam Schmidt operation. That team now is probably nipping at your heels to try to become the premier Chevrolet team in IndyCar. What do you think of what Zak Brown and McLaren have been able to bring to the IndyCar Paddock that's kind of elevated the game for a lot of people?
Kyle Moyer:I don't know if it's elevated much of the team's game or anything. You look at it and you sort of go like, “It's great they've came.” But I think it's everybody is trying to up their game. We are trying to up our game and we just won a championship.
So, you look at Andretti they're building a new shop. Rahal just moved into their news shop. McLaren’s building a new shop. So, all these places, Juncos is going from one-car to two-car team. So, everybody's trying to improve and be better.
So, I wouldn't say it's just because Zak showed up. I think Zak's realizing like how good IndyCar is on the investment and return of the dollar. And at the same time, I think Zak's having a good time here. It's very competitive. He didn't come in here and beat everybody, but he realizes what he has to do to win races and they're stepping up to that.
Bruce Martin:And also a new driver that's going to be over at Arrow McLaren SP is a driver that had pretty impressive success at Andretti Auto Sport. That's Alexander Rossi. Do you expect this is a great time for him to have a reset?
Kyle Moyer:We’ll see. I'm a big fan of Alex's, there's a lot of times that he's been chasing or we've been chasing him through my life. So, he's well deserving of everything he's got and maybe resetting that button's great for him.
But I think it doesn't matter where he is driving. Alexander Rossi, he's going to be a problem for anybody. He's just a good driver.
Bruce Martin:And in our final two questions with Kyle Moyer, IndyCar, Team Manager at Team Penske. What is a typical December day like here at Team Penske's offices and shop in Mooresville, North Carolina?
Kyle Moyer:Right now we're just doing a reset. We did some work toward the end of the season. Now we're just resetting ourselves. In the middle of season, you're not going to play catch up. So, they always say like a baseball team is made in the off season. And I don't see any reason that it's different for our race team.
A race season, you want to win a championship race team that’s made in the off season and that's getting all our ducks in a row. Our track’s squared away. Our race car’s squared away, our spares’ all squared away.
So, everybody's working on that because in the middle of the season with the back to backs and just the racing circuit, you're not going to do that. Even though we don't have a lot of races, we still are pretty compact in our season itself. Plus, then you add the three weeks in of Indianapolis that you better be ready for.
So, come March, you aren't going to be able to be ready in March. You better be ready in January.
Bruce Martin:Speaking of January, when do you start testing? And also, what do you think of IndyCar reviving spring training by taking it to the Thermal Club in California?
Kyle Moyer:Well, that's mainly going to be our first team test there at Thermal, to get the season kicked off. I, I think it's great what IndyCar's doing. I think it brings awareness. I've always liked the spring training because it puts a little pressure on you to sort of like make sure you've got everything ready to go.
At the same time, it's enjoyable because everybody's having a little bit of fun. There's no points awarded, there's no money awarded, there's no trophies awarded, so that's good.
But at the same time, every single one of us is competitive and everybody wants to walk away from there going like, “Okay, hey, we're ready to go for this year.” So, I think it's great to do that. I think it's great that they're doing it so early to keep the awareness of IndyCar going.
But the Thermal Club itself looks like a beautiful place. It's a new track that's interesting. I think there's a lot of corners in it that are going to help in different tracks. It reminds me a lot of Barber. There's some Laguna stuff in it with the roughness of the track. There's a bit of Portland in it with some switchbacks.
So, I think a lot of testing there will help cover you for the season with the limited amount that we have.
Bruce Martin:Kyle Moyer, IndyCar Team Manager at Team Penske, congratulations on a great season in 2022 and good luck in the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series. And thank you for joining us today on Pit Pass Indy.
Kyle Moyer:Thanks Bruce.
Bruce Martin:And that puts a checkered flag on this edition of Pit Pass Indy. We want tothank our guest Team Penske IndyCar Program General Manager, Kyle Moyer for joining us on today's podcast. Along with loyal listeners like you, our guests help make Pit Pass Indy your path to victory lane, for all things IndyCar.
For more INDYCAR coverage, follow me at Twitter @BruceMartin_500. And to all our listeners, we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and happy holidays from all of us at Pit Pass Indy.
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcast. A special thanks to our production team. Executive producers are Brigid Coyne and Gerardo Orlando. Recordings and edits were done by me, Bruce Martin and final mixing was done by Dave Douglas. Learn more at evergreenpodcasts.com. Until next time, be sure to keep it out of the wall.