</pre> SOPHOMORE SENSATIONS Press Conference Transcript PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001 HOST: Mike King GUESTS: 2000 Indy Racing Rookie of the Year Airton Dare and Pennzoil Panther driver Sam Hornish Jr. MIKE KING: We are ready...
Press Conference Transcript
PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001
HOST: Mike King
GUESTS: 2000 Indy Racing Rookie of the Year Airton Dare and Pennzoil Panther driver Sam Hornish Jr.
MIKE KING: We are ready to get started. We have got two of the young guns of the series up here now. Both were rookies last year. Both obviously getting set to embark on their sophomore campaigns, if you will. Sam Hornish Jr. is from Ohio, and officially, which town are you claiming?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Defiance.
MIKE KING: So you're claiming Defiance?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Yes.
MIKE KING: From Defiance, Ohio. Well, there was -- I'll tell you a quick story. There was a bit of a problem with Sam and some of his friends because he had claimed Defiance when that was not where you attended high school.
SAM HORNISH JR.: Exactly.
MIKE KING: So some of his friends were upset that he had claimed the larger town as opposed to where he was attending school. Sam last year drove with PDM Racing and did a great job with a limited effort. Wound up on the podium at Las Vegas where he finished third. An absolutely super drive and really exhibited some great potential. Perhaps the most memorable outing for Sam last year, at least as far as I'm concerned from the broadcast booth watching him, was the lap that he had with Jaques Lazier, went side by side at Kentucky Speedway. It was an incredible show if you weren't there and kind of proved to all of us that both Sam and Jaques were pretty serious about this deal. So Sam is here and he will be driving the Pennzoil Panther Dallara this year, so he will be slipping into perhaps the most recognizable color scheme in motorsports come March 18th here. Then sitting next to him, I was informed that after a full season of saying his name incorrectly, the correct way to pronounce his first name is it's pronounced Airton Dare as opposed to Airton. So it's Airton Dare. And Bauru?
AIRTON DARE: Bauru.
MIKE KING: Bauru, Brazil is the hometown. Lives in Miami now. So the race at Homestead is kind of going to be a homecoming of sorts for him, and he's expecting a lot of his fellow countrymen and a lot of his fans. One interesting thing about Airton is the fact that he won six jet-ski championships in Brazil and South America before he started racing cars, and he says that it's a pretty good rush doing 60 miles an hour on a vehicle that small over the water. But he's got quite a varied background. He will be driving the Team Xtreme G Force, John, is that right? You guys are going to run G Force again, and this guy is going to be exciting, let me tell you. Last year he was absolutely spectacular at times. He had also a podium finish last year, finishing second at Pikes Peak. He had a great run at Indianapolis before his engine let go. He was leading the race at Las Vegas with, what was it, 26 laps. Final pit stop when he was leaving the pits when his gearbox expired. So he is going to be, I think, a driver to be on the lookout for certainly this year and for years to come. So I guess let's start, Sam, with you. Any jitters about taking over a car as noticeable and notable as the Pennzoil car?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Yeah, I think there is. Just all the recognition that's behind the name of Pennzoil gives me something -- some big shoes to fill, but I think I'm ready to do it. It's been a long couple months waiting to come out here and get to the first major test. I can't want until March 18th for the first race.
MIKE KING: Have you turned any laps at all in the Pennzoil car?
SAM HORNISH JR.: We came out here two days in the beginning of the year just to get to know the team and let them get to know me and figuring out what we need to do to help each other out and complement each other, so it's just -- this is our second test, and we are going to try to keep progressing.
MIKE KING: When John Barnes made the announcement that Sam would be joining the Panther team, it was applauded by all the members of the team, and John even said that there was really no other choice among the members of the Panther Racing other than Sam. What's it's been like getting along with all the guys, and obviously they like what they saw in the test sessions with you?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Well, they got to know me a little bit better, so you might want to ask them that question again.
MIKE KING: Is that right?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Everything's been working out pretty good. You work with the team for a year, and you get to know their habits and they get to know my habits the same way, so it's pretty much starting all over again. But, you know, they have had enough drivers, and I've been with enough different teams that we know how to deal with new things, and we're real optimistic in the coming up season.
MIKE KING: What's the goal for this year? Win the championship?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Yeah, I'd say that that would be a pretty good achievement for us to do in our first year together. Either that or win the 500. You know, pretty much equal each other out.
MIKE KING: So you'll settle for either of those?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Either/or.
MIKE KING: Airton was Rookie of the Year last year, and obviously the rookie stripes are gone for both of these cars this year. So what do you anticipate this year? TeamXtreme right now is a one-car operation. They are focusing on you and what you plan to do this year. What are the goals and expectations for Team Xtreme?
AIRTON DARE: I think that myself and TeamXtreme, we are in another level right now from last year. You know, we learn a lot of things. We made a lot of mistakes last year, and we learn from those mistakes, so we are going to be a lot more competitive than last year. And, you know, the engine program, I hope it means it's all going to be a lot better than last year. So we are looking forward for this year.
MIKE KING: In terms of confidence level, how different is it for you to come to Phoenix this year as opposed to one year ago when you came here?
AIRTON DARE: It's just a huge difference. Last year I came here, and I wasn't very -- see, I wasn't very confident in the car, and all the new guys, you know. Now, I mean, I know everybody, and I got 100 percent confidence in the car and the team and on the engineers, mechanics, and it's just -- I mean it's just a new story. Got here this kind of level of confidence, and trusting everybody on the team is just huge difference for us.
MIKE KING: Do we have questions for either Sam or Airton Dare? Anyone?
Q: Airton, you talked about the confidence. Is the mental aspect of it maybe the biggest hurdle when you're a rookie?
AIRTON DARE: You know, I got here last year, we didn't have too much of a test. We came to the Open Test here, we had some problems, the motor was leaking oil. So it couldn't run, too. So by the time it came to the race, I did not have a lot of laps here. And, you know, also the racing in Walt Disney, I mean you rain out most of the time. I didn't have a lot of laps on the car. And just experience that I got during the whole year and the knowledge I got about the car, about how to do stuff and the IRL car, I mean I like 100 percent better than last year ready for this race, you know.
Q: Would you agree with that, Sam, as far as the rookie progression is concerned?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Yeah, I think it's going to be a lot easier coming into this year. Even being with the different team, I've just -- all the things I've learned over the last year, the patience that it takes to go out and run these long races. That was one of the biggest things coming into last year is that the races that I ran in the years previous were 50 to maybe 100 laps, and we are going 200-, 300-, 500-mile races, and that's a lot of the experience level there is just knowing how to be calm and wait for the end of the race to make your moves.
MIKE KING: I guess for both of you, last year obviously the series was a nine-race series, run from January through October. This year, a 13-race series, run the middle of the March until the end of September. So you've got 13 races to run in about 24 weeks, plus you got three weeks at Indy plus race weekend. How much different is it going to be from the standpoint of, I guess, both mental and physical preparation to race this year in a much more compacted space than last year? Sam, let's start with you.
SAM HORNISH JR.: I think it will be a little bit easier. There is not such a long break in between most of the races. I think it's -- two weeks is the longest point we are out of the car during the whole season. It just makes it a little bit easier. Your physical training, you don't have to worry about doing as much in between races because you know that -- you know what you're capable in the race before, so you just have to keep building upon that and making yourself a little bit better. I think it will be a little bit easier. It won't be like stepping into the car for the first time over and over again, having a month, month and a half off in between races.
AIRTON DARE: I think the same thing as you talk about. You know, it's just you can carry the momentum to one race to the other. You know, it's just -- it's when you have to get out of the car and wait a month and a half to come back again and start all over again, and if you have like race after race, you kind of get more used to that and carry the momentum to the other race, and also the physical part of it, you just get used to driving the car all the time.
MIKE KING: Have we got any other questions for Mr. Hornish or Mr. Dare? If not, they will both be available for one-on-ones for the next few minutes. Thank you very much.