Toyota Indy 400, California Speedway Post-race press conference Sept. 21, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr (winner), Scott Dixon (second), Tony Kanaan (third) THE MODERATOR: At this time, ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to get started with second- and ...
Toyota Indy 400, California Speedway
Post-race press conference
Sept. 21, 2003
Sam Hornish Jr (winner), Scott Dixon (second), Tony Kanaan (third)
THE MODERATOR: At this time, ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to get started with second- and third-place finishers of this afternoon's Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway. Just a couple of notes to start. Unofficial points as of right now show a tie for first place between Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon with 467; Tony Kanaan is third, seven points back at 460; Sam Hornish Jr. is in fourth, 19 points back with 448; Gil de Ferran is fifth with 436 points. Today's average speed of 207.151 miles per hour is an open-wheel record, which bests the previous mark of 197.955 set during the CART event here at California Speedway one year ago. Also there was just one caution period today, which ties an IndyCar Series record. We had one caution earlier this year at Kentucky. Today we had just six yellow-flag laps, which is an IndyCar Series record, bettering the previous of 10 laps earlier this year at Kentucky. At this time we'd like to welcome our second-place finisher today, Scott Dixon. He started in third, brought it home in second. Job well done, Scott. You've moved into a tie for the series points lead. Give us your thoughts on the race.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was pretty good today, generally. Team Target did great stops. I think that's what sort of helped us toward the end. We struggled, I think, on scrub tires. You know, the car was not so good. But we just set at the back of the pack for most of the race, made sure we stayed in contact with the lead group and saved fuel. I think it paid off toward the end when we were able to run those two extra laps and get some good speed. Good day in general. I think toward the end, we didn't really have enough for Sam. My car was really bad on the high line, and his was really good. Then he actually started to use the low line, and I couldn't go anywhere, so I couldn't really get any closer. But, you know, good job for him. Hopefully, we can go to Texas, it's good for the championship, see if we can pick up some more points.
THE MODERATOR: Also with us at this time is our third-place finisher, Tony Kanaan.
(Audio difficulty. Select quotes will be included in the Daily Trackside Report.) -- What follows is the Q&A with the race winner.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we are joined by the champion of today's Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway, Sam Hornish Jr. Sam started this race in 10th position, brought it home in first. As we mentioned, an IndyCar Series and open-wheel record, we are checking, we believe an all-time motorsports record, average speed of 207.151 miles per hour. Just as important for Sam is the fact he has pulled within 19 points of the lead for the IndyCar Series points standings with 448. Congratulations on your day. Tell us about your run.
SAM HORNISH JR.: We had a great day. The Pennzoil Panther team got me in and out of the pits just as quick as they could. Seemed like we gained positions every time we stopped. The car handled well. You know, especially with the conditions, how hot it got. Got windy like we thought it would. Actually the wind, instead of coming out of the west today, came out of the south, really moved the cars coming off of Turn 2. It was kind of one of those things it was something that was unpredicted, but we knew the wind would play a factor in today's race. The car handled good. Just really, really happy to see this 400-mile race, you know, go all the miles without any, you know, crashes. Everybody did a great job today. Everybody gave each other room. That's what makes this racing so much fun.
THE MODERATOR: You came into this event saying that you thought you had a legitimate shot at the title if you won every race. You've won three out of the last four, with one to go.
SAM HORNISH JR.: Yeah, I mean, it would have been a lot different if we would have been about four foot ahead at Michigan. But, you know, that's part of racing. You never know what's going to happen. There's another 300 miles to go. Three guys, me, myself, three other guys are going to be really battling for a win down there. Because the first thing to do is to win, then second of all you want to be up there. But we're just going to do the best we can, see what we can pull out. Hopefully we'll get another victory, see if we can win this championship.
THE MODERATOR: At this time, we'll take questions for Sam Hornish.
Q: Sam, this morning, you stuck your feet in the concrete. Apparently some of that concrete acted like lead in your right foot. Is that what happened?
SAM HORNISH JR.: It only goes down as far as it goes down. That's all it does. That's where we were at today. We were doing the best we could. Feels great to have had the success here at California. I really like coming here. It was another reason why. You know, hopefully next year we'll get to stick our feet in the concrete again and go fast again.
Q: Sam, earlier Tony (Kanaan) said you seemed to have the knack for setting up the car to go where you want it. He said he and Scott were having difficulties with their cars, but you didn't seem to. How do you analyze this? I know he talked about figuring out the race as it progresses, but how do you figure out car setup so accurately to make it work for you so well?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Everything that I pretty much planned today kind of went out the window at different points in time. You know, we know enough about these races, myself and the engineers, they don't get misguided at all. They know what the car needs to be able to go out there and to run fast. You know, they don't say, "We can run another half mile an hour if we take this much downforce off, or we could run a mile an hour faster." It's always, "What can we do to run flat, you know, to stay on the gas all day long to be able to work good in traffic?" We know, even if you're leading, you're going to come up to traffic once in a while with lap markers, and green-flag pit stops, whatever. I feel that we always try to maintain our focus. You know, the car was great today for the first 40 laps. The second 40 laps, the car was kind of a little bit too loose. It pushed the next pit stop. The last one the car was perfect again. I mean, right from the start, they couldn't get any of the telemetry. So basically it was me telling them what the fuel level was at that point in time. And then also, you know, where the knobs were at, what I was doing inside the car as far as the weight jacker and the anti-roll bars was concerned so that they could know. You know, if I said this is what the car is doing, they could say, "You might want to do this, try this out, this is more effective, the roll bar is more effective than the weight jacker." You know, today so many different things happened. The track really changed conditions. It started out with no wind, then it came from the west, then it came from the south, then it got more from the south, then it kind of calmed down a little bit at the end. A lot of different things happened out there today. The car had to be working good for the whole race.
Q: Looking ahead, you seem to do better in the day races at Texas than you do the night races. Why is that?
SAM HORNISH JR.: I don't know. I mean, the first year that I ran for Panther in 2001, you know, we ended up third. Not great, but good enough. Then the second year, we got hit. This year we were struggling with the Gen III. I think the big thing about that is, you know, that race usually tends to get hot and a little bit slick, and you have to have the car handling in traffic again. You know, I don't know why. Plus you got a record going there. You got to put it on the line as much as you can. You know, I don't know if there's any record like that. The guys at Panther Racing have won three in a row at that race. Hopefully, we'll make it four.
Q: Sam, do you feel like maybe you should be second-guessing your decision to leave Panther and go to Penske? If not, I guess the best gift you can do is give them another championship before you leave?
SAM HORNISH JR.: You know, I want to win a championship. I feel that they put in enough hard work and effort to win this championship. You know, all the teams out there that are up here fighting for this definitely have their stuff together and are championship-caliber teams. This is exactly why it was a tough decision. I know how good they are. But, you know, we've won at California before. We've won at Chicago before. But we haven't won at Indy before. That's where I need to win at. And I know that those guys, both teams, can give me cars that can win the race. But I know that there's one team that's got a real knack for winning a lot of those. I mean, while it was a tough decision, you know, maybe something that comes back to me, somebody is going to say, "I told you so." But anybody that's my friend will never say that.
Q: In the last stint, you were side by side, just swapping the lead with Scott. What enabled you to get away? And comment about a 207-mile-an-hour race.
SAM HORNISH JR.: You know, the thing about it was that, you know, we had a good race going, Scott and I. He was a little bit quicker as long as he was out front. My car seemed to work in traffic a little bit. Just knowing where his car worked and where his car didn't, you know, once I get ahead of him, you know, I can just drive my line and know that, you know, he's going to not be able to stay right behind me. While once in a while he's going to be able to get the right kind of run to get around me, on a consistent basis, you know... It's nothing against Scott or his team, you know. You set the car up to the best that you know it's going to be. Conditions change throughout the race. That's how it turns out sometimes, is that your car is not quite on. We've been there before, too. Our car was good enough to handle in traffic. While we were able to pull away was the fact that we got into some lap markers, and I knew if we got in the lap markers, how good my car handled, that I would probably be able to sneak away from him a little bit, pull out of the draft. It would take him long enough to catch back up or he wouldn't be able to catch back up to get it done. I'm glad it wasn't a 500-mile race. I'm glad it was over when it was over. That race, I read a couple articles, some of the racing publications over the past couple months, saying "The 200-mile-an-hour race is coming. When is it going to be here?" You know, it was great that I could be a part of it and actually win it. It's really just a lot of fun to go out there and race against these guys. You know, when it says 207-mile-an-hour race in the record books, it will say that I won. But it's really a team effort by all the guys out there on the track. They all did a great job today, knowing what the boundaries of what their cars were. You can't have a 200-mile-an-hour race if you're crashing cars every 20 laps. Everybody knew what the boundary of their car was today and drove within it.
Q: When the race started, you didn't have telemetry. You also had a radio problem where they could barely hear you while running on the track. Did you ever get to the point where you said, "This isn't going to be a good day," or were you confident?
SAM HORNISH JR.: We started up last year, they couldn't hear me, I couldn't hear them. As long as I can hear them, it's OK, because I can hear my spotter, Pancho. I know what to do when I'm up beside somebody. But when you can't hear either direction, that makes it tough because you got to have people telling you when to pit, by the pit board, so you got to be watching the pit board all the time. The fact that I still had telemetry on my dash really enabled us to be able to go on with it. You know, if I wouldn't have telemetry and they wouldn't, which is very seldom that both go out at the same time, you know, then we wouldn't know how much fuel we'd use. We would have been pitting probably five laps early, probably would have got caught out on a yellow, something would have happened. It's bearable when it's one way or another, but it's real hard to overcome when it's both.
Q: Out of curiosity, with you being able to overcome the heat and the high speed today, what are you taking out of today's win here for use in Texas? You'll probably be facing similar heat out there. Now that you've conquered the days here at Fontana, are you hoping maybe the next time you come back here, maybe you can do it at night?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Yeah, I mean, they have all kinds. I like the night races that we do have. I don't know if they'll ever add any more to the schedule because it's so hard to find TV slot time. But I think this would be a great place to have a night race because it's generally cooler, you don't have all the sun, all those things working against you. As far as Texas goes, I mean, everything that you can pick up from each track to go to another one is definitely stuff that you need to watch and maintain. Hopefully, you know, we'll keep continuing to learn until it's time to be over for this year. You know, how many times do people get in a place where they're doing well, they're just, you know, kind of going on and going on? You got to keep continuing to learn. That's how you become better, that's how you better yourself and win more races and whatnot.
Q: Bernie Eccelstone introduced promoting the idea of F1, promoting the American teams like it was in the '70s. In case the opportunity would turn up in the future that you get a Formula 1 drive, would you accept this or would you be shocked when you look back to the Formula 1 history of Zanardi and Andretti when they came over from oval racing?
SAM HORNISH JR.: You know, a race fan is a race fan. If they're a true race fan, they're going to watch whatever is on TV at that point in time, they're going to be into it, just for the love of racing. That's how I am. I can watch almost any kind of racing on TV and be intrigued and excited by it. That's why, you know, you have so many different forms of racing. But it's really hard to make a notch, even with the kind of races that we have, how close they are, how exciting they are, what the fans get out of it. You know, I have people telling me, "Oh, this is my first IndyCar Series race. I usually only go to NASCAR races. This race was so great, it was so exciting, they're so much faster."
"Are you coming back next year?"
"I don't know, maybe if I can afford that and my NASCAR ticket."
They'll watch the other race (laughter), just because it's more -- because it's more of an event, you know, I don't know what you would say. But Formula 1, knowing the success people had going over there, I don't know. It would depend if I had won the Indianapolis 500 whether or not I would leave to go over there or not. It's tough. I'm not much of a world traveler. The times I have gone out of the country to race, I usually haven't done very good because I'm jet lagged or whatever. I don't know if I'd want to be doing that every weekend I raced, having to go through jet lag, learning a new culture and new food. You never know, if I accomplish the goals I want to over here, there's always some way you can try to do something bigger and better.
Q: On Friday you said you were a longshot, being 41 points out. Now that you're down to 19, won three out of four, do you still consider yourself a longshot for the championship?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Well, I mean, if the rules were a little bit different, we get 20 more points than somebody for winning, that would be great. But it doesn't work that way. Still knowing that somebody can finish second and somebody else can finish third, you know, I could still get beat by those two guys for the championship, end up third, you know, it's still kind of a longshot. We still have to go out and win a race, have some other guys have some bad luck, not terrible bad luck, but finish outside the top five for us to win this championship. You know, we're going to give it everything we've got. It's really shaped up to be a tremendous championship battle. You know, I think the fans that come to the Texas race are going to get one heck of an experience. I've said it before, I mean, I think there's only five guys that are capable of winning, four guys that are capable of winning, maybe five, I don't know. But it's going to be a heck of a battle throughout that Texas race. I wish it was actually tomorrow so I could see what happens, don't have to wait about another month to find out.
Q: You mentioned Pancho. With his extreme IndyCar experience, how much of an advantage does that give you? What percent would you say that adds to the success of the team?
SAM HORNISH JR.: I think in the first couple races, that would have been, you know, something that was a big factor, me knowing what Pancho has done. But now just knowing Pancho, I have enough trust in him, he says "clear," I'm moving, I'm going down, because I know he's right. Once in a while I'll check in my rear just to make sure. It will be close, but he won't lead me astray, and I know he won't. Having trust in the spotter is the biggest thing. You could have whoever out there. If you don't trust them, they're not going to be of any use to you. I just trust him. You know, for the first couple races, I worked with him, I would say it was by knowing the years of experience he had. Now it's my trusting him. I know he's not going to put me in a bad position.
Q: Did any of your extra practice laps over at Dave and Busters pay off today?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Were you over there (laughter)? Yeah, we had a pretty good race over there. We had a couple new track records. I mean, it was quite fun. Then we broke the machines on accident. The gas pedal on the one, it kept sticking after I was pushing down a little bit on it too hard, I think (laughter).
Q: Scott Dixon gave you credit for being able to run all over the track. Can you run equally as well today at the lower part as you were up high? Scott said he couldn't come up with you.
SAM HORNISH JR.: I could run high if I needed to in traffic. There was different points of the race that I could do different things. The first part of the race, I could run low or I could run. The second part of the race, I could only run low. The third part, I could only run high. It just worked out that the last run, you know, I could move the car all over again. We made some different front-wing adjustments. By all the ways that the wind changed and weather changed today, you know, it kept people guessing. I mean, you had to be on top of it, making changes to make sure that the car was capable of running wherever. If I wanted to let off, I could run low at different points, when the car was working better high. The car would always work a little bit better somewhere, but I could run it wherever I needed to.
Q: What is your impression of California Speedway?
SAM HORNISH JR.: I've only raced two races. Last year was on one extreme. It was, like, 51 degrees. It was windy and cold. This year, you know, 100, 130 degree track temperatures. The heels of my feet were frying all day long, and the wind was out of the south. I think these conditions are unique compared to last year, but last year is unique compared to this year. Compared to other tracks, we get Kansas, a couple other places that are really hot. This is probably closer to being a typical setting than what last year here was.
Q: Does the wind play a major role here?
SAM HORNISH JR.: Definitely. It really showed it today when we first started out, no wind. A little bit into the race, we had wind coming out of the west, blowing down the back straightaway. Towards the end of the race, blowing out the south, which I've never seen it do here. Never know what's going to happen.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, best of luck in Texas.