IRL: Indy 500: Sam Hornish Jr press conference, part I

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript May 20, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr Part 1 of 2 Operator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Indy Racing League conference call. At this time, all participants are in ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
May 20, 2003

Sam Hornish Jr

Part 1 of 2

Operator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Indy Racing League conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Kent Johnson. Mr. Johnson, you may begin.

K. Johnson: Thank you, Mary, and we certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, May 20th. Today, we look towards this weekend's 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. Joining us for that will be 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr.

K. Johnson: Now at this time let's welcome IndyCar Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish, the 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion and driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil/Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, will start his fourth Indianapolis 500 this coming Sunday from the outside of Row 6, having posted a four lap average speed of 226.225 miles per hour. Sam, welcome and thanks for joining us today.

Sam Hornish Jr.: You're very welcome, glad to be on.

K. Johnson: First, your season thus far shows two top-10 finishes and your best outing of the season was a sixth-place finish in our most recent outing at the Indy Japan 300. Now with the Indianapolis 500 at our doorstep, what is your approach heading into this event?

Hornish: I guess go for another top-10 finish, but definitely we always are looking for a victory. The results this year have not really shown what I think we were capable of. We have had bad pit stops, not really bad on the part of the team, but bad that every time we pit it seems like a yellow comes out shortly after. We have not had really good luck as far as getting a little bit of racing luck, tables to turn. We tend to lose a couple positions each race just by bad pit timing and should probably be a little bit higher up in the points, but Phoenix we got bumped as we were passing the lap car and put into the outside wall, so it is not one of those years that really we have got a lot of racing luck on our side. So we are just going to continue to go out there and do the best we can with the equipment that we have and see what we can do. The Indianapolis 500 is a power race, but you have to have a very good handling car. You have to really be able to move through traffic, and you have to have that little bit of racing luck, and it is very seldom that the very fastest car wins the race. Maybe that will play onto our side. We will have to wait and see, I guess.

K. Johnson: Now continuing on that last thought about the Indianapolis 500, this year's field is one of the closest in history. It is the third-fastest field in the Indy history. Does where you start in the grid really matter as far as where you might finish?

Hornish: I have started 14th, 13th and seventh. I have never been in the front two rows, but this is my worst qualifying attempt in the four years that I have been here. The other three years things did not go very well, so I guess it does not really matter where you start at. It is a 500-mile race. Two hundred laps around the track is a long time. Basically, it is eight to possibly 10 pit stops, just depending on how the yellow flags fall, and if there are yellow flags. That is pretty much double of any other racetrack that we run. It is really key to have good pit stops here, and patience is a very big key, too. I mean, even if you go out there and you don't pass a single car on the racetrack, but you pass two every time you make a pit stop starting in 18th position you could take the lead in all actuality if all the pit stops were in the yellow. So it is a very strategic race, this is. That is what is really going to separate a winning effort from a 10th-place effort is what you have planned and how well everything works out.

K. Johnson: Now you have talked about planning for the first time in your IndyCar Series career. This month at least you're driving for what amounts to a multi-car team. How has that setup benefited you?

Hornish: Oh, I mean, Billy (Boat) and Robby (Gordon) are two very good drivers. They have a lot of talent between them. But the only problem is they have not had very much time in these new chassis. So they are very different than what last year's were by the different wing settings and different wing rules that the IRL has made for this year. It makes it tough to step into these cars and know what makes these cars happy. So a little bit about what has happened so far this month is that we have just really been trying to bog down a little bit. We are still doing quite a bit of the trial-and-error stuff is just on my car and it is left to be fine-tuned on the other car. It doesn't make it any harder for us. It does make it a little bit easier, but it is not necessarily like having a teammate that has been there since the beginning of the year.

K. Johnson: Well, Sam, at this time let's open the forum for questions from our media.

Q: Hi, Sam. Quick question about working with the teammates. Do you collaborate a lot with someone like Robby who just stepped onboard this past weekend?

Hornish: Well not really, because, I mean, pretty much what is left up to me to do is explain how the car should handle based on the setup that it has and just to help him out if he has any questions or any problems in the car. My interaction, more so, has been getting a safe setup as far as him just to be able to go out there and be able to put the gas pedal down and run four laps fast enough to be in the field and not be in last place.

Q: Does that take up a lot of your time?

Hornish: No, not really. Robby's effort didn't really start until after we were pretty much done with everything that we were going to do. I mean 10, 15 minutes of my time here and there, which is really nothing. You know, I am down here for a month, so it does keep me occupied a little bit.

Q: Sam, there has been a lot of talk lately about, I guess, the stature of the Indy 500 having been increased in the last few years, I guess, due a lot to some of the guys coming over. Do you feel that has increased the stature of the race and does it feel like the biggest race in the world to you?

Hornish: To me, it is still kind of sometimes hard to believe that I am where I am at. Even though it was my goal to get here, I did not necessarily know if it would ever happen. The Indianapolis 500 is always a tough race to win because not only are you racing against other competitors, but you are racing against yourself. It is one of the longest races in IndyCar (Series) racing, so it is a little bit man against machine more than man against man. You have to go out there and be patient enough not to put your car in jeopardy early in the race because it is not like NASCAR where you can touch another car and bend a fender little bit, and yes, it does slow down, but it is not the end of your day. This you get out of line a little bit, you touch the wall, that is 14 or more laps fixing the car. Regardless of the competition level as far as outside drivers, it has gotten stronger, but it is still a tough race to run even if there was only five people out there. If they are all the same speed, it is tough because you have to race against yourself also to keep your patience. As far as the new drivers that are in the series, yes, it is not any more -- I do not think that there was like one certain guy that could win it every time before and now that everybody says, "Well, now you have all this competition--" The race has always had a lot of competition, and there is just, I think, more guys that have an opportunity at winning. But then that goes back to the fact where you are racing against yourself. Yes, there might be 20 cars that have an opportunity of winning, but 15 of them will jeopardize their chance at winning by either pushing it too hard, going into the pits or coming out or trying to get a pass done. So it does-- There are quite a few different things that can affect the outcome of this race. I mean, it is not so much always just yes, Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr. and whoever else are in this race and now it is that much tougher. Yes, it is tougher because that is two more guys that are very good at runni ng 500-mile races. It is already tough to do even if there are only five guys that have an opportunity at winning. I think the quality of the field, it is still the competitive, but there is just more guys that have an opportunity to win.

Q: Sam, you mentioned earlier about your season thus far and you talked about the bad luck with pit stops. With the double number of pit stops in an Indy 500, how concerned are about that?

Hornish: Well, I am a little concerned. We have not had problems with the pit stops as far as wheels falling off. It is just been the wrong timing. If the timing issues go like they have so far this year, that is not a very good sign for us. But there is nothing to say against any of the guys on the team. They all do a great job of getting me in and out as fast or faster than other people that I am running against. It is just right now the times that we have had to pit because we have been running under green flag, running for a certain time, just have not been right. Then once you are off sequence, you are off sequence. There is not a whole lot you can do to fix it, and then it seems like every time you pit in that race, you are off a little bit or something does not work out right. I would be a little bit concerned, but the good thing about this season being bad at the beginning is it is totally opposite of everything else that has happened to us in the past. We have usually been leading, the last few years we have been the leading points and had at least two victories in the season coming into this race. This year, we do not have that. So maybe this will be the opposite of those last few years, but Indy 500 was the bad race for us, so maybe this year it will be the good one.

Q: The speedway itself, especially for the Indy 500, seems to take a personality of its own and seems to pick (Inaudible) such as the Andrettis over the years and what have you. Do you feel now that after four times being there and as strong as you are everywhere else that maybe the first personality of the lady known as the speedway for some reason does not like Sam Hornish Jr.?

Hornish: I do not know. I mean they call Dover "The Monster Mile," and I think Indianapolis is two and a half times that. It is two and a half times the size so it is just -- It is a tough racetrack to go out there and win on. It is a long racetrack. Everybody says all four corners are identical, but in all actuality they are not. They all have a personality of their own, and they all do different things. Yes, winning this track, being the size that it is, I understand that there is Daytona and Talladega that are tracks that are as big or bigger, this track is so different because it does not have the banking. Without having the banking, you get a lot more wind coming across the corners, and the wind has a lot more affect on the cars than it would at those two tracks. This track definitely has a personality, and it is kind of one of those love-hate relationships. I cannot wait to come here every year, but it seems like I am always disappointed when I leave. But when I look back at it, I think there have been drivers that are better than I am that have not ever won the Indianapolis 500. Some times, it is just not your day, and I will have to keep coming back and working on it until it is.

Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing