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

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript May 20, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr Part 2 of 2 Q: You had mentioned earlier that the competition is just as strong and more guys have an opportunity of winning. But considering this year there...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
May 20, 2003

Sam Hornish Jr

Part 2 of 2

Q: You had mentioned earlier that the competition is just as strong and more guys have an opportunity of winning. But considering this year there was only 33 cars that even attempted to qualify and some of the other things, has any of the shine come off of this event for at least for you as a driver?

Hornish: With the lack of being an actual Bump Day, that would be the only thing. I mean the way I look at it is, it might be the smallest entered field in history. There are 33 cars, but nobody went home. But in all actuality, I mean it is probably the most competitive field in Indianapolis 500 history. There are more guys that have a chance to win this year than has been since I have been here. I think it is harder to win this race than it ever has been. It does take luck, and it does take good preparing. There are so many things that go into that. And then, you know, sometimes it just has to be your day. For me, it is the same as it always been. This is the race to win. That is the only way I can look at it. The only reason that they are not as many cars is what there has been in the past is because they went through a new chassis this year and not everybody does not have the money to go buy two $350,000 cars and get an engine programmed for $1 million just to run one race. I mean $2 million in that stuff, let alone going out and buying the tires and paying the team guys to build the cars, and doing the computers and everything. A lot of that stuff transfers over from last year, but if we would have stayed with the same engine-car package, I think that there would have been 50 cars here. But that is one of those things where advancements need to be made to be safer, and the old cars are not allowed. It is hard to justify to buy those cars if you are only going to be able to do one race. That is where you have a lot of the in past people could bring older cars or whatever and come and run here. But it just does not work that way anymore because of the safety. There have been quite a few crashes this month, not bad crashes but even Mario's (Andretti). Who knows if last year's car would stand up as well as this year's cars? I think they are quite a bit safer; a lot of advancements have been made into it. So, yes, it is a little bit smaller field than what we have had in the past, but it is probably the deepest f ield. It is got the most competitive people and the best drivers. If you look at the list I mean there is so many new guys like (Tomas) Scheckter and then you have Michael (Andretti) and Little Al (Unser Jr.), and then you have the guys that are in the middle that have been in the IRL for quite a while, and you have Buddy Lazier, and you have Scott Sharp. I could probably go through and name 20 guys or more that if they won, I would not say: "Boy that is a shocker. I cannot believe that they ever had a chance at winning this race."

Q: The only other question I have is -- You're the first or the only first driver that is not running, qualified driver that is not running a Toyota or a Honda engine, and some have already said that you guys are at a disadvantage and that Chevy seemingly was not prepared. How much more difficult does that? Are the Toyotas and Hondas that much stronger?

Hornish: You can look at the results, and you guys can pretty much take your pick and pick your side as far as what you think by looking at the results. I mean, I do not need to tell anybody that Chevrolet, I do know, has spent a lot of time and a lot of money working on this and while Toyota and Honda knew they were leaving CART last year, and the size of their companies and their race divisions could just go focus on getting a new engine made, and I am sure that they had the new engine close to being done before they ever announced that they were coming to the IRL. So they were a little bit ahead of the ball based on the fact that Chevrolet had to build a new engine for last year and then they had to build another for this year. Yes, maybe they are behind a little bit, but they had a little bit more on their plate as far as what the IRL was concerned. They were busy trying to win the championship last year, a championship in the IRL last year versus being able to work on that engine all last year or even get started on it the December before.

Q: Hi, Sam. You had talked about patience in the race earlier; what have you learned in the first three races you ran here? How patience benefits you and how long being back where you started can you remain patient?

Hornish: Well, it is real tough being patient starting from 18th because you want to get up and get through all the people that are going to crash together and you do not want to get collected in somebody's else crash. And you have people behind you hounding you also, so it is tough to be there and to remain patient. But I do know that that is what it is going to take and it does not matter if people pass you the first 20 laps or people pass you the first 50 laps or even going to the 100-lap mark, they say it is kind of like keeping it 90 percent until you get Lap 170, and then you start fighting for it. But a lot people say that, but every year gets more and more to be a sprint race because you cannot wait 'til, you cannot always wait 'til Lap 170 because the field is not going to be that close. And with how competitive these cars are, you are not going to be able to pass people at will. There is a certain amount of patience that you are going to have to have to say: "OK, I cannot get by this guy and I am not going to push it. I will follow right behind him, save my tires, when he catches up to somebody and he cannot get around, then I will take advantage of that. Or when it comes time to pit first I will be right on him coming into pit lane and I will try to beat him out." There are ways that you can go about being patient without letting everybody pass you out on the racetrack and saying, "I will just get him back later."

Q: You have been asked several questions about the magnitude of the 500. Using the bowling analogy, you look on this as the 12th roll of a 300 game?

Hornish: Do I? I do not know.

Q: You know where you need one more strike?

Hornish: Yes, I mean, I know exactly-- It is tough because this is the time to shine if you are going to at any point and time during the year. And I have said all the way up to here I only need to lead one lap this year, and I do not care if it is make a pass going into (Turn) 3 on the last corner of the last lap. It is the closest race in IndyCar (Series) history that I went across the line, I do not care. It is just, if that what it takes to win, that is what I want to be. Of course, you would love to go out there and beat everybody by five laps, but that just doesn't happen anymore. I will remain patient about the way I do those things, and I am going to try to figure out, I already formulated a little bit of a plan as far as what I am going to do come Race Day. But, whether or not that works and whether or not I can stick to my own plan, that remains to be seen. So it is tough to say, "I am not going to get excited about this until it's time" because it is the biggest race in the world and you want to be up front, you want to lead and you want everybody looking at you all day long. The only time it really matters is when somebody is looking at you on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Q: Sam, there are a lot of teams that have run a lot laps this year and a lot of drivers run a lot of laps in practice. I am sure they gather a lot of information from their cars running laps, but as a driver does it help you to run more laps or does it become tiresome?

Hornish: Well, it depends on what you are running laps for. If you have to run more laps if I am working on qualifying, that that is not usually the smartest thing because you have the car trimmed out. You are pretty close to either having the car push a little bit or be loose so that is not always the funnest thing to do. But race setups it is definitely important to be out there, be on the track, be running behind people, in front of people, in dirty air and clean air, trying to figure out what your car is going to do so you know how to adjust for Race Day.

Q: Does it help you to drive more laps?

Hornish: I do not know. I mean we are pretty much close to the same setup that we started at the beginning of this month. We knew what it was going to take to make the car run, and we tweaked on it a little bit here and there, so maybe it does not help me to run so many laps. But if we were far off and were not close on the setup then we needed to be out there, and I think that, yes, it would definitely be an advantage to be able to go out there and run some great laps. But it is tough mentally to have to go out there and run that many laps because I mean I think we have run close to run 800 laps this month ourselves, you know, 2,000 miles and that is four times longer than the race itself. So it is a lot of time out there and a lot of time and patience to try to keep yourself out of trouble and safe up until Race Day.

Q: I am sorry. Sam, much is made this week about, this month actually about Robby Gordon and trying to double and so forth. Does that in anyway interest you? Is that something that you might think of doing in the future or does that have no interest to you at all?

Hornish: I would like to win the Indianapolis 500 before I go do that. That is what I have always wanted to do. I have no dreams about winning both those races in one day. Yes, it would be awesome, but you have to get through one of them before you can do the other one. My goal in racing to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, both tough to win either one of those races, so I will keep focusing on the Indy 500 for right now.

Q: Is there any-- Much has been made about your spoken interest in racing in stock cars. Is there anything else that you would like to drive or are you totally satisfied with the drive to win the 500 and you will deal with whatever comes next after that?

Hornish: I am 23 years old, so have a lot of time to do a bunch of different things. My goal is to do a lot of things, and I just want to make sure that I make the most of my opportunities when they are presented to me. So I have to wait and see where it ends up at. Of course, I already ran the 24 Hours of Daytona, and I would like to be part of a winning team in that at some point in time. There are so many different things that are out there for a young race car driver to focus his attention on as far as things that have something done or have not been done. But the Indianapolis 500 was the reason I started racing, so that will probably keep my interest for a while.

K. Johnson: Sam, away from the racetrack it is pretty much published knowledge that you enjoy to go bowling. But yesterday I understand you went out on the golf course and hit the little ball around. How did that round go?

Hornish: Well, not very good. I think we had more fun picking at the group behind us than we did actually golfing. But that is what it is all about. It is fun to go out there and be able to think about something other than racing once in a while. No, I am not very good at it; it does get a little bit frustrating at times. Just have to take it and lap it off a little bit.

K. Johnson: Well, Sam, it does not look we have any more questions this morning. So we will let you get back to enjoying the little bit of down time that you have before we start going with Community Day tomorrow and then Carb Day on Thursday. Again, we certainly appreciate you having taken the time to join us today.

Hornish: Thanks for having me. It has been fun.

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Sam Hornis