IRL: Milwaukee: Top-three finishers press conference (part 1)

Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 July 25, 2004 Dario Franchitti - First Michael Andretti - Winning team owner Buddy Rice - Second Sam Hornish Jr. - Third MODERATOR: Today's attendance, Sunday, July 25th, 37,821. The inaugural IRL/USAC weekend...

Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225
July 25, 2004

Dario Franchitti - First
Michael Andretti - Winning team owner
Buddy Rice - Second
Sam Hornish Jr. - Third

MODERATOR: Today's attendance, Sunday, July 25th, 37,821. The inaugural IRL/USAC weekend ticket total for the weekend is 63,373.

Buddy Rice finishes second today. Buddy, talk about your run today and this tricky 1-mile oval. What changed from when you were here for the two-day test to what you ultimately found today?

BUDDY RICE: I think for the race conditions, they were quite similar to what the test was. I mean, it was still cool out. The only difference is it was a little sunnier. That made it good, there's a lot that overlaid from the test.

I think this is a big accomplishment for us at Rahal Letterman and where we've come from on our short-oval setup in such a limited time with this (Panoz) G Force chassis.

It was great today. I think with what we did with where we are with the points and what we did out on the track was tremendous for the whole team. I think that's just a combination of the engineers, myself and Vitor (Meira) just coming to grips with this (Panoz) G Force and making it happen on these small ovals.

MODERATOR: You have been fast all weekend. We asked Vitor after he won the MNBA Pole about the chemistry going on with the team because you have such a strong, strong run right now, one of the strongest efforts with a two-car team. Let's talk about the critical components of you and your engineers and the chemistry with your owners.

BUDDY RICE: Well, I think with how everything has gone so far right now, with me and (engineers) Todd (Bowland), Ray (Leto), the rest of the group, I think it is huge. Every day we're learning more and more about this car, and we're getting stronger.

Vitor started not until Japan. It was on quite possibly a limited basis until we got to Indy and past that. Now he's getting up to speed with his engineer, and the whole group has made it all happen.

I think with that and the Panoz G Force guys, what they've done from the test to here to help us out was huge. Once again, it's Hondas up front, like always.

Q: Did you have enough fuel, and could you have caught Dario?

BUDDY RICE: I think the best cars went to the front today, without a doubt. That's the whole place on these handling tracks. I think if it would have stayed green, we might have had a little bit better chance because of the way we were working traffic and the way our cars were on long runs.

Whether you take fuel into consideration or not, I think if it would have stayed green for the next 10 or 12 laps or so, I think it would have been a benefit for us.

But, you know, Dario (Franchitti) was strong today. He ran up front a lot of the day. You know, he's been working hard, and their car was good this weekend.

Q: Did you want to see that last caution flag?

BUDDY RICE: I would have preferred not to see the caution, yes. But I'm not necessarily sure that changes the outcome at all. I mean, Dario was strong. It was going to take a lot to get by him. I think if I had a choice, I would have liked it to stay green for us.

Q: Talk about the pass on Sam Hornish.

BUDDY RICE: I think he was on used tires. We did some stuff. We made sure we had tires. I think he was on used tires. Sooner or later, those things were going to go off. I knew it. I don't know. I think he just finally got to the end of the life on those tires.

He was pushing hard to stay in front of us. We were both, you know, trying to run through traffic as best we could. But I think that's just what happened.

Q: Traffic has been a concern in some races. Was it a problem today?

BUDDY RICE: I don't know. I think everything has been fine actually the last three races. I mean, yeah, there's been some unfortunate accidents and things have happened, but I think everything was fine.

Every once in a while, you got to remember, if someone's car is struggling, which I understand that situation, you can only do so much to get out of the way because the car is so sensitive.

So I think sometimes those guys aren't purposely trying to get in the way. They're doing everything they can to get out, but their car only lets them do so much. For me, I think it's been fine. Sometimes you get caught up in it, and sometimes you don't. It's just all timing. As far as I'm concerned, I think it's been going OK.

Q: This track seems to really suit your driving style.

BUDDY RICE: I think this is like one of the -- almost all the short tracks we go to are very unique. And I think that's what's good. Because sometimes we go to all the mile-and-a-halfs, and it gets to be it's just a chess game, running in big packs.

When you go to those small ovals, there's a lot more it takes to be with the driver and the engineer and the whole setup and the package because it's such a handling track. So I think it's good we come to these mile tracks. Sometimes it separates some groups, and I think it's good.

Coming here with it being such a flat track, once again it's got its own little nuances in the ways you have to set the car up. I think some of the benefit definitely comes from running the (Toyota) Atlantic Series for three years here was also a benefit to me. I knew a little how the track was going to change and what to do for later in the race.

Q: How do you think you look in terms of the points race?

BUDDY RICE: It's looking very good. We just moved to second. We're going to keep marching forward, and we're going to make sure we bring the championship home.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Buddy, finishing second today. Congratulations on a fine run.

We turn our attention to third-place finisher on the podium, Sam Hornish Jr. How was your run today?

SAM HORNISH JR.: It was pretty good. We had a good car early on, then we kind of got on a seesaw: A little bit push, a little bit loose. Just didn't have quite enough form there. Towards the end, you're trying to conserve fuel because it's a long run to the checkered.

It would have been interesting to see what happened if the yellow hadn't come out, but I think there would have been a lot of guys coasting around.

It was a lot of fun out there today. I love these kinds of tracks where you kind of have to sit up and drive the car, really have a good-handling race car. You know, some days it works out for you, sometimes it doesn't.

MODERATOR: Talk about the force on your body. During the broadcast we mentioned four and a half Gs of load in the corners here. How strenuous is it on a short oval like this?

SAM HORNISH JR.: It can be quite a bit. We were out there, we were running, the first yellow came out at like lap 40. I looked up at the pylon. I thought we were probably at least at 60 (laughter).

It's a fun racetrack, but it really gets kind of -- you know, you've got to let the car hang out a little bit and slide. Sometimes that's a little bit nerve-wracking to drive the car. That's about how the last 60 laps were for us.

We were on that seesaw, and we went to the loose position for the last 75 laps of the race. Just didn't want to push it too hard and give ourselves any problems. We need as many points as we can get.

MODERATOR: I understand that your mom and dad have a special tie to this Milwaukee Mile. Your mom grew up here in Milwaukee, and I understand they spent one of their first dates in the grandstands at the Bettenhausen event. How did that help or hurt your efforts this weekend?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I don't know. Everywhere we go, there's a fair amount of people that are either family or friends from back home or from here. We have a pretty good fan following. I know people from around home that aren't even related that go to 10, 12 races a year.

It's great to be able to see those people. I don't think it's ever a hindrance. It's always help.

Q: What was your first date with your wife, Crystal?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I think I probably took her to the movies. Probably didn't take long to go to the racetrack.

Q: What happened when you moved up the track and a number of cars passed you?

SAM HORNISH JR.: We were out there just trying to conserve fuel. We went to that little bit of a loose position. I went into the corner, the back end stepped just a little bit just on entry. I opened up for, you know, trying to save it a little bit and got up a little bit too high, got in the marbles, had to get out of it to keep the car from turning, so I didn't pancake the right side.

MODERATOR: Your teammate Helio Castroneves had one of the faster laps of the weekend. He mentioned this track is suitable for the Toyota powerplant. He says he did not have to have the horsepower of the Honda to do well with your Toyota package.

SAM HORNISH JR.: We had a good run here, we had a good run at Nashville, should have done well at Richmond. We have good-handling race cars. Marlboro Team Penske, the guys engineering have done a great job of getting us better downforce pieces, cars that handle well.

Every track that you go to, whether somebody classifies it as a handling or horsepower track, you need a combination of both. It's kind of like a good driver can't win with a bad car, and a bad car can't win with a good driver.

You know, we are working away at it, trying to find a little more each time we go out on the racetrack. We're not quite there yet, but we feel comfortable. We finished second last weekend, we wanted to move it up one position. Instead we came down. We'll keep working away at it and see if we get a little bit better.

Q: What happened on that restart that was waived off?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I thought if we could keep the lead on the restart, that would be a big benefit. The first one we did, but everybody kind of got jumbled up. Then the guys behind me knew what I was going to do.

You're kind of a sitting duck if you have to go at it a second time and don't really have that much time to think. Plus when that yellow comes out, you don't really know if it's something that you did or if it's something that happened behind you. I've seen guys that went down to 50 mph for a restart and guys that are going 150 (mph), and they don't green flag it because they're either too slow or too fast.

I didn't know if I was too slow or too fast. I don't know, maybe this is something we'll talk about in the future as far as letting the lead driver know whether it was his fault that the race wasn't restarted vs. being somebody trying to jump the start behind him.

Q: Do you feel you're gaining in the championship?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I mean, we gain points on certain people some weekends, and lose them to others on other ones (laughter).

At the beginning of our season, I don't want to say that I've given up or anything, but it's definitely going to be very tough with the way that Buddy (Rice) has been running and the way Tony (Kanaan) has been running. He has a bad day, finishes fourth. You know, he's been having a pretty good run at it so far this year.

We just need to keep working away at it as far as making sure that we have good-handling race cars, that we're doing everything that we can do to get drag off the car, too. You know, there's a lot stranger things that have happened than people coming back. Each position pays a little bit better, so we'll keep working at it, see if we can get top three. If we get there, we'll start looking for the win.

MODERATOR: For Penske Racing at the Milwaukee Mile, they had their first race in 1972 with drivers Mark Donohue and Gary Bettenhausen. Between one- and two-car teams, this is the 38th race for Penske Racing, the 40th top-five finish for the team. I think that's a pretty good standard to continue with Team Penske.

The last race here for Team Penske prior to you coming to the team was 2001. Any of those guys still around?

SAM HORNISH JR.: The cars are quite a bit different than what they came here with last time, probably about 400 or 300 horsepower less, smaller engine, no turbo charger. So things are a lot different. But, yeah, most of those guys are still around.

I started looking around, they have a little sheet that they give you when you come into the organization that tells you who everybody is, what their job is, what day they started.

I started looking, there was like five or six guys that started there before I was born. If you want to talk about a team that keeps people around, that's a good place to start.

Q: Did you want to see that last yellow?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I mean, we're not even sure we would have made it to the end, but it would have made it awfully exciting. We had a great run there. You know, you never know what would have happened.

You know, it happened the way it did, and those guys had enough to make it to the end, so did we. That's all that really matters now. Move on to the next race and see if we can get them next time.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Sam, finishing third today.

Continued in part 2.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Buddy Rice , A.J. Foyt , Mark Donohue , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske