Daytona 500: Hornish Jr. - Media Day visit

SAM HORNISH JR. HOW WAS THE OFF SEASON? "Too short for me. With the horrible way that our season ended last year, all I was thinking about was getting two days off and go back (racing) again. I'm just real excited about the season. I just want...

SAM HORNISH JR.

HOW WAS THE OFF SEASON? "Too short for me. With the horrible way that our season ended last year, all I was thinking about was getting two days off and go back (racing) again. I'm just real excited about the season. I just want to go out there and race. I felt like there were a lot of things good for us throughout the year. We just need to figure out how to minimize the bad things."

DO YOU HAVE ANY REACTION TO JIMMIE JOHNSON'S COMMENTS THAT HE IS STILL UPSET WITH YOU FOR NOT TALKING TO HIM SINCE THE ON-TRACK INCIDENT LAST YEAR IN TALLADEGA? "Maybe he's right that I should have gone over and talked to him. I heard one time from somebody else that when you get into somebody, it don't matter if they hit you or not, you still got into them. Either way, I should have said something to him about it. I don't have any problems with Jimmie. I certainly would never try and take him out. A lot of people want to say, 'Are you guys trying to start a rivalry?' My opinion is that I don't want to start a rivalry with anybody. If I'm going to, I gonna have to start finishing better to be able to do that."

WASN'T IT THE 00 THAT ACTUALLY GOT INTO THE BACK OF YOU? "(David) Reutimann called me up and apologized for what happened. I guess I don't really have a good opinion on it one way or another on whether or not that I would be mad at Jimmie or anything like that. Obviously, he still won the championship. It probably wasn't an easy week for him in between (races). I feel bad about that. I said multiple times during interviews between then and now that I felt bad for what happened. It's easy to see on TV that I got hit by the No. 00, tried to correct it and ended up getting into him (Johnson). Obviously, you wouldn't want anything like that to happen. I'm looking at it like its lap three. I just want to get to the end of the race. I'll fight it out three laps from the end; I don't want to fight it out three laps into it. It's a little upsetting that he's upset with me. I'm sure that we'll work it out."

WHAT'S YOUR IMPRESSION OF YOUR BRASH NEW TEAMMATE BRAD KESELOWSKI? "I think that Brad's very fast. I think he's definitely got an understanding of the car. He's spent a lot of time over there at Hendrick trying to make himself better and to learn from the guys he's around. All in all, there are some things that I can learn from him and I think that it's a good edition to the team. Kurt (Busch) and I are going to try and learn from him as much as we can. I'm still trying to learn from Kurt. The guy definitely knows how to get it done. Penske Racing has made huge strides the past few years and hopefully, we'll have the same kind of stride coming into this year as we did last year."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DANICA PATRICK MAKING HER ARCA DEBUT ON SATURDAY NIGHT? "I definitely think that it's interesting. It's something that people have talked about for the last four years. When it comes down to it, it's going to be neat to see what finally happens with it. I'm sure she's not going to have any problems dealing with the media. Racing out there on the track is a different things. Running against 42 other cars...I wish her well. I'm just excited to see it. I've been getting so many questions about it that I feel like it's me going out there and racing."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS A MAKE-OR-BREAK YEAR FOR YOU? DO YOU FEEL MORE PRESSURE HEADING INTO THIS SEASON? "I've looked at the last two years like they were make or break. I was never told that it was going to take three years and that we're going to give you three years to do this. For me, I think that I'm going to approach it like I've got everything in my pocket and I'm coming into the season as a multi-time winner because it hasn't worked the other way. I'm just going to go out there and make it to the end of the races. I can count about five times last year in races where we got hit by somebody else and spun into the wall in the race. As long as we don't have any bad luck I think that it can be a really big year for the 77. Travis Geisler, my crew chief, this is his second full season. He's learned a lot and I think it could be a huge year for us. The way that we ran on the short tracks with the exception of Martinsville, the mile tracks, we ran pretty good at most of those places. I want to get going."

HOW WOULD YOU EVELUATE WHERE YOU ARE AT DURING THIS POINT IN YOUR CUP CAREER? "I'd say I'm behind from where I wanted to be. I feel like some of that is due to me. I feel like some of that is just the transition from the old car to the new car and how the team did it. I feel like Roger Penske and Penske Racing have put a tremendous amount in it, but we've been playing catch up for the last two years and we want to get to the point where we want people to catch up to us."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DANICA PATRICK? "I don't know what to think about it. Obviously it's a big step, a big move for her. She has to go through it. I can only say that I know how many races I won over in the IRL and championships. You can look and see the difficulty that the transition has been for me. I hope that she does well with it and that things go well. For me going through it, I know it's a very, very difficult change to make."

HAS YOUR LACK OF SUCCESS DISTRESSED YOU AT ALL? "We've had highs and lows. We go out there and lead laps, go out there and finish fourth; we had some really good finishes last year at some tough race tracks. Richmond I feel is one of the toughest places we go to and we had a sixth and eighth-place finish there, both starting 35th or worse. I feel like we can do it, it's just how do we get a little more luck on our side. We have to take our bad days and make them a 20th. Thirty-fifth place bad days are what kills us."

HOW DIFFICULT WILL THIS BE FOR DANICA TO JUGGLE BOTH SERIES? "I talked to Dario Franchitti about it when he came over and he told me, 'Man, I can't believe how difficult it would be to juggle both of them back and forth.' The difference between the Nationwide car and Cup car is hard to understand where you're at. And I never really thought about it to that point until he said that to me. It's not the way that I would do it. I would come over, but since she doesn't know if she wants to do this full-time, I think she's doing the right thing -- learn. Don't jump into Cup full time next year. Give yourself a year in Nationwide just to learn. Instead of having 30 guys that can learn on any given weekend, race against 10 guys that can race on any given weekend. Give yourself an opportunity to be able to race closer up to the front instead of spending a full year of running between 20th and 30th."

WHY DO WE ONLY SEE DRIVERS MOVING FROM IRL TO CUP? ARE THE DRIVERS BETTER OVER IN CUP? "I had somebody ask me last weekend why would you do that (move from IRL to NASCAR)? You've won three championships, 19 races, the Indy 500...why wouldn't you go over there and keep winning stuff? You could go out a legend. It's OK for anyone else who wants to do that. That's fine. I'm not saying that anyone is wrong doing what they did. My response to him was, 'Well, if I was a really good college football player and I decided to quit after college, what would you think about me?' You would say that you think that the guy couldn't make it over there. I got to come over and see how hard it was before I could make the decision. A lot of people said that was stupid. I take it as that I would never know. I would have felt like anything that I would have accomplished over there, I would have felt hollow about it."

SO IS NASCAR THE "PROS" AND IRL IS "COLLEGE"? "Nobody's going the opposite direction."

SO IS THE TALENT THAT MUCH BETTER OVER HERE (IN NASCAR)? "I think that there are people as talented over here (in NASCAR). But instead of having five guys that are that talented, you have 30 guys that are that talented (in NASCAR). You say, 'Oh, there's double the cars.' Well, Ok....there's double the cars but there are twice as many teams. I just look at the competition. This is the fastest car in the field in qualifying, this is the last car. How close is it? How many guys are in this amount of time and how hard is it to win? If you're a sixth-place car over there and you are on the same talent level coming over here, you're going to be 30th."

DID IT SURPRISE YOU THAT JIMMIE WAS STILL MAD AT YOU? "I guess that I am a little bit surprised. He had ample opportunity to look at the tape. I don't want anybody to get mad at me or not like me because of something that happened out on the race track. If you don't like me as a person, that's one thing. We're all racing hard. David (Reutimann) called me up and said that he was sorry that this happened and it took you out of the race.

JIMMIE'S POINT WAS THAT YOU DIDN'T TRY AND GO TALK TO HIM? "I have a hard time talking to people that want to talk to me (laughs) the shy person that I am. It's kind of hard to go over and talk to someone that wants to beat you up."

DO YOU WANT TO CLEAR THE AIR WITH JIMMIE? "Yeah. The next time I'm going to see the guy. I'm going to talk the guy if he's going to talk to me."

HOW DO YOU THINK THE OTHER DRIVERS WILL HANDLE RACING AROUND DANICA? WILL THEY STAY CLEAR OF HER? "I think it's a tough thing because I'm sure people are going to think twice at the beginning of the race about what she does. When I ran the IROC races, that was my first opportunity to run drafting and restrictor-plate style racing and I finished second in two out of three of those races here at Daytona. I feel like I knew more then than I do now about how I do it. It's about who's going to help you and what you do early on in the race. The first couple of races, people are going to be watching her to see what see does. ARCA is so different than going to Nationwide. The jump from ARCA to Nationwide I think is a lot of times as big as going from Nationwide to Cup, if not more."

-source: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Travis Geisler , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske