Indy Racing League Feb. 25, 2003 Brian Barnhart, Sam Hornish Jr., Kenny Brack Part 3 of 3 Q: Kenny, what with the fence-jumpers and the existing teams, do you agree that the competition and the depth of the field this year is going to be...
Indy Racing League Feb. 25, 2003
Brian Barnhart, Sam Hornish Jr., Kenny Brack
Part 3 of 3
Q: Kenny, what with the fence-jumpers and the existing teams, do you agree that the competition and the depth of the field this year is going to be even tougher than it was in CART the last two years?
Brack: That is a very difficult question to answer. I mean, this is completely different technical specifications and everything. So it is going to be very difficult to say. But what I do feel is that the field is so deep that if you are having a little bit of a bad day you are going to be looking at a 20th position here in this year's competition. I do believe that. Just look at the field with the quality of the drivers, the amount of established teams, the engine manufacturers, a lot big sponsors and stuff. Anyone who looks at this with any racing knowledge is going to see that it is filled the toughest environment there.
Q: The toughest what?
Q: Sam, with all that talk of Andretti Green coming in and the new engines and everything else, it seems like you are kind of like being cast as an underdog. Do you feel like you are being overlooked right at the start of the season already as a championship contender as a guy that can defend?
Hornish Jr.: It is always better to be the underdog than the guy that everybody is expecting everything from, in my opinion. Yes, I am being cast as an underdog, but it is going to be a long season, and basically they have put me in that category by the results of our testing, and I guess if you consider an average of about seventh place in the preseason testing or eighth place in the preseason testing as an underdog than I guess that is what we are. I know that it is going to be a long tough season, so I am not really too worried about that. I am just looking forward to getting the season underway. Everybody has something to show you in the practice, and when everybody has their car set up to race and you know the people that are putting everything into it and putting what they can into it, then you can start worrying. If we go out there and we end up three laps down then I maybe worried, but if not then move on to the next thing, go to Phoenix and see what we can do there.
Q: Kenny, do you look at Sam as an underdog? I mean you are coming in here, you are returning as a former champion, you know what that is like. Do you think it is maybe unfair to look at Sam that way?
Brack: I think that people that have any knowledge into this sport, I would not say, you could look at Sam as an underdog. I think you need to look at him as one of the favorites to be right up there in the championship and winning race and stuff like that. To be honest with you, I do not look at anyone as an underdog or clearly a favorite right now. I think we do not really know how is going to be the driver or the team to be right now. I have not really been able to put anyone in that position simply because it is a lot of teams and drivers out there that are capable to do that job. And Sam certainly, in my eyes, is in that category.
Q: Thank you very much. First one is for Sam. Sam, when you look at what you have accomplished over the last couple of years, and you look at the history of motorsports, there are very few drivers in any form of racing that have been able to win three consecutive championships. Have you thought about your place in history should you win this year?
Hornish Jr.: Not really. I am trying to figure out how to get there. Once we get within three races to go at the end, and I am in the battle for the championship, I guess I will start thinking about that. I cannot think of anybody right off the top of my head that is won three major championships in a row, especially as the competition continues to get tougher. It is going to be an uphill battle all year long, and I am up for the challenge. I am excited about it. It is good to be able to come back as a defending champion and especially as a two-time champion. So I am just really excited about the opportunities for the year and the growth of the IRL and just to see all the new things that happen this year and hopefully keep myself in the championship all year long and place myself in a position where I can really battle it out there the last couple of races.
Q: And Kenny, when you look back to 1998 and 1999 and think about the cars that you drove in the IRL then and the car that you are driving now; how big a difference is it?
Brack: There is kind of big difference. Back in '98 and '99, it was the first generation of Indy cars, and now it is the third generation. They have been refining every way you can imagine. They kept the basic roof package, not a lot of it has changed there, I guess. The chassis manufacturers, the engine manufactures and all, they have had a lot of time to refine everything. It is like if you give an engineer, a bunch of engineers, a piece of flat iron, you can be sure it will be developed. I mean, that is the nature of the game. So it is a very nice to drive. It was back then, but now it is very refined.
Q: Kenny, I just wanted to continue up a little bit on Anthony, and I wanted to know obviously he is to be from what I understand quite the shrimp, very small, and now he is kind of sprouted up to where he is even taller than A.J.
Brack: But he is not as wide, though.
Q: No. That is what I hear, as well. Can you even imagine seeing that little teen-ager and now all of a sudden he is going to be competing against you?
Brack: Yes, I remember when I used to go and watch him drive the go-karts and the go tracks down in Texas and stuff, and he was just a little kid. But he is obviously talented. That was obviously four, five, six years ago, and so he is grown up like everyone else, and he is ready to take the steps now. I wish him well, and he is a nice guy, and basically I get along real good with the whole family, A.J. and his wife and also Anthony parents, Nancy and Tony. So we are going to be seeing them a lot this year. He is a picking a little difficult time to make this step because I think that every year the IndyCar Series is growing stronger and stronger and kind of the competition and the depth level and stuff like that. Although it was good last year, it is still a lot deeper this year and it has gotten more difficult to make the transition these days. But I am sure he will get a hang of it because he is a very talented driver, and he has a great teacher in his granddad.
Q: And I hear his granddad will be probably just as tough on him as he probably was on you guys.
Brack: I am sure he will be. He does not make any exceptions.
Q: This question is for Sam. You have talked a lot about the growth of the series and to some degree you have conquered the IRL through championships and several race wins. With all the changes in the league, do you see this as a series where you now have challenges and you would want to finish out your career or is the golden city of NASCAR, so to speak, still looming on the horizon?
Hornish Jr.: The thing about the IRL is it is growing, so that is a big positive. I always look at it from the point of view that I do not want to be a big fish in a small pond. The thing about it is that the pond is getting bigger. Even though you won a championship or win some races, it does not necessarily mean you are the big fish because there is always somebody new coming in. So I am still looking at the Indianapolis 500. That is my big goal. That is what I started racing for was to be able to have an opportunity to win that race. And I think that I am going to stay here, for sure, until that it gets done. I might have to retire, you never know. You do not know if you will ever that lucky. There are a lot of drivers that have probably been better than I have that have not won that race. I will just continue to go out there to do the best I can and give myself an opportunity to do that. And I know that I pretty much have to be in the racing league to be able to have an opportunity to win that. And if I ever do get lucky enough to win once I will probably have to try to get a second one. So the IndyCar Series is pretty much what I am focused on and what I have been focused on over the past two years. There has been a lot talk about going and doing stuff as far as NASCAR racing, but right now I am just looking at that as that is an opportunity to keep your options open, make sure that you made the right decision because each time you sign a contract you have to deal with it for two to three to four years. It is not like saying 'OK, I did not like that one race so now I am going to go back and do something else.' You have to continue to be there, and somebody is taking a chance on you so you will give it your all, too. I am just trying to make sure that I make the right decision and make an informed decision.
Q: Sam, everybody is talking about you being a three-peat as far as the championship but also you are trying to win for the third straight year in the first race of the season. How important is it to win that first race and get your confidence up and the team headed in the right direction?
Hornish Jr.: It is very important to us. We know that Miami has been a very good track to us, and the first race and the last race of the season both years has been very good for us. Hopefully we will be able to go out there and have a chance for a victory. If we do, it will be a good omen, I guess, as far as what we are going to be able to accomplish this year in the championship. But the other thing about it is if we do not we are not going to let it get us down. We know that there is a long season ahead, and we are still working on getting our car handling and also everything situated with the new engine package and the new car put together and to work to our benefit. If we do not win, we know that we did our best and put forward to go out there and try to win the championship.
Q: Kenny, you have done some testing already this year, and lo and behold, the season is upon us this weekend. How do you feel like you are being ready for the season to start?
Brack: That is really a hard question to answer. We are anxious to get it started because we want to see where we stack up against the competition. We do not really know, we hope that we are going to be somewhere around top five, top 10 down in Homestead. But it is really difficult to say because there are some many cars and the driver combinations out there that are good. So it depends I guess how good a day we have. We might be the top three, we might be top 10, you never know or we might be outside top 10. But one thing is for sure, we are going to enjoy it, and we are excited to go down there and see where we stack up and then go back and figure out what we need to do next to be successful.
Q: Do you think it will be pretty important to qualify up front in Florida?
Brack: Well, looking at previous years of IRL racing it seems like even if your not top three, top four in qualifying, you can still be able to manage to win the race. So hopefully that feature is still there. If you do not qualify on the pole, you are still, if you have a good race car and a good racetrack, you can finish in the front. But the best place always to qualify up front and finish up front.
Q: Sam, going back to what he had discussed earlier about the Brazilians all knowing each other, coming up with each other in racing. Would you find it more difficult to race against someone who was a friend or would just the competitiveness just overtake you since you are a pretty competitive guy?
Hornish Jr.: It is probably better that I do not race against a friend. It is like anything else, a couple of my friends and I go bowling during the wintertime on Monday nights or we play basketball during the summertime on Monday nights, and there has been a couple arguments and what not about somebody taking it too seriously or somebody not taking it seriously enough.
Q: You are the guy that is not seriously enough I take it. Right?
Hornish Jr.: It is always fun, and I think if I had somebody that was a good friend out there, I would never cut him any slack. I want to win, and I know that Pennzoil and Chevrolet and Panther Racing are there giving me 100 percent so that I have an opportunity to go out there and win, and I would not want to have that emotion come into play as far as having to be worried about if you are going to beat your best friend.
Q: Sam, I want to know just when you look at the field now with the quality teams that have come into this series, especially in the last two years, do you expect a heightened sense of competition this year even more so?
Hornish Jr.: As far as the competition getting any closer, I do not know how it can get a whole lot closer than what it was last year. But I think the team that you are going to look at instead of maybe three or four guys battling it out for the win there at the end you are going to see six or seven, and you are going to see some more lead changes. The IRL has been very exciting over the past few seasons, and the racing gets closer and closer every weekend. But I do not know how it can get too much closer. It is going to be exciting. It is going to be a fun year. There is going to be a lot of things, multiple winners, not multiple winners but a different winner almost every week, I think. The competition is so pretty much equally matched right now and everything is so close that you are going to see different guys winning all the time. And it is going to be a real close points battle. Last year was pretty close, but I could see that even being closer this year. It is going to be exciting year, and the competition is really close. Qualifying is going to be more important this year, and pit stops have been a very key commodity over the past season but are going to be even more important because it is easier to pass somebody in pit lane than it is to pass them out on the racetrack. And the more your pit crew can do for you, the better.
Johnson: Kenny, again, to you and Sam, we are out of time for today's call, but we certainly appreciate your time. I think it was well received. We had a good round of questions and answers, and we certainly wish the both of you good luck this Sunday in our IndyCar Series season opener down in Homestead.
Hornish Jr: Thank you.
Brack: All right, thanks a lot.