IRL: Chicagoland: Top-three press conference, part I

Delphi Indy 300, Chicagoland Speedway Post-race press conference Sept. 7, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr. (winner) Scott Dixon (second) Bryan Herta (third) Part 1 of 2. Moderator: We're joined by second-place finisher Scott Dixon and third-place finisher...

Delphi Indy 300, Chicagoland Speedway
Post-race press conference
Sept. 7, 2003
Sam Hornish Jr. (winner)
Scott Dixon (second)
Bryan Herta (third)

Part 1 of 2.

Moderator: We're joined by second-place finisher Scott Dixon and third-place finisher Bryan Herta. Before we get started, today's race was the closest 1-2-3 finish in IRL history at .0100. It was the second fastest race in league history at 184.294. It was the third closest 1-2 finish in league history. Sam Hornish has won all three of those races. Point standings at this point, Helio Castroneves 427, Scott Dixon 12 points behind. Gentlemen, tell us about today. Scott, you first.

Scott Dixon: Pretty rough day out there. Racing was great. I think, you know, we had good stops all day. We were a little slow on a couple of them, but I think they made sure the wheels are tight and things like that. Team Target, we had a great car all day. Basically, we just sat back and saved fuel. I was actually a little surprised coming to that last stop that a lot of cars went a lot longer. Obviously, we weren't making that good of fuel mileage. Just had a good, consistent day. A bit of a shame with the yellow toward the end that we missed that, you know, dropped back to sixth, had some lap cars in there. We had a great restart. I don't know. It seemed like we had an extra 10 miles an hour going through the end, weaving through traffic. Getting pretty hairy with three-wide. All in all, a pretty good day. That's about it, really.

Moderator: Bryan?

Bryan Herta: Mine was a pretty adventurous day. We had some type of an electronic problem early in the race. My car was misfiring. I had to switch to a different ignition map. I cleared it up, but I dropped back to 16th or 17th. Then we had to fight all the way back through. You know, from that point on, though, everything kind of fell into place. You know, I think the yellow was good for us at the end. So, you know, I think we were a little unfortunate early but fortunate later in the race. I was on the bottom there trying to hold the bottom, protect the bottom, doing everything I could. But, you know, there's only so much you could do. Those guys had a run. You know, I'm a little disappointed. I mean, I'm happy to finish third again for the third time in a row but a little disappointed we weren't able to hold them off. I think if I could have done it 10 more times, I'm not sure I would have done anything different.

Q: When the caution fell, were you already on your way in?

Bryan Herta: I was in the warm-up lane, getting ready to come into the pits. I called on the radio and said I saw the Penske slowing in the warm-up lane. I said, "I think there might be a yellow, but I'm already on the warm-up lane." They said, "Come on in." I made my stop. Right as I was getting ready to come out, right as I was in my pit box, they threw the full-course yellow.

Q: For as close as the race was the entire race, are you surprised there was virtually hardly any incidents out there?

Bryan Herta: Shocked. We have no business not having had some incidents, for sure. I think every guy out there has probably got 10 stories to tell.

Q: Scott, you're nodding in agreement.

Scott Dixon: I think probably a lot of us could have been a little nicer to everybody. I don't know. Because it is so close and everybody's so close, so many cars right up there, it gets pretty messy sometimes. You know, when three cars try to go three-wide into a two-wide corner, you know, it doesn't always work. But I was actually very surprised there were no crashes today, apart from Kenny's. Looking from where I was looking, I thought there would have been a lot more, to be honest.

Q: Until somebody told you on the radio, who did you think had won? Did you know?

Bryan Herta: I thought Sam had won. I wasn't sure between Scott and I, but I was pretty sure Sam had won. The last couple of laps, he was playing on the outside. I could tell what he was doing. He was working out when he needed to drop back and when he needed to surge. You know, he got a handle on that. Coming through (Turn) 3, I almost started to think I was going to hold him off because I had Scott behind me. I figured, "Well, Scott doesn't want Sam to get the points, he'd rather have me get them than nobody, than Sam' (laughter). He was going to give me a push, but then he had such a big run, we were suddenly three abreast. I had to actually move up a little bit and almost touched Sam. He was on the inside. I didn't want him to get up in the apron and spin on both of us. There was a lot of give and take right there at the end that probably could have got messy.

Q: Scott, did you think Sam won?

Scott Dixon: I thought I had come in third. I wasn't sure out of these two. I couldn't see where Sam was, being down on the bottom, but I was expecting to come in third.

Q: Scott, can you describe where you were sitting?

Scott Dixon: I was basically looking behind going into (Turn) 3 to make sure nobody really had a big run. That seemed to be pretty much clear. There was Tomas and a few others hanging back. Then we started to get a really good run going. Seemed like Bryan came out a little wider this time. I don't know if he saw me coming down on the inside. Instead of just sitting behind Bryan, I actually pulled out, try to, you know, go for a run, run for it.

Q: Bryan, when you finished third in Kentucky, you were overjoyed. You don't seem nearly as happy today.

Bryan Herta: I'm relieved really (laughter). Look at the look on his face. We all have the same look. Yeah, obviously, I'm very happy with the result, but when you're that close to a victory, you know, it's a little different. At Kentucky, you know, third was absolutely the maximum result, and I felt really good about the race. Here, I still feel really good about the race, but you just think, gee, a 10th of a second, it's really not that much, but I'm not unhappy.

Q: What is it about Sam, that he's able to win these close races? What do you guys think?

Scott Dixon: He's cheating (laughter). I don't know. I don't know. He seems to get on the outside. It's hard to place yourself. He definitely knows how to do it. As you say, the three closest ones, he's won every time. I don't know. He's good at it, I guess.

Moderator: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. We are joined by race winner Sam Hornish Jr. This is his second victory this season, 10th of his Indy Racing League IndyCar Series career. At this point in the season, as I said earlier, Helio Castroneves atop the points standings with 427, Sam in fifth place 41 points behind with two races remaining. This was the closest 1-2-3 finish in league history, the second fastest race in league history, and the third closest 1-2 finish in league history. You've won all three of those races. Tell us about your day.

Sam Hornish Jr.: Not too bad. All day long we really just tried to stay right in the leaders' draft and be able to conserve fuel. That really worked out for us. When that last caution came out, when Helio was stalled out on the track, we were able to go until the pits opened again, while other people had to come in and pit. While they did, we were able to come back and get back up there because, you know, you get to go around the pace car. It was still good to be able to start up toward the front of that pack. It was a tough race out there today. A lot of people were very close together -- probably one of the closest as far as competitive fields that I've ever seen. I don't know. It's exciting. The guys at Panther Racing have worked so hard this year; it's really great to take them back to victory lane again. While we're still 41 points out of the championship lead, when you get 52 for winning and leading the most laps, you get 32 for sixth, anything is possible. We're just going to keep working as hard as we can and see if we can get ourselves back in here.

Q: So you don't get too far ahead of yourself, you didn't win the fifth-closest finish race.

Sam Hornish Jr.: I've learned how that worked. I was on the inside. That's why I lost. I had to go to the outside today.

Q: Was that really in the back of your mind, you were going to try the inside again?

Sam Hornish Jr.: Bryan was running down to the bottom. That's where I would be if I was leading the race. I wasn't going to try the bottom unless there was an opening. I wasn't going to pinch it. But the car seemed to work really good on the high side today. That's why we generally tended to stay there.

Q: You've always run well on the high side. What have you seen there that others haven't?

Sam Hornish Jr.: I don't know. I guess I'm not very smart. I like to be on the high side. I can control. I don't like being pinched down in between the apron and that transition point. People sometimes don't really know where they're at, don't know how far they're pushing you down. I've had a couple times where I've been on the bottom and I've gotten close to getting pinched across that line, and it really unsettles the car. It would be about the worst thing in the world to spin and have about 10 guys run into you afterwards. I think being on the high side is generally where I like to be, plus it seems to work out at those close finishes most of the time, also.

Q: Scott was joking in here. He was asked how you win all these close races. He said you must be cheating. Your response to that?

Sam Hornish Jr.: I don't know. My response to that is, you know, if you're going to cheat to win by a couple inches, you might as well cheat to win by a mile (laughter).

Q: How do you do it?

Sam Hornish Jr.: I don't know. I mean, I know what it takes. I'm in the right place at the right time. I guess I'm just lucky. That's why. It's not anything about driver talent; it's just luck. (Laughter)

Q: Comment on Felipe Giaffone's move earlier in the race.

Sam Hornish Jr.: I didn't really know. At first I thought he was coming up to try to pinch me up high a little bit, then I saw Scott down there. I don't know. I think he was just kind of in the middle. When you get in the middle of these three-wide things, it really moves the car around. You know, it was a tough race. A lot of people, you're all tensed up, on the edge of your seat, trying to figure out who's going to win this race because the top three guys all have a shot going across the finish line. You know, you're just trying to get every little advantage that you can get. Sometimes you take a little bit more, sometimes you don't take enough.

Q: How close was it?

Sam Hornish Jr.: I'd have to see the replay. It was close, but we didn't hit. So it wasn't that close, I guess.

-irl-

Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing