IRL: Chicagoland: Winner's press conference

An interview with: Sam Hornish Jr., John Barnes and Garey Pedigo Moderator: We have our winning driver and team, Sam Hornish with Pennzoil Racing. Congratulations, Sam, what an incredible finish. Talk us through those last couple of laps. Sam...

An interview with: Sam Hornish Jr., John Barnes and Garey Pedigo

Moderator: We have our winning driver and team, Sam Hornish with Pennzoil Racing. Congratulations, Sam, what an incredible finish. Talk us through those last couple of laps.

Sam Hornish Jr.: Al and I talked before the race, and we figured if we got down toward the end or at any point in time during the race and we wanted to try to break away from everybody else, we would run nose to tail?and?dry to draft away. Well, I don't think either one of us wanted to follow toward the end, so we rust just ran side by side. Turned out that was the best way to go about it. Nobody can get around you. You go out there, even though it's a little slower, it's the best way to be.

Moderator: Joining Sam up there are two of the owners that own Pennzoil Panther racing, John Barnes and Gary Pedigo. Let's get some comments from you, middle of the race, couple of the leaders chose the pit. Talk about strategy.

John Barnes: Dumb luck. We chose not to pit. At that point we had 24 gallons left in the tank. We figured that there would be another yellow within that time. We could go another, I think, 40 laps, and we just felt like it was ?? no reason to do that, just stay up front, continue to lead laps and get two extra points for leading the extra laps.

Moderator: You look like you don't want to let go of the trophy. How important is the win?

Garey Pedigo: This is real important. We talked about this before the race, and we kind of said, you know what, what we really need to do is run the table, and we've done the first part of it, and we need to go to Dallas and do the same thing. Sam just did a fantastic job. It's a fantastic race.

Q: Sam, be honest here, did you really think at the line that you had it?

Hornish: I was pretty sure when we crossed the line. I didn't know if I could do it or not; that's a different question, but I knew it was all about timing. I knew at the line I had gotten it because I could see his front wing behind the front of mine. So it's just point of view that you look at. But these races keep getting closer and closer, and pretty soon I'm not going to be able to tell the difference.

Q: Can you describe what it's like to do that for 25 or 30 laps, is it frustrating, exciting, entertaining?

Hornish: At the first five laps of it, I was frustrated because ?? stayed behind me and follow me, and we'll try to get away from these guys, and I decided, well, if we're running side by side, nobody can really pass us. So it's kind of ?? maybe that's a better way to go about it. And I wasn't going to give up because I knew as soon as I went behind and somebody went around on me, I could not get to the front again. But as far as actually running beside Al, Al is a veteran that has a lot of experience, and I know what he's capable of. It's pretty much like a high?speed pace lap. The car was handling so good on the outside, I could just drive along, and as long as I kept him beside me and didn't give him too much room, and he gave me enough room, and I gave him enough, I knew it would be OK. I knew it would not be anything like in other races, where people sit there and try to play games in there and act like they are going to push you into the wall it. Just doesn't happen like that when you have a driver like Al beside you. You know he wants to finish the race, he wants to do good and he knows that nothing good is going to come of putting us both against the wall.

Q: How much trust does it take in the other driver, especially in a pack of 11 cars, running side by side?

Hornish: It takes quite a bit of trust, but it's just getting to know the other drivers. I've raced against Al since I started running Indy cars. So when I remember that my second race in Indy car, Al came and told me what he was going to do in Turn 1 on the first lap because he started right beside me. He did exactly what I said. So I figure he know what is he's doing, so as long as he trusts me, everything will be OK.

Q: Inaudible?

Hornish: I was running fifth gear and at that point in time, try to conserve some fuel, trying to figure out if I could pass him, I could tell somewhat how fast he was running, but you still never know if you can pass ?? just kind of waiting a little bit and see what happened, what I could do. I pull out and I try, if I could get up beside him and then just drop back, conserve some more fuel ?? actually everything worked out fairly well as far as that goes because I was almost at the point where some other people had stopped and we didn't, and we knew that we needed to conserve some fuel. So we were just basically seeing if we could get by and try not to push until the end of the race. Plus he didn't have a radio, so being right up there, trying to run side by side, it wasn't early in the race, but that far away from the finish yet, it was not really necessary considering we were pulling away from the people behind us.

Q: In terms of now it's pretty much down to two guys, one race to go, do you save these last two races for your best?

Hornish: I put my best out on the line at Indianapolis and finished 25th, put my best out on the line in Kansas and finished second, third at a couple other places. I know that the team puts 100 percent into it, and they always put their best out on the racetrack, and it wouldn't be fair to them if I didn't. So every race I go out there ?? sometimes it gets me in trouble and sometimes like today, it works out good for us ?? whether or not we hit it at the right point in time.

Q: Inaudible?

Hornish: Always feels good when it works out that way.

Q: Talk about the team effort, what's it like in the shop these last couple of weeks?

Barnes: Well, the guys just, you know, they have been working so hard. We brought another car, hired a bunch of people, former PacWest team, and we came up here last week, had a great test with both drivers, Speedway engines. I just can't say enough about that. Those guys, they put it all on the line every day for us, and without him there's no way we could do it, either. So they came up with some stuff for us here this weekend that I think we were all very happy about, especially winning the pole here on Saturday, and then the race. So, the guys have been working very hard and will continue to. It's a short week this week. The truck is going to leave Wednesday morning, and they will probably go back tonight and go to work.

Q: We heard Sam describe the third lap, side?by?side battle and here you are fifth, what's going through your mind?

Barnes: I had my head down looking at the monitor. I wasn't looking at the racetrack. We're here to win, and we were really watching Helio as much as we were watching us. I really thought that he and Cheever were going to get into an accident about five laps to go. He blocked Cheever really badly, drove Cheever into the grass. I'm surprised Brian (Barnhart) has not done anything about that. You know, we're just watching the race just like the guys in the grandstands. There isn't anything we can do at that point in time except pray.

Q: Your team is probably the leading favorite going into the last race because of your experience, should that give you confident of confidence going into that race?

Hornish: We had a really good car there in the June race and had a problem ?? started thinking about points and got involved in something we shouldn't have been involved in, because I basically got off and let somebody go by me so that I could follow them, and that's probably the last time I've done that. Everything should work out fairly well at Texas. Pennzoil Panther Racing has won last two races there, the last two fall races. We think we have a very good setup. We thought we had a really good setup at St. Louis and didn't win that, either. You just have to take it day by day, and it's just amazing what some people come up with. They aren't there all day long, and then the last 15 laps, here they are sticking their nose in there. I mean, Cheever and I think Miear were ?? I didn't see them all day long, and then the last three laps, I'm looking at them in my mirror and wondering, where do they come from? But that's just ?? partly a patience game and part of it is you have to be out there all the time fighting for what you can get.

Q: Can you talk more about this championship shootout, how tough it's going to be and how much pressure? Who do you think will win?

Hornish: I can't tell you that right now. I really don't know. I don't feel any pressure. I know all I've got to do is go out there, drive the car, and if I do the right thing on the day, then that's good. If I don't, then I've got to think about it until next March. I know the guys are putting 100 percent in, and they don't ask anything more out of me than what I can do, and I do the same thing and I don't ask any more out of them than what they are capable of, and that's what's worked out well for us. We had up and downs this year, more than we'd like to have. We'll just continue to keep fighting and doing the best we can because there's nothing more that we can do. We'd like to say, yeah, we are going to go in there and win the race and we're going to lead from start to finish, but it's not likely that that's going to happen. We are going to have people in there, and it's just going to be staying out of trouble and strategy might ?? could have bit us today, but luckily it didn't. So we just have to look at our numbers, and the guys will try to analyze what could have went wrong today and try to prevent it from happening at Texas next week. That's what makes us good: We all know we're not perfect, but we keep trying to be a little bit better.

Q: Talk about how the team has raced, the level of it's performance, also.

Hornish: We started out the year and we had the bar set pretty high. We won the first two out of three races and ?? we won two out of the first three races, I should say. That was definitely in the right direction. And then the next three were very bad: 17th 25th, 18th. I think it was just the fact that those were three races that things didn't go right and we had ?? everybody had to kind of step back and look at what we were doing, and it was more myself than it was the team. They put me in cars that weren't capable of winning, and I just had to step back and know that I can't win every race, but I can try to and just don't push it so hard. I think that we haven't really raised the bar that much. We're just starting to go to the tracks that we really like.

Q: Have you ever been involved in something that close before, that long?

Hornish: Well, I knew how it was going to end up at the end of the race. I knew it was going to be real close. I knew it was going to be hard to tell if I won or not, and that's about the worst feeling I can ever think of because I kept thinking how many more laps are there, how many more laps are there? I kept asking the guys how many more laps and it's like 14, seems like we should have two more to go ?? OK, 10. It was just a long, long race. It was very nerve?wracking. You know how it's going to end up; that you're going to finish pretty much either first or second, and it's going to be by a close margin. And you think about that for last 40 laps and try to figure out whether or not you're going to be the guy that wins by just a little bit or if you're going to be the guy that loses by a little bit.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing