August 26, 2003 IRL Teleconference Transcript Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr Part 2 of 3 Q: I know the people in Ft. Lauderdale will be happy to hear that you are staying for a little while. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.
August 26, 2003
IRL Teleconference Transcript
Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr
Part 2 of 3
Q: I know the people in Ft. Lauderdale will be happy to hear that you are staying for a little while. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. First, did Helio (Castroneves) try to talk you out of this decision at all?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, you know, Helio was a bit shocked, I think, at least that was my read. We have developed a great relationship as teammates and as friends, but even though he is a very good friend of mine, I had to keep even him out of it, there were so many confidential negotiations going on and so much secrecy and things around on the whole thing that, unfortunately, we had to keep Helio out of it. So, he really didn't have a chance to try to talk me out of it. (Laughs). But that's one thing that I will definitely miss is the good times I had with Helio over the years. We will remain friends, I guess. He lives just down the road, so we'll be seeing him a lot more often.
Q: You mentioned that there was something you couldn't do because of racing. Is there something that you have really been putting off that you'd love to do right now once your racing career is over?
GIL de FERRAN: I guess, you know, there's one side of when you have a career that takes most of your time. You don't have a lot of time to go and see friends and see people that you'd like to see a little more often. Maybe I will spend a little more time doing that, but for me, what I was trying to say is it was not a matter of focus. I always kept myself from thinking about other things because I always thought that that was bad for my focus or my driving. So every time I start to daydream about this, that and the other, I am like,' OK, no, no, no, no, wipe that out of your mind, focus on your driving and training,' so on and so forth. It's funny because even when you are running, you know, I used, especially before the accident, I used to run a lot up and down the beach here all the time, I am running thinking about the weekend, thinking about my driving, so on and so forth. Trying to stop myself from thinking about any other thing.
Q: Even though racing is an inherently risky sport, racing primarily on ovals the last couple of years, had you found that oval racing had just become a little bit more dangerous in light of some of the injuries that you have had?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I think there's risk involved in any sort of racing and certainly risk involved with high-speed oval racing, but in a way, that's something that I understood and accepted from day one. I guess if I was that afraid of those risks, I wouldn't be even sitting in the car, and certainly, I guess, I was very aware of those risk, especially after the accidents in Chicago and Phoenix. Even though those events occurred, in my mind, the decision was to go on because I still loved what I did, and I enjoyed very much the driving and the racing.
Q: You were saying that the last couple of years hadn't been as much fun as before. What one thing just wasn't fun for you?
GIL de FERRAN: No, no, no. You misunderstood me. I did not say that. I said that I did not want to go through a period where I wasn't enjoying -- that I would be enjoying any racing all that much. And I really didn't want to go through a period like that. Right now, I feel that, you know, my driving is as good as it ever was. Right now I sit in the car, and I am excited. I enjoy what I do and, you know, it's a good time to stop while I feel I am at my best, and while I am feeling I am enjoying what I do. I guess what I was trying to say is I did not want to go through a period of decline where later on in life my memories would have been from these last two years that perhaps wasn't so good. But currently I am having a great time and exactly because of that I want to stop right here, trying to test the hot waters while it's still cooking.
Q: Is there any chance that we'll see you come back just for the month of May next year to defend your 500?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, right now that's not currently in the plans. I mean, I guess -- I think it would be a very difficult thing to do just to step back in the car for a race. But, you know, I guess you can never say never, but right now that's not what I am planning to do. I am planning to stop driving altogether.
Q: How involved were you, if at all, in the decision to bring Sam to take your place?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I guess, from the standpoint of the timing I may have been indirectly somewhat involved, you know, because, with all modesty apart, I know that the good drivers get signed up quite early, you know, anywhere, you know, from June to August. Within that window, if you are one of the top drivers in the market you are going to get signed up. So, I knew really I couldn't wait until October for me to make a call whether I was going to stop or not, because then I knew Penske Racing wouldn't be able to get a first-class replacement. So, I guess the timing of my making a call, had everything to do with my knowledge about the drivers' market.
Q: You talked a little bit before about Helio's reaction. What was Roger's reaction to all of this and could you tell me a little bit about how this all came about?
GIL de FERRAN: I guess Roger and I always had a very open relationship, you know, and I mean, when we were talking about the future, and what my role was going to be, I was the first guy to say look, that's bouncing in my head. He was very supportive, 'you decide whatever you want to do,' you know, 'if you are committed to do it you will have a place here.' That was really the main message that came across, which I thought was very nice; made me -- put me in a very comfortable position, because I knew I could decide either way.
MODERATOR: Everyone has been talking about your retirement, what you are going to be doing down the road, all that, but the fact remains there are three races remaining on the 2003 IndyCar Series schedule. Right now you are sitting in second place. Trailing your teammate Helio. Can you wrap up your career with an IndyCar Series Championship?
GIL de FERRAN: I think there's a very concrete possibility. I mean, I think we have been having a very competitive season, and I think our position in the point standings reflect that. But, you know, certainly that will be no walk in the park, let us put it this way. I know Helio is very, very strong, you know, and I know Tony (Kanaan) is very strong, I know Scott (Dixon) is very strong and certainly Sam is also very strong, and, certainly, in my mind those are the main candidates for this year, so I am ready to fight for it until the very end. I guess from a personal standpoint it would be great to look back and thank God, I won my last race and I won my last Championship and I leisurely came out on top. So, I guess we'll wait and see, and it will be a fighting end to this season, that's for sure.
MODERATOR: Gil, thanks again for joining us today and the best of luck in your pursuit of the Championship. @!GIL de FERRAN: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Now let's welcome IndyCar Series driver, Sam Hornish Jr. Sam currently drives the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. The two-time IndyCar Series Champion has nine career IndyCar Series victories and currently stands fifth in the drivers point standings. It was announced yesterday that he will be replacing the retiring Gil de Ferran at Team Penske beginning in the 2004 season. Sam, welcome, and thanks again for joining us today.
SAM HORNISH JR: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Well, over the last few months, speculation was all over the place as far as where and for whom you would be driving next season. Tell us, if you can, how the opportunity to drive for Team Penske came about.
SAM HORNISH JR: It really all started last year. You know, we had had some talks with Team Penske and there was no opportunity to really do anything. We mutually let each other know that we were interested in, some time, pursuing a program, but I was still under contract with Panther Racing, and they were still under contract with both of their drivers, and they really didn't want to do a three-car program. We just kind of put everything on hold, and when Gil got ready to come out with his retirement after Kansas when he came to them and told them that that's what he was thinking, they contacted us, and we started talking about the possibility of coming in there.
MODERATOR: You had said all along you would make your announcement by the end of August. How did you pinpoint that time? Why not wait until the end of season or even announce it a few weeks prior to when you did?
SAM HORNISH JR: Like Gil was saying, the good rides and good drivers get taken at that point. I wanted to get everything done. I knew of the opportunities that I had, that I would be able to make that decision. But it was really a good thing the way everything worked out, and I am real happy with how things went. It was a tough decision to make; a hard decision to make, I knew that, but keep all your options open and have your mind made up by the end of August.
MODERATOR: This past weekend at Nazareth the closing laps of the race you had a tremendous battle going with Helio Castroneves. At any time during or after the race when you were in the post-race press conference did the thought cross your mind that this guy was going to be wearing the same colors as you next season?
SAM HORNISH JR: Yeah, I mean, I wanted to beat him so badly (laughs). I really was trying hard to get around him, and I thought, 'There's no better way than....' Knowing what I knew on Sunday going into Monday, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than to win that race, to go into that announcement as the winner of the race before that. It just didn't happen that way. I know that points are very important, and I needed to gain as many points as I could, and having the bad luck that some of the other drivers had, I needed to finish first, and if I could get a run on Helio and get the job done, I was definitely going to go for it. But I didn't have that opportunity to get the pass made.
Q: There's been so much speculation on the NASCAR side about your arrival, or who you'd be racing with; what you would be doing and reports still say there's a possibility even though you are with Penske on the IRL side that stock car racing isn't out of the realm of possibility. Can you just address the situation please and kind of put all the rumors to rest.
SAM HORNISH JR: Right now, I am focused on the IndyCar (Series) side of it and winning the Indianapolis 500. Team Penske has had an awesome record at the Indy 500, and I think that's, you know, the foreseeable future that needs to be my focus, is to win the Indianapolis 500 and to winning races over here. That's as far as I can see right now; that's what I am going to be focusing on. That's the job that I have been hired to do is to drive Indycars.
Q: Have you discussed with Roger any possibilities of perhaps doing something like the Daytona 500, something that doesn't conflict with the IRL schedule in the near future?
SAM HORNISH JR: You know, right now the focus is on the Indycars. We haven't talked about those things. Right now, anything that takes my focus away from driving Indycars -- we have a lot of testing that we'll be doing, so that's the focus right now. That's what we're going to be working on.
Q: As the week progressed last week, and you heard and read all the reports that put you in NASCAR, what in the world was going through your mind?
SAM HORNISH JR: It is amazing how people take more of what you don't into account than what you do say. That's what I was thinking. It's kind of a weird thing how saying that you are going to have a new opportunity or try something new is automatically referred to going into NASCAR racing. I just was trying to keep my -- trying to keep calm, do all the things that I had to do to try and go and win at Nazareth, and while I didn't get that job done, it was about as close as you can get without doing it.
Q: Did you laugh?
SAM HORNISH JR: Did I laugh? You know, that's one of the main things that I wanted to make sure that I never did was, you know, I tried my best not to mislead anybody. I never said -- I said that there were options to go there, but I never said that that's what I was going to do. I tried -- that was the hardest part about it, because you want to be able to make your announcement when it's time and to have time to go through and talk to everybody and plan out the situation and what everybody is going to say. So you kind of got to keep it bottled up, which was hard, but I am glad that everything was able to calm down a little bit before -- during the weekend so that I could focus on my driving the race car. That still is my focus, to try and go out there and win a championship. While it is a long shot, we're going to give it our best shot.
Q: One of the things you said last week was the fact that when you started this whole thing of going into the Indy Racing League, you weren't sure what you would do or what your success would be. Now that you have signed with Penske, is this a bit unbelievable that in such a short time you have made such progress?
SAM HORNISH JR: I am really happy the way things have gone. Like I have said before, I never knew -- I never imagined that I'd be an IndyCar (Series) driver. It was always a goal of mine but I didn't -- while I wanted it, I didn't actually -- you know, I didn't actually think that it would happen. And then now to have won races and Championships, I think the next thing to win an Indianapolis 500 is to get the ride that I got. It's unreal to me. I remember towards the beginning of my go-karting career, I remember having a dream that I had a meeting with Roger and Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan and they wanted me to come drive with them. I thought that -- like when I woke up in the morning, I thought there's no way that will ever happen. Kind of cool. Kind of a cool thing to be involved with that.
Q: Two questions. One, about team orders, has Roger spoken to you about facial hair yet?
SAM HORNISH JR: No, but Gil, yesterday, gave me a razor and shaving cream, but I figured until Mr. Penske tells me that I need to shave, I will wait.
Q: On the serious side how do you handle -- you are in a delicate situation. You got a great team who -- you mutually hit the high points of success. Is it delicate to talk to them about, you know, what is going on, or is all of your team so focused and you on winning the championship that it looks like business as usual?
SAM HORNISH JR: Well, you know, as far as any talks that I have with them about next year, we don't talk about anything that's going on this year, but as far as my talks with Team Penske right now, we talk about off-track stuff; none of the on-track stuff. So I am still contracted to drive for Panther, and I am doing the best job that I could do for them. They have really given me some good cars over the past couple of years, and we're going to really focus on that. When you get to the racetrack, it's time to race; it's not time to talk about all those other things. We're doing the best that week to be business as usual. I know it's hard on the guys, and it is hard on me also, but that's the way we have got to handle it, as professional as we can.