August 26, 2003 IRL Teleconference Transcript Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr Part 3 of 3 Q: Is Pancho Carter (spotter), is he staying with the team? Do you want him with you at Penske? SAM HORNISH JR: Pancho has been a great spotter...
August 26, 2003
IRL Teleconference Transcript
Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr
Part 3 of 3
Q: Is Pancho Carter (spotter), is he staying with the team? Do you want him with you at Penske?
SAM HORNISH JR: Pancho has been a great spotter for me. As far as I know, he's staying with the team. I haven't talked to anybody at the team, any of the sponsors, anything like that about moving to come with me. I don't want to take anything away from Panther's program. That was a great fit for me when I got into that car with all the people that they had put together, and, you know, while people made up their minds to do things that they want to, I would never pursue somebody that's going to leave with me or take anything away from their program.
Q: How difficult really a decision was this for you to make here? You are going to a team that gives you the best chance that you have had to win the Indy 500, but yet Panther Racing kind of made you what you are really, how difficult was this really for you to do?
SAM HORNISH JR: Panther Racing gave me an opportunity at the end of 2000 just to come in and try to show what I can do. I feel that I made the best that I could with that opportunity. While coming into my new situation, there's no excuses now. If I can't win the Indianapolis 500 in the program that I am in, I am probably not going to do it. It was a tough decision to make. I have made a lot of friends at Panther Racing. I don't consider any of those persons not to be a friend to me. That was a tough decision to make, but on the other hand, you know, this is business and people make decisions in their lives, and I definitely wouldn't hold any of them back from doing something that they thought was the better fit for them or that was going -- or it was something that they always wanted to do, so I never expected them to do the same thing to me. While I knew it would be tough for all of us, it was a decision that I had to make.
Q: How soon after the season have you guys talked about maybe starting to test and learn the Toyota and learn the team and everything like that?
SAM HORNISH JR: We haven't scheduled anything right now. The focus is on the 2003 season and after that, I will really be looking forward to my first test with them. As it stands right now, we haven't had any talks with them about doing any tests.
Q: You reached a sense of quality at Panther. Any other options other than staying at Panther to going to Penske?
SAM HORNISH JR: Really the way I look at it, I had a lot of options and, you know, when everything came together being able to do the Penske deal, that was what I was going to do. I have been a big fan of a lot of drivers that came through that and I guess I am a fan -- was a fan of the team also. When I got that opportunity, I felt that it is only right, everything that I ever dreamed about doing as a child and a young adult was to drive for that team. So I figured I couldn't turn it down. Panther Racing, you know, was a very natural fit for me, and I have had, am having a great time working with them. I felt that if I didn't do something, if I didn't make the decision that I did make, they were definitely right there also. I know what a good job that we've all done together.
Q: Penske means Toyota and Toyota is going to mean NASCAR pretty soon. Is that a possibility in your future? Ever any thoughts about possibly becoming part of the Toyota effort in NASCAR?
SAM HORNISH JR: Right now everything that we've talked about has been focused on the IndyCar side. That's what we're planning on doing, winning. I am trying to win the Indianapolis 500. They have, obviously, got a great record there. They know how to get the job done. That's what we're going to be focused on as far as the foreseeable future goes.
Q: As far as this season goes, the improvement in the Chevrolet motor must be very rewarding for you and now< you started the season kind of at the back of the line; now you are very much in the front of the line and have a chance to win championships.
SAM HORNISH JR: Yeah, while it's a longshot with the championship, they have gone through the first nine or so races of the year and, you know, actually only have 10 races but the 10th race we feel pretty -- it feels almost kind of like winners the fact that we're still in this championship. White it is a longshot, we're going to do everything we can to go out and win the last three races of the year. We have had a few seconds and a first and probably the combined loss with the second place with two car lengths so we're pretty excited about the rest of the season, and we're just really focused on trying to win that championship. And I don't wish bad luck upon anybody, but it's going to take a little bit of that for us to win that.
Q: When I read where you signed a multi-year contract. Does that mean more than one or 50 years or what does that mean?
SAM HORNISH JR: It means more than one but not lifetime. While this was a very tough decision to make, you know, I hoped that it's probably the last decision that I will have to make as far as that goes. It was so tough to do, and hopefully I will be able to do a good job over there and they will want to keep me around.
Q: When Team Penske joined the IRL last year, immediately Helio tried to kind of mark his territory or stake out his territory, I guess. But you always had a really high level of respect for Gil. Just talk a little bit about what he's meant to the sport and the fact that you are replacing him and his character and how much you really enjoyed racing with him?
SAM HORNISH JR: He is a great competitor on the track, and he's a great spokesman off the track. A lot of people look at Penske Racing, you got Rick Mears, Al Unser Jr, and Danny Sullivan and so on, all these other drivers. They say, 'how does it feel to be living up to great drivers like that?' But when you look at Gil, he's really put himself in the record books. He got 100th victory for the Penske, won two championships and the Indianapolis 500, so I mean, it will be very big success to fill, but I am looking forward to it. I think that it will be a lot of fun to go over there and see if I can get the job done.
Q: But as a person I think you always had a high level of respect for Gil, the way he carried himself.
SAM HORNISH JR: Yeah, he's got a lot of good things to say about the sport and about the other drivers and always handles himself very professionally. I think that we could definitely have some more drivers that could handle themselves that way, and it would be a good thing for the league.
Q: At what point did you know that this was the direction you were going to go, and is Daytona a possibility for next year?
SAM HORNISH JR: Everything was finalized, basically the ink is still wet on it, but it was pretty much finalized within the last week. It was a big deal for me to be able to come into this program, and like I said before, it was a dream as child to be in one of these cars. And as far as the Daytona thing goes, I am focused on winning the Indy 500 and as far as the foreseeable future goes there won't be a NASCAR program.
Q: You pretty much come to be identified with the IRL. Did loyalty to the IRL play any part in your decision at all?
SAM HORNISH JR: I feel that definitely I had an opportunity within the IRL that I probably wouldn't have had if it wasn't for the IRL. There wasn't very many young American drivers coming into the CART Series, so being that I could get into the IRL and get my feet wet and to be able to have the success in the short amount of time that I have had, I feel that there is a little bit of loyalty there. The IRL does also have the Indianapolis 500, I guess maybe I kind of look at it from the fact that maybe it's time for me to give a little bit back to the IRL.
Q: I am wondering if you have talked to Helio yet about your move and also curious when John Barnes knew that you were going to be driving for Penske?
SAM HORNISH JR: I actually talked to Helio a little bit yesterday, and he's a little bit of a comedian so he wanted to know how come I was pushing him so hard in the race. I didn't want him to feel that I am not going to race him hard. I wanted to win that race really bad. But like I said, last week we told Panther that I wouldn't be back, we would let them know, and while yesterday morning was the day of it, we knew we were going to try to keep everything under wraps, so that's when they knew.
Q: Do you think this whole opportunity would have come to pass had you not held off the Penske guys last year for the title? They were expected to come over and dominate the series. By you winning, did you feel like it made you the guy to get when they started looking around for a replacement?
SAM HORNISH JR: No, I don't think it hurt any. I think that I have given my all as a competitor against that team, and I will continue to give my all and even now the talks still that they don't expect anything more from me to race them hard and clean like I always try to do. They want a champion driver, and they want a three-time champion driver just like they want, I feel that while right now they still want one of their drivers to win the championship, but if they can't do it, I am sure they'd like me to. It's kind of a tough place to be in, but I feel that the stuff that I have done on the track is why they picked me. Even throughout this year, hopefully I will be a good spokesman for them, and I will win a lot of races for them.
Q: Have you had a chance to ponder the irony of this whole thing, who you are driving for?
SAM HORNISH JR: How is it ironic?
Q: I mean, that a team that you are racing against and you're thought to be the favorite, now you are going to be driving for them next year?
SAM HORNISH JR: I mean, it goes back to everything I have ever done, it is a natural progression even when I came into the IRL. I started with PDM Racing, kind of a very low budget, but we had the money to get to the track and put the car out there. I did a test with Panther Racing, and we ran at Kentucky. I ran Scott Goodyear hard all day; he ended up finishing ahead of me, but that's when I knew that I would get the contract. Basically, unless you go to do another series, you are going to be racing before people that you have raced against before.
Q: Does this surprise you that even though you have said that you are focusing on the IRL, driving an IndyCar, that people still ask about are you going to race at NASCAR?
SAM HORNISH JR: I think that's the big question that a lot of people want to know. It doesn't really surprise me at all. A lot of people probably want to see what I can do put up against that. But back when I was going through all of my options and talking to people, I said a lot of times that Dale Earnhardt Jr. told me that you have to make up your mind when you get up in the morning, do you want to be a stock-car driver or open-wheel driver. I feel that not winning the Indy 500 and being able to be in the position where I can run for Roger Penske, I feel that there's a lot of good reasons.
Q: Even though we're quite a few months away, from the Indy 500, do you feel more pressure now that you are with Team Penske to win the Indy 500?
SAM HORNISH JR: Yeah, but I put enough pressure on myself. I want to win that and probably I am probably my biggest critic, and also put more pressure on myself. It isn't getting any bigger. I have put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself the last couple of years to do that.
Q: You have probably answered this a thousand times. I think it's relevant again. Kind of summarize what Indy means to you, has meant to you throughout your racing career and also has that changed in the past couple of days now that you have joined Roger's team?
SAM HORNISH JR: Winning the Indianapolis 500, just being able to compete in the Indy 500, was something that I never thought that I would be able to do. Now that I have found that, it is the next logical progression. I said many times, there's some things that you want to do. I've got the opportunity to compete now, and I want the opportunity to win. I feel I have positioned myself in the best opportunity to do that and the pressure is on, I guess. I try not to think about all that stuff too much, focusing on trying to win this third championship, trying to figure out ways to get the job done.
Q: Another question on the NASCAR issue: You said you want to win Indy. You talked about racing in the Daytona 500. If you had a chance to race in NASCAR but it meant starting in the trucks and working your way through the trucks, the whole progression, would that get in the way -- would that be disappointing to you or would you rather just jump right in to racing at the Daytona 500?
SAM HORNISH JR: If I were to do something like that, you know, I don't want to be spending the rest of my life getting to that point. But you do have to have a certain amount of testing time, but, as I said before, the focus is on winning the Indy 500 and running the IndyCar program. That's the sponsors that are involved in that program, and to be able to put me in that car and part of the reason why I decided to come to this team. So I am focused on doing my best for them and not worried about all the things that are further down the road.
MODERATOR: That's all the time we have for today. Congratulations on your announcement yesterday. Congratulations on your season thus far and the best of luck down the road in the final three races.
SAM HORNISH JR: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes today's teleconference.