Gateway Indy 250 - Second- and Third-Place Finishers Mark Dismore, Sam Hornish Jr. Pete Wickham: This is his eighth top finish in 11 starts this season. He has unofficially expanded his Northern Light Cup lead to 45 points with two races to go.
Gateway Indy 250 - Second- and Third-Place Finishers
Mark Dismore, Sam Hornish Jr.
Pete Wickham: This is his eighth top finish in 11 starts this season. He has unofficially expanded his Northern Light Cup lead to 45 points with two races to go. Sam, some general comments, and then we'll throw the floor open.
Sam Hornish Jr.: We're real happy with how our car handled today. Firestone tires that we ran stuck really good. We had I think the best-handling car out there. Even on the last pit stop, we didn't have to change the tires. We knew that we had good enough tires to go the rest of the distance. It wasn't real long, but the car was handling so good today. Speedway Engines did a great job, gave me a good motor. Had a couple of side-by-side races there with Al going down into Turn 1. It made it pretty exciting; and I was glad to see how many fans came out here for this first race here at Gateway International.
Wickham: How about you had a good run of testing, did that get you comfortable coming in or how did you feel going into -- as the race went on today in terms of dealing with the track?
Hornish: I felt real good for the first 60 laps; but after Al got by me there, I didn't feel so great about it anymore. Big mistake on my part, came up there for the restart, and I had it in third gear instead of second, and that's how Al got by me there. I guess in the long run, it didn't really change much in the end anyways. We were going to have to stop for fuel, and that's how it goes. Sometimes you play the gamble and it helps you, and sometimes it hurts you. We had such a good lead going toward the end, if we hadn't had that last caution, I think we would have ended up winning the race. So it will be our day next time.
Wickham: Still lots that can happen, but that championship is in sight.
Hornish: Sure is. It's getting closer and closer. Sixty points would be a lot better than 45, but we'll take what we can get right now. We're pretty happy going into the Chicago race next weekend. I guess we're just going to have to see how everything goes there. It's been such a nice track to go to there and smooth and everything, it's just going to be really interesting to see what happens when you get 23, 24 cars out there.
Wickham: Let's throw the floor open.
Sam, was there any discussion in your group to maybe gamble and stay out the way Al did or did you know you had to top off?
Hornish: We were going to run out between five and three laps from the end, so there was no discussion about whether or not we were going to be able to make it or not. Even if it went, you know, yellow until about a lap and a half from the end, I think we were going to run out. So it was one of those things where we were just -- you know, we didn't want to play that gamble and try to stay out there and run out of fuel and end up not even finishing third. So we're happy with how we finished today. Another podium finish and the Pennzoil Panther guys, they just keep putting good race cars underneath me and makes it hard for me to finish outside the top three.
Sam, do you feel like you lost to a legend or got beat by an old guy?
Hornish: Al still's got the desire to win. You see him out there and he ran those IROC races this year, and he ran up front every time he was out there. That's the International Race of Champions; and if that doesn't prove he's still got it, I guess nothing will.
Wickham: Any more questions?
All right, for fear you're going to say to me what you said in Kentucky, could you have made it to the end?
Hornish: No, we couldn't have made it to the end. I think it was three to five laps from the end we would have ran out of fuel. So, no, we wouldn't have made it.
When you saw or heard Buddy's engine go sour, were you thinking, you know -- we were just talking about this yesterday, if one of us had bad luck, it's going to be a major thing in the points race.
Hornish: First thing I thought, it would be real nice to win and put a lot of points on him. But 60 points ahead at this time would be real good, but 45 is pretty good, and we'll just try to beat him at Chicago.
Wickham: Figured out how you would spend your share of that million?
Hornish: Not yet. I'm still sitting on top of it trying to figure out what I really want. Try not to spend it before I have it either.
Would you describe when you were trying to pass him down here in Turn 1? He was the leader, it looked like a couple of times there that you were going to pretty much go for it. Would you just kind of recreate all that?
Hornish: This track is all about momentum and just getting a good run on a guy. Al had a pretty fast car. His car was actually handling probably a little bit better through (Turns) 1 and 2 than mine was but I was much better through 3 and 4. In those cases, going into 1 is about the best passing place. So with how things were going as far as that's concerned, it was just all me getting the timing right and being able to get underneath him there toward the end of the straightaway and make sure that he can't close the door at all.
Wickham: I would like to present Mark Dismore. It's his best finish of the season. His previous best is a sixth in June at Richmond, and it's his best finish since second to, guess who, at Las Vegas in 2000. Mark was also the quickest in testing during that week in Gateway. Couple of quick comments and then we'll open the floor.
Mark Dismore: I'm not used to being here. That's the first comment. We've always -- we've had a lot of good race cars this year, we've had a lot of opportunities to win races and I can't say that anyone's thrown them away because that hasn't been the case in any situation. It's just sometimes it's your day and sometimes it's not. It's not been our day for a lot of days; and, you know, we have two races to try to make something happen here. The last two races are on high-speed tracks, and I seem like I'm better at that stuff than I am with these bullrings anyway. So I'm looking forward to going to these last two races and hoping we can put together two good races and turn the season around for us a little bit. It's just -- it's been a tough year. It's been a tough year and a half actually, but I'm looking forward to the last two races. I can win these races just as Sam can and about six other guys. But we're one of the guys that can win the race. So we're looking forward to it and it would really help us turn our season around for us.
You were talking about a tough year, but it's kind of been a tough week for you with the uncertainty about next season. How tough was it to put that aside and say look, I'm going to go out there and race and whatever happens, happens.
Dismore: I'll be honest with you. Yesterday I had so many people talking to me about it that it distracted me, and I was emotionally bankrupt at the end of the day yesterday. I went home last night and went in the motel room and got in bed at 5, ordered a pizza and sat there and thought about a lot of things; and woke up this morning with a new attitude. I had it all displaced out of my mind and came into this deal today starting 19th and I knew that wasn't a good thing, especially when you get on a bullring like this. It's worked out today. That's what we need to happen, we need some things to work out. That hasn't been happening and it hasn't been anyone's fault. There's no one person you can point to or any situation on our team that you can point and say "There's the problem, let's fix it." That's what's so frustrating about it. If it was that simple, this problem would have been fixed a year and a half ago. But maybe things have changed. I mean, I know I can win races and got a lot of racing left in me, but I've got two races this year to prove that and we've got to go forward from here and I'm looking forward to that.
Wickham: What was on the pizza?
Dismore: I had a veggie pizza and about a gallon of water. (Laughter)
You didn't watch your go-kart boy last night?
Dismore: No. I called my son -- my wife called my son and told him to buy 20 Powerball tickets because that would solve all our problems. (Laughter)
Wickham: What were the things that got you through the field today? Where were the good moments?
Dismore: I had a hell of a start. I think I went from 19th to like 11th or 12th on the first lap. I really hung it out. On one of the restarts I went around the top. In fact, I'm lucky to be here because I'm lucky I didn't wad the thing up in turn one and two. One of the restarts I got a good run and I was on the high -- I went on the high side and passed like one or two guys and was going for number three. Everybody checked up, and I had the thing totally sideways and literally saw smoke coming off the right front. Flat-spotted the tires, and fortunately like five laps, six laps later a yellow came out. So we came in and got four new tires and topped up the fuel. Thing about it, just about got out from underneath me. So that's what I mean, today was one of those days where everything went like I needed it to go more often. There's been races where I never done anything wrong, and then I don't end up here. So today was a great day and hopefully that's a sign things are going to change here. If it changes for the good as much as it's been for the frustrating, it's going to be real good.
Sam, I don't know whether anybody's asked you this before we walked in now or not. But you've got a 45-point lead now and two races to go. Fifth place or better the last two races, doesn't matter what Buddy does; and how does that feel? Does it change anything the way you approach the races?
Hornish: We would like to go to Chicago and win the next race so we don't even have to worry about it. But, you know, everybody wants to go there and win. We're real excited to be where we've been at. It's been pretty much a dream come true this season. Just the opportunity that I got last year to come and drive for Pennzoil Panther Racing has really meant so much to me and built my confidence so well that knowing you're going to have a car to race each race you go out there and not wondering if you're going to make it to the next race; and eight top three finishes out of 11 of races with a fourth, a sixth and a 14th on the side really makes us -- you know, it really shows what a good car the Panther Racing puts underneath me.
Dismore: He's really pissing me off. (Laughter)
Hornish: But that shows what a good car they put underneath me. Every time we go out there, we have the capability to go out there and win. The only problems we've had came late enough in the race but doesn't really matter. We can still keep a top-four or top-six race, come home anywhere from fourth to fifth or sixth, even when we have had problems.
Sam, at the start of the race, you're starting alongside Buddy. When they drop the green flag, did you sense his engine pitch right there? It seemed like at the very beginning it went.
Hornish: I thought I just really snookered him. (Laughter) I kind of went and everybody else stayed and I said, "Boy, this is going to be a real fun day." Then we came to the second restart, and I put it in the wrong gear and Al went by me and Jaques almost went by me, and I wasn't so smart on that one.
Do you think Al's experience here helped him today?
Hornish: I think fuel mileage helped Al the biggest here today. You know, Al got me on the one restart and he had a good car. As Brian (Barnhart) said this morning, the guy that wins the race is going to have a handling car, and I think the top three guys had probably the best-handling cars out there. It's just a matter of getting right pit strategy going and we didn't think that anybody was going to be able to make it to the end of the race. So we just pretty much ran flat out, and I think we had about an 11-second lead when the yellow flag came out. So wait and see what happens. You know, it was one of those things where if that yellow probably hadn't came out, I don't know that anybody would be able to go the whole distance. So better to finish third than to not finish at all.
Mark, your team was planning on going to the end regardless, right? You guys were planning on going to the end even without the caution, right?
Dismore: I was running mine like full lean. I had full lean and I was down, gosh, I don't even know. I was probably down 50 horsepower. Our strategy was to -- being the track position we had, these guys always distance themselves from me, so there was no way to ever challenge; and outright speed, I don't know that I could have anyway. At the end I think I was as good as Al, but Robbie Buhl was between Al and me, so I couldn't do anything.
Were you starting to see the caution come out, considering I think Al ran out of fuel on the way back?
Dismore: No, I needed that caution. We were going to come up probably about two laps short, but we already had the thing so lean we were probably down 40, 50 horsepower. So I was starting to get swallowed up gradually by guys. Then at the end there I went back to where I could run full power, and I had a pretty good car. I probably could have hounded Al but it's the old deal of catching is one thing, passing is another. But I had a good car today.
Wickham: Any more questions?
Thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations.