IRL: Homestead Test: Dixon/Castroneves/Kanaan/Hornish Jr press conference, part 2

January 27, 2004 Indy Racing League An Interview With: Scott Dixon Helio Castroneves Tony Kanaan Sam Hornish, Jr. Part 2 of 2 Q: Tony, you said you have not tested since you got out of the car at the end of the season. Scott, you, Helio and...

January 27, 2004
Indy Racing League

An Interview With:
Scott Dixon
Helio Castroneves
Tony Kanaan
Sam Hornish, Jr.

Part 2 of 2

Q: Tony, you said you have not tested since you got out of the car at the end of the season. Scott, you, Helio and Sam have all run at the track with the new configuration, so could we get the three of you to address how different this race will be in 2004, as opposed to when this was relatively a flat track?

SCOTT DIXON: I think it's hard to say at the moment. We have all been testing here. We have been running pretty much by ourselves. I think the only time I got with someone was probably Sam at the last test.

I don't know, I think over the next couple days you'll get a better idea, but it's turned out to a circuit that I dislike, as I do with most of the high banks, but for NASCAR and maybe for the racing it might be a little better. From what I saw, (Sam) even struggled going on the high side and I was quite a bit slower.

So, I don't know. It's going to be interesting, especially with the variable, the gradient and the angle of the circuit, I think it's going to maybe give some people a bit of grief, but we'll have to see in the next couple of days, I guess.

Q: Your impressions of the reconfiguration?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, Homestead did a phenomenal job. Again the surface seems to be very smooth and obviously turned out to be interesting for our type of cars. Normally it was very difficult to be flat-out here. Now you're able to take more chances and flat-out all of the time.

I believe the track is, the more cars on the track, put more rubber, I'm sure the track will be good and we'll see it like Kansas, Chicago, those circuits. The wind is still playing a big factor. It's not just something, 'OK, relax and forget about it,' like Fontana or Michigan.

It is going to be exciting. You have to be actually ready for anything because any gust of wind might catch you by surprise. Let's wait and see.

Q: Sam, interestingly enough, you lead the series in all-time wins with 11, and most people seem to think of you as winning the close races at the high-bank tracks. You won twice here, the first two races that the series contested here at Homestead, so you kind of have a unique spin on this deal. You're good on the high banks, but you were also pretty good here the first couple of years. What's your take on the changes?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I'm pretty partial to the old track. It was so wide that you could really have your car working at quite a few different places on the racetrack to be able to pass here.

You know, I knew that they were going to get ready to make a change when I watched the 2002 finale race for the NASCAR here because they were running down on the apron because they were trying to pinch the whole track off. So I knew they were going to try to make a change. This was pretty drastic. It did accomplish what they were trying to do as far as being able to have close races here. It's just, it was a track that was really suited well to Indy cars and you could have good races here.

I think that there's going to be good, close races here. No matter what happens, it's kind of like going back to how is taking the horsepower away from the engine, how does that affect the racing? Last year, you saw the last, I don't know, four or five races of the year and who was -- it was the same five guys every time that were right there, first through fifth. And no matter where we went, whether it was Nazareth or Kentucky or California or Texas, all of the championship contenders were there and they were right there at the end.

So I think you take that away, it just kind of helps sort things out a little bit and get some people that are newer and don't have quite as much experience that it's going to -- this is just another track that's going to throw them in there and force them to be up there racing hard the whole race. In my mind, it's good because it gives them the race experience, but it's not necessarily the greatest thing because if they make a mistake, it tends to be pretty big at these tracks.

MIKE KING: Helio, I want to go back to something that you mentioned. The first three years, I hear at Homestead a lot of the drivers talked about dealing with the wind off of the banking on to the flat of a straightaway. You mentioned watching out for gusts now coming off the big banking. Is there a dramatic difference one way or the other or is it an equitable situation dealing with the wind on the high bank as it was with the lower banking?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: The good news is at least it's warning you when the car starts in the front first on the low bank and the rear suddenly snaps and you have no idea what to do.

So right now, again, the track, it's not easy. If you do have a good car, you'll be able to go flat-out with no problems. So obviously, they have a little more experience running beside each other or behind each other. I didn't have that; I was just by myself. And when I was by myself with the wind gust, I noticed some kind of a difficult level. So it's just a matter of take it easy and be aware.

Q: Sam, can you talk more about the move from Pennzoil Panther Racing to Marlboro Team Penske?

SAM HORNISH JR.: Basically, at the end of 2002, I knew I had another year to run on my contract with Panther Racing and I wanted to explore other options and see what else was out there. We had a lot of success out there and sometimes you put yourself in a comfort zone and you don't really know exactly what's the biggest benefactor to stay there. So you just want to look around.

From the time I was a kid, I admired Penske race-car drivers. I never actually thought that I would be one of them. So it's kind of exciting to be able to do that. I'm really looking forward to this year. That was the only way I knew to further my career was to come to this position. The Indianapolis 500 means so much to me. When you look at the Penske success that they have had over not just the past three years, but since 1972, it's just a phenomenal amount of time for how many cars have been put into that race. That's the way I look at it. That's my best chance to win the Indy 500 and that's what keeps me racing right now and that's what has my focus.

Q: Can you talk about the possibility of CART with the Indy Racing League bidding on the CART assets, and I guess we'll know tomorrow at this time what's going to happen. What's the drivers' take on what's going on?

TONY KANAAN: The drivers' take is -- I don't know, I can't speak for all of us. We all want to go to road courses. But it's up to the big guys to decide what's going to happen.

Obviously, it's obvious for everybody that we are both hurting. So what's more sensible to do, we all have an opinion. Let's see what the judge is going to see.

Everybody is hurting. Motor racing is hurting because of it. You know, if it happens, great. I think we can all go back and start being one thing and then grow. I think the IRL has a lot more potential right now than any other open-wheel racing series. All of the drivers are here. It's obvious what we want, but let's see what the judge is going to decide.

Q: How will the IndyCar Series cars adapt to road-course racing?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: We usually have the turbo charger in CART and now we are running with aspirator. I don't think it is going to change much. Everybody is going to be on the same condition. Street circuit obviously is straight. Road course obviously is great. The (IndyCar) Series has been phenomenal. It's growing every year. I don't think our car is going to have any problem. The G force, it's been doing a good job, and as Tony said, it's a race car. So as long as everybody has the same type of equipment, I don't think it's going to be hard on anyone. Actually, I believe it's going to be very exciting.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I agree with Helio. I think the cars are probably going to be similar to an Indy Lights car or something, just the way they are balanced and how the engines are. I think it will be good racing. Even a CART car in Long Beach and stuff it was fairly hard to pass. Whereas you look at Indy Lights races, they are pretty close. I think the racing will be very good with this kind of car that they have at the moment.

Q: You said you thought it would be more fun.

TONY KANAAN: Well, we have no traction control. We have no turbo. There is going to be a lot more up to the driver to drive the car. I mean -- it's just a matter of adapting the car. I would say, I think it's going to be more fun, because like Scott mentioned, it's going to be a lot different and the cars, I think we are going to have to drive them a lot more.

Q: Sam, you have been in the IndyCar Series for the last four seasons, four and a half seasons and have not driven on road or street courses in that time. But in your climb up the ladder, you did an awful lot of road-course racing. Your take on what looks to be in 2005 an opportunity to add some courses; it looks like perhaps even an opportunity in 2004?

SAM HORNISH JR.: It's just been great. I like the IRL for what it is. I think they need to remember what's allowed them to get to the point where they are purchasing CART assets.

I think that two to three, maybe four road courses or races that are off ovals would be good for the series because it would bring some more fan base. I'm excited to do it. I want to see how I match up against these guys. I didn't get to race against these guys when I was running Toyota Atlantics and Formula Ford and go-karts. So really, you know what you can do with them on the ovals. So it's always a good thing to see what you can do on road cars and put them on a different venue.

The courses will be remarkable based on the fact that it takes more horsepower away because right now cars are about momentum; you lose momentum, you are going to be get passed by two or three guys in a close race. And if you overdrive these cars on a road course, get too deep into the corners or make a mistake, you are going to get passed. I think it will be great for the series, as far as I think the cars will be good for a lot of passing on the road courses and the ovals. It can only go forward, hopefully.

MIKE KING: Thanks, looking forward to watching you guys out there tomorrow.

Part 1

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske