An interview Sam Hornish Jr.</B>, <B>Helio Castroneves</B> Part 1 of 2 Moderator: We appreciate you coming in. Helio Castroneves is 27 years old, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and currently living in Miami. Of course, he is a...
An interview Sam Hornish Jr.</B>, <B>Helio Castroneves</B>
Part 1 of 2
Moderator: We appreciate you coming in. Helio Castroneves is 27 years old, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and currently living in Miami. Of course, he is a twotime Indy 500 winner. He had two wins this season, Phoenix and Indianapolis and this is some key stuff, interesting stuff. Five top-five finishes on oneandahalfmile tracks in 2002. His best finish on a mileandahalf track was third at Homestead and at Kansas, and his worst on a oneandahalfmile track was fifth at Kentucky. So he does quite well on the mileandahalf tracks. Average finish has been 3. 8. Helio has become the first driver in IRL to become the Indy 500 and Indy Racing League champion in the same year. The winner of the 500 has gone on to win the championship 29 times since the first 500 in 1911, but it's only happened seven times since 1970 when big Al Unser did it. Jacques Villenueve was the last driver to do it in '95. Sam Hornish Jr. is 23 years old from Defiance, Ohio. He is, of course, the 2001 Indy Racing League champion, the defending champion of the series. He had four wins in 2002, Homestead, California, Richmond and of course last week's race in Chicago. He has two wins on mileandahalf tracks in 2002, Homestead and Chicago, and his worst finish this season ironically came here in June at Texas after an accident with Eddie Cheever. His average finish on a mileandahalf track this season is 4.8. If you recall, Helio's average finish is 3.8. So those two guys finish right up there at the front of the field. He won the Chevy 500 and he is the defending champion of this race one year ago by one of the closest one, two, three finishes in Indy Racing history. Pennzoil Panther Racing has three wins at Texas Motor Speedway. Sam could become the first driver to win two Indy Racing League Championships, and if he finishes first or second, he wins the title no matter what Helio does. So I will start by asking, I assume then, Sam, the plan is to win the race?
Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: Always. That's the plan every time I get in the race car is to go out there and be No. 1, whether it's in practice, qualifying or the race. So pretty much the same thing that we've been doing all year.
Moderator: And of course your plan is to win the race.
Helio Castroneves: Oh, my plan is to have 13 points ahead of this guy, here. Obviously, if he plans to win, I need to be ahead of him no matter what on Sunday. I'm sure it's going to be a good battle, as always, over here, and I'm sure it's going to decide the championship on the last lap of this race.
Q: This being Penske's first year in the Indy Racing League, what's your assessment on how well the car is performed?
Helio Castroneves: Well, obviously, being a Penske driver, representing Marlboro Team Penske, first year in IRL, you have several questions -- several about the track. A lot of tracks we have discovered during the race how the performance, how to setup the gears, and so far, the speed, we didn't have much of a problem. We were able to find out because of those tests, so we really worked hard during the whole season to make sure that at least we are going as much prepared as possible during the race weekend. As everybody knows, normally we have only 45 minutes, and to set up the car in those situation is very tough. But I'm very proud of my team. The team is doing a hell of a job, putting all of the equipment together, being competitive on the field, very special, being challenging in the championship, and I'm extremely happy. So, again, here is going to be a situation that the good news, we have already been here. Obviously, we race at night, which might change a little bit, racing at day, but I'm extremely confident and I'm very happy to for all of the performances of the team this year.
Q: Sam, what's your read on Penske and how good their car has performed?
Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: Penske is probably I'm pretty sure that they have the most amount of wins in Indy cars, and they definitely have the most Indy 500 wins as a team. You know, definitely probably the best-funded team coming into this year. If you were to ask me if they were going to do as well as they did, I would say yes. They have done a great job. There's nothing that you can't but if you would ever ask me if I thought that he could do it or they were at a disadvantage, I don't think so, because I think they have got two very good drivers and a very good team to go along with it, to be able to put the cars out there weekin and weekout and be competitive.
Q: Helio has a new teammate who is obviously not in the championship hunt. What do you expect out of Max on Sunday?
Helio Castroneves: Well, it's going to be his first time on this track, I believe. It's not the first time with his equipment, racing it at Indy. I'm pretty sure he's going to do a good job. Max definitely is a fast driver and we just hopefully, with the situation that we have in the championship, he will be up there, as well, to make sure he can steal as much points from everyone as possible, he especially from Sam. So we just have to see. Obviously, you can never predict, especially this racetrack, especially this race, but it's good that we are in this situation. Obviously, we can't discount the teammate. At the same time, I have to go and do my job, so we're going to keep working hard to make sure we do a good job.
Q: Sam, what do you expect from his teammate Sunday ?
Sam Hornish Jr.</B> : I don't know. You have to look at it two hands you can look at it. It could be a professional race or a problem might occur from trying to help another driver win the championship. But I've talked to Max a couple of times, and I don't think he's the kind of guy that would negatively affect the outcome of the championship. I think it's going to be a long race on Sunday, and hopefully it won't be a factor of any other cars. It will just be a duel down to the end.
Moderator: Sam and I talked briefly after Sunday's race in Chicago. We were studying the mathematical possibility of a dead heat. You are in Texas, everything is bigger in Texas; Sam told me he really would rather win by a lap.
Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: Hopefully the margin of victory will be bigger in Texas.
Moderator: No. Dead heat.
Q: What do you have to do to make your car run fast on this racetrack?
Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: Just with how closely competitive the cars are, it's tough to be very fast over another car. You have to have your car that works good on the bottom and on the top. One of the characteristics of the car is that it is as neutral of casual possible. You don't want it to be loose at all, because if you are running side by side with other cars it does definitely kick the back end of the car around, but you don't want to be pushed. So basically, just find a happy medium where the car is real neutral. You can run the low line or the high line, the way things shuffle around around here, you can't just say, oh, my car works good on the bottom , I'm just going to run it here all day. You're going to get stuck up on the outside or vice versa.
Q: On Sunday would you like to see it come down to a headsup duel between the two of you, and kind of maythebettermanwin type situation?
Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: Well, it can't really come down to a headsup duel, because if I finish first or second, I still win. So that makes it tough, as far as that goes for Helio.
But, I definitely don't want to see him go out on the first lap. That takes some of the fun I don't want anybody to have any excuses and say that, you know, if so and so hadn't ran into me on the first lap, I would have won. I don't want to have those excuses, either.
So I would like to see it go down to the last couple of laps. I don't really, really want to see a whole lot of people up there battling. But whatever happens, my goal is to go out there and win the race, and if I win the race, I know that the points take care of themselves.
Helio Castroneves: Well, the good news, we are all professionals. So basically, I don't think anybody wants to have any problems out there. Everybody, I'm sure is going to respect each other. It's going to make the show as nice as possible and exciting for everyone.
So we'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully, Team Penske is going to be right there to give great support.
Hornish, Castroneves press conference, Part II