IRL: Indy 500: Winning team press conference, part 1

2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER'S PRESS CONFERENCE Sam Hornish Jr., Tim Cindric, Roger Penske Sunday, May 28, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. 14-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Marlboro Team Penske.

Sam Hornish Jr., Tim Cindric, Roger Penske
Sunday, May 28, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. 14-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Marlboro Team Penske. Congratulations. It was a thrilling race.

CINDRIC: 14 for you. Four for me.

PENSKE: You could see that Hornish was focused today, taking it easy at the beginning. He wasn't worried he didn't lead the first lap. You could see he wanted to be comfortable. The car was probably not the way we wanted it at first. We took a full turn, a wing out. It was a little too much. We put half a turn back in. He was right on pace. You could see that.

We came in, you could see over 70, 80 to go, we had the pit stop. At that point, I said go. The fuel probe, we didn't quite get it out. You saw what happened. It was certainly my mistake.

At that point, instead of everybody falling over and closing our tent, we said, 'What is the next thing we can do?' We said, 'Come back in, we'll wait till the last minute, put fuel in to give us that extra two gallons.' Tim and I talked on the radio. We went to a position on fuel, I think fuel position six, gave us 3.4, 3.5. We were letting the leaders catch us. You could see when they came in, we had Michael, Marco.

The thing that I saw was when Sam could turn it up at the end, we had Dixon, Wheldon on fresh tires. That was a real finish. I told him, 'You have two laps here now, let's be careful.' When he got into three, he got chopped a little by Marco. Got smart. Pulled over. We hired Hornish because he beat us like a drum. He sure did the same job on these people today. Got to give it to him. What a great finish.

MODERATOR: Tim, this has got to feel great.

CINDRIC: Thank you. I can't say how happy I am for Sam. I know it was my dream to come work for Roger and win this race. He's living it today, for sure. You know, to do it in that type of fashion, you know, you can't write a story much different than that.

MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.

Q: Roger, there's been one finish closer. Can you think of any you know that's been a greater finish than this?

PENSKE: Every one of them are exciting. I think you're so emotional. All of a sudden you wake up, we won the race. I can tell you one thing, with 50 to go, I thought we were going to go home and close our tent. Ganassi had had a terrific run with his two cars. Andretti Green was right there. It was anybody's ballgame.

That's what happens, you force yourself into the last 20 laps. With the ability to be up front, that yellow with five to go, I think we had as good a shot as anybody else.

Q: Roger, Michael said in here a while ago that as bad as it hurt, he said I wish it wasn't Penske. No telling how many times he's taken this thing away from us. Do you ever have any twinges about having taken so much away from the Andretti's here? Both Marco and Michael kept saying, Where did that speed come from on the close off four to the finish line? Where did that speed come from?

PENSKE: Well, number one, I regard Michael and Mario and certainly Marco now as good friends. We're competitors. Obviously, we're here to win the race. They are, too. We had a chance here at the end. They had a good shot at it. The speed at the end is Sam Hornish. He ran 219 miles an hour on used tires. You saw early on he ran a 220. He kept his speed till the end. When it's time to go, I think you got to hand it to him. He is a fantastic oval racer. You can ask Michael, ask Mario, ask the people he raced against. Certainly Wheldon on fresh tires, I thought he was going to be the real tough guy to worry about.

At the end, the driver won this race.

Q: Roger, at the end of that pit stop miscue time, somebody had to tell Sam to stop at that point, or he stopped on his own because he knew there was still a piece of the fuel rig on?

PENSKE: I told him to stop. I told him go, go. I tell him stop. I told him to go. I thought it got stuck. Of course, when you see him coming out, you're trying to time it because we wanted to see if we could beat those guys out. It was completely my fault.

CINDRIC: One thing, if I can interrupt, nobody had seen Sam run a hundred percent fuel for the last two stints of the race. He was sitting there running position six, which is about I don't remember if it's 10 percent or 12 percent lean. There's a lot less power just trying to make it to the end there. It wasn't till that restart. He hadn't run full fuel since maybe the start of the race.

PENSKE: Start of the race right away we went right to four. We could have run four our five more laps than the leader. We came in on I think Lap 38, they came in on Lap 35. Our goal was to stay out longer. I think it was -- it certainly paid off at the end.

Q: Restart off the final yellow?

CINDRIC: From our standpoint, it wasn't -- surprised us he was going to be a lot faster because we kind of needed the yellow to be able to give him the fuel to go to the end. We hadn't done that for quite a while.

PENSKE: Twenty-five laps, we turned it full rich. We had enough fuel to go at the end. That's all we needed.

Q: Roger, what was your impression of Marco's performance today?

PENSKE: Well, a young man 19 years old, racing for the lead on the Indy 500 with one lap to go, you'd have to say outstanding. I was focusing on Sam all day. I could see he was up there.

I saw Michael up there, too. What a great situation to see the father/son, they're leading, running 1-2 in the race. My focus obviously is on Helio and Sam. At the end, it was what we needed to do to get out front.

Q: Did you use that rear wing angle adjustor at all today?

PENSKE: No, we didn't.

Q: Tim, just comment on Helio's day a little bit. He had kind of a tough day getting started, the crash.

CINDRIC: Kind of tough to take because we started out, we didn't give him a good car. We started out really loose at the beginning of the race. It was OK for the first 10 laps on the new set of tires. We continued to take front wing out. We got ourselves in a mess where we got a lap down. Then the caution. I can't remember which one it was, Scheckter, I can't recall which one. But when we came in, we were a lap down. We short filled the car so we could get our lap back. We jumped back out on the lead lap. We were waved around.

Then we thought we could maybe get back in the game. It was still a bit loose, but it was starting to come to us throughout the day. We were running around ninth or 10th, pretty much the last car on the lead lap. It was to the point where we needed a caution. In fact, when we were the caution, I didn't realize it at the time, said, that's what we needed (laughter). That's how that emotion goes.

PENSKE: I thought it was us.

CINDRIC: My emotion went from we're back in this game to we're going home. Anyway, it's a shame for Helio, especially since we had spent some time trying to talk to the spotters on Buddy's team. He was a lap down. We weren't even racing for position. When that happens, it makes your day even longer.

Q: As much as you dominated the month, did the scenario even enter into your mind where Sam was going to have to make a last-lap pass to win?

PENSKE: I knew we couldn't win it going away. I knew this had to be a race you're there all day. Where I thought we were really in the game is when it was Wheldon and Sam. He led for a while. They were careful. They let each other go by. They had a run. I they were doing some real good racing. I thought we were all in great shape. We all came in together. We fumbled the ball. Then, of course, it was a whole different scenario.

Then to see it play out that we did have enough fuel, we were ready to go at the end. At the end of the day, best man won.

Q: After the fifth stop, the drive-through penalty, did you have anything special to say to Sam over the radio, get everything back on track?

PENSKE: Well, what I always try to do is stay cool and calm. I said, Look, here is what we have to do. We got going. I asked for a calculation. Tim talked to me on the radio. He said we got to go to the end. We knew it was 3.4. We got to 3.3. We could get to 3.2 because we were getting good mileage, looked like we'd be in good shape. It was kind of clean up, get our senses. I didn't want him to overreact either. I think he could see today by staying cool, then going when it was time to go paid off.

Q: How much does Sam's victory today solidify his greatness?

CINDRIC: From my perspective, as a guy that has won two championships, he's done virtually everything on almost every track that we go to, some people say he's an oval driver, this and that. What he's proven on the road courses I think tells me even more about his determination. Then to come here for that restart, those that know him know that he's not out of it yet. To see him go through there and not put a wheel wrong, I think, really shows you what he's capable of.

PENSKE: Well, I mean, when we got Sam Hornish, we knew we had if not the best oval racer of his time, you know, you compare him to Mears, Helio is different, has a lot more experience on road courses, but it gave us a real combination. We knew we weren't going to run three cars. We had two people that could win for us. Today was exactly why he came to our team. Tim and I kept looking at ourselves: When are we going to give this guy a chance? Today certainly was his chance. He delivered. The pole position was outstanding. His demeanor all month. He was cool. I didn't see him till he came out to the car before the race. He was really -- really had himself relaxed today. I think he got in the car. You saw him at the beginning. He wasn't out there typical Sam Hornish leading every lap. He just waited. Made a couple adjustments on the car. He knew exactly what he had. When it was time to go, he was there.

Q: So much of your point throughout the month, we got to get through this without mistakes. Obviously, you made some mistakes and won. How do you do that? Does that mean you're doing a lot of unnecessary worrying there?

PENSKE: Well, we made a mistake. But that's the great thing about a long-distance race. I think you've seen it. You get a chance to come back, with the yellow flags, passarounds, strategy. We were on the lead lap when it happened. We weren't going to lose that. We've had enough experience here to know, we looked at the calculations today. With computers, you're like this, we knew exactly what we had to have. Got it on the dash. He knew what he had to do to get that. We could turn the fuel down, have those settings in the car. In the old days, you couldn't have done that.

CINDRIC: This race is so long, you look back to Jacques Villeneuve in 1995, two laps down and figures out a way to be there at the end. You never give up.

Q: Roger, was there any conversation between you and Sam after the 199 going into Turn 3? Did you have any conversation after that point?

PENSKE: I had told him, you know, Take your time. I don't know exactly the words I said to him. We had a couple laps, I said, Take your time. Of course, he got shut down there, which I would have done the same thing. There was nothing wrong with that. He pulled out. He said he thought he might have slid up into him. Sam thought he might have got up into him. He pulled out, had to get his momentum back.

Once he got -- I could see him go by Marco. Saw the speed he carried into one. Did a 219 lap there at the end against 214, it was a huge difference.

Q: Roger, did you ever envision 14 wins?

PENSKE: I didn't even envision I'd still be here (laughter). You were one of the guys that helped us the most back in '72.

I love racing. The most fun I have is seeing the guys, the team members, perform, providing them with the tools, getting sponsors that stay with us. This is the reason they do. When you look at the 14 wins, there's probably a hundred people at each one of those that made the difference. That's why we won the race. It's not me, it's not Tim; it's the people that execute, the unsung heroes who do this work day in, day out, Clive, Jerry up there in the sun calling the spotting today, the workmanship, the reliability. I'd have to say, the engine, we didn't have one engine problem today. Amazing. So I think hopefully this month of May will generate some more momentum for the sport. We need it to be next year like it was in '72 from the standpoint of the stands. I think Friday was great here with the pit stop competition. I think all of you know that. This race gives you great momentum. I can tell you, that's why we're going to run here. I can run here as long as I can get guys like Cindric to put up with me.

Q: You said you picked Sam because he has beaten you. Was there a particular race you said that you had to have him?

PENSKE: He just seemed to always do what he did to Andretti. We had three or four of them like that. He's an amazing guy at his age. I think coming with a team, he's matured. He was always a great race driver. It's a perfect combination. I think anybody up and down that pit lane, I think they would have to say that when it comes to oval racing, he's got to be on the top of your list.

CINDRIC: Back in 2002 when Helio and he were racing for the championship at Texas, he beat us to the line there. Getting in the car, I told him: 'Just pretend this is Texas. All you got to do is race like it's Texas, you'll be fine.'

Q: How do you like the new engine rule? You take that engine today, run Watkins Glen.

PENSKE: They don't have to take this one apart to see if it's got some special pieces in it, at least.

Q: Do you think it's a good rule to take this engine? Obviously, it was quick.

PENSKE: It's the same for everybody. I'm assuming the engines have about 1,200 miles. We ran engines almost 800 miles this month, the same engine. In fact, they say they get power at the end. The car has a little more power at the end (laughter).

Q: Was there any concern at the end when there's four Andretti cars and two Ganassi cars, and Sam is kind of by himself?

PENSKE: Well, I thought the decks were stacked the wrong way. No, we were -- in fact, I thought we were in a great spot there because you could get the draft behind the cars. Leading that race at the end coming down to the start/finish, probably a tougher spot to keep the lead because of the draft coming off of two.

It was hard to call. But he was -- Sam was in his environment. He was in his element with four to go. He could see the front. That's where he needed to be.

CINDRIC: You saw everybody race pretty clean all day today. I know Dixon got in some issue with Kanaan. Toward the end of that race, you saw Herta move over and let those guys race. You got to hand it to those guys to let the race happen. When it was Michael's turn, Michael did what he could.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome the winner of the 90th Indianapolis 500, Mr. Sam Hornish, Jr.

Sam, I was handed a variety of statistics about your team and you. Obviously, I've had the great privilege to announce many of the races you've won. No. 1 in all time IRL competition, two-time champion. What statistics don't tell you I think is what Roger has been saying. I've seen you stare people down the most amazing eye-to-eye duels for years now and come out on top, Chicagoland. Talk about what was going through your mind. I must tell you, all that were matching on the next to the last lap said, He just blew it. How did you get around him?

SAM HORNISH JR.: Well, I kind of probably thought I blew it a little bit, too. I had a good run on him. Got to the inside. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. I guess that's the right way to put it. I figured, I came all this way, give myself one more shot at it. I didn't know if I'd catch up to him. I figured it would be better than stuffing the thing into the wall.

I have to say that on that first lap, first time I attempted it, didn't give me very much room. On the second time, he figured I don't know if they already warned him once or what's deal was. We were coming down for it. He gave me the room I needed. I know that it probably doesn't mean a whole lot to him right now. Come out here your first try, to make it all 200 laps, I never did to today, either, to come out second in your rookie year is a big feat.

MODERATOR: Given that move, do you wish you would have waited and gone through the corner and tried to get him on the straightaway at that particular point?

HORNISH: Well, I thought I would have got him going down into three. There was just no room to turn the car. That was going to be the big problem. If I would have stayed back and tried to time it, I don't know if I would have ended up in the same position. Luckily it slowed me down enough that it got me right to the right position where coming off of 4, I had a giant head of steam on him. I was either going to pancake the right side of the car, or I was going to win the race, one of the two.

I figured, you know, it was really good the way it worked out. He held his line once I got there. It's tough to put it all into words because there were so many ups and downs today. When we had the problem in the pit, we thought it was over. How do we give ourselves an opportunity to get up there. We can make it on mileage if we try to stretch it out. The yellow comes out. You just don't know what's going to happen. The car was great. It was the best that it was all day long right when we needed it to be. The gears were perfect. We fought it most of the time. That's the thing that I can't remember who told me that, three Cs, calm, cool, collected. Make sure you make it to the end. That's what I wanted to do.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske