IRL: Indy 500: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 MODERATOR: We'll take questions. Q: Although you haven't raced here as often as the Andretti's, you did feel earlier this month like you had to drive the perfect race to win here. Now that you've finally won here, ...

Continued from part 1

MODERATOR: We'll take questions.

Q: Although you haven't raced here as often as the Andretti's, you did feel earlier this month like you had to drive the perfect race to win here. Now that you've finally won here, describe the feeling?

HORNISH: Right now I stink a little bit, so I'm not sure I have the full aspect of it. Once I get a shower, I think I'll feel a lot better.

To go out there and to just dream of someday coming here and being able to race is one thing, being able to realize that goal. I remember how happy I was the first time I came here. Everything that I've done as far as being an IndyCar driver since then was bonus. I never dreamed of winning the Indy 500 until I came here for the first time. I think that's one of those things where I don't think I'll ever be able to fully appreciate what it means or be able to put it into words what it means to me.

I've had to hold back quite a bit today. I keep getting emotional about it. I got to try to figure out how to get through all this stuff without starting to cry and not be able to talk.

Q: You've contained your emotions so much. How do you then turn around and really step up to the plate? You're still calm.

HORNISH: 'Cause I used up all my energy out there in the car, I think. I was yelling at the top of my lungs a couple times. The thing that you have to know is being a race car driver is when to push the button and when not to, when to fight your battles. We got blocked a couple times today by different guys. I was frustrated. But I kept going back to the fact, you know what, it's Lap 30 or Lap 90.

This race, like Brian Barnhart says in the driver's meetings every year we come here, this race I seldom won by the guy leading Lap 190. We proved that today.

I mean, I just tried to contain myself as much as I could and tried to make sure we made it to the end. That's what I said my goal was all month long. I didn't want everybody to throw it in my face, 'You just ran the thing into the wall, I thought you were trying to make it to the end.'

MODERATOR: One of the great stories of this month was the great effort by PDM Racing. Let's not forget this guy came to Indianapolis the first time with PDM Racing, used some of his own prize money to get to the next race. If there ever was an American dream story, this is certainly one of them.

Q: Sam, talk about that last lap with Marco, pretty much how he raced you clean. That's a situation where anything can happen. He gave you the room.

HORNISH: On the last lap coming down there to the start/finish line, I kind of looked at it as I was going to drive over him if I had to. It didn't matter. Anything in between the walls, up to the walls, against the walls, I needed to go wherever I needed to go. The thing was so fast coming off the corner, I don't know if you had enough time to react to it.

That's one of those things where I've always kind of looked at my life, my career, all the wins in the world don't mean anything if you can't be glad about it at the end of the day. I don't ever want to win a race like that, feel like I cheated somebody out of the opportunity to win. I'm sure there's a lot of other people that feel the same way about that.

Q: Both Michael and Marco kept saying over and over, 'Where did that speed come from right at the last?' Michael theorized maybe just the point you had to get off the throttle a bit might have given you exactly the run you needed. Was it more the margin you got there that worked out for you or did you have the fuel measure turned up enough?

HORNISH: I think it was the fact that we had the fuel turned all the way up. Of course, you're going to for the last couple laps. One of the things is the fact that he did slow me down enough. It gave me enough of a run coming back at him to do that. If I were would have just probably got out of it a little bit, waited to make the move going down into Turn 1, I think maybe the same thing would have happened.

I think that was the car that we didn't race against most of the day. Like the saying goes, it's not often the fastest car that wins the race, but the one that didn't make any mistakes. I think he was up there because he didn't make any mistakes. He was there all day long. I hadn't ran against him. I ran in the top three most of the day and didn't run against him all day long. Didn't have to run against him till the last three laps. I think that's part of this kind of a race, when the chips are on the table, you got to get going.

Q: Your previous answer was talking about if you had felt like you had cheated somebody out of a win. If you were sitting second place right now, the situation down there in 3 had turned out to determine the race, would you feel like you had been beaten unethically if that block of his had worked?

HORNISH: I would have been happy to make it to the end of the race because that's what I wanted to do. That's what I said I wanted to do all month long. I would have tried to figure out how to not let that happen to me again, but I would be -- I wouldn't be as thrilled as I am right now, but I still would be happy just to have made it to the end. Like I said, I hadn't done that in six attempts.

Q: You talked about making the fewest mistakes. Your team made one. What was going through your head as you finally did get out of the pits after that one?

HORNISH: Probably the first thing that came to my head is, 'I can't believe this is happening.' The second thing that came to my head is, 'The last two years I put the car in the wall, so I better shut up and not say anything.'

Q: You've won a number of races like this, a lot on banked ovals. If he had been on the inside of the track, would it have been harder to get around him?

HORNISH: I think he did everything that he would have been able to do regardless of what kind of track it was. He picked the line that was fastest for him. He went with it. It wasn't enough.

Q: What is it like for you guys to have a dream come true? Roger, you've had one or two. Sam, you had that today. Tim, you had that through Sam and Roger. Talk to us about that.

HORNISH: All right. I'll go first, I guess. I don't know. The first thing that these guys said to me is, 'Have you woke up yet?' I don't know. It's unbelievable. You go out there and you work hard for something. Everybody goes out there, and they work hard. It's not like somebody just gets up in the morning, said, I don't really care whether I win this race or not. Everybody wants to go out there and win. Everybody works hard. All the teams work hard.

It's being able to position yourself with the best team, the best driver, then also making the most out of everything that you have, even if it's the bad things. How do we make ourselves better because of it?

Last Sunday afternoon, I was furious with myself because I went out there and put the car in the wall. It took me a little while, probably until Lap 199 and seven-eighths when I crossed the finish line before I got the confidence back in myself for going out there and doing that. All the problems that you have along the way make it so much sweeter.

I can't put it into words exactly what it means to me, but it's the best day that I'll ever have as far as my career goes. There's other things outside of racing, getting married, having kids, that stuff, that are great. Those shine above those things. As far as my professional career goes, anything outside of my family life, this is the best day that I'll ever have.

PENSKE: My position as the team owner, we make commitments to people. I made a commitment to Sam, to his mom, to his dad, to Crystal, that we were going to give him the best car. We looked at each other a couple of times over the last 24 months. Did we really supply him with that? I think as we started this season, we said that I think we got a package this year. We knew we had the race driver.

Tim and I talked about it. Obviously, Helio is a tremendous teammate. This one was so super for us to get through the gate here and make it happen. I'll tell you, it was up and down. But we never gave up. Sam didn't give up. He gave us that fuel mileage we needed. He knew the number. As I said earlier before he came in, he had the car. He was patient all day long, very patient all day long. We made the mistake in the pits. It wasn't his fault. You know something, he stayed cool. We were on a strategy. It was amazing. We had a chance to go for it.

A dream come true, if I would have dreamed we were going to win the race after I saw half that fuel hose hanging out there, I guess that came true to me at the end.

CINDRIC: I never said it all month because I thought I'd jinx it, when I saw the way the Pace Car was painted, I looked at that and said, 'That looks a lot like Sam's helmet.' That's going to be pretty cool sitting in Defiance, Ohio. I never said it all month, didn't want to jinx him. I'm sure he noticed but didn't say anything, either.

Q: How ragged of a ride was the last 3 and 4 corner? Were you really hooked up? Win or crash scenario?

HORNISH: Yeah, you obviously never want to crash the car. I was going through there as hard as I could. It was for everything. It was for all the marbles. You don't get too many times like that at the Indy 500 where you're out there and you have a chance to win the race right in front of everybody on the last lap.

I'd love to win one by about five laps, but it never seems to work out that way. The thing for me was, you know, I was flat out, as hard as I could go. I actually had to lift a little bit coming off of Turn 4. If I didn't quite lift, I don't know if I would have made it around the corner. I ran it pretty hard in there hoping it was going to stick. I waited till the exact last second where I could get back out of it. It was just for a second. Enough that the front end kind of sat down, it started to turn again, I got back on the throttle, there I was. I was still going quite a bit quicker than him at the time.

It was probably the good thing to do, just make sure that you make it to the end, see what happens.

Q: Roger, when it comes to close finishes here, you lost one in '82, then won this one today. Compare and contrast the two.

PENSKE: '82, Mears had already won the race. I'd have to say today, this is the one that really counted to give Sam his first win.

Q: Knowing your father over the years, he said when you were a kid, there was no plan to turn you into a race driver. Your career just developed that way. What is it like to repay your father's faith in your career by taking him to Victory Lane in the Indianapolis 500?

HORNISH: Do you want the long or the short version? The thing for me that was hardest growing up and being a race car driver, racing the go-karts, moving to Formula Ford, Toyota Atlantics, every time I started to get good at something, he'd make me to go to the next level. He never wanted me to be the big fish in the small pond.

Once I got here and I realized that this is something I was able to do, I thought, 'Well, he got me here at a much younger age than probably I would have ever expected to be.' Yeah, it was tough, but it gives you the opportunity to have seven tries and still be 26.

It's an unbelievable feeling. Two years ago when I won the most popular driver award, Tony flew us in the helicopter from home to here for the award. He told me, about 50 some years before that, coming through the Turn 3 tunnel with his dad, he said, 'Now I'm flying in here with you.' I said, 'Yeah, we had to take you everywhere.'

For me it was kind of the opposite thing. He took me everywhere. I think that's part of what makes me -- what makes it so neat for me, I've been blessed with a family that's willing -- a mom and dad that's willing to be a part for however long I'm racing, my dad being with me, coming to all these races. My wife comes to all the races. I'm just very lucky that not only to have that, but also to have had a lot of things go right in my career, go sooner than I thought they should. Also to be with a team that I'm at, I didn't know if I'd ever win this race.

I put a lot of -- a lot of seeds out about not being able to. It may not ever be my day. Today it was. To not only repay what my dad was able to do for me, my mom, Crystal, but also what Roger and Tim have been able to do for me, give me everything that it took to go out there and win. I'm glad that I was able to pull through and do that for them because we made a lot about the last couple years maybe not feeling like we had everything it took to win here. The only downside to that is when you get everything that you need to win, you got to go out there and do it.

Q: Can you put into words what you think your grandmother would say to you?

HORNISH: Probably one or two things. Either, 'For pity sakes,' because I think that's what she said a lot. A couple years ago on her birthday, we had everybody together, and she said, 'My cup runneth over.' There's a poem about that. I think that's what she would say today.

Q: The last couple years you have struggled, under-horsepowered. Did you spend a lot of time working on the chassis?

CINDRIC: From my perspective, I think it might look that way. I think the challenge for us was to remain focused when you would go to races where you weren't a hundred percent sure you had a chance. The people that we have, I think they work just as hard independent of whether they thought they had a chance or they didn't. That's a big challenge.

Kind of our motto the past couple years was to take everything to the racetrack we could possibly take no matter how competitive it was or wasn't going to be. I think that's just the people. We continue to find the right people. There's a lot of, like Roger said, a lot of unsung heroes that are trying to find that last little bit. They're willing to stay as long as it takes to find it. I think that's really the key to our success is the people.

The physics and all the rest of it we're continually working no different than we did in '01, '02, '03, but making sure we stayed focused instead of putting up our hands and saying that we can't win.

PENSKE: Good answer.

Q: Sam, your first year with PDM, you missed races because you didn't have the money. Did you ever think you weren't going to make that next step? Can you imagine being here now?

HORNISH: It's all the little things that count in a team as far as taking every bit that you can. My mom and dad helped me out quite a bit, as much as they could. We had some other small ones. We turned everything we won basically back into the car. Ended up selling 2,500 cordless phones from Uniden. You think 2,500 isn't very many. Then you count that high. I mean, geez. That's a lot to do with people in Defiance and also the surrounding areas of northwest Ohio. My mom, people that worked for my mom and dad, are selling these phones, peddling them any way they could. Truck drivers are taking them to the different plants we deliver to, putting them in their offices or whatever trying to get people to buy them.

It's really pretty a neat deal that so many people have been able to help me. I went and done the test for Panther. They told me I'm on the short list. The Nashville track was getting ready to hop open. They had Billy there at the time who wasn't their driver in a Pennzoil uniform doing the test. I thought, That's strange. I don't know what to think about that. I must not be on the short enough list.

I'm sitting actually at Crystal's mom and dad's house, talking about it. She said, Are you going to go to the race this week? I was kind of like, I don't know. I don't have any reason to right now. About 10 minutes later, the cell phone rings. It's (indiscernible). He said, 'Are you ready to go race?' I said, 'Yeah, whatever.'

The race was on Sunday. Led my first laps in IndyCar competition. Got out of the car, my foot had gone numb because I was pushing so hard on the gas pedal. Limping down pit lane because we ran out of gas coming to the start/finish line. John Barnes comes up and said, 'What do you think about going down to Houston with me tomorrow, we'll introduce you to people at Pennzoil because I want you to drive the car after what I saw today?' I thought, 'Wow.' Tuesday night I went down there, they said, 'Good.' We went on with it.

How much things change in one week. It's been about like this week. Last Sunday, I was so mad at the end of the day. Today, I'm unbelievably happy. Each one of those things was a piece of the puzzle to be able to get to where I'm at now. I'm really proud of all the racing that I've been able to do, the people I raced against, the people I raced for. You got to go out there and continue to move yourself up, try to be the best that you can be. I feel that I'm with a team now that gives me exactly what I need to be able to do that. Hopefully we'll go on, continue to win.

I look at Helio today. He didn't have the kind of day he wanted. I think he's still probably leading the championship in points. We go to a road course, which he's pretty good at. We often joked about the fact he won two 500's, and that's what I really wanted to win. But I won the championships. He won the 500s, wanted to really win the championships. Maybe he's got a shot at it now since the 500 didn't go very good for him. We'll give him a good run. I know he's going to be strong.

Each day is something new, brings something new. I'm looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Congratulations on a great day.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers John Barnes , Brian Barnhart