<B>Sam Hornish Jr.</B> June 29, 2002 Moderator: Take us through your victory. <B>Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: It was kind of an awkward trip to victory this time. Usually cars that are capable of winning the race have gone in...
<B>Sam Hornish Jr.</B>
June 29, 2002
Moderator: Take us through your victory.
<B>Sam Hornish Jr.</B>: It was kind of an awkward trip to victory this time. Usually cars that are capable of winning the race have gone in front and stayed up front most of the race car all day long. The team has done an awesome job of making the car better every time we went out there. The best 50 laps that the car handled was the last 50. That's just how we wanted to play it. What they do as a team, they work awesome together. Got the car put back together; didn't shortcut anything. Made sure it was going to last all 250 laps. After 150, I wouldn't have said we had anything for him. (Inaudible) Top five would be a luck and top three, that would be a good finish. At first I didn't think we had the car to win. Last 50 laps, I didn't know if we would be able to catch up. It was a stressful day all around.
Q: How concerned were you after you had your little mishap yesterday?
<B>Hornish</B>: I was very concerned. As the primary car, there's different things done, just prepare it a little bit more, check it over, made sure everything was really perfect with it. You take the chance that you might have to go to your backup car, and a car that I was not familiar with. Not the thing that you really like to do, but I knew straightaway that the car was OK, enough to be able to fix it, and come back out. Qualified the same car, and they did a lot of hard work. The biggest thing that hurt us was the lack of 25 minutes of track time that we lost yesterday in that practice session.
Q: At what point did you feel you had the drive-anywhere kind of car that the team usually tries to give you?.
<B>Hornish</B>: Every race that we went to last year we had a car that was capable of running in the top five. (Inaudible) we had a car that was capable of running top three or a winning car. The way the race started out, I thought we had a top-10 car. As the night progressed to a top-five car and a top-three car, and at the end, I was like ... I was going so much deeper into Turns 1 and 2 than Gil and Felipe were running, so I knew that it was going to be hard to get past them because it's so hard to pass here. But I just had to time it right. Once I learned how to time it, it was a little bit easier to get by de Ferran because I knew what I had to do. If I would have waited any longer or it wasn't really a thing that I sat around all night to pull it out at the end. That is the way the car handled. That's how I got up there, and that was a 225-lap race.
Q: A lot has been made of the Penske power and all of the resources and everything but you seem to be somewhat unphased by all of that. Does tonight's performance kind of prove you are right?
<B>Hornish</B>: We're trying to do our own thing, and if we were where we were at last year in points right now, if we had the amount of points that we had last year at this time we would probably be ahead of where we are, but that was last year. This year, we're behind in the points. We're trying catch back up, but the team is working hard every day, and we think we're a championship-quality team and that we're a winning team, so we have to go out there on the track and prove it.
Q: The pass on Giaffone and on de Ferran, looked like the same move. Was the pass on Giaffone a practice move to see if you could do that with de Ferran?
<B>Hornish</B>: I guess the pass on Giaffone was kind of like Driver's Ed, you know, you know how you would do it ... it was Driver's Ed for the pass on de Ferran: You know what you are supposed to do when you are behind the car, most people do, so you wouldn't really need to go to Driver's Ed. You just had to do it before you could do the other part. That's the way I can put it. I knew that they were both their weaknesses were both the same. They were having trouble from mid-corner. They were having trouble entering at mid-corner. They couldn't get their cars turned, but they could accelerate off the corners. So what I had to do was get that weakness, I had to figure out how to time it so that I had two or three car lengths going into the corners so that I didn't have to let off and, you know, use because that's what got me throughout the first laps I was behind Giaffone, I would run in there real hard behind him, I'd slow myself down and I couldn't accelerate off the corner like them so I just had time it so that I had the right distance of cars in front of me to be able to make it by there without having to slow down mid-corner and be able to just shoot by them right a the end of the straightaway, and they had to let off earlier than I did or else they were not going to be turn. I mean, it was just figuring out what their weakness was and trying to beat it.
Q: Your car midway through the race didn't seem to be handling very well. What was the problem, and how did you correct it?
<B>Hornish</B>: The biggest thing about what was going on middle of the race was that we weren't sure about tire pressures because last year we ran really good at the beginning of the race and really good for the last 20 laps, we weren't right there at the end. We couldn't figure how to get through there in the middle. I wouldn't know if we actually got anything but we did change tire pressure a little bit, and put some more front wing in the car. It definitely helped the car out. I had ... I didn't have to put as much lock in the car so I could get the steering out of there. It was a little bit touchy off the corners, but it was just you know, a couple of things we learned from last year about how to make the car turn a little bit better that we learned at Nazareth and Phoenix and some of other places that we ran at this year.
Q: Sam, it looked like Scheckter was giving you as much problem from behind there at the end as you were having with drivers in front of you. Were you as concerned with Scheckter as anything?
<B>Hornish</B>: Well, I was concerned about the fact that when I got out there and I got close to Giaffone, I kept letting off so that I could get my run on him. I was trying to space it right, but then I let off on the back straightaway just a little bit, and I didn't realize how close he was, and he got a run on me. So my plan about backfired on me real quick there. I was just lucky enough that he was fighting the same problems that de Ferran and Giaffone were, that it didn't seem like they could drive it hard into the corner, where my car worked really well going into the corner. I had a little bit of trouble mid (corner), but I could drive it a lot deeper than they could.
Q: You said about Penske, you kind of downplayed that a little bit, but how sweet was it to beat both of those cars or at least one of them here on a track they consider so important given their sponsorship here in town?
<B>Hornish</B>: The downplay, I don't understand that.
Q: You just said that you are just trying to run your season this year, and not worry so much about the Penske cars, but I think we all know that you know, you have been contending with them so much this year, how sweet was it to win, to beat them here?
<B>Hornish</B>: Well, I mean, like I have said before, I want to go out there and beat anybody, but when I can beat people and take points away from them, that's even better. So you know, they are two really tough competitors, those two seem like they have been the ones that I have been around on the track all year long, and you know, it's just some days it's going to be their day; some days it's going to be my day. It just seems like I keep learning and trying to do it when it's my day to make sure that I take advantage of every opportunity I can and don't throw it away by having any problems early in the race. I have done that too many times this year.
Q: Do you remember where you were on the last restart?
<B>Hornish</B>: Sixth. At the beginning of the last restart I started right behind Little Al (Unser), and just Little Al was practice for the car in front of him, and he was practice for Giaffone, and you know, our car was better going into the corner than anybody else's. I could brake it in there, I could run it in there harder, and that's where we set out today.
Q: Sam, give yourself a mid-term grade, three wins out of the eight races at the mid-point of the season so far this year, and it looks like you are gaining a little bit of momentum.
<B>Hornish</B>: Three wins, two thirds and three bad finishes, so, hopefully we'll keep going in the win direction. But as a grade probably give myself a B. I am not where I need to be. I need to be at an A. I made some mistakes, and hopefully I will do good on my finals, I guess.
Q: You passed Driver's Ed tonight; right?
<B>Hornish</B>: I guess so. I learned what I needed to learn and used it for my advantage, and that's the biggest thing is to be around for the end of the race, and that's the thing that I keep learning more and more every time I am out there. If you are not there for the end, you can't win, so you don't always need to be up in the front and don't need to lead every lap of the race, but it sure is nice.
Moderator: Congratulations on the win, Sam, best of luck the rest of the season.
<B>Hornish</B>: Thank you.