IRL: Sam Hornish Jr. Joliet Champion's interview

SAM HORNISH JR. AND PANTHER RACING Sept. 2, 2001, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill. PAT SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, coming in now is the 2001 Indy Racing League Series champion, Sam Hornish, Jr. (Applause) Well, some quick comments now...

SAM HORNISH JR. AND PANTHER RACING Sept. 2, 2001, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.

PAT SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, coming in now is the 2001 Indy Racing League Series champion, Sam Hornish, Jr. (Applause) Well, some quick comments now about what Sam Hornish has done, and it has been truly superb. Nine times in 12 races this year he has finished on the podium. He has two Indy Racing League victories. They were the first two races of the year, at Phoenix and Homestead. He has been running at the end of all the races this season. Eleven top-10 finishes. The only one out of the top 10, he ran very well in Indianapolis after a spin. Of course, we've got some of the principles here with him. Sam Hornish, now all I need to know is: I've been with you too many times when you just looked like you just were miserable finishing second and third. Are you happy at this moment?

SAM HORNISH: I'm happy we won the points championship. I'd like to win, but we had a great run this year. The Pennzoil Panther guys have done an awesome job all year long for me. They put me in race cars that are absolutely spectacular. We may not have been the fastest at every race this year, but we ran up front. We've got a car that was consistent and that finished. That's the biggest key to going out here and winning the Indy Racing League points championship. It's a tough thing to do, and we're really happy to be in a position where we're at. As you said, we've been in the top three, what is it --

SULLIVAN: Nine times out of 10. Pretty darn good.

HORNISH: I think by any kind of racing, that's pretty spectacular. I credit it to the Pennzoil Panther Racing Team. Just a few people I have to thank right now.

SULLIVAN: Go down the line and introduce these people with you, Sam.

HORNISH: Sitting closest to me is Gary Pedigo, John Barnes, Doug Boles, Mike Griffin and Dave Jemmett. You know, last year I think a lot of people said why are they picking this guy, and what's he going to do? I can't remember who wrote the article, but I saw a little clip in it, and it was the odds of who would win the points championship this year. I think I was two-and-a-half to one or something like that or five to two or something. It said John Barnes is right, he may pick the next boy champion. You know, he made a great decision. That's about the biggest thing, the person I have to thank up here. But other than that Pennzoil, Firestone, Speedway Engines have given me a lot of power, Jim Postl at Pennzoil especially, Oldsmobile, Joe Negri, HPC, Rexall (spelling), Jiffy Lube, Firestone Tires, Meriplex Sports Stage (spelling) and Water Tool Storage gave us all the components that we need to go out and win races this year and keep finishing up towards the front.

SULLIVAN: I can't remember how many top threes you did, you did a pretty good job with the sponsors here, Sam. How about some questions from the group?

Q: There's a lot of people in this room that may never make a million dollars in our whole career. How does it feel to be millionaire at the age of 21?

HORNISH: I wouldn't say right yet that I am a millionaire. Trophy might say I have a million dollars, but it's a heck of a feeling. It wouldn't matter if we were racing for a dollar or a million dollars out there, just to have your name on that trophy, and to know you went out there and accomplished that feat is good enough for the rest of us.

Q: Sam, the obvious speculation before the race was how would you handle this given the points situation? First lap you passed four cars, the second lap you go three wide, and at the end of the race you're making these daring moves to try to get into second place. I mean, were points in your head at all today? What were you thinking about?

HORNISH: Not really. (Laughter) Our goal is to go out there and win everything. Every time we go on the track, we want to be first. Whether it's practice, qualifying or the race, it doesn't matter. The guys show that in their pit stops. They do an awesome job. They get me in and out of there in good time. I think we were in second or third position the first pit stop, we came out in first; they gave me positions every time we were in the pits today. They take a lot of pride in that and that makes me feel good, and we're very happy coming in for a spit stop because I know I'm going to be as fast or faster than anybody else. SULLIVAN: Questions.

Q: Did anybody on your crew say anything to you at all during the race on the headsets like, "Whoa, Sam?" Because you were really doing some amazing things out there.

SULLIVAN: I want to hear this answer because I made a prediction from the booth.

HORNISH: I don't think so. They told me to get going when I was driving around about 215 one time. I had it flat out but they didn't think that was fast enough, so we had to step it up a little bit more. Consistency is the biggest part of this series. You've got to have it flat out on the line all throughout the race or else you're going to fade backwards. We knew we had to finish up front no matter if Buddy was right behind us or if he was 10 laps down. It doesn't matter to us, we want to win.

Q: Sam, you had a pretty big wiggle in turn three on the second lap. How close did you come to losing it?

HORNISH: I don't know. Could you read all the "Pennzoil" down the side of the car? Somebody told me that at the beginning of this weekend, they said, "Could you get it a little bit more sideways coming out of turn four so I can get the whole Pennzoil sign in the picture? I don't try to do that but I can't ever judge how close I am to spinning that; but any time I have to put any kind of correction in, it definitely gets my attention.

SULLIVAN: We've got a question over here.

Q: Sam, can you talk about the feelings, what it's like to win the title, what it means to you, please?

HORNISH: I don't know, I'm not very good at expressing emotion. There's two things, you know. When I'm happy at all, I have a smile. When I'm not, it's pretty much just, you know, old Sam. I don't know if I can express, I don't know if I will ever be able to. It's a real good feeling, it takes a lot of pressure off. We can go and celebrate tonight, relax for a week and go into Texas like it's the first race of the year being able to go out there and just really try to win the race. You know, I'm just so happy. It's really tough to express. But I owe so much of it to the team and to the people that are up here with me. Wisest decision in my eyes that they made last year. (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: Well, Sam and the team, we want to congratulate you. Obviously, it was an awesome run. I was at that open test at Kentucky, by the way. Tested at Kentucky when you vied for that and went out so spectacular in the race. It absolutely was the right choice by this team. I thought so at the time and it certainly is now. I know this is a stayed environment, but -- yeah, go ahead.

DOUG BOLES: John has got somebody he needs to call and wanted to pass something along to Sam. Everybody here would like to hear it.

SULLIVAN: Sam, can you operate that phone?

HORNISH: I guess we'll have to figure that out later.

SULLIVAN: Is this phone-a-friend? (Laughter)

HORNISH: I would like to ask the audience. (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: Do you find that wide range of emotion is really a hit with the gals, Sam? (Laughter)

JOHN BARNES: We just talked to Harbaugh a few minutes ago when he called and he was elated.

SULLIVAN: Jim Harbaugh is who they were calling. Of course, he's been involved with the team for some time. I'm sure he was elated. We wish him well. We have a lot of fans of his back in Indianapolis. What have we got here, John?

HORNISH: Hi, Jim.

JIM HARBAUGH (via phone): Sam, congratulations.

HORNISH: Thank you. I forgot to mention you a little bit ago. I was going down the list of the owners and I forgot one of the most important ones, Jim Harbaugh.

HARBAUGH: You made my day.

SULLIVAN: Did he go? We lost him. That's modern technology for you.

HORNISH: These guys made my year. So I made their day, they make my year. It works out good for me.

SULLIVAN: Well, outstanding run, guys. Congratulations on the title. It was well deserved. (Applause)

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing