IRL: Sam Hornish Jr press conference, part I

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript September 23, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr. Part 1 of 2 K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing conference call for this week, Tuesday, September 23. Today we will take a look at ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
September 23, 2003

Sam Hornish Jr.

Part 1 of 2

K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing conference call for this week, Tuesday, September 23. Today we will take a look at the IndyCar Series points chase with drivers Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish, Jr. Heading into the final race of the 2003 IndyCar Series schedule, just 19 points separate the top four drivers in the point standings, two of whom are joining us today.

Now we would like to welcome IndyCar Series driver Sam Hornish, Jr. Hornish is the driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone and he has won two consecutive IndyCar Series races, those being the Delphi Indy 300 on September 7 at Chicagoland Speedway and, most recently, the Toyota Indy 400 September 21 at California Speedway. This past weekend at California, he averaged 207.151 mph, setting a record for the fastest race on a closed course in auto-racing history. Sam currently lies fourth in points with 448, just 19 points behind leaders Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. Sam, good morning and thanks for joining us today.

S. Hornish: Good morning.

K. Johnson: To start with, I believe you are playing the globetrotter right now. You and your father, I believe, are taking the motor coach from Fontana to Texas. Where are you calling us from?

S. Hornish: Actually, we are calling you from inside the Texas Motor Speedway right now.

K. Johnson: So, you travel like you drive and that is pretty fast.

S. Hornish: Yes, pretty quick.

K. Johnson: Following your second place finish at Nazareth last month, you made a comment along the lines of to have a chance to win the championship, you would have to win the remainder of the races. Now, to this point you have done that. When you made that comment, did you really think you had a realistic shot of winning the remaining races?

S. Hornish: I think when we had the opportunity to get to Gen IV, that we were going to have an opportunity to win the remainder of the races that we ran with it. You know, we fell about four feet short at Michigan and about a car length short at Nazareth, and things would be a lot different right now if we had won that race. But, you know, that is part of the deal, you have to go in and do the best you can on the tracks that you have remaining, and we have really been making the best of having this Gen IV engine and we are just really looking forward to this last race here at Texas. You know, a lot of things can happen. We are going to have to have some of the guys that are not in the points get up there and start racing hard, and maybe that will give us an opportunity to win the championship.

K. Johnson: Now, it seems like every week we hear another driver talk about your ability to run where no one else can go, be it with the Gen IV or the previous generation Chevrolet motor. Can you tell us where along your career you developed this knack for knowing how to set up your car to drive the way you do and your car control ability?

S. Hornish: Well, you know, I have a real good engineer in Andy Brown at Panther Racing and we work hand in hand very well on the setup, the simulations, and they just really give me cars that I can go out there and do what I want to with. The thing about it is that we are all focused on one thing, and that is having a fast race car and we do not get worried when somebody is running fast, and we know we just have to go out, do our own thing and maintain our consistency and be able to run the car wherever we want to, because more times than not, it will heat up, it will get windy, you will get stuck in traffic, this will happen, that will happen. So, you always need to have a good handling car and we have just been lucky enough to have maintained our focus and know that that is a big thing to us, and that is what is going to make it fast and make us be able to move that car around.

K. Johnson: When you are chasing another driver down, do you think it kind of plays into their heads, a little bit, knowing that 99 percent of the time Hornish could be outside, he could be inside, when they are stuck in a single groove?

S. Hornish: Yes. I mean, I don't know, it depends on what track you are at, you know, how well your car is actually handling. But, you know, that is a good thing, because some drivers, I know they will go around me high or they will only go around me low, and it is good to be able to switch that up once in a while. You know, anybody can do it either way, but we just have been fortunate enough to know how to get it done that we can often do it either way.

K. Johnson: Now, you and the Panther race team have won the last two season finales at Texas, but you have not had the best of luck during the night races at Texas. Is it a different track from night to day, or what has been the difference in your luck at these two events?

S. Hornish: I don't know. The first year we ran here, we had a problem with where the air scoop goes onto the motor. It actually kind of moved, and we lost some pressure going into the engine. The second time we ran here at the night race, we got hit in the side and spun into the wall, and this year we just were a little bit under-horsepower and could not get up there and run with these guys. So, we came out in the top 10, which was what we were aiming to do the whole weekend, because we knew that we were under-horsepower. That was a good finish for us, and that was almost like a win for us to be able to come out of here in the top 10 knowing that there is about eight other cars that were capable of beating us because of having the more horsepower. So, we have had a lot better luck, I guess, at the day race and Panther Racing itself has, they have won three in a row at the day race here, one with Scott (Goodyear) and two with me and, hopefully, we will make it four.

K. Johnson: We have heard about it from Mark Taylor's perspective, talking about wanting to follow in your footsteps with Panther Racing, but comment, if you would, on your perspective of the dominance that Mark Taylor and the Fulmar Panther Racing Team had in the Infiniti Pro Series this year.

S. Hornish: They had a tremendous amount of good fortune this year, as well as fortune that they made for themselves, so it has been great to see them do as well as they have. I know that it is kind of a hard position to be in, because, you know, you want to wish them luck, but then again, you don't know what will happen next year, but I wish Panther Racing luck with whatever happens next year and whoever they put in the car. You know, all the guys on the team, they do a great job, they are all really good guys, and hopefully, the hard work that they put in next year will be worth it.

K. Johnson: With the last race coming on, obviously it's do or die for a lot of people. You have to win, but several drivers have to win, because with the reliability of the engines and the chassis in the IndyCar Series, it does not look like people are going to blow up and fall out of the race.

S. Hornish: Yes, that is true. I mean, you may have people taking it to a lower level trying to squeeze that last little bit of horsepower out because it is the last race of the year, but, you know, I really do not see that happening because there are so many people that are up there and capable of winning. You know, with five guys that are capable of winning, everybody is going to be trying real hard to win this race and to win the championship. So, that is what puts me at a little bit of an advantage is the fact that I am not just chasing one guy down, it is that I have, there are four or five us capable of winning this championship, so everybody is running just as hard as they can.

K. Johnson: As the season has progressed, you knew you had the Gen IV engine coming onboard midway through the year, but did you really think that once you had it as your power plant, that you would take off the way you have, because not every team has had the kind of luck that you have had with the power plant?

S. Hornish: Everybody has had tremendous luck with the fact that they continue to run and that it's a good reliable engine. We knew where we were running that, you know, everybody, a lot of the other teams thought we were getting special treatment from Chevrolet, and it has really proved that the fact that we have had more, our setups were working a little bit better and that we could do a little bit more with the Gen III than what some of the other teams could do, and we have been fortunate enough that once we got the power and we are on an equal footing, that we go to tracks that we like. That is the thing, you know, when I go to a track, there is not one of them that I dislike going to or think that 'oh, we have to go run here.' You know, I love all of these tracks, and I think that they all have their own little unique characteristic that makes it fun and interesting. You know, I wish a lot of things would have went different at the beginning of the year, even if we just, you know, we had a problem with an alternator at Kansas and had a problem with a wristpin at Indianapolis, and just look at those two races and we would be tied or ahead in the points right now and it would not be so much do or die, it would just be go out there and, of course, we want to win the race, but you do not have to, and then also have to have other guys finish fourth. It is just going to be a tremendous battle, and that gets back against us. We came from Nazareth being 81 points to 41 to 19. We cannot cut it in half again, we have to get the whole deficit this time.

K. Johnson: Looking back to that 2000 season when you started your IndyCar Series career with PDM racing, was there any even remote possibility that over the next two years, you would be the series champion and then, in the third year, have a shot at doing a three-peat?

S. Hornish: I mean, that is what I would have wanted to happen, but I never really thought that would happen. You know, I have said before that I never really even knew if I would make it to Indy cars or ever win an Indy car race, and I am just really thankful that I have been able to run as many races as I have, and there is a lot worse things that could happen than not winning this championship this year. I am just glad that I had the opportunities at the right time, that the IRL was there, because, you know, there was nowhere for me to go in CART or Formula 1 or anything like that, it was just either run Indy cars or try to start up some kind of a stock-car career. And, having the opportunity with the IRL and with a team like PDM, to be able to go out there and to put my face on the map a little bit, I guess, and then to get Panther to notice me and then also to get into that car and to have the success that we have had. You know, PDM was as much a critical year as last year or the year before or even this year was. It was the make or break year, and it was, fortunately, a year that was a make year.

Q: Good morning Sam, congratulations on a great win on Sunday. Is that meaningful to you to be the first man ever to win a race with an average speed in excess of 200 miles an hour? I think that some people kind of treat it like our astronaut types up here in the high desert treat the sound barrier.

S. Hornish: Yes, that is pretty cool, I think. You know, it was close a couple of times this year. We were getting closer and closer, and I think that is really neat, not only just setting the mark, but by more than seven miles an hour. I think that, like I was listening to the call before and, like Tony (Kanaan) said, it is not just the drivers that do that or me, it is all of the drivers come together, all the teams come together in making that possible, because, if you have guys crashing or parts falling off or engines blowing up and what not, you do not get races like that. It was kind of neat, not only for me to be the winning driver of that race, but also to have it happen in the IRL, because it has been such close, clean competitive racing for the last three years that it is good to have that little bit of record in the IRL's name, also.

Part II

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Series IndyCar
Teams Panther Racing