IRL: Sam Hornish Jr press conference, part II

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript September 23, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr. Part 2 of 2 Q: It really says something about the conduct of the people on the track, though, Sam, doesn't it? Because even if somebody doesn't mean to...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
September 23, 2003

Sam Hornish Jr.

Part 2 of 2

Q: It really says something about the conduct of the people on the track, though, Sam, doesn't it? Because even if somebody doesn't mean to do it, but for whatever reason, gets out of line for just a second and you have a wheel touch, I mean, it doesn't take much to create a calamity because you are moving so fast.

S. Hornish: Yes, you know, a lot of guys have respect for each other out there, and the fans that came out to the race, there was no shortage of close racing. I know that I was stuck in it most of the day, and I think that that really shows that when you can run that close together in that big of packs, and to have that kind of racing at over 220 miles per hour, that it just really shows how competitive the cars are, how equal the engine manufacturers all have become and what a good product Firestone puts out there, and also the trust that the drivers have in each other.

Q: Sam, you won two years for the first time and then the monster, Marlboro Team Penske, came over and you still remained champion last year. Now Honda and Toyota have come over this year, and when the dust clears in Texas, Sam Hornish is going to have a three-peat, anyway. It is kind of interesting the challenges you have dealt with the last three years, the last two years, especially.

S. Hornish: Yes, I mean it has been tough, but we came into the first year with Panther Racing and a lot of people were wondering why they put me in the car, and we stepped up and we did what we had to do and it was, 'Oh, that was a fluke, Penske is here.' Then we were able to win the championship, and then, 'Oh, OK, now the other engine manufacturers are here, now we will see what really happens.' It is great that, not only for myself, but for the Panther team and also for Chevrolet, to be back up in it, and they will still be able to have a shot at winning this championship. You know, we can't ask for too much more. We were kind of dealt a bad hand at the beginning of the year, but we did the best that we could with it and finished races and did the best that we could, and then when we got everything that we needed, we have been able to capitalize on that. Hopefully, it will be enough. We'll just have to wait and see. I'm sure it will be very exciting.

Q: I know you are very proud of the IRL, and you are proud of the oval series. When you see somebody like a Mark Taylor, a fellow employee of yours who came over from England and actually has told us on this conference call several times that he has actually found that he likes oval racing a lot more than he thought he would, and he is not like 'OK, I am going back to Europe now to do something else,' and you know everybody said Tomas Scheckter was going to go test for an F1 team after he was here for a year, does it say something about this kind of racing and everything else about the IRL? It seems like you are winning drivers over as well as fans.

S. Hornish: I think that the IRL has a good package. You know, of course they want to go to some road courses at some point in time. I think what makes the IRL really strong is the fact that it has a good package car for the ovals, and you really get a lot of close competition, and there is no room for an error. I mean, you cannot, you know, you cannot go into the corner and get the car way out of shape or spin. I mean, once in a while you will get lucky enough to spin and not hit anything, but it isn't very often, and I think that that is really something that those guys have found. What they like is that it is challenging, but it is challenging on a different level. You do not have to go in there and try to out-brake everybody and go into the first corner of the lap. You can't win it on the first lap, but you can definitely win on the last lap, and the big thing is being there to be able to do that. You just have to, I think, that all of those things that have been said by the other drivers, that maybe this was their thought when they came over here, and now they've had a lot of fun doing it. I have always loved ovals. I was predominantly a road-course racer, but every time I got a chance to race an oval, I've seemed to want to do it, and I seemed to be OK at it, and so I have kind of a tendency to like the IRL and the oval side of the run.

Q: Sam, I am assuming you are in town to test, is that right?

S. Hornish: Yes, well, we are going to test next week, but we wanted to bring the motor home over and spend some time with my Dad, so we kind of, 1400 miles in between yesterday morning and today.

Q: I guess you heard Tony (Kanaan) say that he was not going to test at TMS originally, that, I guess, Bryan (Herta) was, but he wanted to leave no stone unturned and any thoughts in his mind. Is that basically the way you are looking at it, even with all of your success at TMS?

S. Hornish: I mean, we always come here and test for the fall race. We always test it for the fall race because it is a decent finale and, I don't know, maybe that is why we do better here. Maybe we should have started to come to test for the night race. But, we always come and test here, and me being the only driver for Panther right now, you know, I don't have that opportunity to let somebody else test. I always want to know what the car is doing and be able to get the mechanical setup, and I think they are going to put (Mark) Taylor in the car and let him run around on the day after I run. So, that will be his first test, but basically I am just coming here to set the car up.

Q: The word is out here that you are at Texas to potentially run that Eddie Gossage tire truck around and try to find that third groove.

S. Hornish: Well, I don't know, maybe. If it is there, we will find it, but you know there has been, you know, this track is so good for competitive racing and close, competitive racing. I think the third groove is there already, but I don't know if there are four, and I think these guys, you know, somebody will be trying to make it happen if they are in fourth place going into the last lap of this race and they are trying to win that championship.

Q: And the reason I bring that up, Sam, is I have watched you all year, and even when you didn't have the Gen IV power, you were still able to set your car up to where, with the power you had, you could pretty much run flat out everywhere you went. How have you guys been able to do that, to really get the handling and the setup and the balance of the car, whereas maybe the other competitors have not been able to do that?

S. Hornish: It is just like I said earlier. We have been very good at being able to maintain our focus on what is important to us on race weekend, and we can go out to the first practice and somebody runs five miles an hour faster than us, and we don't get all worried and start taking downforce off the car. We just keep going about our business, do our thing, know what the car has to have, the amount of downforce that it has to have to go out there and race and to be quick.

Q: Now they have the Team Texas Driving School out there. Any itch you have while you are sitting there in the Speedway to go over and hop in one of those cars?

S. Hornish: Not really, I'm just trying to keep myself in shape and as injury-free as I can until after the race is over.

Q: Last Sunday, I watched you in victory lane, and I have seen you happy in victory lane before, but it just seemed like you were the happiest that you have been in a long time. In other words, there was another Sam Hornish, Jr. that came out at that moment. Was this just extra special?

S. Hornish: It was pretty good. It was a good day for us to be able to do that. You know, the only way that we could have won this championship was to win, and we continue to do that and, hopefully, it will be enough. But, you know, with all the people saying that it could not be done and that Chevrolet was not going to be able to go up there and compete and even though they got the Gen IV, they are not ever going to catch up and all the negative things that were said, just to know that we are within 19 points and, you know, being 117 points out or whatever we were after Nashville, to be able to come back and to be where we are at, you know, I am pretty happy with that, and I will just continue to do what I do and, hopefully, we will have smiling faces at the end of the day at Texas.

Q: Was it a situation when you reached victory lane that it dawned on you that the biggest part of the challenge of overcoming the deficit since Nashville, you had reached that pinnacle, and now all of a sudden you are back in the fight?

S. Hornish: You know, we are definitely back in the fight, but I would much rather come in a little bit less out, because if I win the race and either Helio (Castroneves) or Scott (Dixon) finish fourth, you know, I am still going to lose the championship unless I lead the most laps in the race, and I am either going to lose by one or win by one if either one of those guys finishes fourth, and that does not put me in a very good position, because with the way that Scott has been running and the way that Helio has been running, and especially the way that Tony (Kanaan) has been running, all four of us can win this race. There is no doubt in my mind that a couple of us are going to be in the top three, and it just seems to really pan out into our favor, and I don't know what is going to happen. I am just excited to see what happens. I wish we could run it today, because it is going to be a long three weeks trying to figure out in my mind what is going to happen and who is going to be where and who is going to be happy at the end of the day.

Q: Since you came on the national scene, it appears that you thrive on challenges. The bigger the challenge, the better you seem to do. Is that a pretty fair assessment?

S. Hornish: You know, whatever it is, I just want to win. I don't care. You know, throw the challenge out, may it be big, may it be small, I just want to win, and so I'll do the best I can and try to accomplish that.

Q: Sam, I have a theory that racing is more competition than speed, and I think it was proven at Fontana where you take a car that has less horsepower, but you run 10 miles an hour faster and, obviously, the show was spectacular. Where do you stand on this speed versus competition issue?

S. Hornish: You know, I think that we need to have enough speed to where the cars are hard to drive so that you, you don't have somebody up there that shouldn't be, but you know, I think that we do not need to be going 250 miles an hour, either, because I don't know too many people that have crashed at 250 miles per hour, but I would imagine it hurts a lot worse than 210 or 215.

Q: I talked to Bryan Herta over the weekend, and he had some great things to say about Brian Barnhart and his leadership, and we have seen what happens in other series when the emotions get so high. Do you agree that Barnhart has been able to keep the drivers satisfied and to keep the competition high and the show as great as it is in the IRL?

S. Hornish: You know, first of all, Brian does a great job. He knows what he expects out of us drivers. The other factor is that we cannot hit each other. You know, we can, but when you hit somebody else, you are taking a big chance that you are going to take yourself out as well as the other person. I think that has a lot to do with it, too. We all know that there is no messing around. If you screw up, you are going to get penalized for it, so it is best not to screw up. So, going into the latter part of the year, it is really hard to make an officiating call, and Brian has really put it upon all of us drivers to go out there, and he said, 'I don't want to make a call that decides the championship, so you guys go out there and do your job, and if I have to make the call that decides the championship, then we did not do our jobs,' and it is not really his thing. So, he knows enough about drivers, and we all know what he expects out of us, to go out there and work great against each other.

Q: I know you cannot live your life on 'what ifs,' but except for, maybe, 15 miles at Indy and a couple of instances at Michigan, this would be a cakewalk instead of a battle when you get to Texas.

S. Hornish: Yes, it definitely would have been. But, you know, that is life, you know, not everything is going to always work your way. We kept our heads up. We did not complain when we didn't have the power earlier this year. We did the best that we could do. I feel that we put everything that we had on the table, and we are just going to see if we can stack up and make it enough. It is going to be a tough race here in Texas, but I'm really excited to see what happens and, hopefully, it will all work out.

K. Johnson: Sam, that is all the time we have for our call today. Again, I appreciate you making the effort and taking the time to join us when you are out on the road, and we offer you the best of luck in your season finale at Texas.

S. Hornish: Thank you.

Part I

Tony Kanaan press conference

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske