IRL: Sam Hornish Jr press conference, part II

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript August 19, 2003 Sam Hornish Jr. Part 2 of 2 Q: You were just absolutely awesome, but then you have been awesome all year with inferior engine power, so what can I say? Beyond that, you ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
August 19, 2003

Sam Hornish Jr.

Part 2 of 2

Q: You were just absolutely awesome, but then you have been awesome all year with inferior engine power, so what can I say? Beyond that, you did mention that you are looking at a lot of different things. Have you had any inquiries from any Formula 1 teams or any talk about testing?

Hornish: No, I have not.

Q: Would you be interested in it if it were available to you?

Hornish: I will look at any opportunity with a very closely. Very closely, I would look at any kind of opportunity. That one has not been presented to me yet.

Q: You would look at it, but you have had nothing at this point?

Hornish: Nope.

Q: Well, I hope they figure out that you are that good and give you a test at some point.

Hornish: Thank you.

Q: Sam, you referred to making this tough decision, but as I talked to a friend of mine, a legal man in Chicago, yesterday, he said that you would not have made this decision yesterday without already having a plan. Do you already have a basic agreement in place with a team in particular? It is just a matter of working out the details?

Hornish: We are pretty close right now. Nothing is set in stone, but pretty close.

Q: But with one team? We are not talking about negotiating with multiples at this point?

Hornish: No.

Q: I was little confused on whether or not you at least were close to making the deal. And if I may ask you this, it is a rare breed today that one would announce that he is leaving one team and does not have a deal. Talk about why you finally decided to make this announcement.

Hornish: We are pretty close to the deal. Everything was not quite done yet. I told Panther Racing I would let them know by mid-August. I wanted to keep my word to them. It does not look like that was what it was going to be, so I decided that in order to give them enough time to get everything going for next year-- They have a big thing ahead of them, too, of selecting a driver to replace me. That is tough, just based on the fact that you have to go through contract negotiations. You have to test people. I do not want to leave them out in the cold. I did not want to keep them hanging on and waiting and whatever else. Plus, it gives me free room to be able to talk to people and not feel guilty about it or not have to really do any sneaking around. I just do my thing.

Q: Do you know that in this 'Me First' society, that is not the way things are done?

Hornish: I do know, I guess I try not to look at it that way. They have done right by me in almost everything that they have done, and I try to do the same thing for them.

Q: I did not say that as a negative. I said that in a sense to congratulate.

Hornish: Thank you.

Q: Are you getting married in October? Is that right?

Hornish: Some time next year.

Q: Oh, next year.

Hornish: Yes.

Q: What has been tougher, proposing or making this decision for you?

Hornish: Man, I do not know. I cannot answer that without getting myself in trouble one way or another. I think that this has been a tougher decision. Proposing was easier, because I did not really even think twice about it. I just did it. So, this has been something that has been on my mind for over a year now. I kind of just one day decided that that was the day I was going to go get a ring, and I was just going to wait for the right time before I asked her. So it was just one of those things that kind of happened.

Q: You know you are leaving a team that has been superb in providing you a car. Do you feel that you will find another team that is equal, in a way, to giving you a car like performed Sunday?

Hornish: Yes, I do. I mean Panther Racing will be hard to replace. They have done such a good job. I feel that the next position I put myself in, I have to look at it from the point of view that I think that I can find somewhere that will give me the same equipment. I would not do it if I did not think that that was a possibility.

Q: Let's change the subject a little bit. What about Nazareth? What kind of track is that to you? You had the accident there, I believe, in the past?

Hornish: Yes, I have had a couple of get-togethers there, which isn't very good, but that is part of racing. I have had some fast race cars there and have ran good there but have not had the finishes. Hopefully, this year we will have another fast race car, but we will get the finish. I really look forward to going to Nazareth. It is a nice little short track, which I like. So, hopefully, we will be able to do as well there as we did last weekend.

Q: Sam, not to be presumptuous here that you are going to leave the IRL or go to NASCAR or anything, but the first thing you have to do is do what is right for yourself. How difficult is it for the IRL, however, when some of its best drivers, such as yourself, Tony Stewart and others in the past, leave the series right at about a time where the series has gotten to be strong and is starting to gain a little bit more popularity, one of its biggest stars to possibly leave?

Hornish: That is tough. That is weighing on my mind a lot at times. I think that there are a lot of good drivers in the league right now. I do not think of myself as a star or anything. I just go out and drive race cars. That is how I view myself. I try to look at it from the point of view of -- a lot of people told me that, and I try to put myself in that position. I don't really know how to react. I am trying my best to keep as many people happy as I can. I know that, like you said, I have to try to make myself happy, too. I look at it from the point of view that I have an opportunity that I will continue to do my best in whatever I do. Hopefully, the decisions that I make are the right ones. Somebody is going to be happy and somebody's not going to happy no matter what I do. I just have to look at it from what's going to be the best thing for me in the long run, put me in the position to win the most races and do the things that I want to do in the future.

Q: Are you a guy who is motivated by challenges? Two years ago, when you won your championship you beat the best teams that were homegrown teams in the IRL. Last year, the most successful team in open-wheel history came over and tried to take you on and you beat them, with Penske Racing. Now, with a lot of the other teams that have come over from CART this season, even though the first half of the year they dominated, you proved on Sunday that, given a heads up fight, you can beat them. Is this kind of the situation where you want to take on another challenge?

Hornish: Yes, but I mean there are challenges out there and there are challenges within the league also. I want to set the record for the most wins. Right now we have a lead, but there are a lot of guys behind me, so I cannot give up quite yet. I want to win the Indy 500. There are all these different things that I want to do, so I can't just say 100 percent that going and doing something completely different is going to make all the difference and give so many more challenges. There are many things to be taken care of here also. I continually weigh things on both hands and try to always figure out what is best for me and is going to keep me happy, keep me focused and try to move in the right direction.

Q: And, just to draw off something that you had said earlier, how can the Indy Racing League expand its pond if some of its best fish swim downstream?

Hornish: I would feel different about that if I was, maybe, like the first guy that did it. It kind of continues to happen. Kenny Brack was here and won the Indy 500 and won the championship and went and did something different. Now he is back. Tony Stewart won the championship and went and did something different, and he is still there. If I was the first guy to do it I would feel real bad about it, but I have not made my decision or my announcement yet, so I can't say exactly what I'm going to be doing.

Q: Wherever you end up next year, is Pennzoil going to be a part of that program?

Hornish: I don't know if that is going to happen again. The way it looks right now, probably not.

Q: Sam, a couple quick ones. When you started with PDM and then you go to Panther, obviously it was about opportunity more than money. Then you got hooked up with John Caponigro who has represented Mario and Michael Andretti. It is easy to say this is not about money, but at this point in your life, when you have proved your worth as you have the last three years, it has to sometimes be about money. John Barnes was quoted in Curt's story today saying, 'We did not get to make an offer.' Was it more money with that decision or the fact that Panther could only offer one venue, one series?

Hornish: I told them, I said, 'It is not about the money.' They said, 'Well, why don't we get to make an offer?' The opportunities aren't always measured in money. There's lots of times intangibles, where there is a possibility to do outside things, to have other relationships that aren't necessarily just 'How much money I can get?' They were very close on what they were doing. They kept me very happy inside the race car as well as out of it. Sometimes things just can't be matched up.

Q: Just wondering, as dominating and typical 'Sam Hornish' as that was on Sunday, how excited are you about the prospect of bringing these guys in and getting your three-peat in Texas in October?

Hornish: I am super excited about it. I hope things go as well this weekend as it did last weekend. I think that if anybody has a shot at it, we do. It is really kind of a long shot. I don't want to make it sound like it is going to be easy. We are going to have to win about three out of the next four races. The way I look at it, I haven't given up yet. I'm not going to give up until the last lap of the last race, or whenever it is proven that I can't do it.

Q: You have won at those last three tracks that the IRL is going to race this year. I know you love the sport of open wheel and you carry the banner for it. I'm just kind of curious what sense you get, because there was no circuit in the world that has wheel to wheel at 225 like you guys have, and these incredible crazy finishes with a microscope to figure out who won. I just wonder what sense you get of the growth. You were on the sideline at the Orange Bowl, got some national TV time there. Are you getting some sense that this thing is starting to turn because of the speed and the competitive racing that you guys have put up, that not many series, I do not think any series, would be able to match?

Hornish: I t is kind of funny, because I will say how competitive the races are, and sometimes you get a run away winner and things are really good. But we have had so many races this year and in the past couple of years that have been so close. I think that the IRL speaks for itself. The racing speaks for itself as far as just being able to go out there and run that close, side by side. How many side-by-side laps did I run this last weekend? There were no yellows for cautions. The fans got to see plenty of racing, that's for sure. It's not like 50 laps of caution in a 200-lap race. I'm not saying that we never have wrecks, but it was just such a good race. A lot of these tracks that we go to just really provide a good show for the fans and they really get their monies worth. I hope they keep coming out, because the IRL is trying real hard to make sure that they have a good product out there on the racetrack. They have 20 cars that are capable of winning instead of just five. It's lot of fun for me to be out there and be part of that.

Q: Just wanted to get your thoughts on returning to the California Speedway and defending your title there.

Hornish: I am excited about it, actually. I only got to race one time at California Speedway, and what a great day it was. I am really looking forward to coming back out there. They have the 'Walk of Fame' out there and, actually, the morning of the race they are going to have me go put my handprint in the concrete. It's going to be a very exciting weekend on that point of view, and hopefully we will have a good race car out there, and we will be running up there fighting for the win. Hopefully, we will not make it that close this year.

Q: You can respond if you would like to, Sam, but for about 45 minutes we have badgered you as though you have been interrogated, and I want to say that you have a pretty level head and a pretty level temper for not telling us all to go to hell.

Hornish: I know you guys are doing your job, and you want to get the story first. I understand that. I will give you the answers the best that I can. I know the media is a very important part of racing in general. You get our names out there. I always try to give you the opportunity to present me in a positive light versus a negative. That is a lot of my motivation. I would like to thank you guys for being as good about it.

Q: So, are you going to NASCAR?

Hornish: It's not decision time. It is not announcement time, yet.

Q: Is Pennzoil, do you feel like they want to go with you wherever you end up going? What about Andy Brown? Might he be part of your package?

Hornish: The way I look at everything is that, if they were to be interested -- I have not talked to them either way, either of those two parties that you are talking about. I feel that those are the two pieces that were there when I came there. If they were to do something different, I would never want to sit there and try to pull any parts of that team apart and to make anything harder on those guys than it already is. I think that if they are doing something different and it happens to work out that way then that is one thing. I certainly would not be the one to promote it or to try to make it happen.

Q: Sam, I know that the Chevy guys did not test at Nazareth this year, at all. The Honda guys and Toyota guys were here. What do you see from a Chevy at Nazareth?

Hornish: We had a pretty good setup last year. The Nazareth track does not tend to change too much. While we are going with a new car, we are going to adapt our setup from last year. It is a three-day event, which will help us out a lot. We will see what we can work out as far as putting things together and see if we can get close. I have enough faith in the engineering staff at Panther Racing that I know that, even on some of the tracks that we do not go and test at, that they are going to get things put together the way they need to be and then work on it from that point. We will just try to tweak on it during the race and if we miss by a little bit we miss it by a little bit. That's how it goes. We used a lot of our testing time up at some of the bigger tracks, doing the testing on the Gen IV engine and to make sure that that was ready to go at Michigan. We had to pick and choose sometimes. That was one of the tracks that there was not any tie up on the order, because that was really the only short track that we were going to run out after we got the Gen IV, so it was not a track that we needed to spend a lot of time testing at.

Q: What is the biggest benefit of the new Chevy engine? Where is it? Is it straightaway speed or in the corners? Where is it?

Hornish: The good thing about the new engine is that it not only has more horsepower, it has more torque and it also gets better fuel mileage than the previous Gen III engine. So, when you can do those three things, when you can get the more horsepower and more torque and use less fuel, I mean, that's great. This year, we really struggled on the short tracks. We would be running good, and we would be passing people, dealing with the fact that we are down a little bit in horsepower, and then we had to pit earlier, and then we just kind of had things, yellow flags would come out, just strange little things. Really, it means that they really hit a home run as far as getting three things to be better, and those three things are really tough to do. And, now that we have the most horsepower, we can also go farther without stopping. That is something that is great, because there are a lot of times when you make a pit stop and within a lap a yellow flag comes out, and that is the difference between winning the race and finishing 10th. So when we can stop with everybody else and have the same amount of horsepower and when we have a better setup, we will win the races and sometimes we won't.

Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kenny Brack , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske