IRL: Sam Hornish Jr press conference

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Sam Hornish Jr Q: Thanks very much. Good afternoon, Sam. Sam, when you look at Michigan and the new horsepower that you have, are you concerned about reliability? S. Hornish: Not really. I mean, we've...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference
Sam Hornish Jr

Q: Thanks very much. Good afternoon, Sam. Sam, when you look at Michigan and the new horsepower that you have, are you concerned about reliability?

S. Hornish: Not really. I mean, we've done so much, so many tests laps and we've got about 800 miles of testing on these new engines. And, while you can't go out and do 400 miles, you know, just keep fueling the car up. You can't do that, because when you're doing the original test, you've got to keep looking at things and checking things and checking the exhaust work and intake and you know monitoring the engine to make sure there aren't any metal shavings because, you know, the last thing that they want to have happen is to be running an engine and having it break. Because once it's broke, it's hard to tell what broke first. So, they'd rather just, you know, run 10 laps, come in, look at it, run 10 laps, come in, look at it. And then, if anything spikes, like oil pressure or anything, then they'd want to come in. And you know, they'd spend half an hour to 45 minutes looking at it and making sure that there's nothing wrong. Then, we'd go out and run some more and it's just, you know, it's just that you don't get the chance to run it 400 miles. But, I think that, in my opinion, it's kind of like stop-and-go traffic is harder than just driving your vehicle. So I think that if an engine can run over 400 miles, running, being hot, cooling down, being hot, cooling down, I think that it will go to 400 without a problem.

Q: When you look at what you guys have been able to accomplish with the drop in horsepower that you've had with the Chevy engine, and the fact that you have been able, at times, to work your way up front, how proud does that make you of A- your talents; and B- the talents of your team to put a good package underneath you that will give you the handling to make up for the lack of horsepower?

S. Hornish: Well, we've got one focus and you know, I've worked with racing long enough that we all know what we need pretty much. They know what to do to make the car handle how I want to, and I know how to tell them what's going to be a good thing for our car as far as, you know, we don't really go into those things. We can be a half-a-mile faster if you want to drive the car loose, you know. We know that that's not going to help us in the long run. We know that's not going to be the right thing for us. So, we got a really good working relationship. In the past couple of years people, you know, we've got a lot of criticism from people who've said we had a better engine and, 'The reason you guys are doing as well as you are is because you've got so much more horsepower than everybody else.' And, you know, I think, together, this shows and really proves how much we work as a team and how well we fit together. But, it's part of just knowing what each other's talents are and making the best of them.

Q: Do you think this has made you a better team? Maybe even a little closer?

S. Hornish: I don't know as far as a better team. I think it's probably made me a little bit better of a driver, made me more patient than what I had been, because you can't afford to make mistakes. And I think that that showed in Indianapolis this year. You know, I just made my moves when I could. Maybe I made a couple that were probably a little bit pushy, but when you're fighting with a little bit less than what you need, sometimes you have to make those moves. But everything was kind of calculated. I think it's made me a little bit more of a calculating driver and trying to see the move done before it's done, instead of just going ahead and just doing it. And, I think that that's worked out this year for us. And, there's been a couple of times where, because it's really hard to lose momentum in these cars, you have to just really position a lot of things. And I think that, sooner or later, when we get what we need, we're going to really show that.

Q: The next victory sure will be sweet, won't it?

S. Hornish: Yes, it sure will be. It's been a long time, and it's actually been longer since I've won a race, ever in my Indy Racing League career. I think I won my ninth race. And we've run nine this year, and haven't won yet. So I'm not feeling any pressure, but we're about to go back and keep trying.

Q: Sam, I wanted to ask you, you're going out there to race with -- how many engines will you actually have? You have more than one, right?

S. Hornish: Well, from what I'm told, we'll have three.

Q: Three?

S. Hornish: Yes.

Q: And will one be in each of your two, your back-up car and your regular car?

S. Hornish: I'm sure that they'll have to have one in the back-up car, just in case anything were to happen to the primary car. The reason they'll take three is, basically, you have to have one for a qualifying and one for the race. And basically, you entertain anything that might happen as far as an engine problem or getting into an accident, and a lot of times, being that the engine is a little fragile and they put together the race car that, sometimes there are a lot of times they crash or hit or break a cam cover or something. Or knock an ear off the block where it attaches. You just anticipate that you might have one of those types of problems and that you need another engine to be able to put in there.

Q: Right. You're talking about qualifying. That has been where you really do need to jump up. Do you feel that will help, that this new engine will get you up there near the front in the starts?

S. Hornish: Oh yes. I mean, we really had like 30-something races that I had to race with myself. The lowest we've qualified was eighth, you know, a 30-race streak. And, we haven't been in the top eight since Miami of this year. So yes, other than Richmond. Really, you know, we'd like to qualify toward the front, but we know that it's not one of the necessary things because, you know, strange things happen when you're in the front and in the back. And, I've seen a lot of strange ones this year. I like running up front a lot more than I like running back there for that reason. You know, hopefully, with this new engine, it'll get us where we need to be able to qualify toward the front, stay there and conserve some fuel and be racing for the win out there in the end.

Q: Yes. One other question, things seem to have gone along smoothly with Rocket leaving? How has the transition been?

S. Hornish: The transition doesn't really affect me really, per se. I don't go to the shop everyday. You know, when we were doing a lot of our testing, Simon Morley, which is the new man, the new crew chief was doing that anyhow. So, you know, it was kind of one of those things where, you know, it changed a little bit and it is a little bit different, but we've already been in that kind of drowning before. So, I mean, it's not that weird. I've been to wherever, and I've had the opportunity to work with Simon, and I know kind of what he's about. And, I know that he knows how to set the car up, and he knows how to get the guys doing what they need to be doing. He's been at this level of racing longer than I have, so there's obviously no worries there.

Q: It seems like in NASCAR, the rumors about you showing some interest in the Busch Series, or Cup, are kind of dying down. Is that the way you see it, or does it all depend upon what kind of opportunities present themselves?

S. Hornish: Well, obviously it depends upon what kind of opportunities present themselves. But, right now everything's kind of quiet. I've heard pretty much everybody's, you know, everybody that I've talked to, I've heard that this is their plans and all that, and now it's kind of just time for me to sit back and think about what I want to do, and what's going to make me happy in the long run. So, I just really look at it from the fact that this is a decision time for me. I mean, it's closer to August. I told everybody I'd make a decision around mid-time August and that's going to be, that's not too far away. So, it's all pros and cons, like getting a big poster board and writing down each opportunity that you have, and do the pros and cons and what there are to each one of them. But it's pretty much narrowed down to the thing that's going to make you happy, that's going to give you the best opportunity to win big races.

Q: Does it depend at all on how this new Chevy engine does?

S. Hornish: I've tried, I guess a little bit, but I've tried to really base my decision around what's going to make me happy and keep me in the victory circle. And I know that the hard work that Chevrolet has put in this year is definitely not going unnoticed by me. So, I'm trying not to focus it on what might happen. And, just because, you know, whether or not this does good. It's got to be what makes me happy. I know that this new product is going to put us up toward the front again. So, it really doesn't have a whole lot to do with that, and I've tried to keep my focus away from what's happened this year and all the good times that we've had with Chevrolet in the past.

Q: Hey Sam, you're from Ohio originally. Have you ever met that guy who won the British Open over the weekend?

S. Hornish: No. I've looked at Ohio and a lot of people. There's not a lot of people from Ohio that's done certain things, but you go back and you look at it. But there's a sign that's in my hometown of Defiance, on of the side of the building as you go over the river, and it says 'A great place to live.' I just kind of think about that everyday, and I've been blessed to go and see just about every big city I've ever wanted to go to. And, for some reason I keep coming back here, and I guess it must be a great place to live.

Q: I'm assuming the other Chevy teams have been pretty anxious to know what has been going on with the tests. Have they been calling you, and what have they wanted to know? How that's been going?

S. Hornish: They were invited to the first test of the new engine, so they got to really see what was going on with it, what it was all about, so it's really one of those things where they had to see it firsthand. I'm kind of quiet, you know? And, not a whole lot of people talk to me first, outside from people outside of my team. So, I practically haven't talked to too many people about it. But, I think everybody's really excited about it, but it's just so tough, for them to be really excited about it, because we are really the only one that gets to have it this race and only one of the other teams gets it for the next race. So, it kind of, you know, is a little bit hard for them to be excited about it. But, Chevrolet wants to do as well as they can, so they got to give it to people that are the highest two cars and points for the next two races. You know, you don't want to give it to somebody that's not going to be able to use it and catapult forward and get a head start on getting a new engine for the Belterra Casino Indy 300.

Q: Just want to congratulate you on putting on such a good show last Saturday night. It was great to see you come through the pack, and sorry the strategy didn't work out. You've been testing a new engine. Obviously, the center of gravity on that has to be a little bit different from what you're accustomed to. Does it sit lower, do the parameters change a lot for the chassis setup with the new engine?

S. Hornish: The only thing that's different about it is the new engine is a little bit heavier, a little bit more stout. I'm not quite sure on the exact pounds in how much heavier it is, but it's quite a considerable amount. We have to actually run a little bit heavier component just to be at the right weight for IRL tech. So it's not really effective. We can run some other components in other places to make up for that. So really, there's no difference. But, being that it is a little bit stout and little bit heavier, it doesn't flex quite as much. That's what we've really been looking for this year, because we think that at a lot of races we've had a little bit too flexy of a race car. And, the front is not really working with the back. So, actually, it's a little bit heavier, and we hate heavier stuff. That's more weight that you have to carry, and the more weight you have to carry, obviously, you can go faster the lighter you are. But, that's kind of a good thing that it's as stout as it is. I think it's going to help out a lot with handling in a couple of places.

Q: When you've had a flexing car and you've got a heavier engine, it might just help with that. Then, you don't have to worry about balance as much.

S. Hornish: Yes, I think that that's really true, and hopefully it'll work out to our advantage, also.

Q: Hi Sam. I want to follow up on NASCAR thing. You're obviously going to make the decision yourself, but who will you listen to for counsel? Whose going to have input in helping you make this decision?

S. Hornish: My reps. I've talked to them quite a bit about it, but in the end it's going to be my own decision. They just help me see the pros and cons that I can't always see. You know, there's a lot of things. You know, being a two-time champion, there's a lot of things that I don't know about racing yet, and a lot of things that are hard to see. And I've got a long time to go yet, being, just turned 24, I've got a lot of years left to race. So basically, that's the hardest thing about making this decision, that you want to be, you want to put yourself into a position to be where you want to be for quite a few more years. I'm not looking at this as my last contract, so, even if it's a three or four-year contract, it's maybe my third or fourth one from the end. So, it is kind of a tough decision, because you want to put yourself in the best place possible, so that you can stay there for a long time.

Q: Is that a bit unsettling to think that, at 24, you're making, it sounds like you're planning exit strategy? I know that's not the case, but at 24, you're planning some significant steps in your life?

S. Hornish: I think so, because it's been proven so many times that if you put yourself in a good place, and you've really mapped out the future, that you can stay in that place for a long time, as long as everything works out between yourself, the team, and the owner and, of course, the sponsors. But it's really a big decision, because I don't ever want to look at it as a three or four-year progress. I want to look at it as 10 years down the road. And, if I do this, am I going to be happy 10 years from now? Is this going to be able to catapult me to maybe something different, or if I get to the point where I feel that I need something different in my life, is this opportunity going to be able to do that for me, or is it going to stick me in a place that I don't want to be for a long time? And, that's what's hard about making decisions, if it's something you haven't done before because you might not get over it and may not like it, and you'd want to stick yourself there for four years and give up some opportunity that may have been a long term thing down the road.

Q: You did mention Pennzoil in the input stage. Does Pennzoil have any part to play in your decision to stay or to go?

S. Hornish: There are commitments to the team that are very good, and of course we've talked to them about a lot of things, including what to do as far as what their opinion is and how long that they're planning on staying. And they've given us a lot of good input, as far as what they're looking for over the long term, and that's really good to have an honest answer from them. They've been nothing but good to me, and I really appreciate everything that they've done for me. And, it couldn't have been a better relationship with me and Pennzoil and Panther Racing. That's what makes it, you know, when you have such a good relationship, that's what makes it tough to look at all of these other options. Because you really just, you don't know. And, you don't know, like we have, lot of people wanted to know about Rocket leaving. That's an integral part we lost, and yes, we did move on without him. There is really, you don't replace him. It's hard to fit in a new guy, and while Simon may have stepped up and did an awesome job doing what he did, that spot is open. And, then, maybe another guy steps in, so it's this everlasting chain of people and you want to make sure that you put yourself in a position where the right people are going to be there.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing