Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Kathryn Nunn, Lyn St. James & Sam Hornish, Jr. September 28, 2004 MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll start with...
Indy Racing League
Kathryn Nunn, Lyn St. James & Sam Hornish, Jr.
September 28, 2004
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll start with some exciting news from the Nunn Motorsports camp. We are joined to start the call today with Kathryn Nunn, the only female team owner in the Indy Racing League, and Lyn St. James, a seven-time starter in the Indianapolis 500. We'll be joined later by IndyCar Series driver Sam Hornish, Jr.
We are now joined by Sam Hornish Jr. He won the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway back in February and currently sits seventh in the point standings.
It was this time last year when Hornish made a strong run in the IndyCar Series, which included a win at the California Speedway, where the series will be this weekend. During that win at California, Hornish set the record for fastest race-speed average for a closed-course racetrack. Hornish won the race with an average speed of 207.151 miles per hour. Sam, thank you very much for joining us today.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You're welcome.
Q: You are obviously a fan of the racetrack in California, as you are really the only winner the IndyCar Series has ever had at that facility. You won in 2002 and 2003. Both of those races were really at blistering speeds. Can you talk about how California and tracks similar to that really fit your style of racing?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'm not really sure what it is about California that has been so good for me. But one of the things about it is it's kind of a real patient race track. You have to bide your time, wait around and make the right move at the end of race. It's all about positioning yourself for the last 10 laps or the last five laps.
One of the things that really helped in 2002 was we didn't have the fastest car all day, but we got right in behind the leaders and stayed in the draft all day, conserved fuel, went a little bit longer on some of the pit stops than what they did. And when it came up to the end there, a couple of guys had taken themselves out of the race by mistakes, and it was just, you know, just able to make the right moves, the right decisions at the right time.
Q: California, obviously, is such a different type of race course, and the three road courses the league has added for the 2005 season, how did things go for you at Homestead last week during that road course test? And are you looking forward to road course racing next year?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. There are always things that you need to work on when you go into something that you haven't been doing for a while. I haven't raced a road course in about five years, and I've never driven an Indy car on a road course. So, there's a lot of things for me to learn, the braking that the cars, the amount of brakes that the cars have is pretty unbelievable and how much you can slow the cars down. So I always felt like I was overslowing the car a little bit, but just wanted to keep on working on making sure that we keep going go out there and keep running and learn a little bit more about it. When it comes time to race, hopefully I'll have everything I need to be able to be competitive.
Q: With limited IRL testing for next year, what will you do to practice the road courses for next season?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: A lot of it is just getting your timing right. I don't think it's going to take a long time. I think that there's going to be things that we're going to be able to do just with getting a little bit of time to think about it and a few more days in the car. I don't know exactly how much practice that we're going to get on the road courses. But I think a lot of people will be doing that vs. some of the other stuff because they know that even though there are only three of those races on the schedule, that they are going to be extremely important in winning the championship.
Q: Are we looking at the inevitable this weekend, Tony (Kanaan) only needs to finish fourth or better to clinch, is anybody conceding anything to this guy or how do you approach this weekend?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'm out there to get all of the points that I can, so I'm not going to concede anything to him. You know, he has had a great year, has not had any problems at all. It's the kind of year that racers dream about. I'm sure Tony is going to go out there to do what he can to try to finish in the top four.
Like I said, he's not going to push it too far. He's been pretty smart with how he's done things this year, and he's been pretty smart with how he's been racing out on the tracks. I think that he'll probably go out there and give his best, but he's not going to push it super hard and not make any mistakes that he doesn't need to. He's been so fast this year that I wouldn't doubt that he just goes out there and finishes in the top three anyhow.
Q: Do you feel you guys have really closed, or Toyota has closed the performance gap the last two races, do you feel more confident that you can race with these guys, the Honda boys?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You look at it, I finished, what, sixth at Chicago and I was the first Toyota, so I don't think that it's anywhere near where we need to be at yet. Qualifying has gone a little bit better for us. I think a lot of that is just the fact that we know how to get the car set up and how to get them to run real free. When it comes to the race, you still have to have a certain amount of downforce to drive these cars in the big packs. Once we put that downforce on that we need to be able to go out there and run, then we are not obviously fast enough.
I think we are getting some gains in performance, but on the other hand, I know that the other manufacturers are not sitting around waiting to catch up, or waiting for us to catch up. We gain eight horsepower in between a race or whatever and they gain seven, we only really gained one. So if you're down 20, then it takes you 20 races to make it up, it's a tough deal.
That's what's good about the off-season. You get a lot of testing in, and you get an opportunity to go out there and try new things. And they have a lot of time to think about what they need to do differently for the next year or to how to make the engine a little bit better. It's a lot about just maintenance right now and going out there and trying to keep ourselves in the top-10 in points and trying to pick up a little bit here and there.
Q: It's kind of a different feeling for you this year, usually at this time of the year you're racing for a championship, and now you're just trying to go out and get a win without any chance for a championship. How frustrating has this year been coming to Team Penske with all of these high hopes?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Obviously, like you said, we had high hopes and were obviously expecting a little bit more than what we've ended up getting this year. I don't know. I've been pretty lucky to be able to have three good years where even though we had problems at the beginning of 2003, we were fighting for a championship all three years. To win two championships was great, and I think next year we're going to be stronger than we've ever been.
So, going in there with Penske Racing, it's just been a dream come true for me to be able to go work with those guys and to run with them. Hopefully, next year will turn out quite a bit better than this year has, and I'll keep working away at it and keep my head up. I always look forward to the next race and to next year. I think that as long as you keep positive and stay focused it should be some good times ahead for us in the future.
Q: Has it all been just a product of Toyota missing the power a little bit this year that's been the downfall for you guys?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, you know, if we were getting really beaten up by a couple other Toyota teams, I would say that we are not doing our job. But (teammate) Helio (Castroneves) and I are the top two Toyota cars in the championship right now. So, when we look at that, we know that we're doing the best that we can do at this point in time. I know that they are doing the best that they can do, also. We're just not where we need to be. That's unfortunate for us but we'll keep working at it till we get to where we need to be at.
Q: When you were coming up through the ranks, you had a really good reputation as a go-kart driver, and I'm wondering are any tracks near your home that you can work on those road racing skills on?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Unfortunately for me, the best place where we can go for shifter cars is about three hours away to test, either go to the new facility down at Indianapolis or just south of Columbus (Ohio). There's isn't really anything right now that I know of as far as that goes. But there's a lot of times when we test in the off-season down in Miami, and I'm sure that if I needed to, that that would be something that I could go back there and do.
A lot of it right now is just getting into my head that I can drive deeper into the corners and that I can trail-brake a little bit more, because when you've gone from -- everything I've really driven as far as road course up until now has been, you know, very small things with very little horsepower and a little bit more downforce than what you need. And this is a little bit different than that. You know, the cars are heavier, the brakes are really good, which is something that I wasn't really anticipating and still have a hard time getting along with.
The cars have enough downforce, but it kind of gets you into a weird feeling, because some of the corners are pretty adequate as far as the downforce, and some are less. So it's just about getting used to it and getting my rhythm back is the big thing. But I think we have some more testing coming up, as far as that goes, and I'm sure the league will have more open tests. A lot of it is getting used to and getting your bearings back.
Q: So it's mostly mental?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, and you go there, and you start to get frustrated with it a little bit the first day. So I'm not one that normally gets frustrated, but, I don't know, I can't say that that doesn't happen to me once in awhile.