Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, February 19, 2008 Sam Hornish Jr. (Driver- No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) RECAP YOUR RUN AT THE DAYTONA 500: "It was a good day for everyone on the Mobil 1 Dodge. The pit stops went pretty good with the...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Sam Hornish Jr. (Driver- No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger)
RECAP YOUR RUN AT THE DAYTONA 500: "It was a good day for everyone on the Mobil 1 Dodge. The pit stops went pretty good with the exception of one mistake that I made when I slid the nose out of the box and we had to back-up which we cost about 15 positions and probably kept us from having a top-10 finish. I think that was about the only hiccup that we had really all day long. The car ran really good, especially the daylight sections of the race. The first 100 laps were really good for us. We ran fourth and in the top-six most of that entire run. We actually wished the race would have started a little bit earlier- we actually thought we would have had a better chance at top-five finish at the end of the day. To be a rookie at the Daytona 500- and to do what we set out to do- which was to get a top-20 finish- we were able to accomplish that and I was just really happy with how everything worked, but especially happy that my Penske teammates were able to first and second and Dodge was able to get a win."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SIMALIRITY OF EMOTIONS IN RUNNING THE DAYTONA 500 AND INDY 500? "Obviously, my first Indy 500 was my fourth IndyCar race that I had ever been in. There was probably (at the first three races I went to) an average of 25,000 -- maybe 30,000 fans- so to go to a place that has over 300,000 fans, that was a huge difference for me. Now that I've experienced the Indy 500 multiple times and now having the opportunity to run the Daytona 500, I couldn't think of any greater honor to put on my resume that I've been able to run both of those races. They (Daytona 500 and Indy 500) both have a tremendous of history and heritage behind them and it was just really exciting to be a part of the 50th running of the Daytona 500. It was a lot of fun to be out there- a big learning experience being my first Daytona 500 and I look forward someday to be able to put the title down that I've won both the Daytona and Indianapolis 500s - not just as a competitor - but able to win both of those because I think it's something special to put down that you've won both of those two landmarks in American auto racing -- not only that, but in the world. That would be a tremendous honor."
HOW'S YOUR DAUGHTER DOING? 'She's doing real well; she kept me up a little bit late last night. I've been gone for about five days out of each week over the past two weeks that she's been around. My wife's been pretty much home alone taking care or things herself and I had to give her a little bit of a break last night. It's been great as a first-time father and is something that I've been looking forward to for a very long time. I'm really happy about that and hope everything continues to go as well with that as it has with the racing of late."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FIRST FEW PRACTICES AT CALFORNIA SPEEDWAY TO GET A BETTER FEEL FOR THE TRACK? "I haven't had to have a lot of experience there (California Speedway) in these cars, but I got to run the Busch race at California last year. Although we didn't finish where we wanted to, we were running pretty well from the start. One of the things that I'm really going to try and do is work on the race setup.
"I feel like were in a pretty good position just to try and learn as much as we can about the car during the first couple of sessions and just try to make ourselves better by doing that."
HAVE YOU HAD AND CHANCE TO INTERACT WITH RYAN OR KURT? "While I was babysitting my daughter, I actually watched the whole race all over again. I was really happy how everything went. My hands were sweating with 20 laps remaining and I had already been in it - lived through it -- that's how exciting it was for me.
"Roger (Penske) and Kurt (Busch) and Ryan (Newman) - all those guys have been great to me. I just try and do what I can to do to help me out and make this overall team better. We had our weekly engineering meeting this morning. And while Ryan is off today doing the business stuff that is part of winning the Daytona 500, Kurt and I were talking about what the cars were like. We actually got a little bit of interaction in victory lane with everybody. I was just so excited that Penske Racing and Ryan were able to make it to victory lane at the Daytona 500. It was an awesome feeling- everybody told me what a good job that I did. I feel that I have a lot of things left to learn yet. I cost myself probably about five positions on the last restart because I pulled out of line and nobody went with me. So if I work at getting the yellow stripes off the back of my car that sometimes I have to make sure that I don't get myself in that situation again."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOUR DRIVING IN THE DAYTONA 500? "I felt that I learned a lot. Going into this race and the season, we felt that that with the restrictor plate races, as a rookie- it was going to be hard getting somebody to work with you. With the experience that I had in the IROC cars - how well we seemed to work in the draft- I finished second in an IROC race at Daytona and I was pretty much always in the top-five in the races that I ran. I felt that this was going to be a good opportunity for us to come in here and do well as long as I could be smart and patient at the beginning of the race and stay out of any wrecks that there might be and be smart about that. I had a pretty good feeling about that- I feel even better about it because of how good our car was throughout the heat in all the practice sessions that we got in the middle of the day. I thought that during the sections of the race when it was real hot was when we were doing our very best. So I was really happy with where we started off with the car and what I thought we needed on the car to be good -- at least at the beginning to work our way from the middle of the pack to get up to the front."
WHO WERE YOUR CONFIDANTS IN WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE RACE? "Being able to talk to Kurt (Busch) and Ryan (Newman) because of the experience that they have had; they've both been very successful in their relatively short careers at NASCAR's top level. I try to be open to any driver that might come up to me and ask how I'm doing. I try and take those opportunities to say 'what am I not doing right' or 'what do you think about this'. The more that you're out there- the more that you're around, the more guys are willing to come over and talk to you and the more you feel that you have an opportunity to talk to them. The guys that are the big names- the guys who you would think wouldn't want to help a rookie out or want to talk to them are usually the guys that are the first one to come over and try and help you out because they feel comfortable in their accomplishments and what they've been able to do. They're willing to help somebody else out because they know it turn, you remember those things and at some point in time down the road help them out. Guys like Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. and Jeff Burton- some veterans have been nice guys to ask 'is there anything you might want to ask me about' has been real nice."
HOW RE-ASSURING WAS THE 1-2 FINISH AT DAYTONA FOR YOU AND PENSKE RACING AFTER YEARS OF FRUSTRATION OF NOT WINNING THE 500? "To look back at all of Roger's (Penske) accomplishments- not only in IndyCar- but in all forms of racing and to sit back and think that he's not won the Daytona 500 and hasn't won a (NASCAR) championship is a pretty hard thing for me to believe sometimes. But with the way that things have been going- bringing Kurt (Busch) on and having Ryan (Newman) over the past years, I knew it was only a matter of time before those things changed.
"I said for very long time that if I come over and do the stock car thing, part of the reasons that I would want to do it is to have the opportunity and the challenge it presents. Another real big thing for me is having any kind of satisfaction of being part of Roger being able to accomplish those two goals that he's had for a long time- which part of is to win the Daytona 500. If I can have any small part- that would mean a lot to me just to be a part of it and see it happen. That was great- first Daytona 500 and to see my teammate win and also see Roger win was an unbelievable thing for me.
"I was so happy. I was pretty emotional when I won the Indianapolis 500 and I think I was a little bit more emotional walking down to victory lane because I was so happy for Ryan and Roger to accomplish that (winning the Daytona 500) they were able to accomplish that. It's a huge thing and it's good to be able to give Roger one of 14 Indy 500 wins, but Ryan is pretty special right now being the only guy to win the Daytona 500 -- that's pretty neat."
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONTACT WITH CHRYLSER CEO MR. (BOB) NARDELLI OR ANY OTHER OF THE CHRYSLER EXECUTIVES? "Yes I did. I actually met Mr. Nardelli right after the driver's meeting on Sunday. He actually came over to the car before the race and told me 'good luck' and like everybody that I've met at Chrysler so far -- including those at Dodge Motorsports- it's been first-class. I know that for Roger, associating himself with the best people and he prides himself in that. There's one thing that I never have to worry about and that's somebody Roger is good friends with and they're going to treat me great. I've had a fun experience making all my stock car starts in a Dodge. I was really glad to see how Dodge did in the race -six in the top-eight- overall it was a great day."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANOTHER ANY OF THE OTHER DRIVERS OF THE LENGTH OF THE NASCAR SCHEDULE AND HOW HARD IT IS? "I actually haven't talked to any of the drivers much about it yet. Last year, with the schedule that I ran, I did the 24-hour race, 11 Busch races and attempted to run eight Cup races on top of 17 races that the IndyCar Series has- with Indianapolis being the entire month of May- I figured I was 37 or 38 weekends on the road last year. So heading into this year, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect out of it. Obviously, it not always what it's going to be, but with the amount of travel that I did last year, I had a pretty good idea of what it was going to be like. It's a tough schedule. It seems like a lot when you start talking about it. But once it starts, it's the end of May and then the next thing you know-it's August. There are a couple weeks where it's really tough. At the end of season last year, we got done right before Thanksgiving and I took a couple days of vacation right after the Miami race and the next Monday, I was like 'when are we going racing again'. It becomes part of your life. You start to be home for a couple of weeks and you start to feel lazy like you're not doing enough. I may feel a lot different about it at the end of this year, but I had so many things that I was excited about that I wanted to do to take part in this year that I was really looking forward in getting back going again."
WHAT YOUR REACTION ON THE POTENTIAL OF IRL AND CHAMP CAR UNITING? "I think it's something that definitely needs to happen, that's for sure. It's something that needed to happen for at least the last five years, it not longer than that.
"On one hand, if everything does come together, I'd be little bit resistant not to be there and be a part of it. I made this decision and even if it would have come through last year that they would have been back together, I still would have made the same decision I made and come over here and run. They've been really close before and it hasn't happened. I think now- financially with the way things are going- it's a lot closer to happening. From the stories that I've heard in the past, Tony George and the IndyCar Series has been willing in a lot of ways to make things work. Whether it be financially or just scheduling, in the past there has been some other hold-ups, so I think that they'll be the same way again. They want to be back in one series with the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar can be Indy. They need it to be one series."
IS GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME TO MAKE UP THE LOST GROUND OF HAVING TWO DIFFERENT SERIES? "It is going to take a long time that's for sure. A lot of times a casual fan doesn't know the difference between a Champ car and an Indy car. They might have watched an IndyCar race, the next weekend the see a Champ Car race and say 'these aren't the same drivers' -- it's a confusing thing for new fans. They don't understand what the differences are. It's a confusing thing for the casual fans who doesn't know all the differences. It's not easy to follow. Having one series that you can turn on and see the same drivers, same teams without all the difference between Champ Car and IndyCar will boost them forward. But for all that went wrong over the last 10 years, it's going to take time. It's not going to be something that happens in a year or two years. For how long it's been a part, it's going to take at least that long to get back where it was."
IS THERE AN INQUISITIVE NATURE OF LEARING MORE AND ADJUSTING TO STOCK CAR RACING? "I feel that you're only as good as your last race. I came over here to NASCAR for the challenge for the challenge of this - it's what makes it all worthwhile. So when I get to a point where I think we're successful and constantly competitive. The thing that I'm trying to do is make sure that I learn as much as I can throughout the next year in trying to make myself better. On the other hand, in a lot of ways people want instant gratification. So not only do I have to try and learn as much as I can, but I also have to be smart about what we're trying to do and keep the sponsors and team happy. So there are a lot of things going on right now and really happy to have the opportunity to come over and do it with Penske Racing."
-credit: dodge motorsports