Media Session With Penske Racing Driver Sam Hornish Jr. Q: Thoughts on the confrontation with Jimmie Johnson following the wreck at Texas. I had longer lines at the autograph trailer. Everybody likes to see the guy that's doing really well go...
Media Session With Penske Racing Driver Sam Hornish Jr.
Q: Thoughts on the confrontation with Jimmie Johnson following the wreck at Texas.
I had longer lines at the autograph trailer. Everybody likes to see the guy that's doing really well go down a notch. There were people that paid me to take Jimmie (Johnson) out on a weekly basis. Obviously, none of the things I'd want to do. With the exception of Jimmie being upset with me, my own car being tore up and me being upset because it wasn't even my fault, those were really the only down sides to the whole deal. We had a car we felt we could win with that day. That was not any fun. Obviously you don't want to make the four-time series champ upset with you.
Q: You didn't run into him?
If it would have been just me driving into the side of him then he would have had a reason to be upset with me. I can't help it when someone runs into me and hopefully we don't have that situation again.
Q: Where you surprised with Jimmie's reaction?
I was surprised a little bit because Jimmie is a straight arrow type of guy. He's usually not going to say anything out there. So when he decided to have that stance with me it surprised me a little bit. As far as the fan base, those are things that you expect. I'm sure that there were people in IndyCar that wanted people to run into me and do it again. You win enough and people want to see you drop a little bit.
Q: Why do people want to see the guy that always wins fail?
I think people get sick of it. It's like watching the Yankees win all the time. There are people that don't like that. You just get sick of them winning. That's how anything is. There are a certain amount of people that are going to jump on the bandwagon and there are a certain amount of people that are going to do anything but. That's just like when Jeff Gordon was winning all the time back in the 90s. There were a lot of people that booed him all the time. The older he gets the more people respect him and people want to see him do well again.
Q: How difficult is it for you that there is still a lot of work for you to do to get atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?
It's really difficult. I never looked at it as we based our self whether we won or not. I felt like I based myself a lot of times on whether I thought I was giving it my all or what I was able to learn. That's part of the reason I wanted to do this. I wanted the next challenge of it. It wasn't about winning. It was about challenging myself. I got to the point where I started winning over there (IndyCar Series) and started winning championships all the CART teams started coming over so I had that added challenge to try and beat them. Then once I could beat them we started having the road course races come in. Once I started feeling like I could win on that - then I won Indy - there wasn't a whole lot of challenge left. Wow, what a challenge this is. That's really why I wanted to do this. I could be frustrated with how the last couple of years have gone, and I am, but it has been challenging and it has been everything I've wanted it to be. Don't get me wrong, I want to get to the point where we can win because I feel like if we win on the short tracks how do we win on the big tracks. We run so many types of different races that it's going to take a while to get to the point where you feel like you can be somebody that can go out there and win on any given racetrack that you run at.
Q: Is this a make or break year for you?
We've qualified well. We've qualified in the top 15 for all three races. That's something that is a lot better than we were a year ago. We ran really well at California. We had a good car at Daytona. I think we need to continue to put the pieces to our team together as much as anything else. This is my third year, if you don't have that understanding when I tell you something that this is how it is then we need to change something. It was really frustrating for me yesterday because I told them all day Saturday that we were going to be screwed up tomorrow, it's going to be way too free. Low and behold there we are. I've learned enough now to know what the racecar needs. I might not know what it needs to win all the time but I know what it needs to go out there and have a top 20 day. That's all you can really ask for because when your bad days are a 25th-place finish, your good days are going to be a top five. If you can do that every day then you are going to make the Chase. That's what we need to continue to do.
Q: Did you anticipate the challenges you are still facing?
Coming over I thought Penske Racing was further along than I thought it was. The COT (Car of Tomorrow) kind of threw a wrench in everything in a lot of ways. Kurt (Busch) had a good season last year but if you look at his 2008 season it was horrendous. Both him and Ryan (Newman) missed the Chase and it was just one of those that I feel like that when I made this decision to do this full time I didn't realize where we were at as a team. I didn't know that Ryan was going to be on his way out. So the working relationship between the three drivers wasn't that great but there is no excuse to it. I feel in a lot of ways that I should be further ahead than where I am. There are parts of it that are my fault and there are parts of it were things that weren't expected going into it.
Q: Do you have thoughts that you could have been the best IndyCar Series driver?
I had a guy a couple of weeks ago and said, "You could have been the king. You could have been the greatest driver ever over there (IndyCar Series)." That's not what it was about for me. Plus I don't want to ever compare IndyCar to college and NASCAR to professional, but that's about the only way I can say it. There are a lot of guys that are great in college football but you don't quit playing at that point in time. You can't go back and continue to play. It's just like anything else. If you want to be the best and you want to challenge the best people you continue to move up and you find the next biggest challenge to where you are at. That's what this was.
Q: What are the biggest challenges Dancia is going to face going back and fourth from NASCAR to the IndyCar Series? And how will she do?
The biggest challenge is learning the racecars. She is about the same as I am. You spend your entire life preparing for one thing then you want to go and do something else. I know people say it's still driving racecars but it's not anywhere in the same ballpark. The differences are totally unbelievable. As far as how she's going to do. Look at Dario. He's won two IndyCar championships, he's won the Indianapolis 500 and I look at the things I've accomplished and it was very difficult for the both of us. How do you expect? It's going to be tough. She might be able to adapt better than what either one of us did but it's still not going to be easy. You're not going to jump into the car for the first time and win. The only thing I'd have to say is why can somebody like Tony Stewart be successful at it, but Tony grew up a lot different than Dario and I. You think just because we ended up in IndyCar first that that would be the same thing but I never drove a sprint car or World of Outlaw races. Tony came more from sprint cars, more of like a Jeff Gordon-type of deal.
Q: When you come to Texas does it give you an advantage knowing you've had success in the IndyCar Series here?
The first year I was running the Sprint Cup Series I was loving going to places like California, Richmond, and Phoenix. Anywhere I had been in IndyCar I felt like I pretty much could win at every place I'd won at with the exception of Sonoma and Watkins Glen. It seemed that every place I hadn't been to before I did better than the places I had been to or had done really well at.