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IndyCar Series: Delphi Indy 300

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Delphi Indy 300

IndyCar Series: Delphi Indy 300

Scott Dixon
Bryan Herta
Sam Hornish, Jr.
September 7, 2003


JOLIET, ILLINOIS

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by second place finisher Scott Dixon and third place finisher Bryan Herta. Before we get started, today's race was the closest 1-2-3 finish in IRL history at .0100. It was the second fastest race in league history at 184.294. It was the third closest 1-2 finish in league history. Sam Hornish has won all three of those races. Point standings at this point, Helio Castroneves 427, Scott Dixon 12 points behind. Gentlemen, tell us about today. Scott, you first.

SCOTT DIXON: Pretty rough day out there. Racing was great. I think, you know, we had good stops all day. We were a little slow on a couple of them, but I think they made sure the wheels are tight and things like that. Team Target, we had a great car all day. Basically we just sat back and saved fuel. I was actually a little surprised coming to that last stop that a lot of cars went a lot longer. Obviously, we weren't making that good of fuel mileage. Just had a good, consistent day. A bit of a shame with the yellow towards the end that we missed that, you know, dropped back to sixth, had some lap cars in there. We had a great restart. I don't know, it seemed like we had an extra 10 miles an hour going through the end, weaving through traffic. Getting pretty hairy with three-wide. All in all, a pretty good day. That's about it, really.

THE MODERATOR: Bryan?

BRYAN HERTA: Mine was a pretty adventurous day. We had some type of an electronic problem early in the race. My cars with misfiring. I had to switch to a different ignition map. I cleared it up, but I dropped back to 16th or 17th. Then we had to fight all the way back through. You know, from that point on, though, everything kind of fell into place. You know, I think the yellow was good for us at the end. So, you know, I think we were a little unfortunate early, but fortunate later in the race. I was on the bottom there trying to hold the bottom, protect the bottom, doing everything I could. But, you know, there's only so much you could do. Those guys had a run. You know, I'm a little disappointed. I mean, I'm happy to finish third again for the third time in a row, but a little disappointed we weren't able to hold them off. I think if I could have done it 10 more times, I'm not sure I would have done anything different.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. When the caution fell, were you already on your way in?

BRYAN HERTA: I was in the warm-up lane, getting ready to come into the pits. I called on the radio and said I saw the Penske slowing in the warm-up lane. I said, "I think there might be a yellow, but I'm already on the warm-up lane." They said, "Come on in." I made my stop. Right as I was getting ready to come out, right as I was in my pit box, they threw the full-course yellow.

Q. For as close as the race was the entire race, are you surprised there was virtually hardly any incidents out there?

BRYAN HERTA: Shocked. We got no business not having had some incidents, for sure. I think every guy out there has probably got ten stories to tell.

Q. Scott, you're nodding in agreement.

SCOTT DIXON: I think probably a lot of us could have been a little nicer to everybody. I don't know. Because it is so close and everybody's so close, so many cars right up there, it gets pretty messy sometimes. You know, when three cars try to go three-wide into a two-wide corner, you know, it doesn't always work. But I was actually very surprised there was no crashes today, apart from Kenny's. Looking from where I was looking, I thought there would have been a lot more, to be honest.

Q. Until somebody told you on the radio, who did you think had won? Did you know?

BRYAN HERTA: I thought Sam had won. I wasn't sure between Scott and I, but I was pretty sure Sam had won. The last couple laps, he was playing on the outside. I could tell what he was doing. He was working out when he needed to drop back and when he needed to surge. You know, he got a handle on that. Coming through three, I almost started to think I was going to hold him off because I had Scott behind me. I figured, well, Scott doesn't want Sam to get the points, he'd rather have me get them than nobody, than Sam (laughter). He was going to give me a push. But then he had such a big run, we were suddenly three abreast. I had to actually move up a little it and almost touched Sam. He was on the inside. I didn't want him to get up in the apron and spin on both of us. There was a lot of give and take right there at the end that probably could have got messy.

Q. Scott, did you think Sam won?

SCOTT DIXON: I thought I had come in third. I wasn't sure out of these two. I couldn't see where Sam was, being down on the bottom. But I was expecting to come in third.

Q. Scott, can you describe where you were sitting?

SCOTT DIXON: I was basically looking behind going into three to make sure nobody really had a big run. That seemed to be pretty much clear. There was Tomas and a few others hanging back. Then we started to get a really good run going. Seemed like Bryan came out a little wider this time. I don't know if he saw me coming down on the inside. Instead of just sitting behind Bryan, I actually pulled out, try to, you know, go for a run, run for it.

Q. Bryan, when you finished third in Kentucky, you were overjoyed. You don't seem nearly as happy today.

BRYAN HERTA: I'm relieved really (laughter). Look at the look on his face. We all have the same look. Yeah, obviously I'm very happy with the result. But when you're that close to a victory, you know, it's a little different. At Kentucky, you know, third was absolutely the maximum result, and felt really good about the race. Here I still feel really good about the race, but you just think, gee, a 10th of a second, it's really not that much. But I'm not unhappy.

Q. What is it about Sam, that he's able to win these close races? What do you guys think?

SCOTT DIXON: He's cheating (laughter). I don't know. I don't know. He seems to get on the outside. It's hard to place yourself. He definitely knows how to do it. As you say, the three closest ones, he's won every time. I don't know. He's good at it, I guess.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. We are joined by race winner Sam Hornish, Jr., his second victory this season, 10th of his Indy Racing League IndyCar Series career. At this point in the season, as I said earlier, Helio Castroneves atop the points standings with 427, Sam in fifth place 41 points behind with two races remaining. This was the closest 1-2-3 finish in league history, the second fastest race in league history, and the third closest 1-2 finish in league history. You've won all three of those races. Tell us about your day.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Not too bad. All day long we really just tried to stay right in the leaders' draft and be able to conserve fuel. That really worked out for us. When that last caution came out, when Helio was stalled out on the track, we were able to go until the pits opened again, while other people had to come in and pit. While they did, we were able to come back and get back up there because, you know, you get to go around the pace car. It was still good to be able to start up toward the front of that pack. It was a tough race out there today. A lot of people were very close together. Probably one of the closest as far as competitive fields that I've ever seen. I don't know. It's exciting. The guys at Panther Racing have worked so hard this year, it's really great to take them back to Victory Lane again. While we're still 41 points out of the championship lead, when you get 52 for winning and leading the most laps, you get 32 for sixth, anything is possible. We're just going to keep working as hard as we can and see if we can get ourselves back in here.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. So you don't get too far ahead of yourself (inaudible).

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I've learned how that worked. I was on the inside. That's why I lost. I had to go to the outside today.

Q. Was that really in the back of your mind, you were going to try the inside again?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Bryan was running down to the bottom. That's where I would be if I was leading the race. I wasn't going to try the bottom unless this was an opening. I wasn't going to pinch it. But the car seemed to work really good on the high side today. That's why we generally tended to stay there.

Q. You've always run well on the high side. What have you seen there that others haven't?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. I guess I'm not very smart. I like to be on the high side. I can control. I don't like being pinched down in between the apron and that transition point. People sometimes don't really know where they're at, don't know how far they're pushing you down. I've had a couple times where I've been on the bottom and I've gotten close to getting pinched across that line and it really unsettles the cart. It would be about the worst thing in the world to spin and have about 10 guys run into you afterwards. I think being on the high side is generally where I like to be, plus it seems to work out at those close finishes most of the time also.

Q. Scott was joking in here. He was asked how you win all these close races. He said you must be cheating. Your response to that?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. My response to that is, you know, if you're going to cheat to win by a couple inches, you might as well cheat to win by a mile (laughter).

Q. How do you do it?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. I mean, I know what it takes. I'm in the right place at the right time. I guess I'm just lucky. That's why. It's not anything about driver talent; it's just luck.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I didn't really know. At first I thought he was coming up to try to pinch me up high a little bit , then I saw Scott down there. I don't know. I think he was just kind of in the middle. When you get in the middle of these three-wide things, it really moves the car around. You know, it was a tough race. A lot of people, you're all tensed up, on the edge of your seat, trying to figure out who's going to win this race because the Top 3 guys all have a shot going across the finish line. You know, you're just trying to get every little advantage that you can get. Sometimes you take a little bit more, sometimes you don't take enough.

Q. How close was it?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'd have to see the replay. It was close, but we didn't hit. So it wasn't that close, I guess.

Q. Take us through that last lap in your own words.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I knew that Scott had a fast race car. I knew being on the outside, when you run side by side with somebody, even if you're the fastest car on the racetrack, that car is like a 10th place car on the side of you, you both slow down because you're kicking air back and forth off each other, really slows you down. The guy in third place can use, especially when the first two cars are running side by side, real close together, can use that big pocket of air. You can get a really good draft. That's how I got up and was able to go around the outside. You really get a slingshot going. I knew that Bryan had picked that lower line. I knew I had to stay right beside him and hope Scott didn't try to go for the outside because it was hardly enough to make through. That is close, yeah (laughter). I knew that it was going to be real close. You just hope that you have enough room and you can stay out of trouble there. It's really exciting because you know that the fans are getting, you know, the show of a lifetime. But it's kind of nerve-wracking sometimes because you know you're either going to win or lose by a couple inches or feet. It's exciting, but it's nerve-wracking.

Q. After that finish, any thoughts of going into the Blue Angels?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. They have a big fall. We have walls. I guess it's probably about as dangerous either direction.

Q. When the season started out, you were somewhat behind the eight ball, but now while you have the eight ball in sight, you're about ready to put it in the corner pocket. Talk about how you had to fight through (inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It's just really a tribute to the guys at Pennzoil Panther Racing. They've done such a great job this year. Like I said before, not only were they preparing the generation three car, they were also all the same guys working on getting the generation four car on the track, up to speed, reliable, competitive. They didn't really hire any more guys. So those guys were working another 30 hours a week. They just really pulled it together. Now that we have the power, we worked hard on our setups, everybody pulled together. When we had cars that weren't capable of winning this year, we stayed there, stayed in the draft, picked off the people that had problems, and just tried to be as consistent as we could. Now that we've got the horsepower, we can make some things happen for us, you know, take some more chances than what we did earlier in the year. It's coming down to the wire. I think it's probably one of the closest, you know, points battles in the history of the IRL. Last year was really tight. We came into this race, the Top 3 guys were separated by eight points. It's going to be tough. It's anybody's race to win or lose, or championship to win or lose. I think we're going to need a lot of luck. We're going to need some, you know, bad luck on other people's parts. While we don't wish them bad luck, we're going to go out there, try to beat them, do the best we can. The difference between second and fifth in the points is a lot. Just the same as if you can't get first, you've got to try to get second. You don't want to be fifth best. We're not going to give up yet.

Q. Earlier in the race, got outside, then it looked like you backed away.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Partially, let's reconsider this. I just wanted to see if the car would stick up there. I let off so I could get back in. These cars, you can run close to each other, you can run right up behind. When you go from having no air on your car, having all your own air to dirty air, that's what really moves the cars around. I wanted to make sure when I came back in behind him that I -- you know, didn't do it real fast and make the car go loose, especially with how close I was up to the wall. I basically wanted to see if it would work because I ended up using it later on in the race, two, three and four, to get back up there and get beside Bryan for the last three-lap shoot-out. I don't know if I would have been brave enough to try it that last little bit of the race, not knowing if it was going to work. I tried it and kind of stepped up there a couple times during the race just to see if it was still clean enough while there wasn't that many cars around, where if I had to let off, I could let off, get back in line, regroup, go back up to it.

Q. How do you account for a race with that kind of great racing, so many people bunched up, very few incidents?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think it really goes to show the respect we have for each other. I think there's more clowning around that goes on after the race is over or before the race, during practice, than what actually does in the race. We know we have to make it 298 miles before you can do the last lap and a half. We know it's a long race. The cars are set up very equally by the rules that the IRL has. It's more about -- one of the things Brian says all the time in driver's meetings, it's all about positioning yourself for the last five laps, then you can duke it out after that. It's tough to do because you're sitting there, you see a couple guys straighten out, they get going, they're pulling away a little bit, so you want to get up there and be right behind them. You know, if you wanted to, you could almost run half a lap all day, been right there at the end, not have to worry about it. I like to stay up there towards the front because, you know, if something does happen, you have less of a chance of getting collected in it. If nothing happens all day long, then you're right there. You get to really test out your car against the guys you're going to race against at the end of the race.

Q. Your the first driver in IRL history to crack double digits in career victories. I know that was important to you a couple weeks ago when you won at Kentucky. Now you're extending your lead. Talk about that.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'm really happy that things have worked out the way that they have. The 10 victories in the time I've been running for Panther Racing has just been phenomenal that we've been able to work together so well. I wish more of them were runaway wins than, you know, finishing side by side every race that we go to. I mean, that's tough racing. I think that really just shows how well we work together. Even with all the adversity we've had over the past couple weeks, things that are going on, we're all still focused on winning these races, doing the best we can. We know there's still a lot of championship points to be had yet, and we're going to try to get as many of them as we can.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. I hate to lose, so I try to win as many races as I can. I can't stand it - especially when I know that I did something wrong, not to be able to win the race. I think they deserve to win as much as I do. They've done a great job. As far as you said about not getting to make an offer, there's some times when you're growing up, you've got a hero, a couple heroes, let's say you're a baseball fan, every morning your favorite player has played for the Yankees, you get an opportunity to play for the Yankees, even though you're playing for somebody else, what are you going to do? You're going to go do that because you want to put yourself beside that. There's only so many ways you can do it. Like I said, I might not ever win an Indianapolis 500. So the next way you put yourself next to a Rick Mears is driving for the same guy he drove his whole career for.

Q. All three of the last three races, this is a horsepower track, California is, right now you have the horsepower. Do you almost kind of feel like you're going to be able to pass the other four guys here before the end?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. It's going to be a heck of a mix-up. I don't know what the points are. Only being 40 out of first, it can't be too much. Everybody is always kind of stacked together. I think the big thing about these next two races is staying out of trouble because it's getting towards the end of the year. People are going to take chances that they wouldn't have taken at Miami or Phoenix. Kinda stay out of trouble, be there for the end of those races. You know, of course, being two tracks that we won at last year, Panther Racing has this record, they've won the last three races at Texas in the season finale, it's stuff that we already think we've got a good shot at it, we just have to get there and be there at the end of those races. A lot was said this year about the engine manufacturers having a problem with what happened. They gave a whole bunch more horsepower than we had. I think today sums it up about the best you can. You had all three engine manufacturers going across the line right there side by side. You set it up a different way, it might not have worked out that way. I'm really proud Chevrolet has done what they've done, given us all the support they have this year. They really beared down and made sure we had what we needed to be able to go out there and compete - not to just compete for the Top 3, but also win races.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, it is much different than places like Nazareth. There's fans that they love nothing more than to go watch a good street race. You're not going to see very much side-by-side racing there. It's just getting around the corners. Nazareth is about as close to being a road course as anything is. It's not got any right-hand turns in it. Each one of the tracks I think that the IRL is well-rounded with the tracks you go to. Phoenix, Richmond, then you go to Indy, California, you go from tracks that it's relatively easy to drive by yourself, but then you have the drafting parts brought into it. I think it's a well-rounded series. It's just going to continue to grow as long as we keep having races like this, clean races where people aren't running into each other and taking out half the feel and stuff like that. I think it just really shows how much respect the drivers pretty much have for each other. None of us want to go in the wall. We can't go up there and hit the guy in front of us and spin them out either. I think that the IRL has really got a good package the way it's set up by how many different types of racetracks that we go to.

Q. You had two instances where you were on the outside. How close were you to losing control?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Actually, there was quite a bit of grip up high, especially because you get out of the aero wake of all the cars in front of you. It was easier to drive it up there. A couple times I was behind Scheckter, trying to conserve fuel and follow him. If I didn't kick my right front wing out going into the turn, it would have started pushing up. As soon as it pushed up, got a whole bunch of air under the front of it, it snapped loose. You're trying to correct it again. Sometimes I'd rather run up high than be right behind somebody, going through all the turbulence of their wake.

Q. Have you talked to Roger Penske since the end of the race?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: No.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.



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