Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
Sam Hornish, Jr.
May 31, 2006
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for the Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests joining us this afternoon. Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish, Jr. will be with us in a few minutes. Right now we're pleased to welcome Infiniti Pro Series driver Bobby Wilson to the call.
Bobby will Drive the No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing car this weekend in the Corning 100 at Watkins Glen. Bobby made three Infiniti Pro Series starts for Brian Stewart Racing last year, qualified second in his debut at Infineon and recorded two top 10 finishes. This year he's been in the top 10 in all four races, including a fifth at Homestead and a seventh last weekend at Indianapolis. He ranks fourth in points as we head to Watkins Glen.
In the past, Bobby has won the Cooper Tires Formula Ford V-Tech Championship in 2004, and the Stars of Karting Championship in 2003. He's originally from Wisconsin.
How do you pronounce your hometown, Bobby?
BOBBY WILSON: Oconomowok.
TIM HARMS: Thank you. Now he lives in Ocala, Florida.
Bobby, tell us about last weekend's Freedom 100. You started 10th. Seemed like there was a big battle about four or five cars for those spots 5 through 10. Tell us about the race.
BOBBY WILSON: I guess, you know, once we took the green flag, it panned out, got kind of exciting for a while there. We were running in a pretty tight pack. You just got to let everybody settle down and make sure nothing stupid happens. You just want to finish the race.
You know, I just tried to be smart about it and work my way to the front, get into some open air, you know, because that's where my car actually handles the best. I ended up doing that, and just slowly picked away at the gap ahead of me, made some good drafts, moved up.
TIM HARMS: The Freedom 100 was your first race with Kenn Hardley Racing, taking over for Jeff Simmons who has moved up to the IndyCar Series. Tell us about the team. Have there been any expectations put upon you taking over for the series points leader?
BOBBY WILSON: As far as the expectations go, I don't think the team really hangs that over my head in any way. I have expectations of myself, where I feel I need to be, especially with an operation like Kenn Hardley Racing. A great group of guys, very thorough. It's a pleasure working with them. They're there pulling the long hours, very dedicated to what they do.
When the opportunity came along, I definitely wanted to make the move, make it happen. You know, with that said, I just look forward to the upcoming road courses and short ovals because I know from last year that their cars were pretty strong. Pretty excited about it.
TIM HARMS: Absolutely. Jeff, of course, won at Watkins Glen with a very late pass last year. You were there last year. That was one of your three races. You finished ninth at Watkins Glen. You come back to a circuit now that you've been to before. What kind of race do you expect up there?
BOBBY WILSON: Actually I'm really excited. I think I'm going to do very well there. I like the facility and the circuit. Even last night I'm laying in bed just getting prepared. I'm going over every corner, every bump, where I need to be shifting, just replaying it over and over. I was pretty fast there last year. I ended up leading the race for a little bit till I delaminated a wing endplate.
I'm hoping for the best. I really feel I have a chance to win the race this weekend. Going to be interesting to see. I haven't had that much experience with the team on a road course. Just have to see how we gel, communicate. Make sure all those bases are covered so that we can get the best possible result.
TIM HARMS: As you move forward through the end of the year, what type of goals do you have moving forward next year and beyond?
BOBBY WILSON: I definitely want to try to move up. I need to -- the first step is getting licensed, definitely winning the championship this year. I think, above all, I need to finish all the races, which I've been doing. Just being there at the end of the year. That's when you try to make it happen. Kind of like a dark horse right now, sitting back, waiting for things to pan out.
TIM HARMS: Let's open it up for some questions for Bobby.
Q. You mentioned you finished every race this year. What do you attribute that to? Patience, being able to tell the crew what to do? How does that work?
BOBBY WILSON: Actually, I learned a lot from the three races that I did last year. Last year I tried to come out and set the world on fire, turn some heads. This year it's all about being consistent, going for the championship. Last year I really didn't have a chance to go for the championship only because I was invited at the end of the season. It was just all-out race wins last year that drove me.
Now my focus is a little different. I have to finish races to rack up points and everything. I think that's kind of where that philosophy comes from. I don't have, like I said before, a lot of pressure from the team. They're a great group of guys, they're just going to let me do my job. I just look at it from I'm going to finish where I'm capable of finishing and not do anything too risky toward the end of the race.
Q. How much change did the team have to make to accommodate your driving style?
BOBBY WILSON: I think that's kind of hard to say at this point. Actually, I got very ill for the test at Indianapolis, wound up in the hospital. I only had 30 laps that day. We were pretty limited on track time this last weekend. I haven't had that much opportunity to work with the team and find out how Jeff drives as opposed to how I drive.
I think this weekend it's really going to come together. I don't feel my style is that different from Jeff, having raced against him, watching how he enters the corner, where he brakes, all that. I'm not really worried about that.
TIM HARMS: Your sponsorship comes from the Ocala Grand Prix Karting down there. Are you doing any karting or any other type of racing as well?
BOBBY WILSON: I started out the season doing the opening round of the Stars of Karting tour. I kind of had to go away from that when this deal came around because I don't really want to get hurt in a go-kart because it's pretty cut-throat. Every time I go back, it's like I drive around with a target on me.
I still get in a go-kart out at our track, keep in shape that way. When I teach my lessons, I'm involved in that as well, doing lead and follows. I stay active. That's what I do. That's my daily job.
TIM HARMS: Thank you for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Appreciate that. Best of luck this weekend.
BOBBY WILSON: Thanks, Tim. See you there.
TIM HARMS: We're joined by Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish, Jr. Congratulations again on a great victory to you.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.
TIM HARMS: We have a number of media on the call. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions for you.
Q. Talk about the moment when the incident when the fuel line got stuck on the car. When you came out of the pits and got settled on the racetrack, what went through your mind?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I was like, Oh, here is my luck that I've had over the past couple years. It was our problem for the day. I said, you know what, let's put that out of our mind, let's figure out how we can get back into this race, how we can win.
Q. What was it that you think was the turning point?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think that was probably the turning point right there. We had to look at it from the fact that we just needed to make sure that we try to save as much fuel as we could, try to make it to the end without making a stop again.
Q. Is it as good as you thought it would be?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It's even better than I thought it would be actually. I've been really excited. We've had a lot of things going on right now. Not a whole lot of time for myself. It's well worth it.
Q. I want to make sure I ask this question the right way. We had a 1, 2, 3 American finish at the 500. Is it going to have to take more of the same to really get the US fans more involved and more excited about the open-wheel racing? I hope I asked that in a non-insulting way.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think that, you know, that's one of the first things I thought about, to have, you know, three Americans as the top three. Also to have Danica in the top eight, as well. I think we've had a great run. It was a pretty neat deal to have that many Americans up there. You don't see that very often.
It's a great story. A lot of people have classified me as having Andretti luck over the past six years. This year I guess, you know, the Hornish luck was actually a little bit better than the Andretti luck. I'd have to say there's a lot of great stories that came out of this year's Indianapolis 500. I think one of the biggest ones is the fact that in 89 previous runnings, there was never a pass on lap -- never a different leader on lap 200 than what there was on lap 199. I think that's something that's a big story as well.
Q. To your mind, is a merger near between you guys and Champ Car?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, I'm not really sure about that. It's tough to say because there's so many things that need to happen. There's a lot of ego involved. People have their own opinions on the way open-wheel racing should head.
I think overall, you know, for the good of everything, it needs to happen. Then instead of fighting each other every step of the way, you can kind of work together to try to make open-wheel racing bigger. It's so hard because everybody's got their own opinion on what open-wheel racing should be.
Q. Let's talk about the attempted pass and then the final pass. After you attempted the pass on Marco, obviously you suffered from that. What went through your mind about what you were going to have to do for the final pass that won you the race?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, I knew the one thing on lap 198, I came up on him kind of slow. I was just kind of trying to test it out and see what he was going to do, as far as he would block me, run me down into the grass. I actually came up on him fairly slowly because I was so far behind and didn't have like a great run on him.
I thought, I got up there, he gave me some room. I thought, maybe I should try this. I decided, no, it's not the right time. Got out of it, got back down in the gears. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to catch up to him again. It actually set me up for a perfect run coming off of turn four where we had a full head of steam. I had a pretty good idea what he was going to do. He was going to start to move to the inside. Depending on what decision he made, I made my decision. I had to wait till the last second to pull out, give him some time to make his move. It was one of those things where everything got timed out perfectly right at the end.
Q. The way you describe it, you would think maybe when you backed off to get a new head of steam, you weren't going that fast. As it turns out, it was the fastest lap of the race. You really had the eye of the tiger in that last lap.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I mean, it was one of those things where you just have to make sure that you present yourself with another opportunity. I feel full well that I could have went into that corner and pushed the issue. Maybe I would have got the pass done there, maybe not. The thing about it is that you got to give yourself that opportunity. I figured I'd come 495 miles to get to this point, I better not throw it away right here. I kind of looked at it that I needed to wait and give myself another opportunity.
Second wouldn't have been bad after that day. We're still fighting for points, trying to catch up to Castroneves in points. That's another big thing I'm looking at. How do I get to the point where I can make sure I get points out here. It turned out it was the right thing, allowed us to win the race.
Q. Of all the Roger Penske's victories, I can't think of one where he was as surprised as this one. How was he in the garage area after you got off the podium?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: He said it was just like the first one all over again. Each one that you win has its own surprises and good things. He seemed really excited about that. I've had people that told me he's never been as excited as what he was about that one.
That's one of the things, a lot of times when you don't expect it, it's almost better. I kind of sat back, watched the race a couple times. That's kind of like my payback to Roger and the team from what I took away from them in 2002 when I was running the yellow car.
Q. You were in eighth place, you had at least four Andretti Green cars in front of you. How did you feel about your car in terms of the speed you had in terms of getting by those cars?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I ran for the most part second or third all day long. I knew that we had the speed. Even when we were running there, we were running about 9/10ths, making sure -- I was making sure I didn't give myself any problems after all the things that have happened to me over the past couple years of not making the right decisions early on in the race, pushing too hard at a certain point in time. I just decided, you know, 9/10ths all day long, wait till the last 20 laps. When you get to that point, you can lay it out there. Just make sure you get to that point.
I knew with a little bit of reserve that we had the big thing was going to be getting around the two Ganassi cars. As it happened, the way the fuel strategies worked out, I was ahead of Dan on the last restart, right behind Scott. Scott I think was in a fuel-saving mode at that time, just trying to make it to the end. It made it a little bit easier to get around him. Basically just had to make sure Dan didn't get me on the restart. The rest is history about running down Michael and Marco.
I knew that Michael was really trying to save fuel because he had run harder that stint, probably wouldn't have as much as I did. Marco was the one that I knew was going to be the closest to being as fast as I was, the fact I was ahead of Tony, all those other guys, the two Ganassi cars. I didn't know if I was going to have enough to get him after that restart.
After that first lap I came out, I'm 20 car lengths behind him, have that opportunity that I know I can catch him. It just was about being comfortable and making sure that I made the right move at the right time.
Q. You didn't really have to worry about fuel at the end. You were able to go full rich.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: We still had three gallons in the car at the end of the race. The yellow ended up helping us out. We would have made it without the yellow. It allowed us to run full rich for more laps than what we did.
Q. During the month of May, did you have any opportunity to work with the wing angle adjustor that Tom dreamed up?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Throughout the month, yes, we did. We tested it. We did it in practice pit stops. We made quite a few tries at it to make sure that it was working properly. We're not going to try something that may give us a problem in the pits. The biggest thing for us is to make sure we didn't -- that the people that were going to be using it and had a proper idea of what needed to happen throughout the stops and had good usage with it, plenty of practice.
Q. You didn't need it in the race because Tom set the car up right.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: We decided that's what we were going to run. We were fairly comfortable with that throughout the race. We didn't have to make that change. We only really made -- from the start to the end of the race, the only difference in the car was half a turn of front wing. We were actually really happy with how things turned out. The car was about as good as it could be. A lot of that race was just being patient and making sure we knew we had the fastest car, but how do we make sure we have the opportunity to use it on the last 10 laps to get the win.
Q. What is the most fun thing you've done since taking the checkered flag?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: One of the funnest thing I was able to do, as far as things not at the Speedway, not having to do directly -- I got to throw out the first pitch at the Mets game last night. I was pretty nervous about that because I've seen and heard all the horror stories about people that bounce it or don't get it there, pitcher can't get it. Everybody told me, you got to aim high, aim high. So I aimed high, about a foot over the top of the catcher's head. That's about right where it went.
If I ever had the opportunity to do it again, I think I'd try for the mitt this time. My aim is a bit better than I thought it would be.
TIM HARMS: Sam, thanks again for taking time to join us. That's all the questions we've got for you. Congratulations again.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.
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