NASCAR Media Conference
Sam Hornish, Jr.
March 3, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Sam Hornish, Jr.
Sam, this place holds an important meaning in your career. You won the last IndyCar race here. You made your Sprint Cup Series debut here last year. Talk about coming back to Phoenix.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I mean, made my Sprint Cup debut. Also made my Busch, now Nationwide debut here. Won my first IndyCar race here. Won the last IndyCar race I ran here. So I've had a lot of really fond memories of Phoenix. It's been a great place for me to be able to come out here and to run.
I can't think of anything better than to come back out here. We had a good run last year. Had a couple small problems that kept us from having a top-20 finish.
But I think this year, being a little bit smarter, knowing more about the cars, I look forward to coming out here and getting a little bit of track time, learning a little bit more and hopefully having a good run when we come back out here for the race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. I'm wondering your thoughts on Vegas and then the quick turnaround. Is it harder on you or your crew?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thoughts about Vegas. We had a pretty good qualifying run. We were doing okay in the race. We ended up losing the right front tire going through the tri-oval. Ended up banging up the car pretty bad. Had to come in. Spent about a hundred laps in the pits getting the car fixed. That was difficult for us. We are, just like everybody else, trying to stay in the top 35 in points. That's especially important to me going up to some of the places where I haven't been able to race at before in the Sprint Cup Series.
So I think, you know, we just need to keep our heads up, keep working. It does make it tough on the teams, though. That's why we decided not to run this morning. We were able to get in here about 9:00, almost 10:00 last night, let the guys sleep in just a little bit today.
It really probably is more beneficial for us to run the afternoon and the evening practice tonight just because it's more like what we're going to get when we come back out here racing anyhow. It was real nice for me at least to be able to sleep in a little bit. I know the guys appreciated it, too.
Q. Sam, when you were back in the IRL, the schedule was obviously far less than it is now. Now you have a 38-week schedule, testing, all the other things you have to do with appearances and stuff. Is it what you expected and are you kind of settling into it?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, it's a long schedule, for sure. The good thing about running last year in the Nationwide Series, running the IndyCar Series, all the other things we did, not only did I race about 39 weekends last year, but I was in all different kinds of cars. So we had a whole bunch of testing that we were doing. Really gave us an opportunity to see what the schedule was going to be like.
Obviously, right now it seems like time is really, you know, kind of flying by. And that's a pretty good thing when things aren't going your way because it's only the next week before you go race again. You kind of have an opportunity to turn it around.
Q. You're now a new father. How is that factoring in?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Oh, I've said this a couple times. I'm probably not up for Father of the Year. I've been home probably about eight days out of, I don't know, about 30 so far. I haven't got as much time at home as I'd like.
But I've got a good support group as far as my parents and my wife's parents at home, you know, helping her out. I'm out on the road. So, you know, that's made it a little bit difficult, you know, not being able to see them as much as I'd like to.
But, you know, the first month or so of having a baby, it's kind of hard to be out traveling around. I've really enjoyed being a dad. Look forward to moving forward with that. Really looking forward to the week after Atlanta. They're going to come down to Charlotte, spend the week down there with me, so I'm looking forward to that.
Q. Word has it that the Dodge car was behind last year. Over the months during the off-season, seems like the Dodge is running much better. Can you give us your feelings on how you feel the Dodge has performed this year compared to last?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think obviously with the performance that we all had at Daytona, eight out of the top 15 cars being Dodges, I think that really shows the teamwork that the Dodge camp had. And that's exactly the place where you need the most amount of teamwork.
We haven't had the success to get back to Victory Lane since then. I think Dodge has really renewed or started to show how committed they are to Sprint Cup racing. I think that's a good thing for anybody in the Dodge camp.
I think we'll continue to move forward. I think they've really upped what they're doing as far as the technology goes and hopefully they'll continue to do that in the future.
Q. Was there one certain thing that maybe stood out this year over last year? It seemed to me that last year on a green flag restart the Dodge just didn't come out of the hole as quick, and now it seems like it does. Anything else you can pinpoint why it's become stronger?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Not any one thing. You know, I think constantly the engine companies are working at getting the most horsepower that they can, doing all the aerodynamics and things like that.
I think the big success that everybody's looking at is really Daytona. And I think that goes back to the teamwork. Whereas a lot of times the guys over the past years may have thought they had to fight the other Dodges more so, trying to kind of gain the supremacy of who is the No. 1 team or things like that, I think that was kind of thrown out the window this year and everybody was, How do we help each other and get a good victory?
Q. You talked about all your accomplishments here. What do you attribute your success here at PIR to?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know that there's, you know, any one thing. But, you know, I think a lot of it is just the timing. First time I came here with Panther Racing was the first time I won my IndyCar race. That was the first time I was with a really good team that was capable of winning. I was able to make the most of it.
The last time I was here -- last time I won an IndyCar race here I was with Penske Racing. Roger and I decided to make the gamble of not coming in for tires there with about 15 laps to go on a caution, and was able to hold my teammate Helio and Dario Franchitti off for the last 15 laps. So I thought those are the -- things have kind of always generally tended to work out well, you know, here for me. Not any one thing. I've always enjoyed coming out here. I remember coming out here as a kid, watching the IndyCar race, and Long Beach, on back-to-back weekends back in the early '90s.
A lot of people took family vacations to remote places or whatever growing up. My family, we'd go and we'd get out here on a Saturday night, go to the IndyCar race, Long Beach day, Phoenix all the next week, and watch the race here Sunday, fly back Sunday night so we could be back to school on Monday. Things like that. We went to races. We'd go up to the Cup races in Michigan or to the Brickyard, just whatever.
A lot of people ask me, How could you leave IndyCar racing, it means so much to me. It does. That was the first thing I really wanted to kind of accomplish in my racing career. But when it came down to it, I'm a racing fan. I don't care what kind of racing it is. I'm a really competitive person. I just always feel like, you know, if I'm in a car or anything that you can possibly race, you know, I'll race it. When it comes down to it on a weekend, you know, I might go and run the Sprint Cup race, but when I get home on Sunday night, you know, I'll have the IndyCar race, I'll have drag racing, you know, whatever DVR'd. That's what I watch during the week, is the other races that went on. I'm a big race fan.
Q. Robby Gordon says he might enter in the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Would you ever consider doing that?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I'd consider it. Whether I could get the team to do it or not. Obviously with Penske Racing having both an IndyCar team and a stock car team, that would be optimal for me to be able to do it. You have to go through getting the sponsors to be interested in that. Obviously I think that we need to be doing a little bit better in the points at that point in time to even think about that.
But I think that would be something would be a lot of fun to do. It would definitely be tough. You know, racing 500 miles in a day can wear you out, let alone 1100. I think hopefully someday down the road I'll have an opportunity to do that. I don't know that it will be this year.
Q. How big a factor do you think age plays in a driver being equipped to handle the series?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think if you really look at it, you know, a lot of advancements have been made in safety over the past years. Each series has a different kind of age that you can race to. If you look at Formula One, you know, a lot of guys retire by the time that they're 35 or so. If you look at IndyCars, a lot of guys are early to mid 30s. Stock car drivers generally tend to be able to last a little bit longer.
It's a physically demanding schedule to be able to run 36 weekends and to run 400-, 500- mile or lap races every weekend. What you really have to look at it, that's difficult on your body. But a lot of people ask, What is safer, the stock cars or IndyCars? It's really just a big thing about physics. The IndyCars, when we used to come here and run, we'd average almost 180 miles an hour. Here it's 150. I mean, if you're in the middle of the corner, you spin and hit the wall, you're going 50 miles an hour faster.
It really just is one of those things where you've got to look at that takes a big toll on your body. So I think the impacts here is sometimes less, but you don't necessarily ever want to have to go through that. Just differences in how the cars, you know, react when they have a problem, how your body can handle it or not.
Q. Now that you've got Las Vegas under your belt, you have experience at Texas, you're heading to Atlanta this weekend, what are you expecting with this COT there?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I really have no idea what to expect. Atlanta's one of the tracks that generally tends to be the fastest for the Sprint Cup cars. You see some of the fastest corner entry places.
I think that it will be a great place for it. There's a lot of different lanes that you can run. You know, you can run anywhere from the white line to the wall, whereas Las Vegas, you know, there's basically one or two lanes that you could run as opposed to four in Atlanta.
I think I'm looking forward to it. I've had experience at Atlanta in both IndyCars and stock cars. I had my best Busch finish there. So I'm really looking forward to going there. I think it's a big weekend for us. Very pivotal. We need to just make sure that we go out there and finish all the laps, you know, get a good finish and get some good points out of it.
Q. Juan Pablo mentioned earlier that the Phoenix track was tricky because of the handling of the car, especially on turns. Does a lot of that have to do with this being the new car, most of the drivers still being in the learning process, or is it that the track is just a hard track?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think the thing you see different about this track than most other ones is both ends are completely different. They're really not anything alike. A lot of times this track is a compromise, you're compromising one end or the other to make your car do what you want it to do. Very seldom do you ever get the car where it's really good on both ends. You're always kind of, Well, I'll give up the back straightaway so I can pass somebody going into turn one, or I'll give up coming off of four so I can be really good coming off of two.
It's really a compromise. The track is pretty tricky because a lot of times it's very hot out here. If you get a lot of sun beating down on the track, it makes things pretty slick. It's definitely a track that's one of a kind for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, thanks for joining us.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.
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