IndyCar Series: XM Satellite Radio Indy 200
Topics: XM Satellite Radio Indy 200
Sam Hornish, Jr.
March 24, 2007
MODERATOR: We'll get started with our second place finisher, Scott Dixon. Scott, if you would tell us about your run out there tonight.
SCOTT DIXON: I think for Target it was a good run. We had pretty good cars. Mine to start with was not so good. I was struggling with a lot of -- it was the same for a lot of the guys out there. But I'm happy. Here we came away with more points than we did last year and it was just a tough race and Dan is very dominant here.
It's being a teammate, we turned around. It was just a very good day for our team.
Q. Sam, talk about your run out there. Sam Hornish, our third place finisher.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It was a struggle for us tonight. We could stay with Dan when we were there, pretty much, but stalled the car in the pit stop. Fortunately for us we thought Dan had a problem too. We thought we could get to the field quicker than him. Got stuck with the cars, couldn't make it. Dan was really good tonight and we just weren't fast enough, the car handled well. We couldn't get to point where we felt like we could just keep that pace, especially if we lost the draft. And I said I was going to be happy if I came out here with a third place finish today.
So I guess I better be. And we had a third place finish last year here and Dan won the race and we ended up winning the championship. We will take it as a good omen and go into St. Petersburg and hope we do better.
Q. For both of you, big difference in racing this place at night compared to racing during the day?
SCOTT DIXON: There weren't too many differences. There's so many differences with the fuel cell and stints and the dell force package and things like that. The race seems similar. Seemed to stretch out a bit at the end, which was a bit odd. But to me it didn't matter that it was at night. I think the cars were a little bit ahead with more grip.
Q. Sam, anything?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Definitely it's a lot cooler here. The cars have more grip, more down force because of the cool temperature also not much track temperature with the sunlight on it. As far as running here at night, it's a fun track to run at whether it's at night or not.
And I was pretty happy to see that there's -- for having the rainstorms and all the problems that looked like there was a pretty decent crowd, much better than I think what we had last year. So if anything good comes out of it, that's something.
Q. Sam, the last time I can remember a driver dominating this much was you here on the old flat track I think in 2001. Can you remember anybody being that good at a race at an IndyCar Series?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: It was pretty good today. Last year we felt we had the upper hand and ended up with a problem where we pitted. We kind of did the same thing. We were able to stretch it out through the runs but ended up getting stuck in the pack similar to what we had today.
But definitely, you know, the old flat track, I like a lot. And in 2002, with about 10 laps to go or 15 laps to go we had everybody a lap down. So that was a fun day and ended up getting back into the lead lap, when Jill did. But that was one of the nicest days I had in the car. When the car handles that well, the race just can't go by fast enough.
Q. Sam, did the limits on testing, was that part of why you felt like you struggled here today? Would more testing preseason have made you more comfortable going into the open race?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I felt pretty comfortable with the car, what it was doing when I came here for the open test. I mean, I was everything but throwing stuff. I was not happy with the way I fit in the car. I wasn't happy with how tight my arms were.
You feel like you're sitting on top of the thing. After running the stock car as much as I did, you have all this elbow room, you get up there and turn the wheel. In this, no matter how I sit in the car, my elbows are stuck like that.
So it was just a big difference. I wish I had a little bit more time to get some more seat time before the beginning of the year. Literally, the first time that I was on an oval or did any kind of oval testing at IndyCar was that.
So it was a long time off. But that's how the rules are and that's part of why we're going out and we're doing the Busch program so I can go out there and feel like, okay, maybe it's not the same kind of car but at least I've got some seat time going into that first race.
Q. Scott, you were six and a half, close to six and a half seconds behind Dan. An unusual margin of victory for the IndyCar Series. Was he so dominant or was there any problems and you were about 10 seconds ahead of Sam?
SCOTT DIXON: Yes, coming in on the last stop, I locked up the left front pretty good and nearly missed an entry exit, so had a bad run in, and Dan eventually in that stint, his car on the last seemed to be strong. He had stickers on Target. I was on scuffs and my car got pretty bad. 10 laps before that I could hang onto him quite happily. But they just didn't have the speed after that. Going out I got I tried to go too quick but, out of gas and definitely got a good run-off. I think towards the end we were sort of at the same speed on the 10s and 11s but we're too far apart.
Q. Next to a road course, can you -- I know it's not your favorite track in the world, but can you make up the difference?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. Our big thing is everywhere we go, if we won there last year we try to win. We want to at least match what we finished or do better. We had a finish at St. Petersburg last year, ran in the top three the first three-quarters of the race until we lost to Briggs. So fortunately for us we feel that's a track that we can go and be competitive. As far as other courses, kind of continue to make our way.
I'm not to the point yet where I feel like I can battle with these guys every time we go out there on the restarts and starts. I feel like they've got a little bit on me. But I feel like we continue to close that gap up a little bit. And hopefully that will stay true this year.
I had twice as much work course testing as what I did, oval testing this year. So I had two places where we ran out. I feel open testing in Daytona. We're in the top four, five both days. I believe we should be able to do a little bit better.
Q. Scott, was Dan like a red flash when he went by you? I mean, he made up that many spots in about nine laps.
SCOTT DIXON: He was quick, man. Like there was no doubt about it. I think he definitely -- the speed I know when he was running out front he was running quite lean. The car was very fast, no doubt about it. I know our cars were very similar in set-up, dry stall or what. His car was fast.
Q. Gentlemen, we've got a new technical package obviously. And I'd like to know how -- has the torque helped you guys in your passing situation with slower cars or is everybody pretty equal here?
SCOTT DIXON: I think that's something that's more evident on the road courses than what it will be -- everybody has got the same engine. So you're basically -- if somebody last year was a little bit slower off the corner, they're going to get a little bit more torque and you're going to get a little more torque. So I don't know how much it will help, but I do think handling cars they can put the power down is definitely going to be better than somebody else that's spinning the wheels. I think the more torque you have in that condition the better you're going to be able to get around people. But as far as this track goes the only time that's really evident is getting out of the pits, getting enough speed.
Q. Last year the red cars were the car to beat. This year you feel the Andretti Green made up anything on you or is this just another step after last year?
SCOTT DIXON: It seemed at least in qualifying they had a bit more speed. Tony seemed to feeling good towards the end but already four lap down on the end, tried to get it back. Looked like they were struggling. I don't know if their balance was off, but you look at Marco, he was struggling big time. Speed-wise I think they're pretty close, it's just trying to get up, maybe a set-up that they can run at that speed consistently.
MODERATOR: We appreciate your time. Good run tonight. We'll see you next week.
We're joined by race winner Dan Wheldon. Dan, I think it's fair to say that it was a dominating win out there, interviews with Scott and Sam before you came in, member of the media referenced you were a red flash out there. So if you would tell us about your run out there tonight.
DAN WHELDON: It's a great way to open up the season. I think with Ganassi Racing -- this is not a sales pitch, this is the truth. We've worked very hard over the winter to try and perfect what we started last year. I think definitely underestimated how difficult the transition would be coming to a new team.
And I think some of what you saw tonight is just the experience.
But I have to say, you know, a lot of credit goes to the engineering staff. I would like to single out one person in particular, and I'm sure people will get mad at me for singling one person out, but Andy Brown has done a fantastic job with me.
Just couldn't be better. As we all credit Honda, we've gone from a 3 liter to a 3.5 liter, ethanol fuel, been a seamless transition. It's fun out there. For me I do every now and then throw a tantrum. Even when we had the problem in the pits, I was pretty calm because the car was just fun to drive and fast.
Q. What is it about Homestead, you won three straight events here, first time a driver has done that in league history. And the last three races you have led 345 of the last 600 laps.
DAN WHELDON: Still finished second in the championship last year. So I just wanted to point that out. I don't know. I love the racetrack. It really seems to just suit my style. And in particular the last couple of years the car, although it's got pretty steep banking, the car does move around a lot and you have to get something that you're comfortable with. And I certainly had that.
You could see it out there, whether it be traffic or on my own. But maybe because I'm a Florida boy, because I'm a resident of St. Petersburg, it must be the weather or something that brings out the best in me.
But I really do love this track and looking forward to coming back again.
Q. Dan, after the pit stop, rather than get rattled, you calmed the team down and you went out, went from ninth to first within eleven laps. Is it something, maturity in you or confidence in the car, the team, what was it?
DAN WHELDON: I would have to say maturity and confidence in the car. The reason I would say it's maturity is because when I was at Andretti Green I think Tony thought he was immature until he saw me. At one particular incident that we had, he found himself calming me down. And he had never seen himself in that position before.
So I think just with experience you understand the circumstances. You understand what -- I did have a very good car underneath me. And I still had about 90 laps to get to the front, I think.
So it wasn't a big issue. And the biggest thing that I felt last year is sometimes I really tried to force the issue. And I didn't want to do that again. I wanted to let it come to me.
This is all preparation for the Indianapolis 500. And Chip is very determined to win that race this year. I've not really met many people as determined to win that race as I am. He's certainly pumped up enough, something that we've talked about even in the Homestead prerace meeting. So it was just -- I think a lot of different things. But I would probably say on top of it is maturity.
Q. Dan, you may have to help me with my memory, but didn't you tie Hornish in points last season?
DAN WHELDON: Doesn't matter. Still finished second in the books.
Q. I know, but point-wise you tied him. The question I wanted to ask you, yesterday you were pretty confident in your car. I don't know if you really had much chance to drive in traffic with other cars, because that seems to be what most of the other drivers had to say. But you seem to be very confident, and how did you know you had a good car?
DAN WHELDON: I think any time you're around TK and he says when he see on the track you've got a good car, he's got a pretty good read on that.
You just know with experience. And, you know, what you guys really don't see is how working with somebody for a second year or second consecutive year, how much of a difference it makes. And I think that's really a big part of why we understood that our car was good in traffic. I did put my car in traffic in the test. And I definitely pushed it to the limit in the test.
And in the time that we got in a couple of one-hour practice sessions I was able to have an idea.
Q. How do you feel about running on ethanol this year at 100% and what does that mean to you and to the IRL, do you think?
DAN WHELDON: I think, first of all, we are the first motor racing series to do that. I think certainly the IndyCar Series should be proud of that. But you have to give credit to the partner Honda as well. You have to work together to do that. I would think anything you can do that's better for the environment is a good thing.
So we're very happy about that.
Q. How do you think the additional throttle response and torque with the 3.5 engine will affect next week's race?
DAN WHELDON: You just have to set your car up accordingly. And there's certain points of -- the road courses where you just can't be so aggressive to the power.
So it's one of those things. It's great to have. I mean, we're always wanting to get as much power as possible. And Honda has been able to help us with that certainly in the bottom end range of the power band.
But I think you want to be able to -- you won't be able to be so aggressive to the power. And you'll also have to compensate with the setup for that.
Q. I know you're confident. Can you imagine winning? Did you imagine coming in tonight, did you imagine winning this much even over your teammate, who has the exact same stuff as you do?
DAN WHELDON: No, you always want to dominate. And I knew at the test that I had something that was very competitive. But, no, I guess, no, I didn't think I would dominate like that. I think everything kind of went my way to a certain degree. And we were just able, you know, in a situation that we had in the pits, we were able to not lose too much time because I could get to the front quickly and really not work the tires too much in doing so.
It was a case of trying to break away. The thing for me is I think some people could run the same pace as me for the first 10 laps when they run new tires, but after that they tended to struggle a little bit.
So the longer the stints were the better for me.
Q. Dan, do you think the manner in which you won tonight kind of stunned your competition? Sam looked here tonight afterwards the way he does after a Busch race.
DAN WHELDON: That's good. Hopefully we do that some more. I think, A, if you're talking about mentally hurting the opposition, I think with the big crash the first day of the test and then getting in the second day and still being quickest, and, you know, setting a lap on my second lap that second day that got me, I think, in position too.
But any time you can do this, you know, more importantly it gives you great confidence. And it makes other people work harder. But as a team we've got to keep pushing because Roger Penske's organization is very strong and he's not going to sit back and take this one lightly.
Q. Coming off a good result at Homestead, what are your expectations for the next oval event, which is in Japan?
DAN WHELDON: I'd say it's a track I've done very well at before. The record -- I could have gone for three consecutive there last year. And you know that would have been big for me because obviously I've been part of the Honda family for a long time. And won my first IndyCar race there. And then I also was the first to win in seven years of trying for Honda. Particularly special track for me. I think we have a good race car there. Obviously I'm not 100% sure what Brian is going to do with wing angles and stuff like that and what appendages he's going to allow us to use.
But I think we'll feature it pretty strongly. It's an important race because it's one of those -- it's a challenging track which can somewhat simulate Indianapolis.
Q. Last year, the red cars were the car to beat. And seems like you've picked up where things left off. Do you feel after today's race, did you see the AGR cars and have they got a lot to make up on you?
DAN WHELDON: I was surprised. I've been staying with Tony the whole weekend. And you can always tell when Tony is quick because he struts around his house thinking he's the king of the hill. He had some of that swagger going on. But I don't know what happened to their cars. I know they made some pretty big changes at the end of the first day of the test.
So I thought they would be quicker. But any time you've got Tony leading the team and Marco Andretti they're going to turn it around quickly and they'll be strong on the road course, there's no doubt about it.
MODERATOR: Good luck.
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