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IndyCar Series: XM Satellite Radio Indy 200

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  XM Satellite Radio Indy 200

IndyCar Series: XM Satellite Radio Indy 200

Sam Hornish, Jr.
March 19, 2005


AVONDALE, ARIZONA

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Great race. We're glad to have Sam Hornish with us. It's his 13th career victory, No. 1 all-time in the IRL IndyCar Series, seventh victory for Team Penske here at Phoenix International Raceway. His first victory since the 2004 opener at Homestead-Miami. There were some compelling moments out there, Sam. Congratulations.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you. We had a great race out there today. Heck of a battle, in my opinion, between Dario, Helio and I, from about midway on. Every time one of us would get jammed up in traffic, somebody else would take over the lead for a little bit. The final pit stops came, the tires were just so good today that we couldn't afford, you know, to put another set of tires onto make it to the end. We knew we could be a little bit quicker. The car was handling great. We were running just as fast at the end of the run as we were at the beginning. So we were super-excited about that.

THE MODERATOR: Good second-place finish right up the at Homestead - Miami, puts you right in the middle of things and your ultimate goal, of course, to win a championship.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I mean, really it's been a tough road over the last year, just every time we thought we were going to turn the corner, something else would happen. So these last two races have been a real pleasant surprise. Just tried to stay out of trouble, make it to the end of both of these races. That's the goal for this year for me, is just to finish every lap, try to stay out of trouble and make it, because these races are so competitive any more. The championship gets so competitive that you need to do things like that, extraordinary things, have 15 top fives and all that kind of good stuff.

THE MODERATOR: You made the comment that last year you made some mistakes. I thought that was interesting because one of your hallmarks is not making mistakes. Is that how you viewed 2004?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah. I thought there was a lot of times that we could have really seemed to have done something. I left a little bit on the table or pushed a little bit too hard. You know, the big thing now, in my opinion, is just making it to the end of these races because I know you got a lot better chance of leading the last lap if you make it to the end as opposed to crashing out on Lap 25. That's what we've done over the last two races, is just try to make sure that we remain smooth and calm throughout the whole race. We'll put ourselves in position to do well.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I saw him coming up beside me. These cars have good enough mirrors on them that you can see quite a bit of the stuff. I knew going into that last restart that Dario was a little bit better on fresh tires than what we were. I knew he was going to be a lot better when we were running 65-lap tires and he was running, you know, 10-lap tires. I knew that I had to treat it like the high-bank tracks that we run at. I had to pick my line at the restart. I knew the bottom was the best place to be and I knew I could hold it all the way through turns one and two, down the back straightaway. So I knew that. Everybody it seemed like I came around to try to pass for position, they wanted to make me do it on the outside. I figured that's the best position to put somebody else in, too.

Q. When you started winning, when you were winning on a regular basis, how much (inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, it's a huge relief. I really feel that the guys that do my pit stops are the best that there is. They are more dedicated than anybody I've ever seen, you know, as far as doing these pit stop practices and making sure that they're always on the ball, just as absolutely as quick as they can be. They work real hard at it. I feel I let them down if I don't win a race or meet our expectations. So I think it was a big relief for me to be back in the Victory Lane. We've got a lot of new things coming with the IRL this year. I'm really looking forward to Indianapolis, as always. I think this is a great momentum-booster for all those things.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, I mean, you know, I knew I couldn't make any mistakes because Helio was right there behind me also. I knew that Dario was my biggest threat at that point in time. Helio and I were fairly matched as far as our cars go. We've really tried to work this year on helping each other for the greater goal. When we came here in the open test, Helio on the first day was a couple 10ths slower than me. There was only one difference between the car. He tried it, he liked it, picked up a couple 10ths. Yesterday he was a couple 10ths quicker. Then, you know, I tried one of the changes that he made. I think we're really helping each other out. We're starting to begin to work a lot better with each other for the better of the team.

Q. (Inaudible) looked like things were pretty even.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think there's still work for us to do. I'm never going to be happy until we have an advantage, you know. I know that the guys at Toyota are never going to be happy until they have an advantage. I think everything is real close right now, and everybody's working. But, you know, if you can find three to five horsepower between every race, you're going to be better off than anybody else because that's what keeps all these guys going. They're just looking for those little gains. There's not big gains to be made any more. Hopefully with all the things that we've got going, we'll just continue to be a little bit better each time that we go out for the races. I can't wait. Last year, in my opinion, it was a big difference because you could have looked at the cars, we were running, you know, not -- we ran a lot less downforce at a lot of places last year, just repeating which that also forced us to make some -- or forced me to make some mistakes, because, okay, you know, I'm running right here with Dario. At Pikes Peak, I can keep it right here. Not having as much downforce, you burn up the tires, you end up putting yourself in the wall, you make mistakes because of that. So hopefully we'll keep getting a little bit better and we'll be exactly where we need to be, we'll have an advantage. I know once that happens, it will make us all that much better because we've done so much work trying to make ourselves overcome that.

Q. What happens in the one-mile oval (inaudible). Do you kind of gain any horsepower advantage?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, you can make up for things here. It's not like going to Texas, where it's all-out. You can make up for a little bit anywhere. But the one-mile ovals have always been the best place to do that. If you had a good-handling car you're going to go to the front, no matter. If you're 10 horsepower ahead or 50 behind, you're going to have a good run. But, you know, things have gotten so competitive now that you don't have just one car that's handling well out there; you've got five guys that are handling well. Different circumstances are going to happen that are going to put one guy a lap down or one guy is going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, they'll get in a crash. Then you've got three different guys battling it out and they're all on different schedules, too. So there's a lot of different things that affect that.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, I feel that it's been a long time since I've been on a road course competitively. But like I said, my goal for this season is to finish every lap. I'm going to go there, try to keep a cool head about me no matter what happens that weekend. I know if you're running at the end of that race, you're halfway competitive, you're going to be in the Top 10. You don't have to win every one of these races to win the championship. It sure helps if you can. But I'm just going to go out there and try to do the best I can. I feel very optimistic about it. I've worked real hard in the off-season, trying to get myself in better shape, to knock all the rust off, I guess I should say, keep myself healthy. If we can go there and stay out of trouble, we'll be okay.

Q. Dario said there was some contact (inaudible). Do you remember any contact?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Yeah, I tried to get around him on the outside of turn one, like Lap 20. You know, it's real tough to say because, you know, we're relying a lot on spotters any more with how competitive things have gotten. If they say clear, you're going to move. And sometimes, you know, their eyesight or whatever, you know, you just can't. I started to go around -- I started to get a run on the outside of him. I wasn't all the way up beside him, but you're constantly trying to get that run. He came up, whatever happened. We just kind of bumped a little bit. Obviously, I'm not trying to hit him with my front wing because I've got a lot more to lose in that situation than what he does. But, you know, I think that's how tight this racing has become. Not only are you seeing it on the mile-and-a-half tracks, but you're seeing it on the mile tracks, three-quarter mile, all the way to Indy.

THE MODERATOR: Your comment about St. Pete. I go back a couple years, we bring you to these press conferences, I remember at Kansas once you finished third, Robbie Buhl looked and said, "What are you so up happy about? You finished third." It seems like it was win or nothing for you at that point. Has that changed? Is your focus different?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, I'm still not happy if I don't win. But I've just become wise enough to know that you don't have to win every one of these races. I know that there's certain things that I do better than others. Maybe thinking of -- you know, thinking through a race, I might do better than all-out aggressive kind of a race. I think that oval racing and road course racing are totally different because of not only, yeah, you're turning right and left or you're just turning left, but I think oval racing is very patience-oriented, very mental as far as getting to the end. I think that road course racing is a little bit more physical, muscling your way up there. You can make some other mistakes. But I know that going to St. Petersburg, you can't make any mistakes because you've got concrete walls around you. It's like an oval. It's a lot about patience. I know there's certain things I'm going to be able to do good at, there's certain things I'm not going to be able to do good at. I just got to go out and do the best I can try to maximize the points until I get to the point where I feel I'm capable of winning every one of those races.

Q. (Inaudible) rivalry between you two?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: We have a rivalry no matter where we go. You know, that's what it is. But Helio is a very accomplished road racer. He's got a lot of experience in cars similar to this. You know, obviously Champ Cars isn't same thing what we're running now, but this size of a car, I never had anything that has this much horsepower or that weighs this much. You know, there is a little bit for me to make up there. But I know that a lot of these tracks, it's all about not making any mistakes as far as getting to that. I think there's going to be a rivalry. We always want to beat the other guy. I think going into that, he's got a little bit of an advantage. But I'm going to work as hard as I can to take any of that away that I can.

THE MODERATOR: Sam, congratulations.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Thank you.



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