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IndyCar Series: ABC Supply Company A.J. Foyt 225

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  ABC Supply Company A.J. Foyt 225

IndyCar Series: ABC Supply Company A.J. Foyt 225

Sam Hornish, Jr.
July 24, 2005


MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys, very much. Congratulations on a fine run. We are joined by the winner Sam Hornish, Jr. Sam, got to be exciting for you to win here at Milwaukee. On everyone's mind is when you got out of the car, you took a moment. When you got up to the victory podium, you took a moment. How hot was it?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It's tough enough to get around this track when it's 60 degrees let alone 100. After, I don't know, lap 175, I don't think I took a breath the whole time. I was just out there pushing it as hard as I could. I wanted to win the race real bad. We had a car that was capable of doing that. I figured however we had to get up there, that what we needed to do.

THE MODERATOR: A couple of incidents I would like to bring up, you and Helio off of turn two. What is your perspective on that?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, we all have our own perspective, I guess. No, I got a good run. He got a run on me earlier in the race, I let him go. I understand that it's later on in the race so he's going to give me a little less room. I got a good run, was beside him. He held me down tight. I was off the gas and turning as hard as I could. I don't think that I moved up. Like I said to Roger. I said, "I'm real sorry that it happened but I want to look at the replay before I place blame on anybody." It's tough racing out there, close racing. It's too bad that it happened, but real gad to see the Marlboro Team Penske car in Victory Lane.

THE MODERATOR: How about the incident in turn two, hit the fence, kept going?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Like I said, it was a real tough race out there. I didn't want to do too much shifting. The gearbox was not quite working the way it should be at the end of the race. I think I missed a shift earlier on in the race. It just didn't push it quite hard enough to go down from sixth to fifth. It kind of rattles in between the two gears. When it does that, it takes the selector, kind of allows the dog ring that holds is in gear to nick each corner of it so it doesn't want to hold properly. It's kind of like a sweater, it just keeps getting worse and worse. It's never going to get any better. Once you get that loose end, it's going to keep getting worse and worse. Once I got around Dario, I said, All right, I'm going to leave it in fifth gear, that's it, drive around. Didn't have the benefit of the rpm to slow me down going into the corner. Went down in there, it took off, went straight, wouldn't turn. Once you get the tires up in the marbles at all, it goes straight until the front end starts to grip, then the back end comes around. Get the lead, then run into the wall, here we go, with 10 laps to go. It was a tough race out there. I caught back up to Dario. I figured, you know, he's not going to fall for letting me go around the outside again so I got to figure out something different. I was able to get a run on him, get below him, use the fact that his car was pushing a little bit to my advantage by him being on the outside, he couldn't hold it there, you know, like he would have been on the inside. It worked out well. It was easier to get by him on the inside than it was on the outside. I was just real glad we got into Victory Lane. Gearbox held up. It's really a tribute to the Marlboro Team Penske crew and how much work they put into making sure all these things are stressed and strong enough to withhold even a mistake and then after that the problems that can occur. Every time I'd go down in the corner, I'd shift down from sixth to fifth, it would end up in anywhere from fourth to third gear. It just kind of would go where it wanted to. It was really starting to worry me there. Then on the last lap, if I didn't keep -- if I went in the corner and lifted, if I didn't keep a little bit of throttle on it, it would start shifting itself, it would go down. The dog rings wore enough, they rotate together, they click together. When I'd lift, the engine was turning slower than what the wheels were, so it would get away. It would allow it to come apart, start kinda shifting itself. Not a good feeling, but I'm glad it held up. That was a good thing for us.

THE MODERATOR: With all that going on in the car, the hottest race we can remember on here at the Milwaukee Mile. Track conditions as they were, slippery as they were, there was some two-groove racing. Was that surprising to you, considering how slippery it got out there?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: The outer line is really the preferred line around here. There's not that much better grip down at the bottom, a little bit more of a radius that you have by running the outer line is the preferred place to be. The only problem is that the closer you get up there, the more chance you get to getting into the marbles a little bit, giving yourself a problem. One of the things I found halfway through the race, I found my car handled a little bit better down lower than what it did up high. From lap 50 to, you know, 150, driving it in the place that it didn't handle the best. As soon as I went down there, the car stuck a lot better, turned in better, came off the corner better. "I'm going to drive here." It was dumb luck that you find out those things. You think when your car's a little bit loose, driving a higher line is going to help it out because you're not pinching the car as much. But for whatever reason, it had a little bit better grip down low.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. You've climbed to second in points, 68 points back. Do you feel you're setting yourself up for your third championship pace?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think that it's definitely -- there's a long road to go there. But we go to a couple tracks I like a lot. Michigan, been in the top 10 every time I've raced there, the top five twice. I think that it should be a good weekend for us. Toyota has been trying to move forward as much as they can, getting us some more horsepower. We go to that track. Obviously after that, we go to Kentucky. That track has been very good to me. Only had one finish outside of the top 10 in whatever, five races that I ran there. Really look forward to that. Pikes Peak has been pretty good, except for last year. We go into there knowing what our problem was last year, and hopefully don't have that mistake again. I think my road course ability is getting better. The more time that we get in these cars, I think the better that I'm becoming with that. St. Petersburg was looking pretty good until the last 15 laps. We go to those races, stay out of trouble, any amount of things could happen. The closer we catch up to Dan, the more probability there might be he could make a mistake trying to keep us back there, pushing something that he doesn't need to. That feels good. The fact that if you look at it, Dario has picked up a lot of points, too. It's real close racing. I look back at a lot of yesterdays, we gave up a lot of points, could possibly be leading it right now. But that's how things go. We're looking forward to the future. I think we've got a lot of races where we could make up points. Just got to go there, stay out of trouble, hopefully not have any days like we had today before lap 200. We were up and down, fighting. It was just a real bad thing that Helio and I got together. I feel terrible about it because Roger wants us to come home 1, 2 every time we go out there. If we can't do that, it's tough. But it's close racing out there. You'll see anywhere we go, these short tracks. You get guys bumping each other; it's just how it goes. I knew I had a real fast race car, and if I could get around him -- getting around him was going to be the hardest person to get around to win the race. I had a good run on him and thought, "Here we go." I think there's a lot of things left to do in this championship, seven races to go. I think it can be done. It's going to be tough. Dan has been fast. Every time I think we're going to go to a track and he's not going to be quick, he is. Hopefully we'll just keep going out there and making up a little bit on points. The good thing now is we've nearly cut the points in half that we were behind him. Really, we don't have to push things as hard, but I'm sure we will sometimes because that's what it takes, that last little bit. It's really easy to go out there and run 90% all day and bring the car home. It's being able to go a hundred percent, that last little bit, put it on the edge. It's kind of rolling the dice to see if you can drive it that way. That's what we had today, and you saw it. We went out there and some of the things looked really good today, the passes, and other times we were all by ourselves and had a problem. It's tough racing.

Q. (No microphone.)

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think it was about lap -- about a hundred to go when they decided -- it was like 75 to go when they decided to stay out there. I kind of just looked at it from the point that, you know, we've got a really good car. Stay out of trouble, maybe these guys will give each other a problem running side by side, and we can take advantage of it. We really hadn't had a chance to run hard on the last set of tires we put on. The last set is what we were saving. We knew they were going to be the best set because they were stickers. We thought if we could go out there and not push them too hard at the beginning and either make the car push or loose, we knew we could go out there. I didn't really know what to expect. I thought we were going to be a little bit quicker than what we had been, but it is tough to pass here. I didn't know we were going to be nearly as fast as what we ended up being there at the end of the race. I was really pushing the car hard there at the end. But actually the car felt the best it had all day. We started off the race and the car was good. It was kind of mediocre at the middle of the race. The last 50 laps, 60 laps, it was great. I could put it wherever I wanted to, down low or up top.

Q. Gearbox problems.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: The car was really good. We actually went with shorter gears than what we had this morning. We had taller gears to go faster. Went out there this morning, it was slower than what we expected it. We put shorter gears in, tried to bring the rpm up. We thought if it gets hotter like it's supposed to, it's going to be even slower. We went shorter again. We had good -- we had the right top gears in, but we also had good restart gears and a good gear to go down to. That was one of the things I saw where we pulled people the best was off the corners. Our fourth was where it really needed to be to get that extra slingshot. I could run fifth, sixth when I was by myself. I don't think it had anything to do -- attribute anything to the gearbox. The amount that you have to -- the amount of pressure that you have to put on the gear shift lever to shift it, between being enough to make it go in cleanly and enough to not go in cleanly where it rattles around is so little. Sometimes you think, Oh, yeah, I'm pushing it way too hard. You'll blister your hand pushing too hard, just jamming it in there. You don't really want to do that. It's kind of wasted effort. You get in a rhythm where you, you know, kind of click it down, click it down. Sometimes it's not enough. You got to sometimes learn the difference between not enough and too much. I think that was just a mistake on my part early on in the race. It just becomes worse and worse as you go on.

Q. How close was it out there side by side?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: It was too close for comfort, that's for sure. No, you know, Dan -- I wasn't really trying to pass him on the outside. He just got down in the corner. All three of them were pushing enough that they were really getting out of it to be able to make the car turn coming off of turn two. That's where my car was better. They would go down, hug the yellow line, be right down there on the bottom. I could just drive it in there harder, get to the outside. It's tough to be out there because you never know if they're going to give you enough room on the outside. Plus the spotter has to relay it to them. You're not expecting somebody to go around the outside on turn two, around the outside of you anywhere at this track. I think the thing about it was, when I got -- Dan gave me about an inch more room than what I needed between his car and the wall coming off the corner. Tony gave me a little bit more. Dario maybe not even gave me an inch. That's how close this racing is out there. You're not expecting that guy to be out there and you're going to give him as little room as you possibly can. We don't like to bang these cars off of each other because we don't have the fenders. I guarantee this is as exciting racing as you're ever going to see anywhere with how close we run these cars. It gets down to the last lap. Everybody is fighting for that last quarter inch or less of room out there on the track. Sometimes you have enough, sometimes you don't. That's when you see the problem happen. Sometimes it makes you look like the smartest guy in the world when you just barely squeak through and works, and it can make you look like the dumbest guy when it doesn't work.

HE MODERATOR: Your mother and father had their first date in the grandstand here. Used to come and visit your grandmother here. Any family ties this year to Milwaukee and your run?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: One of my uncles came up for the race. One of my mom's aunts. A whole bunch of people from Defiance. A lot of people would tell me, "What is your home race?" Michigan is the race, if you're going to count the most amount of people that come to a race. But I'd say almost anywhere that we go, there's 5200 people that I know from at home that end up showing up at the race. It's always good to be able to go out there and to see the people. Sometimes you don't even know they're going to be there until after the race is over. It was nice today, I saw some people that I didn't know were here in Victory Lane. I've been to Milwaukee so many times, it's probably the city I've been to the most outside of my own of anywhere, you know, that we race at. I think this race has just got so much heritage and history behind it with the fact it was right after Indy so many years, and whoever won Indy usually won here. The fact that this was the hottest race that we ever ran here, that made it a little bit more special. You know, I like coming here. I like going almost everywhere that we go to, but this has got kind of like a little bit more special feel to it. It's a track I really like to race at. I feel like I have a good opportunity to win each time I come here if I go out there and stay out of trouble. Hopefully next year will be another great year for us.

Q. How would you describe this win? Most difficult? Most satisfying?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think it's one of the most difficult. It's definitely the hottest. I thought that California in '03 was the hottest I could ever be after a race was over. This passed that by quite a bit. s far as satisfying, I'm glad we won the race. The fact that we had the problem on lap 185, that takes a little bit away from it. I'd like to have everything go cleanly and just be able to go out there and win. It's unfortunate when things like that happen. From that time on, I'm very happy with the way that the race went. We struggled, got our way back up there, had a problem, got back up there. The problems with the gearbox, I think if we didn't have that, it would have been a lot different race. I think we would have been able to walk with it there at the end.

Those are the things that you deal with. There's so many things you can't see from outside the car that happen. It's a very satisfying win other than the fact I didn't think we were going to win with 50 laps to go, and I thought we were going to win, then I didn't think we were going to win, then I thought we were going to win. That describes my whole day as a rollercoaster of emotions. From lap 1 to 113, nobody's going to touch us. Then it was kind of, "Boy, are we ever going to get back into this race ?" Then, "All right we're going to win. No, we're not. Yeah, we are." It worked out okay.

Q. You lost 15 to 20 pounds in the off-season. Is this perhaps the reason why you had the success you had?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I know it didn't hurt at all. I did it mostly for the road course stuff and for the fact that towards the end of the season last year, Helio got I think four out of five -- he got five poles last year, and I was like second every time. I'm like, "How is this different? What's the difference?" The cars are almost identical, the engines are the same. It was like I couldn't get ahead of him. Got kind of frustrating. I said, "The only thing I can do is try to lose weight. That's the last thing I know that's different." Before I start blaming myself that I can't just drive the car. It kind of worked out. We have three poles so far this year, two wins. I think there's still a little bit more I have to go yet to get where I'd like to be. I think the big chunk was easy to go and it's a little bit more all the time.

Q. Did you talk to Helio yet? What was said?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I didn't have a chance to talk to him yet. Tim Cindric calls his race and said Helio would be okay with it if I split the money with him for the win. I don't know if that's going to happen or not.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

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