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Indy Racing League Series: Belterra Casino Indy 300

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Belterra Casino Indy 300

Indy Racing League Series: Belterra Casino Indy 300

Sam Hornish, Jr.
Buddy Lazier
August 11, 2002


MODERATOR: We're joined by your second and third place finishers. Buddy, of course, came in as the two-time and defending winner of the Belterra 300, four-time winner in the Indy racing league last year, eight times in his career. Sam Hornish, Jr., Defending Indy Racing League champion, is still very much in the title chase. He's won three times in this year, so he's also had a very good year. Buddy, we'll begin with you. Obviously, this has been a trying year. You picked up the victory in the International Race of Champions, which was a big victory, but this was one of your strongest performances of the year. You have a team you've been together with for a long time and I know you've had confidence. Good to see you back on the podium. Tell us about your day.

BUDDY LAZIER: It was a great day. Came up a little short there at the end. At the very end, we've kind of been working all day, tuning each pit stop, getting a little better, a little better, doing the things we need to do to be successful. There at the end had a good restart, ran up on Giaffone. Had a couple really good runs on him, you know, and he moved to defend. He defended quite well. You know, there running right on his gearbox like I was in the dirty air for a number of laps, I really burnt down the front end of my car, the tires. You got to go for it. So kind of paid for it at the very end of that run, I paid for that. So there at the end, I know Sam and I both were trying to pick him. He really had the legs today I think on us a little bit. But he did a good job. He did a good job defending. A couple times I thought both he and -- either Sam or I would have him, a couple times we tried double-teaming him, tried to go high and low. Somehow he managed to go right down the middle. He did a good job. I really enjoyed it. When you run really good, like we have in the past, I remember Ricky Carmichael said, "When you run really good, you learn who your friends are. When you don't run too good, you learn who your friends are." We have a spectrum of the way it was run the last few years. I've identified who my friends are, my real friends. We wanted to come back, get a three-peat, came up short.

MODERATOR: Sam, I have given you, as Beaver Cleaver would say, the business when you've come into these press conferences on a second or third place finish, looking so down in the dumps. Unusually, for you, you seem to be a little bit resolved with it. You certainly did everything within your power, it would seem to me, from my vantage point, to get around Felipe. Didn't happen.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: We got him once; couldn't get him again (laughter). Panther team really worked their butts off this weekend. We had two really bad practice sessions yesterday. Nothing would go right. I think we were 14th this morning in practice. But we knew we had a good race car. We knew as long as went good, we'd be up front most of the day. Just came up a little bit short there at the end. We had a pit stop where one of the other cars, you know, we didn't want to go out in front of a car, and we didn't want to wait for him, but we had to wait, so we lost a couple positions there. Definitely, you know, a good day. Chevrolet and Firestone have been so good to us this year, making sure that we've got the right equipment to go out there and win. I think we were fast enough, but just didn't have enough laps there at the end.

MODERATOR: You brought out another car in practice, if I remember correctly, yesterday. Tell us about that. Was there a problem with that car? You just didn't feel like you could get that one going?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: We just had a little mechanical problem with the primary car. We have an old spec engine in the T car because we're not planning on use that, not planning on having to use that. We just went out and scuffed our tires, did what we could do with the equipment that we had at that point in time, worked on the primary car, got that one running, up to spec, just had a good race car today.

MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.

Q. Sam, talk through the last two turns. Did you feel like had you it at some point?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, when we caught up to him, it was about six laps to go. I thought, "Boy, we caught up to him, so we're halfway there." We got separated at the beginning of the last run, we just couldn't -- seemed like it took forever to catch back up. So we knew we had a fast race car, if we got the right opportunity. It's so tough to pass on the outside. Felipe's car worked well on the bottom line, but it wouldn't work on the high line. We had two opposite-handling cars. It was just a matter of timing. The fact that we came up on the lap traffic there a little bit towards the end, he was wanting to go high, there's not three grooves on this racetrack, so I had to follow behind him and try to figure out a different way. Just not enough time.

Q. Buddy, can you put in perspective what this means from an emotional point of view, confidence, third place?

BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I mean, I think it adds a lot of morale to Team Hemelgarn. I got a loyal crew. There's a lot of great guys that put a lot of effort into this. I guess it means a lot. I never questioned my confidence. I think race drivers, you know, they know what they can do. It's just a matter of expressing, once you've expressed what the car is doing, being able to implement solutions to solving problems. If you can't solve problems... I don't think a race driver ever loses their confidence, they just get frustrated. I think, you know, being successful in the IROC cars this year, coming close to that championship, winning, that sort of solidified, if there was anything, you know, for me personally as a driver. But being a successful race driver is so much more than just driving. I mean, everybody will tell you, it takes your engineer - a very critical element - it takes your crew, your funding, your engines, your tires. There's so much that goes into it. But I'm real thankful for podium and getting everything pointed in the right direction. We've eaten up a lot of race cars this year. Resources are at a minimal. Third place is a strong finish. We're real happy about it. My wife is finally smiling. Found a lot this year, so have we. We had a real slow start to the season, a real slow middle part of the season. We want to end it on a high note. This is a really good step.

Q. When the two drivers come up close to a car in front of them, are they experiencing what is now being referred to regularly in Winston Cup racing as the aero push?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: Definitely you get some push in the car as you're right off the gearbox of another car. The trick is, to our cars, because we rely so much upon our wings, to be able to give us downforce, learning other ways to give the car grip other than just through the wings. Definitely there is an aero push. I think the thing, you know, for me to be able to get by Buddy, the hardest part about that is because I knew that my car had a push, if I ran on the bottom line -- if I tried to duck underneath him and run behind Felipe through the corners, my car was going to wash up. I didn't want that to happen because it washes up, you know, Buddy and I both get up in the gray and we crash. I had to find a way to make the car, you know, be able to pass. That was through the outside. We were geared a little bit better to go to the outside.

BUDDY LAZIER: I would say for me I experienced an enormous amount of aero push today, in washout. Running up on Giaffone, there at the end we had the legs, and we really did, we had a great run, had a run on him, he moved to defend, and several times I washed out. But still I felt real confident. Like, hey, we were going to eat nails, do whatever it took, to get by him and three-peat. But I did one time lose the car. It's like a jet wash. I lost it so bad I had to drop down two, three gears. At that point I think I lost so much momentum that three guys got by me. I was able to work my way back to third. Then, I think Sam and I were both, even though we get a run on him, the way you can move to defend, it's so hard to pass an equal race car, so I was - I suspect Sam, as well - we were hoping that lap traffic would help us pick him. What comes around goes around, you know. That's happened to me. But the timing just didn't fall quite right to do so. To answer your question, yes (laughter).

Q. In general, what does that mean with other drivers having first career victories?

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I hope it stops happening (laughter). I'd like to win some more, you know. It's so tough, I think it just shows how competitive the IRL is. I mean, how many of the last races have been won by new winners? You know, it's tough to gain an advantage in the points because a new guy wins, he starts building on his points. I don't know, it seems like forever that it takes to get your first win. I mean, it took me nine races. I was just -- I thought it should have happened before that. There's just so many things that have to go right. These guys, you know, there's so many good teams that can put a good race car out there. It's just happen to have everything go right during the day. I don't think Felipe had a problem all day long. Who knows who the next guy is to be able to do that. It's very likely that could happen three or times this year.

MODERATOR: I would ask to you check me on this, but I believe in the grid today, the 25 starters, I thought going in, 16 of them had won in Indy Racing League event, that's now 17. Tim Sullivan confirms that. If he said it, it is. That's a pretty impressive statistic right now for the Indy Racing League. Other questions.

Q. Sam, I think you are in the lead now going into the next event. Talk about that.

SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think at this point in time last year we were 10 points ahead of Buddy. We had a third, a second and a first, in that order, for the last three races. Hopefully we can repeat that. That will be the biggest thing, is to go out there and to continue to finish strong. I think we've had three finishes outside of the Top 3 this year -- four finishes. Three of those were very bad (laughter). Three of them were very bad in a row. It's been all since Indianapolis, actually before then, when we had the bad finishes. You're on a roll -- you're on or you're off. Hopefully the other guys will stay off for a little bit, let me build up a little points lead.

Q. Buddy, were you hoping or praying for a yellow in the final lap? We know the answer, don't we?

BUDDY LAZIER: Honestly, I was just hoping for a pick, I way around Giaffone there, especially a couple times during the event. It gets frustrating. You get the aero push, it's frustrating. I keep reflecting on the series, how it is. There's always been great race teams, but there are so many great race teams right now with deep resources. The level of competition, I think because of the rules, have always been really close to where the cars run real close. There's a lot of substantial race teams every year, the teams, the resources, their depth keeps growing. Opportunities to win races becomes difficult. Really the progress is amazing. So when you get into an opportunity like I was there, especially after the season we've had, believe me, I was trying to find any way I could around him. Wasn't to be today. That's the way it is. It's what's great about the Indy Racing League, we get to race in a couple weeks, and hopefully it will be different.

MODERATOR: Thanks very much second and third.

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