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October 8, 2014

Sam Hornish, Jr.

Sammy Johns

THE MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone.  Today we are joined by Sammy Johns, director of competition for Richard Petty Motorsports for a team announcement.  Sammy, thanks for joining us.
SAMMY JOHNS:  Thanks, Jenny, and thanks to all the media who have worked with us as we made announcements with our No. 9 team.  We're happy to announce officially that Sam Hornish, Jr., has joined Richard Petty Motorsports as the driver of the No. 9 Ford Fusion in 2015.  Sam is a proven champion we expect to win races for us and also become a leader for not only for our No. 9 team but also for our organization.
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Sammy.
And Sam, congratulations.
SAM HORNISH:¬† Thanks, Jenny.¬† Thanks to the media for joining us too.¬† I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to be able to join a team like Richard Petty Motorsports.¬† It really means a lot to me.¬† I look at my racing career, and I've been very blessed to work with some icons in Motorsports and to have the opportunity to work for the King now after coming off of a year where I had a part‑time job working for the coach and then the captain in the past.
I feel really good about this opportunity with the No. 9 team and having the opportunity to work with Drew Blickensderfer, also to work with Aric and the 43 team.
There is a lot of momentum in this organization, people that are putting in a lot of hours and working extremely hard.  It's Sammy and all the guys there too that are trying to push this organization forward and to regain a top spot in the sport.  I feel like having this opportunity to be here is awesome for my career, and I just can't say enough about the fact of getting to come here and being a part of something that's building.
They've done a lot in the last two years and they continue to position themselves so they can move forward and go from being somebody that was a contender to be in the Chase, to this year they had the 43 team in the Chase and had some really strong runs with the exception of a couple problems here and there.  It should have definitely transferred on into the next round.
I feel like having the opportunity is great for me, and above and beyond to be able to drive for Richard Petty now is just awesome.  Looking forward to getting to know everybody at RPM and also all the guys on the No. 19.

Q.¬† Congratulations, Sam.¬† Just a question with the amount of time that you've spent the last several years running competitively in the Nationwide Series and contending for the championship, do you feel like you're a little better prepared for full‑time Cup Series in NASCAR this go round, even though I'm sure you would agree that you were with a strong organization the first time?
SAM HORNISH:¬† Yeah, I feel like I'm a lot better prepared.¬† I think at the point that I was getting ready to go full‑time on my first go round it was maybe at the course of having 12 or 15 Stock Car races in general under my belt, so obviously having that opportunity, I got to work with quite a few different crew chiefs over the past couple years, and really what that allows me to do is be able to better understand what's going through those guys' heads.¬† Pick up things that I like from one crew chief to the next and be able to in my routine about the way I transfer my notes and my thoughts on the car and the direction that we need to go.¬† I'm better able to be able to express those feelings and to lead the crew chief in a direction, and also at the same time I'm better able to understand when they've got a good point of the direction that they want to head in and I can feel free to release the reigns a little bit there.
This is a different opportunity, for sure, than the one that I had previously.  I'm not going to talk bad about anybody or anything like that, but there were a lot of different things that made that not work.  The thing that I need to be thankful for over the long run is that I stayed in the fold long enough and held to my values of what I felt was going to get myself back into having the opportunity to be in a competitive Cup ride.  Did the right things and had good people around me too in order to put myself in good positions and try to get back to this point.  I've worked four years to get back to this point, and I feel like as a driver I've come a long way.  I found my voice, really, as far as what you need to have as far as a Cup driver's concerned about directionally trying to help steer your organization.
I feel really when I look at it, the guys at Richard Petty Motorsports, it's kind of like a small ship.¬† It's a lot easier to turn, and they've got a lot of things heading in a really good direction.¬† Their association with Roush Yates as far as the horsepower in Ford Racing and Roush with the chassis, I think there are so many things that are a benefit.¬† It's going to enable the team to be in two cars‑‑ I fully expect Aric and myself to be able to get on the same page and to have kind of a common goal or common direction as far as what we want to do and what we expect.
Once we get that figured out, and at this point in time I'm the new guy, so it's really me coming in and seeing where they're at and what direction Aric thinks and the team thinks that we need to head until I get my feet wet and find my voice within the team.  Then we'll see what happens.  When you can get two drivers on the same page, it really bodes well for the organization because you're able to take a lot of the guesswork out.  You don't have to make too many changes when you have two guys heading in the same direction.  You can get there twice as fast.

Q.¬† After 2010 and maybe again after 2012, were you wondering whether a full‑time Cup ride was in your future again?
SAM HORNISH:¬† You know, at the end of 2010 I don't know that it would have been beneficial for me to have a full‑time Cup ride in 2011 because I've worked so hard to try to keep my head above water, and I really wasn't in a good spot as far as confidence goes.¬† I'd taken quite a few lumps and I had always tried to work on those things.¬† I always saw that there was light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes you don't know if that's a train or not, you know?¬† I feel like having the 2011, while it was a big hit and I only did a few races here and there, it really gave me an opportunity to do a lot of testing which I had never gotten that opportunity up until that point.¬† Also the runs for Nationwide races and to have a good, competitive team and a crew chief and give myself an opportunity to win races just was a huge confidence builder.
And in 2012 when I was filling in and running the 22 car, I felt like, all right, I'm doing all the things it's going to take to get myself a Cup job, and it didn't work out.  We had sponsors at that time and made a strong run for the championship in 2013 and found myself without a ride.  You kind of always wonder where things are going to land from that point, but I put my trust in that if I had found a way to put myself in some good equipment this season and did the right things that something good would come along.  You know, sure enough, it did.
I feel like sometimes it's really easy to either give up or to put yourself in a bad situation because you feel that need that you have to be out there on the track every week.  But sometimes being a free agent is a little bit more beneficial because it allows you to maneuver a little bit easier.

Q.¬† Was there any hesitation on your part to sign this deal considering‑‑ I know Twisted Tea is on for select races next year, but I haven't heard anything else announced.¬† I was just curious was there any hesitation knowing there appears to still be some sponsorship needed?
SAM HORNISH:¬† There is no hesitation with that because I feel like their marketing program is working really hard, and that was one of the things that I feel like I've been pretty good at in the past.¬† We took a program where we had an opportunity to run six or seven races in 2011 with the sponsor that I had then.¬† We grew that into about 13 that year, and then into two full‑time seasons on the Nationwide side, then the sponsors eventually went to Cup.
That's something that I've had a lot of experience in, over 15 years now dealing with fortune 500 companies or top tier companies that are in Motorsports, and almost all of them are still in it in one form or fashion.  That's part of what the challenge is to get not only the program where we want to be in competitive, but where the team would like it financially.  I feel like I'm one of the best guys as far as having the opportunity to hopefully help them do that.

Q.  What about pursuing this particular form of Motorsports stopped you from giving up on it and maybe going somewhere else?  Your passion for continuing the endeavor to success in this sport is amazing to watch.  What kept you in the pursuit of this sport in particular?
SAM HORNISH:  I haven't achieved yet what I came over here originally for.  A lot of people want to ask me why don't you go back to IndyCars?  I never came over here because I wanted to have a little bit more fame or I felt like I was going to make anymore money doing it.  I came over here because I was intrigued by the competition side of it.  I felt like I had accomplished what I wanted to in the IndyCar Series.  Now I put myself back in position where I could continue to build on what I originally came over here for.
The Nationwide Series was not in any way a step back because it really gave me the opportunity to have this.  It's very competitive on that side as well.  I like the competition aspect of it.  It's so much different than a lot of other forms of racing.  The pit crews are so important, having a crew chief that has the feel for the race.  It just takes so many more pieces of the puzzle.
That's why you see when guys are good and they're strong, it generally continues year after year because you get that good, solid group of people together and they build upon what they've been doing.  So I feel like just for me, I've never felt like I've been one to shy away from a challenge.  I've always felt like I want to work hard.  Anything worth achieving is going to be somewhat of a struggle, so maybe this is more of a struggle than I ever thought it was going to be.  But it's been fun.  It's really taught me a lot about myself, and I continue to grow through each setback and each success the same way.
That's how you work to try to become a well‑rounded person, and I think for me, it's just that thrill, that excitement of going out there and competing and knowing how satisfying it is when you do get those wins.¬† When you get those top 5 finishes that, yeah, we may not have had a top 10 car today, but we got a top 5 finish out of it because we worked as a team and found a way to put ourselves in position.¬† The harder it is to do, the more satisfying it is, the more it means to you when you achieve those things.

Q.  My question is for Sammy.  If you could talk a little bit about what you saw in Sam, and why you thought this was a great fit for the team?
SAMMY JOHNS:  Yeah, sure, thanks.  Sam's going to be a great fit here at Richard Petty Motorsports.  Sam's a champion.  He's a great race car driver.  He's hungry to get back to the Cup Series and prove that he can win races at this level.  We saw that and we felt it, and we feel like Sam's going to be a really great fit to Richard Petty Motorsports here with Aric and the 43 team, and the No. 9 team and working with other Ford teams as well.
So we're really excited about that and really looking forward to getting going with Sam.  Like we said yesterday, we wish this was February already.

Q.¬† Just as a follow‑up, with the success your team has had and everyone seeing it as a team on the rise, how much easier was it for you to have conversations with people and maybe what you saw as other drivers being attracted to your team now?
SAMMY JOHNS:  It's helping.  We're not where we want to be yet.  We've got to continue to push that performance up on the racetrack.  Our ownership has committed to this race team and making investments and we need to continue to make the improvements we're making.  I think it definitely helps us attract drivers like Sam Hornish to look at this race team and to be his next venture into the Cup Series.  So that definitely has to help.  Having the 43 car in the Chase, having the 9 barely miss the Chase, and our performance this year and the engineering resources we've added, it definitely has helped having a driver like Sam Hornish Jr. look at this race team, definitely.

Q.  You said earlier this summer you wanted to join a team where you had the opportunity to win races.  You weren't necessarily picky, but more discerning.  What makes this opportunity ideal with Richard Petty Motorsports?  And did you consider other teams before reaching this path?
SAM HORNISH:  The best way to put that is I have an opportunity to work for Richard Petty.  That's one of the top things on it.  I look at really the effort that they've put into this.  There was never a point where they didn't put a lot of effort into it, but just the direction that started taking the team the way that both cars have run.  I mean, right now they're finding the speed and the thing that they are really getting to the point now is not only now do they have the speed, but they have the consistency that every week they're showing up at the racetrack.  When you look at practice times, you look at qualifying, they're in the top 10 having good runs.  I feel like really for me this is a great opportunity to try to build something and try to help build something.
My end goal for all of this is at some point in time leave it better than it was when I found it.  Anything I can to to help them build the organization, right now it's two cars and there are a lot of things that they have their eyes on in the future and I feel like if I can be part of that.  But the best way that I can put it is one of the reasons I decided I wanted to come over and to do Stock Car racing in the first place is I got to see the difference of what it was at Penske Racing when I was there.  They had success, but hadn't won the Daytona 500, hadn't won the championships and things like that.  I knew all along that I might not be the guy that gets them those wins and gets some of those championships, but if I can be part of it either through my attitude or things that I do, to help with team morale, to help move things forward that it would be well worth it for me.
I feel like this is kind of the same thing.¬† I feel like Richard Petty and the organization has done so much for the sport of NASCAR.¬† I would envision that whenever it's time for me to hang up my gloves or do whatever that is, hopefully I would see it to the point where the question wouldn't get asked of me.¬† What drew you here?¬† Everybody wants to be there.¬† That is one of the places to be.¬† So I think that they're a great organization.¬† Even with the limited amount of time that I've spent with them so far, I can already see how good of people they are and what a family‑oriented program it is at this point.¬† I can't wait to see where the next couple of years takes them.

Q.  Congratulation, Sam.  Happy for you.  Moving to an organization like RPM, do you feel a little less pressure because it's not in the spotlight the way that perhaps Roger's group is or over at Joe Gibbs Racing?  Do you feel like you can put the hammer down and do what you need to do, but outside of the spotlight, so to speak?
SAM HORNISH:  I feel like there is not really such a thing as outside the spotlight.  Anything that is pushed towards me or anybody that's looking at this definitely thinks this is a big opportunity for me.  I'm really, I look at it as I'm hungry to go out there and do good.  I'm not really going to look too far and say, well, because there are not so many eyes on me, I don't have to push it hard because the biggest person that I'm worried about what they think about how this goes is myself.  As far as I need to go out there and I need to work really hard at what I'm going to do and the opportunities that I'm going to be in.
I just for the most part feel like it's a lot about living up to my own expectations.  That's something that we still need to do as a team is we need to sit down and evaluate what our goals are going to be over the next 12 months and to figure out exactly what we want to be when we're sitting here a year from now, what we'd be satisfied with, and what we feel like we'd be overly excited about.
I feel like in some ways this is going to be a different opportunity for me coming from basically having a couple years off where I wasn't running the Cup Series.  It's a big commitment as far as time for me.  So I want to make sure that when I'm doing these things, that I feel like I'm getting out of it what I want to.  From everything that we've talked about so far, I really feel like nobody's looking at this as something that we're just going in there to get by.  We're going to go and put the time and the effort in to try to exceed not only our own expectations, but the people that are looking at us from the outside's expectations as well.

Q.  Sammy, how does Sam's demeanor fit with Aric and Drew?  Was that something that you looked at before you made that selection?
SAMMY JOHNS:  I think Sam's demeanor fits really well with what we are here at Richard Petty Motorsports.  He's going to be a great addition to our family.  With Drew and Trent and Aric, I think they're all going to get along really well.  That definitely plays into your decision when you're looking at these things, because the stronger you can make your team from the communication standpoint and everybody getting along and sharing of information, it's just going to make us a stronger race team.
So like Sam mentioned earlier, we're a two‑car team, and we're going to operate as one.¬† I think Sam's going to be a great fit for that.

Q.  Just wondering anything specific beyond twisted tee for next year, if you have any plans you can announce now or if you're still looking in terms of sponsorship?
SAMMY JOHNS:  We're still working on sponsorship.  There should be announcements coming in the near future.  But we're working on that with our current partners and talking to some new partners as well.

Q.¬† Sammy, do we know if this is a one‑year deal, multi‑year deal, one year with an option?¬† Clearly you would want to get long‑term out of it, I would think?
SAMMY JOHNS:¬† This is a multi‑year deal right now, and Richard has a history of having long‑term relationships with his drivers, and we're looking forward to that with Sam.

Q.¬† Sam, between now and the end of the year, how much time do you expect to spend at the shop and integrate yourself within the team moving into the off‑season?
SAM HORNISH:  I'm going to spend hopefully more time than they expect me to be there.  That's been one of the things that I feel like has been one of my strong suits is having the opportunity to spend time at the shop working with the people that are working on the cars, understanding where exactly we're at.  I really enjoy that.  I'm a car guy.  I love this other stuff so if I'm either at the shop or at home, I'm usually thinking about something automotive related.
I'm looking forward to getting in there, and there is a lot that we're going to have to do as far as getting fitted for the car, also, hopefully get some opportunities to drive a little bit before the end of the season and try to figure out a little bit of a game plan as far as maybe things that I like versus what Aric likes.¬† I think the more time I can immerse myself at the shop and understanding where they're at, it's kind of like getting a head start from other people that wouldn't have that opportunity because they're out there full‑time racing.
So I feel like the situation that I'm in right now is a little bit advantageous as far as that goes because it allows me to be there and to kind of get a little bit of a head start.

Q.  How much does the organization look into wanting to find a driver that came with years of NASCAR experience, whether it be Nationwide or Sprint Cup, compared to perhaps putting somebody in the car as a younger driver such as Corey LaJoie?  Did that ever weigh into the decision for the organization?
SAMMY JOHNS:¬† We look for experience because we're still building this organization, and we needed a driver that's going to come in and help us continue to build our organization to be at the level we want to be at.¬† It helps us strengthen our partnerships with our current partners and also attract new partners.¬† We felt like Sam would be a great fit for that.¬† We definitely probably look more towards a driver with experience for that reason because we are still building this organization to get it to a top‑level organization.¬† We felt like a driver with experience was the direction we needed to go.

Q.  Sam, you said that family is one of the most important things to you when it comes to racing as well.  What was their influence on you going back to Sprint Cup Series racing both times?
SAM HORNISH:¬† That's one of the first things I thought about when opportunities presented itself.¬† I sat down with my wife and got an idea of what she expected and really to be quite honest with you, there was no question in her mind that she's like you need to do that.¬† That's a great opportunity, and it's good people and it's what you've worked the last four years to try to get yourself back doing.¬† The other sounding board is two of the three kids that can talk right now, and my oldest I said what do you think about dad going back full‑time racing?¬† And she sits there and thinks about it for a little bit, she goes, you know, let me think about it a little bit.¬† The next day I'm driving her to school.¬† And she said, dad, I thought about it, and I really think I want you to go full‑time racing.¬† And I said, why is that?¬† And she said I want to be able to go to MRL.¬† And it's motor racing outreach and it's an opportunity for kids to get to go hang out with kids their age and things like that.¬† So even if it was for her own reason, she can't say she didn't want me to do it.¬† I got her saying that she wanted me to.
I know it's a big commitment for me, but I also know these opportunities don't come along very often.  Like I said, I worked four years to get this opportunity, and they're all really happy about it from my friends and family, the people that have already been texting me and telling me how excited they are.  It's pretty much a unanimous decision of people that are really excited to see me have this opportunity.

Q.  Thank you.  Sam, could you talk a little bit about the effects of the peaks and valleys of your career?  What advice from your considerable experience, what advice would you give others if they asked?
SAM HORNISH:  I've had from winning the Indianapolis 500, to having some pretty bad days still, there's been ups and downs but really if I sit back and think about it, yeah, I've taken this all very seriously.  I've put a lot of effort into my career.  But even the bad days, as long as you can weather them and understand that it doesn't necessarily define who you are as a person or even as your career goes, even on the bad days I got to do what I always wanted to do growing up and not too many people get to say that.
I think one of the things I continue to work on is trying to figure out how to shake off the bad days, to be able to hit a reset button a little bit.  But that's always a tough thing.  Because if you easily shake it off, how much does it mean to you?  I feel like sometimes those bad days is what makes me want to get into the gym or be on my bike for two hours trying to make myself better so the next time I'm in the car that it makes things a little easier, or go spend a few more hours at the shop trying to figure out what we're going to do to try to figure out how we can move forward as an organization.  So I really enjoyed a lot of the aspects.
I'm sure there are people out there that could say how could you enjoy all of that but really what it comes down to is nobody, I guess learns a whole lot about themselves from the good things that happen in your life.  You learn a lot more about yourself from defeats and things like that.  I think it's all been worth it.  There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for anything because it's a great story.  If I would have come over here and everything would have gone perfect my first go round, I wouldn't have ever had the opportunity to work for Richard Petty.
So I've got to be thankful that I've got the opportunities now that I've gotten and to try to work as hard as I can to make the most of them.

Q.  Sammy Johns, will you guys be able to field an additional Cup car, Nationwide Cup car for Sam in any races this year or test with them before the testing ban gets started?
SAMMY JOHNS:  Currently we don't have any plans to run any races with Sam this year.  I won't say never, but that's probably not in the plans.  We are scheduling some testing right now in the next few weeks before the testing ban is in effect.  We're hoping to get at least two to possibly three tests done before the testing ban is put in place.

Q.  And I know, Sammy, there it is not necessarily your department.  But there's been speculation that RPM would give up the 9 to Hendrick when Chase Elliott is ready to go Cup racing.  I'm curious if you've been approached or is there any discussion about changing the number now?
SAMMY JOHNS:  Currently we're committed to racing the No. 9, and we have no immediate plans to change.

Q.  First off, congratulations on the signing today.  Can you talk a little about who your biggest hero is in racing, and how they've helped motivate you to get to this point in your career?
SAM HORNISH:  Who my biggest hero is?  I don't know.  It's kind of continuing to change as I've gotten older.  But when I first started when I was a kid, one of my first racing heros was Rick Mears.  It was kind of funny because when I got the opportunity to go to IndyCar a lot of people compared me to Rick, being quiet, a little more reserved and just kind of went on the track and did their jobs.  Then I had the opportunity to meet Rick, and he was even better than even I expected after being a fan of his.
But I've been a fan of Stock Car racing my entire life too.  I was always a big Dale Earnhardt fan when I was growing up.  But I was also a Richard Petty fan because Richard and I have the same birthday, July 2nd, so I always thought that was pretty cool that I was born on the King's birthday.

Q.¬† With the selection of Sam as your 2015 driver the team decided to place a driver outside of the RPM Development Driver Program in the No. 9.¬† Could you provide any details if possible what your short‑term plans are for Ryan Truex, Dakoda Armstrong and Corey LaJoie with the team?
SAMMY JOHNS:  We're currently working on our 2015 plans with all of our development drivers and working through that, and there will be announcements at a later date.

Q.¬† Are there any plans to run Sam in any Nationwide races next year with Richard Petty Motorsports or Biagi‑DenBeste Racing?
SAMMY JOHNS:  Again, we're working on our 2015 Nationwide plans.  We have had some talks about being able to run our Cup drivers to both Aric and Sam in Nationwide races next year because we feel like that helps, and hopefully we'll have some news to deliver on that at a later date.
THE MODERATOR:  Sam and Sammy, thanks for joining us, and congratulations once again on today's news.
SAMMY JOHNS:  Thank you.
SAM HORNISH:  Thank you.

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