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November 18, 2017

Sam Hornish, Jr.

Roger Penske

Homestead, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by our owner champion team, Roger Penske, and the driver tonight Sam Hornish Jr. This is Team Penske's fourth NASCAR XFINITY Series owner's championship. Five drivers made starts in the No.22 Penske Ford this season: Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Cindric, and the No.22 team has posted four wins, 23 top 5s, and 28 top‑10 finishes this season. Mr.Penske, that's a pretty impressive consistent performance over a season.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, thank you. I guess when you look at the guys that drove the car and certainly Sam today was‑‑ all the pressure was on him because we had the 9, we had the 18 and we had the 20. There was four of us that could win this championship. Obviously the way they ran the race, the strategy was perfect. Obviously Cole Custer had a great car and congratulations to him. But more important is when you think about Austin, you think about Blaney, Brad and Joey all driving this car during the season and the results really‑‑ we've got to take our hat off to Greg Erwin and the guys around that 22 team because they just did a terrific job.
We're happy with it, obviously. I hope I'm sitting here tomorrow, but at the end of the day, this is Saturday, and we had a great run.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, for a large portion of especially the final stage of the race, it was you and then two of your competitors for the owner title that were just stacked up right there. What was going through your head as those laps were clicking down?
SAM HORNISH JR.: I kept thinking, man, if the 00 wasn't here, we'd be looking really good right now; we'd be putting a stomping on the field. But we were somewhere between him and everybody else, and I was really happy with our Ford Mustang. We had a struggle getting through the first ‑‑ actually through practices yesterday. We just were having some issues with our brakes, made a lot of changes overnight to try to remedy that, and we got them to where they worked properly, and then I overused them in the first segment of the race, first stage of the race trying to get the car to turn, and pretty much ran with a lack of brakes for the last 150 laps.
I wish it would have happened 10 years ago because I probably would have had maybe a win here by now if I would have learned what I learned tonight 10 years ago.

Q. Sam, after runs like this and what you've had throughout the season, does this give you confidence that you can do so moving forward, maybe even get another full‑time deal at some point?
SAM HORNISH JR.: I've figured out if we keep all the air in the tires and make it past the second lap of the second stage, we do pretty good. We had a rough go in a couple races where we just didn't have great position at the beginning of the second stage and somebody got impatient around us and kept us from achieving the goal that we needed to.
But the races that we've had where I've made it past there, I've felt pretty good about it. As far as how I feel about my abilities, I know that when I get in a good car like I was tonight that we're going to go and we're going to run in the top three pretty much wherever we run at. I was thinking a lot about coming down here. This is the first time that I've been to a track where running off the bottom is the optimal place in a couple years since I was here last time in 2015, and it just‑‑ I didn't know what was going to happen, if I was going to be able to keep it off the wall tonight, and the good Lord is good. He gave me a car that I could run the bottom all night long, so I didn't have to worry about running up by the wall and scratching it. I was just really happy with it.
I enjoy spending the time with my wife and kids when I can do that, and when I get the opportunity to get in a top‑shelf race car and come out and do it, I've got to jump at it, and really thankful to Roger and everybody at Penske for just giving me the opportunity because there's times when I sit there and I watch it on TV and I go, man, I just wish I could be out there, and then I remember getting in the car, and I'm like, it's got to be the right car because I'm not a very happy person if we're running 25th.

Q. Mr.Penske, I just want to get your opinion of what the stages‑‑ how do you evaluate the way the stages have played out this season, and do you think there's anything that maybe should be tweaked or adjusted?
ROGER PENSKE: I think it's made the racing much better, the strategy. You know, there's some things we know are going to happen in a stage. We're going to have yellows. Obviously the pit stops in pit lane are going to be more important to be able to execute. But I'd say NASCAR hit a home run, and I think after this first season the fans will understand it better, and I think that's one of the things that we have to do is communicate it to the general public and say, here's what's going on. But for the teams, it's put a lot pressure on it, and I think you've seen some of these restarts at the end, and after the stages it's been a lot of elbows. So I applaud them for continuing to try to make the sport better.

Q. Roger, we had the honor of Mr.Czarnecki yesterday so we didn't get to talk to you. Your organization has had a very strong, strong year, and maybe the most successful across all the different series. My first question for you is is it a success? Are you content right now, or do you need to win tomorrow and sweep everybody?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, tomorrow is tomorrow, and I think it's a series that we love. We've had some great success, and we've had some hard times. I think karma must have been with us at Phoenix when you think about where Brad was at Martinsville. I think the team stayed together. That's a tough thing when maybe the 22 didn't come in. But to me that really pulled us together, and we're in the race tomorrow, obviously. We're here to win it.
I think to see two Fords in there is really key because we have a great partnership with them. But listen, tomorrow is another day, and I'll never be satisfied unless we can be up front, and I think that's what all of us think on Team Penske.
We've had a great season. Obviously IndyCar, we're running well down in Australia, and this is tough stuff here, there's no question, whether it's XFINITY or the Cup Series on Sundays. There's so many cars that can win, but to me, our group of people, Team Penske, have just done a terrific job. Our sponsors, we've got a lot of capable sponsors that have worked with us. We're looking forward‑‑ obviously Blaney's success this year has really made a huge difference. We're glad for the Wood Brothers; they're going to have a full season again based on what we've done for them this year, and we're looking forward to having Ryan in the 12 car next year.

Q. Is Chip fielding an Indy 500 car for Danica, or are you in play?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I'm not. I wasn't ready to make an announcement. I'm not sure he is. I sent him a note. I said, congratulations, Danica is going to be driving your car at Indy. Unfortunately she's not driving for us. But I think that's a great seat for her. If she is going to drive, that's a great team. They're the ones that have always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That's going to be terrific for the sport and a lot of interest around the country.

Q. Do you think it's fitting for her to end her career that way?
ROGER PENSKE: I don't think that you can say she's closing her career. She's built her reputation commercially and certainly has been someone that we've all looked up to taking on the group that she has here at a Cup level, and she was a good racer. I think she's going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR and XFINITY and what we're doing here. I think she's going to be‑‑ in a good car she'll pick it up. She's got plenty of time to practice, and you know, it's four corners, a little bit different than maybe some races. But I take my hat off to her. If she can run the Daytona 500 where she's been on the pole and run competitively, I think it's a great way for her to maybe say, hey, I'm here, I've done it, I'm going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can't get on top.

Q. Sam, you've also said you'd never go back to Indy, which is what she said, but she is going. Your thoughts on Danica?
SAM HORNISH JR.: I think that's obviously a great opportunity for anybody that‑‑ if it is a close to a career, to be able to go run the Daytona 500 and Indy 500. You think about how many people as kids, as adults, whatever it is, dream of being able to run in one of those two races, and for somebody to have the opportunity to do both of them in one year, I mean, it's a great thing. Obviously you think about just the time span and the differences in the cars from probably when she was in them last, there's going to be a little bit of a difference in the way that even just the races are run.
I think that if you look at the way that things are over there, patience is a big key about what the 500 is now and positioning yourself at the end, and that's so much of what NASCAR is. So I think I agree with Roger on the fact that she's probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she's done over the last five years.

Q. Sam, when you win an owner's championship like this, you've won other championships; is it different because you had to do it with obviously other people were part of this? What is the feeling when you bring it home for Roger like that, when you're battling for a championship that isn't just yours?
SAM HORNISH JR.: It's sure a heck of a lot better feeling than it was four years ago sitting here, finishing second in the driver's championship and just the way that everything played out. You know, I feel great to be a part of it. I really wanted to win at Mid‑Ohio for 20‑plus years, and to be able to do that this year, I kind of watched as the 22 went through it, and of course my loyalty to Team Penske wants me‑‑ those guys to go out there and win every race, but there's a little part of me that goes, if they win every race or whatever happens and they keep making it through the stages and I get in the car at Homestead, hey, the whole year is on you, so good luck. So there is a little bit of pressure there.
I've always felt like I've been able to deal with that well and to turn it off when we got inside the race car, and tonight after we got through the first stage was probably one of the most comfortable nights, just went out there and did what we needed to do. I felt like with a couple changes, pit stops, maybe a short run that I would have something for the 00, but I knew those other guys weren't going to come up and catch us from behind. It's a good feeling. It's not equal to my name being on the roll of XFINITY champion, but it's a lot closer than I was three hours, four hours ago.

Q. Sort of along those lines, there are obviously benefits to having another team that you can put out there and you can sub drivers in and give them track time, they can learn, if they've not had much experience on the track or whatever. What are the benefits of winning an owner's title?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that the sponsors, Discount Tire, Fitzgerald, obviously the Rev Group here, knowing we won the owner's championship is key because again, it's not something that everybody does. I think the opportunity for us to field these cars, I know that Blaney this year, every time he could get in that car he wanted to because he felt he learned. I think that's probably‑‑ runnin that extra car, or we've run two a couple races, that's been very beneficial to the team. I'd also say the first race that Sam won for us here back in what, 2006?
ROGER PENSKE: So pretty good statistic that people didn't know, so it's just been good to him. And I said to him today, do what we did back in 2006, and also he won the Indy 500 that year. So he's done a great job for us. He's a guy we can always call. He's available. Sometimes I see him in that 18 or that 20, and say, whoa, come on now, we need you back over her, so we had to give him some work this weekend.
SAM HORNISH JR.: I know a lot of people don't want to hear it, too, but when you look at the 2 car and the sponsors that go across that with Alliance Truck Parts and Worth and just the cultivation, not every sponsor is ready to go and put $15 million towards it when you get going, so being able to call them, let them see what Team Penske is really all about in a little bit less stressful format where they don't feel like they're putting everything on the line for their company allows them to build things, and I think if you look at those sponsor relations, the greatest thing about Team Penske if you look at it is that most of the sponsors that are there are like 15, 20, 20‑plus years of being involved with the organization, or they thought there was a better deal out there at some point in time, and they came back after a couple years. We've got a couple of those, right? It's a good feeling that Roger takes care of his people, and the sponsors are first and foremost, too.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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