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July 8, 2007
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
MODERATOR: Our runner-up finisher, Sam Hornish, Jr. Let's talk about the 60 lap first. Definitely you were coming on. Definitely you were coming on. Did the team make changes or did the track just come to you?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think definitely it took a little while. I made a mistake on the start, loss 3 position. It took a while to get going and working the way back up through the traffic. We did pretty good as far as being able to pass and tried to do what we needed to do today and that was stay out of trouble, make it to the end of the race.
We've said for three years now we should be finishing in the top 5 every time. We just get run over, lose the brakes or whatever might happen. It's not happened a lot to be there. And I'm really happy with the way the car handled today.
The guys did a great job in the pit. And I think that we just need to look at this as a stepping stone. And it makes us feel really confident going to Mid-Ohio and we'll keep going with it, I guess.
MODERATOR: How about the last lap from your point of view?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: From my point of view the last lap was very clean. I came around, hit the white and I took the checkered. After the race it was a bit frustrating. Tony came up right behind me through some of the corners. I figured he's probably going to try to make his point.
Then when he drove by me and ran into me, bent the toe links and tried to put me in the inside wall, and that's something I'm not going to take, especially coming to the pit lane where you've got all the guys going over the wall changing tires, doing all that stuff and people that aren't expecting two cars to come down there having problems.
You can get out and you can talk about it or you cannot talk about it. The one thing that Barnheart always says is not to be using the cars as weapons. And that's exactly what happened today.
Q. Are you surprised that something that happened so long ago in the race was still on his mind when the race was over?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know what the right thing is to say. It was an unfortunate incident. I'm not surprised that he was at least thinking about something. But it was unfortunate that it all played out the way it did.
And you think, 30 laps later you could have let it go. Could have come in, talked about it. Even after I got out of the car, went to talk to him. I wanted to say, man, what are you doing. Don't be doing that coming into pit row. He started telling me how I took him out of the race.
His point of view and mine I guess was a lot different about what happened, and I don't really see where he's coming from. I had a clean path going on him and he didn't give me any room and that's what happens sometimes.
Q. Sam, you've got to be pleased with your road course expertise increasing as it has. This is a good finish for you. You qualified well. You practiced well. Are you getting the hang of these things, right and left?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think so. I've said for a long time we should be having better finishes. Last couple of years since St. Petersburg been running top 3 the whole race last year. We ran with Helio and Scott most of the race. And we didn't get the finishes like we should. I was glad today we finally got what we were looking for.
Q. Sam, before you make the decision what you are going to do in your future, how important would it be to get a road course victory in this series before you -- if you do move on?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think if you look at it just getting victories at any point in time is very difficult. It's not the easiest thing to do for sure. And when you've got all these things going on. Sometimes you don't have that opportunity. The luck doesn't come to you. You don't get the right breaks to be able to win. Or when you're plenty fast enough to win, something else happens.
I know I could sit here run another 10 years and I might not win. I could have 20 second place finishes and may not be lucky enough to get everything set the right way to win. I think that's definitely how it is sometimes and you have to take advantage on the days you do have a little bit of luck your way.
Q. Especially the last five laps, there was a gap between the top five cars. You were well behind Dixon, other people well behind you. What was your thought process? Were you thinking I've got second, I'm just going to hold on and go for that; or were you thinking maybe there was a chance that there was a bad break?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I worked on him a couple laps after we went to green. And I started making mistakes. I was pushing too hard. I was driving over the limit of what I had with the car. I funneled in, got to the point where I knew what the car was capable of. I was going to accept that or take a chance of wrecking the car and not even getting into the top 10. I had to be smart about it today, make sure we didn't make mistakes.
MODERATOR: We've been joined by third place finisher Dario Franchitti. Two race winning streak being broken. But all in all a pretty good day. Championships are won by getting the most out of the days when it's not perfect. Does that summarize your day today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes, pretty much. I was fighting Scott pretty much most of the day. Sam was looking pretty close the last stop, managed to pull a bit of a gap. We came up for that last stop, the gear box, good lap, I was two seconds behind Sam. I'm thinking how the hell did that happen. We weren't so good in the pits today. But my guys have really helped win the races we've won this year. So I know they can do the job and we'll continue to work hard at it.
MODERATOR: And you were moving up at the end. Good pass on Marco with about a dozen laps to go.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: A bit of help from Marco there. A bit of a help. I have to thank him for that. He made it reasonably easy. So again thanks to him. But it was physically a very, very tough race today.
As you say, like today, if you have a third place after problems in the pit, we'll take it. As far as on the track, I think we might have had a run with Dixon closer.
Q. If I could get both your reactions, when you came around turn 11, saw the fastest car all weekend sitting there in a heap?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: They already told me on the radio that Elliott crashed. There was a bunch of debris and everything. I haven't seen what happened, don't know what happened. And obviously unfortunate for him.
He was pretty quick. And part of the reason I think that we're starting to come on and doing as well as we are on the road courses is being able to work together a little bit more, bounce information back and forth, instead of it just being lopsided, him doing everything and me trying to follow along.
So I think anything we can do to start getting that to a better point where we can work as more teammates, like we do on the ovals, I think it can be better for all of us. But definitely very fast today. And I'm not sure what happened.
Q. Sam, if somehow you are able to catch up to Dario and win a title this year, how pleased would you be with your decision that you're ultimately going to make?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: What decision is that? What's for dinner?
I have no idea. If I could, it would be great. If I can't, I just gotta do as much as I can this year. We've had a tremendous amount of bad fortune, whether it was caused by ourselves or outside forces.
So we just have to take this year as one of those ones where right now we're looking on continuing to rebound. And three out of four races we were ninth or worse. We'll keep working our way at it see if we can't -- I keep telling you, Bruce, nobody has made any decisions yet.
Q. (Question off microphone)?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's mathematically impossible. Dixon is the closest guy right now. Don't underestimate them, never do that.
Q. Can you take us through that pass down into the booth?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: The one with Tony? I got a good run coming in off of turn 5. Got down the inside of him. And I figured that he knew I was there. And I slowed down and braked for the corner and I was to the inside of him. Then he started coming in. But basically we bumped.
I was already up on the curb and couldn't go anywhere else. As tight as I could get. We bumped. We both slid a little bit. Obviously he lost the position to me. Then Manning got him going in the next corner. And it was unfortunate. It was obviously something that I would have liked to have just had us both go through there side by side and me go around him.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. And that's the tough thing. We're so used to running on ovals with spotters all the time. Sometimes you forget to check your mirrors. I'm sure I've been guilty of it myself. That's just how it goes some days.
Q. Sam, there appeared to be a brief skirmish after you got out of the cars. What happened?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I guess it all probably stems from that. And we were coming into the pit lane. And Tony ran into the side of the car and knocked the toe link. I got up, went up to talk to him about it. I was probably a little bit louder with my voice than I needed to be and he was louder with his.
We were arguing about probably whose fault it was. It was one of those things where it was a physically demanding race, first of all, on a hot day. And everybody's tempers are right up there.
I'm sure we all could have done it differently. We could have waited until next weekend to talk about it. But the only thing that bothered me about the situation is you come into the pit row and you run into somebody. That takes a chance -- Brian always talks about the guys out here doing the tire changes and stuff. They don't have cars around them to protect them like we do. You don't want to take the chance of hurting one of those guys.
And it was a day where I'm supposed to be happy because I get the first top 3 on a road course and you have to have all this happen. But, whatever, I thought I would put it in my knowledge for somewhere down the road and try not to let it happen again. Maybe I'll walk away next time instead of asking the question why did you do that.
Q. Dario, you didn't get a chance to answer the question. As you came through 11 you saw Helio up against the wall. What did you think, and how did you think he might have gotten there?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: What did I think? I didn't have time to think. I was reacting, trying to avoid the drive shaft that was bouncing down the track.
I was pretty loose there all day. Helio was loose at times. Dixon was loose at times. So I think I just got caught up. It happened quick.
Q. Dario, you were really fast at the beginning. Did you lose speed in the car later in the race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes, maybe a little bit. As the track cooled down, the car got more and more oversteered. The car was really good the first couple of pits. Then at that point I thought we were a good match for anybody on the track. The way things went and bide my time and counted to make the move. But the combination of everything, we lost time in those pit stops, especially the last one hurt us a lot.
And the temperature went and the car went loose and I was hanging on there.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Sam, and congratulations.
Dario, congratulations. He continues to lead the IndyCar Series point standings by a substantial margin.
We've been joined by our Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix winner Scott Dixon. He's the winner of this event for the third year in a row. The only three years in its existence. In terms of winning a major open cockpit race at Watkins Glen three years in a row, he joins the company Graham Hill, which is a pretty good company to join.
Did it really come down to the last pit stop?
SCOTT DIXON: Yes, in some ways it did it was a tough race. One of the toughest ones mainly because you had some yellows. And it's like Sonoma last year, where you're not sure what yellow to take. That was the frustrating part. Because you know you've got a good car, fast car. But other people can start to get in front of you through pit stops and yellow flags. So definitely dealing with traffic was very difficult.
You're racing back in the pack, you don't know how hard and how on the edge you want to go in trying to pass them. They're going to fight for it, obviously, and it can take you out of the other race. In hindsight you know it's going to cycle through.
You'll work your way through to the front because you're going to run longer. It's hard to withhold your emotions sometimes from trying to push and pass those guys.
It's one of the toughest races I've been involved in. Physically it gripped really hard and felt really good. And physically it was quite tough.
MODERATOR: How close were you to Helio when he crashed up here in turn 11? On TV it didn't look that close, but those pictures can lie.
SCOTT DIXON: I was pretty close. I could see him get wiggles on the entry of it. I backed out of it a little bit because I knew he was going to run high and I could get a run on him. But it was lucky that I had sort of slowed up off a bit because he came down the track pretty quick, enabled me to have enough time to turn to the right and just missed him.
I think when he came back towards the inside he was pretty close to us. But it's unfortunate for Helio. I could definitely see they were struggling with a loose car. I knew he probably had enough speed for him. Later on, because we were struggling with understeer early on, where we took from wing end and I think we would have had enough. But it worked for us.
Q. Did you find the Dallara chassis particularly suited to running this road course, and how did the Honda engine's new configuration affect the way you ran this course today?
SCOTT DIXON: They've done a fantastic job. Honda has been very good in making sure the engines they do supply are very even. I think as a driver that's the only thing you have in the back of your mind is do they favor some people; do some people have better engines here and there. But I think at a road course it doesn't play into it as much. But they've done fantastic on reliability.
These engines are going to do -- Watkins Glen, Nashville and Mid-Ohio, three big races, one engine. So those guys have definitely turned it around. Great to be a part of them. Because in the latter years when I was with Toyota, they definitely kicked our butts. So it's good to be on their end of it now. But Dallara for me was a little more physically challenging today. The G forces a little, I turn the steering a little easier to drive on the edge.
So I think there's some chassis changes that we can make that will make the difference for the next road courses that we have. But definitely can't complain about.
Q. With three in a row, I understand that there's talk about talk to change this to the Dixon Glen as opposed to Watkins Glen?
SCOTT DIXON: You'll have to talk to Graham Hill about that, too, I guess. It's just great. I look forward to coming to this race every year. I love coming and doing the pre-media events here. It's just been a fantastic track for myself.
Every time I've come here we've had great cars from Chip Ganassi Racing. And today, just all things played our way. And I was waiting the last 10 laps for something to break, with the luck we've had in recent races. I was thinking something has got to go wrong here. But luckily we held onto it and we're going to try to go for another one next year and make it four.
Q. Let's go back to when you were following Helio. Did you think that was for the race right there; if you could get by him there it was done?
SCOTT DIXON: I think in the first instance, we were struggling with understeer as I mentioned before. We had a good car in the warm-up. It was a bit on the edge for me. I didn't want to have to drive it that way for the whole race. But I sort of kicked myself after that decision, because coming into the race, first few laps I knew we had gone the wrong way.
I think on the second, after we put the wing in, we were definitely quicker, could have had a shot at him because I could see he was struggling with his car and shoot through the high speed onto the front straight and also onto the back straight. If he hadn't missed out there, I think we would have got him sooner or later.
Q. I want to take a look at the big picture here. Sam Hornish gets his best road course finish behind you. Could you give me a big picture of how competitive this road racing has become in the IndyCar Series and how well you like today because you gained a little bit, not so much on Dario?
SCOTT DIXON: I'm not sure what Dario ended up. Third or fourth? Third.
You kind of sort of edge your way at it. It's great results for Sam. I can't believe it when they told me he was right behind me and putting pressure and laying down some good laps. That's fantastic for him. I know he's come a long way on the road courses and Penske has helped him out on that area. And that shows the depth of the field and what these guys are capable of just getting the cars and experience under them, competing against. A lot of us guys that have done a few years of Champ Car and a lot of single seater racing, road courses haven't done so much. I think that was a good result for him.
Q. We were talking yesterday about your relatively low profile here. After winning two races. Is somehow after the third people are going to start paying more attention to you around here?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. I like to, as I've said in the past, keep it quiet and just get on with my job and let the results sort of speak for themselves. This year I think we've had situations where we've come close many times. We've had four second places in the early parts of the season, which it's tough when you keep doing that so often.
So it's definitely good now that we've come up with a win, especially in the second half of the series and we've got to start laying on the pressure through AGR and Dario mainly. We've got to put our face out there and hopefully next year I think coming back here people will definitely listen up.
Q. Are you a little surprised to see that kind of fire coming on pit lane between two competitors afterwards?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know what happened there. I kind of heard a little bit. I don't even know who it was between. I'll have to Tivo direct and check it out. It's tough. Guys in the pits competing against each other. They've been fighting for the fastest pit stops and things like that. Especially if somebody squeezes somebody in the pits or does something, it's going to fire those guys up.
MODERATOR: That will wrap it up for our formal press conference here. Congratulations to Scott Dixon for his third consecutive victory here at the Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix.
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