|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
August 21, 2005
THE MODERATOR: Sam, second place today. Won at Phoenix and Milwaukee this season. Has won 14 races in his IRL career. He's currently second in points, 97 points behind points leader Dan Wheldon, today's winner. Sam, the first stint out there was reminiscent of 2000. Came in for the pit stop, seemed to go away from you a little bit.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Pretty much the same thing happened as happened in 2001 for me. The Marlboro Team Penske crew did an awesome job in the pits for me today. The car was set up really well. Just the second stint we weren't quite as fast as we needed to be. We got it stuck in traffic a couple times. Some lap guys going four-wide, decided it wasn't the best thing to do, go in behind them, wait for all the debris to fly. We just did what we had to do. The car was good. Wish we could have been a little bit better, but we've got to take as many points as we can get.
Q. Did you think you had anything for Dan? At times you were running so well. Did you ever think you had a chance to push him at all?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, you know, I didn't think anybody was going to catch us at first. Then, you know, I don't know if they would have if the yellow hadn't come out. But, you know, it did come out, so we will never know what happened there. The thing that we need to do, what we needed to do is catch back up to traffic. The car wasn't handling quite the way I needed it to be, so I didn't want to take the chance of putting it in the wall. Last year we finished our race here up against the fence in turn four. It hurt us in the points quite a bit from probably 5th to 7th in the points at the end of the year. What the difference was for those points, so we needed to make sure we got as many as we could. On the other hand there, we just got to look at it from the other point of view that there's -- you know, I caught up to him a couple times in traffic, but every time I'd get close, something strange would happen in front of me and I had to get out. I think we were turning laps out there around 21.3 seconds. You know, at one time I saw this -- I got stuck in traffic, a 26-second lap, so like five seconds slow. I lost a lot there. Just caught up to those guys. You don't want to put yourself in a position where you can get taken out. There's always a chance the yellow would have came out towards the end and I would have had a shot to go after him. As it turned out, I didn't.
Q. Helio mentioned he made the wrong choice with downforce, having problems in turns three and four. Were you having that problem at all?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: You know, we might have been a little bit light, but we pretty much had the same problem as what we did yesterday. We missed on the gears a little bit, expected the wind to do something, and it didn't, that's the difference right now with the way the position that we've been put in. You got to guess exactly right. Some of the other cars can go out there and it doesn't really matter what gears -- it does, but they've got a bigger variable as far as what they can do. When you're down a little bit on horsepower, you've got to do everything can you to make up for it, have everything perfect. It's like I said quite a few times this year, the difference is there's times when they can make mistakes, have problems, still make it to Victory Lane. As far as it's been for us this year, you've got to have everything perfect and do everything exactly right on the day to be able to win the race. There's no chance for any mistakes.
Q. More circumstances today in terms of traffic as opposed to the car just got worse as the day went along?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I mean, we were running faster times at the end of the race than what we had run earlier, so I don't think it was all that. But I think it was, you know, a little bit of both. I think that what afforded us at the beginning to get the lead that we did is we were able to have clean air, moving well through traffic, and we just kind of kept building that lead a little bit, little bit, little bit. What it ended up turning out to be, when it came down to it, there was no cautions. We got to a point where every time it just seemed like I couldn't get everything timed exactly right, whatever, until that last one, then we kind of just stayed in the same place where Dan was and couldn't gain or lose. Kind of not much fun, just out there by ourselves trying to stay ahead of Tony.
Q. Sam, did you feel like you lost a lot of momentum after that first pit stop? You were flying out of the gate there.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Uhm, I didn't think so much after the first pit stop, but I thought so after once we got going after that yellow. I don't really, you know, know exactly what changed. Those guys were in traffic a little bit. They were probably taking their time. But it might have made some changes on the first pit stop that helped them out. I can't explain, you know, exactly. We just didn't have enough for them. I think our cars handled probably about as well as theirs did. We just didn't have enough umpf.
Q. Dario looked like he was going to win this thing again. Won it last year. He was running well. Were you surprised that team made a mistake in the pits like they did?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know exactly what happened there. Team, driver, or what. All I heard was that they stalled, and the clutch wouldn't work. Just one of those things that, you know, you try to hope that you never make a mistake coming out of the pits because it's so costly under green-flag pit stop.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sam. Talk about your first round here at Pikes Peak.
DANICA PATRICK: I think as a team we were optimistic after this morning in qualifying and everything. We've been working really hard on our race car. It's improved, no doubt about that. So we were hoping for a good result, especially coming from Milwaukee and running strong there. But we just, you know, ran into a couple things throughout the race. I think the biggest problem was the fact that when the yellow flag came out and we did a wave-around, I was still running up in the top 10 somewhere, I don't know, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, somewhere in that range, but I had to start second to last or something. So, you know, there's really, really slow cars out there laps down that are in the way. It's tough, you know. They get in the way. When there's like eight of you on a restart trying to get by them, it's a complete mess. When you're one of the last cars of that group, you just kind of got to wait for it all to pan out. Other than that, the track definitely changed throughout the race. The car was a lot of oversteer at the beginning and understeer at the end. It was a matter of balancing the car out throughout. The car definitely wanted to spin out in turn one and two, wanted understeer in the wall in three and four. It was an interesting balance to be able to get through both ends comfortably or mildly comfortably and still stay fast.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Not being able to start closer to the front, what was the plan?
DANICA PATRICK: Started fifth (laughter).
Q. Were you going to try to do anything to overcome not being able to get closer than that?
DANICA PATRICK: No. Just have the best car I could. Fifth isn't bad. Anywhere in the top five is a good qualifying spot.
Q. Did you ever feel like you had something today to make up the ground? I know you got caught up in traffic. Did you ever feel like if a yellow came out, you were able to make up ground? Were you hoping for a yellow that never came out?
DANICA PATRICK: I think there were a couple of different points in the race in which I felt like the car was pretty good. Definitely, you know, within the first stint, midway through the first stint, I felt pretty good, made up some ground. And then towards the middle of the last stint, too, that was another good one, the car felt pretty good again. We were able to make up a little bit of ground in both of those situations. But, again, as I explained, losing so much ground to everybody on the restart, on the one restart we had, just didn't allow me to make up as many positions as I did in the first stint. A little disappointing.
Q. On Friday you mentioned your team had had some troubles on this type of track. Do you think you took a positive step? You mentioned the driver drives, the car doesn't. Do you think you took a positive step this weekend?
DANICA PATRICK: For sure. We had done some testing back to back with some of the old pieces that we had from the short ovals that we were using. It was definitely worse. That's really encouraging, the changes that have been made to the race car have improved it. It's good. I think these are things that also can translate over to the road courses, as well, which will be really good. At Rahal Letterman, we're really looking for a consistent car. We're not necessarily trying to, you know, find all time in one change. We're looking for a car that's really consistent, that can run good times throughout the race. As we've seen time and time again with qualify positions is that, you know, it's one thing, but it's not everything. You still have to do, you know, qualifying is a total of five laps, and the race is 225 laps. It's a lot more to get through. I mean, I don't know what happened to Scheckter at the very end, but he was running ahead of me. Somewhere around 25 laps to go, I caught him and passed him. I almost lapped him within the last 25 again, caught him. You know, I don't know what was wrong with his car. I mean, it's just -- that's where the consistency comes in that you really need in a race car.
Q. With just four races left, what is your mentality for the rest of the way? How does it change from the first race to what it is now?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think that I'm going to -- going into any race feeling any different or have a different expectation level. You know, I think as a driver, you really have to hope and expect to win at all times. I mean, that's the attitude you have to have. You're going to fall short more times in the beginning of your career than you are towards the end hopefully. But you need to have that killer instinct. So I go into every race just, you know, knowing that if I can walk away and know there wasn't something I could have done to make the situation better, you know, make myself and the team finish higher, then I can be pleased, or satisfied for the weekend anyway, not forever, but for the weekend anyway. Same outlook.
Q. I know you've answered this all week. Have to ask you one more final time. You brought a lot of people to this track this weekend. Can you talk about that and the fact of what happened down in Pueblo? Any different stop for you?
DANICA PATRICK: Not really. It's really been amazing this year. The crowds have turned out. I have - wow - such dedicated fans that stand there and wait so long for an autograph and that are excited about the race. It's cool. I heard they were cheering or something in the stands at one point for me passing someone. You know, I mean, that's cool because I wasn't passing for the lead at all today, you know, I was running in the top 10, but that was it. But that's good. That's the kind of fans that you need, that like you whether you're first or 10th or 20th. That's a good fan. I think the fan base is growing real well. I think, as I've said before, not everyone is going to prefer me as their favorite driver out there. As the fans come in more and more, all the drivers will gain more fan base, too. So that's really good.
Q. Can you give us one major positive and one major thing that you want to work on coming out of this race?
DANICA PATRICK: One major positive is the development of the car, working with Panos and working with our team and some others, just developing something that was, again, more consistent, better sort of platform for the race as a car. One thing to work on again is always what I gain more of at every race, and that is just, you know, working through traffic faster. There definitely have been times throughout the year, I can remember times in the first couple of races where, you know, things went great and I caught the right brake, gassed it at the right time, passed a bunch of people. It's trying to make that happen all the time. It's not that I -- you know, it's just trying to figure out how that happens. I don't know. It's tough. I think that I, you know, soak up information all the time. You know, again, good things come from being relaxed and being more comfortable. But I got to tell you, I'm still nervous as heck before every race.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Danica. First with Michael Andretti, congratulations to you. Second win in a row here at Pikes Peak.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you. What a great day, you know, especially for the championship. Dan drove like a champion today. The whole Klein Tools Jim Beam team did a great job in the pit stops. Honda did awesome with their engines. I'm just so happy we were the ones to clinch the championship for them. I want to congratulate them.
THE MODERATOR: Robert Clarke, GM and VP with Honda motorsports. Congratulations clinching the championship here today for the manufacturers.
ROBERT CLARKE: Thank you very much. This is kind of a special weekend for Honda. It's the 10-year anniversary of our first win back in 1995 with Andre Ribeiro and Tasman Motorsports in New Hampshire. To win today at our event and to clinch the championship all in the same weekend is pretty special.
THE MODERATOR: And to our winner, congratulations, Dan. 2005 Indy 500 champion, has won previously this year at Homestead, St. Pete, Motegi, Indy. The current points leader, this marks your fifth win of the season which ties you for the record for most wins in one season in the IRL with Sam Hornish in 2002. Congratulations on that. A very strong run today that seemed to get stronger as the day went along.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, it seems that I win a lot of the special races for Honda, and I'm certainly proud of that. I've been part of that family now for about three years. I'm just hoping that Robert is going to sponsor the Indy 500 next year because I love that race. It was a great result. I think what you could see there was a real team effort from Andretti Green Racing. I think, unfortunately, Bryan's car wasn't so good, but he certainly helped me out there. I know Dario would have run me real strong. Tony and I always run close together. It was fun. We went into turn 1-3-wide with a Penske in between us. I give Helio a lot of credit. You can't run three-wide around this place with many people. Certainly Helio showed both Tony and I a lot of respect to allow us to do that. It made it fun.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Although mathematically you can still be caught, but Dario and Sam, virtually can be very difficult to catch you. Talk about a 97-point lead with four races left.
DAN WHELDON: Never say "never" with Dario. Dario is certainly going to be very, very strong on the road courses. I think Tony will. You know what, Sam, I think he's not going to be too bad either. I've certainly got three teammates that are going to feature strongly. I think certainly with my experience level right now on the road courses, which is somewhat limited, I'm going to have to rely on them for some help. I look forward to the rest of the season. Until it's mathematically impossible for anybody to catch me, I'm going to keep trying to do the same. I would love to try and get six wins. That statistic of most race wins in a season is something pretty special to me. I love the Indianapolis 500, and that's always going to be my favorite race in the world, and it's going to be probably one of the fondest memories of my life. But that statistic somewhat means as much to a championship for me, it's that important. If you can win a championship and win a lot of races on the way, that would be pretty special. Like I say, it's still mathematically possible for a lot of people to beat me. We'll see what happens.
Q. If Dario had a clean stop there at the end, who wins this race?
DAN WHELDON: The person that crosses the start/finish line first on lap 225. Don't like my wit, huh? You can't answer a question like that. That's what makes the Indy Racing League so good. There's so many variables. There's so many people pushing the cars to the limit, you just can't answer a question like that. I have no doubt he would have been very strong. I managed to sneak by him just before that stop and break a little bit of a lead, which you need with Dario. Anything you can do to gain a little advantage over him on the racetrack is good because this is like his home track. He always goes very, very well here. To race with him would have been fun. You know, he's a strong competitor. But he's very, very clean. I have to say that the racing out there today was particularly clean. I know that Hornish is second in the championship, and probably our biggest rival team and engine manufacturer. But he drove very, very cleanly.
Q. Dan, seemed to me in this race had you a lot of patience at the beginning.
DAN WHELDON: Did you see me go three-wide with those guys (laughter)?
Q. You waited to past people until the right time approached. You knew had you to lead the last lap, and it didn't matter how you got there. It just appeared to me you were more relaxed and cautious, made the moves at the right time.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, it's a very difficult track. It's one of those tracks where if you have the right setup, you can really utilize everything that you have. Obviously, we've had great power all year, although we keep harping on them to give us some more. I was certainly able to -- when the time arose and I needed to, I got everything right, to get past people pretty comfortably either around the outside of turns three and four, or if I didn't do it there, up on the inside into turn one. I give Eddie Jones and Bill Bates a lot of credit. The first stint was pretty difficult. I had a lot of push. You know, they pretty much calmed me down and just told me to stick with it. Then we made some changes during that stop, and it just transformed the car. But certainly Michael and Kim are always on me about being patient and collecting points at this stage in the championship. I'm a believer that you just got to go for it and win races. But I try and do my best and listen to them as much as I can.
Q. After you won Indy, obviously Danica stole a lot of your limelight. Do you feel like you're finally getting the respect you deserve? Is that closing now?
DAN WHELDON: I think what we have to understand is Danica's done a very, very good job. If you look at where she's qualified and compare that to me recently, I think my bosses would be pretty appalled with me. I think the year she's having, and I think sometimes the media are a little tough on her. When you're up against the likes of Herta, Kanaan, Castroneves, Hornish, Franchitti. They have been in this series a long, long time. No matter how good your equipment is, no matter how good you are, they are experienced and they know every trick in the book. I think what she's done is particularly special, so I think she deserves a lot of the praise she's getting. From a personal standpoint, I appreciate the praise that I get. But, you know, I've just got to maintain focus and keep trying to win as many races as possible. The fan base and media respect will keep building. That's something out of my control. But I give a lot of credit for the job she's been doing this year. I think it's fantastic. I think the way she's handled the media has been very good, too.
Q. Michael, you were in that race at New Hampshire. Could you have envisioned that 10 years later the dominance -- we knew what they did in Formula One before they came to IndyCar Series racing. Could you have envisioned the dominance they were going to do 10 years later?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It scared me at that time. I remember I was very nervous, in fact to the point where I tried to get Honda engines in our car for the following year. But, unfortunately, the team owner had another idea. No, I wasn't surprised. I mean, as a competitor, you hated going up against them because you know that they're the best. That's why it was so nice to finally join forces and be a part of the Honda family. No, I'm not surprised. I mean, the way they commit themselves and everything, you know, their record is not by accident.
Q. Robert, we know about your past and your present, but what about the future? Chevy reiterated that they are leaving the series. You said that was key to your continuation, was to have another engine manufacturer to compete against. You're not interested in being the only engine company here. What are your views on the future of Honda's involvement in the IRL?
ROBERT CLARKE: Well, that's probably another discussion for another time. I don't want to ruin a good weekend. It's something that we have to consider. I mean, now that the direction of things seems to be more clear, it's time for Honda to consider what it's going to do. I can tell you that we've been very pleased with the relationship we've had with the Indy Racing League, what we've gotten out of it today. We're not looking to leave. I'll leave you at that.
Q. Dan, it looks like you're going to wrap up the championship, won the Indy 500, been dominant, you could break the record. What else is there to do in '05? Where do you set your goals now?
DAN WHELDON: I think the important thing is just to keep winning as much as you possibly can. I still feel like I learn a lot from my three teammates. I don't see that stopping any time soon. But for me I'd love to win more Indianapolis 500s. That race is just an unbelievable event. You know, I live for that race. That race just means a ton to me. I've tasted milk once, and I really enjoyed it. I'd love to taste it again many more times. But it's a very difficult race to win, I know that much. But I'd love to build up my win tally a little bit more there. That would mean a lot to me.
Q. Michael, is Dan going to get pretty expensive to resign for next year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He already is expensive (laughter). No, we hope that Dan will be a part of the team, and we're sure that it's going to happen. Dan has been a great part of AGR from day one, and hopefully he's going to spend many, many years with us.
DAN WHELDON: I couldn't leave my three teammates. I'd feel lost.
Q. Michael, when the team was put together, did you ever have any idea that these four guys would mix the way they did? Did you pick them or it just happened you picked them by talent and it turned out they like to throw pie in each other's face?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We did pick them for talent, first of all, but then personality played a big part of it. You know, your goal is to hopefully get what we have. But never dreamed that it would be as good as it is. The greatest thing is, it's sincere. These guys love each other and they have a lot of fun with each other and respect each other. Because of that, they work together so well. Because they work together, everybody else on the team works together. It's something very special. It's something we tried to do, but we didn't think -- we never thought we'd pull it off the way we have.
Q. Michael, is it hard as a team owner? When Dario came in, he had the car to beat. Goes in the pits. I know he was frustrated, disappointed.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I just felt so bad for him. His year has been that way. He's had such strong cars in every race. I think he probably has had the strongest car over a year, but he's had the worst luck over the year. I just felt so bad. When I saw that thing stall, I was like I couldn't believe it. Unfortunately, when it's your year, it's your year. When it's not, it's not. Unfortunately, it's been that way for Dario.
Q. Are you ready for the road? Is it going to be a lot more physical than today?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think Sonoma is going to be very, very physical. Certainly 80 laps around there, I'm going to be praying for yellow. Every 20 laps I'm going to want a yellow, that's for sure (laughter). I don't think I'm the only one on that. I think the whole paddock. But it's one of those tracks, not only is it physical, it's difficult to put one lap together that's real good. Certainly Dario was very quick when he tested there. But, like I say, my level of experience on the road courses is still not quite to their level, and I'm still establishing somewhat of a base setup. I would compare it to my short oval setups are somewhat developed to my liking. We each have our own little things that we like. We're pretty comfortable with my stuff there. But on the road course, I still haven't achieved that. I'm sure that I'll feature strongly, but I've got to still learn from my teammates. I expect them all to be strong.
Q. Are you trying to fly under the radar with your road racing skills?
DAN WHELDON: I like to fly under the radar. That's my style. No, I think I'll be good. I mean, I was obviously quick at St. Petersburg. I was a little bit inconsistent there. I didn't do a particularly good job in qualifying. But the session before qualifying, I was quickest. It's one of those things -- second quickest. It's one of those things where you just got to bring it all together in a race weekend, which I'm sure I'll do eventually. I just got to make sure I'm consistent in Sonoma and Watkins Glen. I'm really looking forward to Watkins Glen. That's kind of a European track, fast and slowing, whereas Sonoma is a little stop/start. It's going to be tough, but it will be good.
Q. If you want to get a head start on road courses, think of taking a quick trip up Pikes Peak?
DAN WHELDON: Those guys are pretty crazy that do that. I'll leave that to those guys and stick to Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Q. You got a head start on your IRL career because of Dario's motorcycle in '03, Motegi. That seemed to be a race where a lot of people thought you were pretty good.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I mean, in this day and age, it's sad to say in motorsport, but if you don't perform right away, you're going to be replaced pretty quick. It's one of those things that it's not a case where you can feel your way into it; you have to do well. You know, certainly that's what I tried to do. I think, like any rookie, I made some mistakes along the way, but I tried to learn from them as much as I could. You know, it's worked out. I still feel like I'm learning a lot, I really do. There's definitely stuff -- certainly Dario, Bryan and Tony are very -- they're very technical in how they set up their cars. That's where I still got to get a little bit better.
THE MODERATOR: Robert, Dan, Michael, congratulations to all of you today. Thank you for a great show.
End of FastScripts...