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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Sam Hornish Jr. & Ed Carpenter interview

May 22, 2003

Operator: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Indy Racing League conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Kent Johnson. Mr. Johnson, you may begin.

K. Johnson: Thank you, Mary, and we certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, May 20th. Today, we will look back on the inaugural running of the Infiniti Pro Series Freedom 100 with winner Ed Carpenter, as well as look towards this weekend’s 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. Joining us for that will be 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr. First out, though, Ed Carpenter. He is the driver of the No. 14 Futuba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone and this past weekend led 39 of 40 laps in posting his first Infiniti Pro Series victory in the inaugural Freedom 100. Ed, welcome and thanks for joining us today.

E. Carpenter: Thanks for having me.

K. Johnson: To start with, I mean the obvious, you had just an absolutely amazing performance this weekend, both in qualifying and in the race en route to your Infiniti Pro Series victory. Tell us from your standpoint just how everything fell together.

E. Carpenter: I think it kind of goes back to the first two races. We got off to a terrible start and had an accident in both Miami and Phoenix and ended both races with DNF. So we were coming into Indy kind of behind the 8-ball, and things weren’t off to a good start, and we wanted to definitely turn it around at Indy. So we kind of just went through the car and got it. It was pretty much brand new again after Phoenix, all the work they did to it. From my side, I kind of just erased the first two races from my mind and then we just got focused for Indy, and everything just fell into place. I mean, the car was perfect. It made it a really fun weekend for me.

K. Johnson: Now you’re obviously tipping your hat to the team. You’re driving for the A.J. Foyt Racing Team, which going back to last year is the winningest team in the Infiniti Pro Series. Last year, they won the championship with A.J. Foyt IV and now they have another race victory under their belts with you in the cockpit. With Foyt’s history here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, did you come into the Freedom 100 thinking you might have a leg up on the competition simply because of A.J.’s knowledge of the track?

E. Carpenter: I think so. I mean, it is hard not to look at that aspect just because he had won four races there, and he had won another one with Kenny Brack as an owner. It seemed like he always, this is the one place he just can make cars happy, and he just has so many laps and so much experience here that I knew that that would carry over to the Pro Series car.

K. Johnson: Now as you came off of Turn 4 Sunday afternoon, or Sunday morning rather, you saw the starter haul out the checkered flags knowing they were for you; what were the emotions you were feeling?

E. Carpenter: It was very special. I mean, I have been excited for that race and to have the kind of weekend we did just, I mean, we couldn’t have really scripted it any better. I mean, I could have added one more lap. But, I mean, it was pretty much a perfect weekend, and I was so relieved to finally getting the race over, and it was such a long two-day period with the rain and everything, so it was just a relief. I mean, I had been just focusing so hard on the race with all the rain-day delays and what not, it was kind of just starting to take a toll on the whole team.

K. Johnson: Well Ed, at this time let’s go ahead and open our forum to the media. Just a reminder, we do a complete transcript of the call and it will be sent to your e-mail and fax machines. Now at this time, let’s open the forum for questions.

Q: Hi, Ed. Talk a little bit again about how you were able to pull away with the gear selection and what a difference that made and does that come from A.J.’s long experience at the track?

E. Carpenter: Yes, after the first 12 laps we ran that night, we were sitting back at the garage and we were talking about making a gear change, and it was A.J.’s idea, and he kind of threw it out there at me. I was pretty skeptical, but he convinced me, and I bought into what he was saying, and I think that did come from his experience and that gear change, he couldn’t have geared it better. And I think it just made my car a little bit better than it already was and then that on top of the other guys behind me just racing so hard for second place I think that is what allowed me just to kind of sneak away.

Q: Right. Winning that race and it had to be particularly special for you, and you live down the street and you grew up around it and you live, your part of the family that runs the facility; how unexpected was it and how kind of proud are you that you were able to pull it off?

E. Carpenter: I mean, we came into this race as a team just really focused on this race. We really wanted to win this race and use this as a springboard to get us going the rest of the season. I mean, Indy by far, no matter what period it is, whether it is NASCAR, the IndyCar Series, Formula One, I mean, Indy is pretty much the marquee event on anybody’s schedule, and it is no different than the Pro Series. From that aspect, it means everything to us. We just won the biggest race of the year, so it gives us a lot of energy going into the rest of the season.

Q: In a way are you … One other question. In a way are you glad that you decided to stay another year in the Infiniti Pro Series for experience and be ready maybe next year to test the speedway in the IRL car?

E. Carpenter: Yes, I mean, I think two years of the Pro Series is going to be good, because that way when I get to the IRL, my learning curve will not be very steep that some of the other young guys in the series. It is just one of those things where the more experience you can get in a development series like this it is just going to make for a smoother transition. So hopefully that transition will come next season for me.

K. Johnson: Ed, our last caller was asking about you looking ahead to the IndyCar Series; with the team you are at with, A.J. Foyt Racing, you are following in the footsteps of A.J. Foyt IV, who now is racing in the IndyCar Series. Do you and he have a relationship at the track where you can ask him about things you’re going through now or even look ahead and ask about what to expect when you make the jump?

E. Carpenter: We have a pretty good relationship. I think we treat each other more like equals, and I talk to him about what he is going through, and he talks to me about what I am going through. It is just one of those things where we are both two young guys, and we are with the same team, so we are going through similar situations, and we can just kind of use each other to keep each other confident and just figure things out like that.

Q: Ed, the Indianapolis track being probably the longest track and the biggest track you will race on, does that pose special problems for you in your car or you as a driver? Does that make have to… I guess you didn’t have to work any harder but I guess second, third and fourth did. What does that do to your type of car?

E. Carpenter: Indy is the biggest track we go to. Speed-wise, I think Michigan is almost a little bit faster, the laps are a little bit closer raced. I mean, Indy, there is really one prepared line around the place. And as you saw those guys back in the pack, they were definitely running two-wide, so it just takes a lot of concentration and a lot of focus, and you have to place a lot of trust in the guy your sitting there racing next to. I think Indy, probably just from the speed and the nature of the track, it is probably the most mentally challenging track we go to all year.

Q: Ed, they always say that when a driver comes around his last lap and he is in front he hears all these noises. This is really your first big experience; did you hear any noises or did you feel anything coming around on that final lap?

E. Carpenter: No, A.J. was on the radio with me every lap, and I think he did a good job of keeping me relaxed. All I had to do was keep focused on what I was doing, and I think I just kept focused enough and that and with A.J. talking to me just… I stayed relaxed enough where I never started hearing any creaking noises or engine bogging down or anything like that. I was kind of surprised it didn’t happen, but I think I was just so tuned in to what I was doing, and that and A.J.’s calming words on the radio.

Q: What did A.J. say to you exactly?

E. Carpenter: He would give me like what time back to second place and tell me to be cool, “You are doing a good job,” “Keep doing what you’re doing,” “Take it easy,” “You’re looking good,” just stuff like that to keep me confident, so all I have to do is worry about driving my own race.

K. Johnson: Ed, starting from the pole this past weekend, it took a little while for the race to really get going, it had the incidents on the first lap on Saturday and then the rain then a yellow flag just one lap in when you finally got going Sunday. As a driver especially from the pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was there a part of you that was just getting antsy saying, “Come on let’s get going?”

E. Carpenter: I think when you are starting the race during pole, there is more pressure just on the initial start, from getting that initial jump, and we kept having so many restarts it was just really, it was testing me. I was waiting for what happened to happen being someone get by me on restart and Mark Taylor got by me on that last restart we had, I was just kind of mad because had so many yellows and I gotten the jump so many times it was only a matter of time before someone got a little bit better start than I did. I was just fortunate enough to get a good run (Inaudible) and get him back on the backstretch.

K. Johnson: Let’s turn the tables just a little bit if we would, Ed. You recently earned your bachelor’s degree at Butler University here in Indianapolis, and over the past several years you have juggled school work with racing. How difficult was that, and in doing so from a discipline standpoint, how did it help you?

E. Carpenter: I think it definitely matured me a lot in the sense that I was living two different lives, really. I mean they are both full time. I was going to school full time so I could graduate in four years, and then I always had my racing career that I had to work on along with school stuff, so I think I developed fairly good time management skills earlier than some of my peers. It was just one of those things where I knew I needed to go to school and so I focused in on that, and I knew I wanted to race, and I love to race, and that is what I wanted to do, and I was not going to let school get in the way of that. So it took a lot of sacrificing on my part. I mean, I didn’t have a lot of free time. I was either out racing or when I would get back I was making up (Inaudible) for school when I had been gone racing. So it made a lot of sacrifices but it was all worthwhile.

K. Johnson: As a final question for you, Ed, your victory in the Freedom 100 pulled you seven points of second place in the Pro Series point standings; give us your thoughts now on what lies ahead for your team as you look down the schedule?

E. Carpenter: I mean, after those first two races and two DNF we were sitting way back in 15th, and I was almost feeling like we had lost our shot at it, our chance at the title. But I mean leaving this race going from 15th to fifth and just sitting seven points out of second and like I do not know, I think 55 out of the lead we are definitely still in the ball game. It is just going to take a lot of consistency, and we are not going to be able not to finish any races, and we are going probably need that other yellow car (points leader Mark Taylor) to have a stroke of bad luck somewhere down the line. If he can manage to run podium every race, it will be close to impossible. I mean, second place is within grasp, so we are just going to keep finishing as far up as we can and see what happens.

K. Johnson: Well, Ed, we certainly thank you for joining us today and again, congratulations on an outstanding effort this past weekend.

E. Carpenter: Thank you.

K. Johnson: Now at this time let’s welcome IndyCar Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish, the 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion and driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil/Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, will start his fourth Indianapolis 500 this coming Sunday from the outside of Row 6, having posted a four lap average speed of 226.225 miles per hour. Sam, welcome and thanks for joining us today.

Sam Hornish Jr.: You’re very welcome, glad to be on.

K. Johnson: First, your season thus far shows two top-10 finishes and your best outing of the season was a sixth-place finish in our most recent outing at the Indy Japan 300. Now with the Indianapolis 500 at our doorstep, what is your approach heading into this event?

Hornish: I guess go for another top-10 finish, but definitely we always are looking for a victory. The results this year have not really shown what I think we were capable of. We have had bad pit stops, not really bad on the part of the team, but bad that every time we pit it seems like a yellow comes out shortly after. We have not had really good luck as far as getting a little bit of racing luck, tables to turn. We tend to lose a couple positions each race just by bad pit timing and should probably be a little bit higher up in the points, but Phoenix we got bumped as we were passing the lap car and put into the outside wall, so it is not one of those years that really we have got a lot of racing luck on our side. So we are just going to continue to go out there and do the best we can with the equipment that we have and see what we can do. The Indianapolis 500 is a power race, but you have to have a very good handling car. You have to really be able to move through traffic, and you have to have that little b
K. Johnson: Now continuing on that last thought about the Indianapolis 500, this year’s field is one of the closest in history. It is the third-fastest field in the Indy history. Does where you start in the grid really matter as far as where you might finish?

Hornish: I have started 14th, 13th and seventh. I have never been in the front two rows, but this is my worst qualifying attempt in the four years that I have been here. The other three years things did not go very well, so I guess it does not really matter where you start at. It is a 500-mile race. Two hundred laps around the track is a long time. Basically, it is eight to possibly 10 pit stops, just depending on how the yellow flags fall, and if there are yellow flags. That is pretty much double of any other racetrack that we run. It is really key to have good pit stops here, and patience is a very big key, too. I mean, even if you go out there and you don’t pass a single car on the racetrack, but you pass two every time you make a pit stop starting in 18th position you could take the lead in all actuality if all the pit stops were in the yellow. So it is a very strategic race, this is. That is what is really going to separate a winning effort from a 10th-place effort is what you have planned and how well e
K. Johnson: Now you have talked about planning for the first time in your IndyCar Series career. This month at least you’re driving for what amounts to a multi-car team. How has that setup benefited you?

Hornish: Oh, I mean, Billy (Boat) and Robby (Gordon) are two very good drivers. They have a lot of talent between them. But the only problem is they have not had very much time in these new chassis. So they are very different than what last year’s were by the different wing settings and different wing rules that the IRL has made for this year. It makes it tough to step into these cars and know what makes these cars happy. So a little bit about what has happened so far this month is that we have just really been trying to bog down a little bit. We are still doing quite a bit of the trial-and-error stuff is just on my car and it is left to be fine-tuned on the other car. It doesn’t make it any harder for us. It does make it a little bit easier, but it is not necessarily like having a teammate that has been there since the beginning of the year.

K. Johnson: Well, Sam, at this time let’s open the forum for questions from our media.

Q: Hi, Sam. Quick question about working with the teammates. Do you collaborate a lot with someone like Robby who just stepped onboard this past weekend?

Hornish: Well not really, because, I mean, pretty much what is left up to me to do is explain how the car should handle based on the setup that it has and just to help him out if he has any questions or any problems in the car. My interaction, more so, has been getting a safe setup as far as him just to be able to go out there and be able to put the gas pedal down and run four laps fast enough to be in the field and not be in last place.

Q: Does that take up a lot of your time?

Hornish: No, not really. Robby’s effort didn’t really start until after we were pretty much done with everything that we were going to do. I mean 10, 15 minutes of my time here and there, which is really nothing. You know, I am down here for a month, so it does keep me occupied a little bit.

Q: Sam, there has been a lot of talk lately about, I guess, the stature of the Indy 500 having been increased in the last few years, I guess, due a lot to some of the guys coming over. Do you feel that has increased the stature of the race and does it feel like the biggest race in the world to you?

Hornish: To me, it is still kind of sometimes hard to believe that I am where I am at. Even though it was my goal to get here, I did not necessarily know if it would ever happen. The Indianapolis 500 is always a tough race to win because not only are you racing against other competitors, but you are racing against yourself. It is one of the longest races in IndyCar (Series) racing, so it is a little bit man against machine more than man against man. You have to go out there and be patient enough not to put your car in jeopardy early in the race because it is not like NASCAR where you can touch another car and bend a fender little bit, and yes, it does slow down, but it is not the end of your day. This you get out of line a little bit, you touch the wall, that is 14 or more laps fixing the car. Regardless of the competition level as far as outside drivers, it has gotten stronger, but it is still a tough race to run even if there was only five people out there. If they are all the same speed, it is tough becaust running 500-mile races. It is already tough to do even if there are only five guys that have an opportunity at winning. I think the quality of the field, it is still the competitive, but there is just more guys that have an opportunity to win.

Q: Sam, you mentioned earlier about your season thus far and you talked about the bad luck with pit stops. With the double number of pit stops in an Indy 500, how concerned are about that?

Hornish: Well, I am a little concerned. We have not had problems with the pit stops as far as wheels falling off. It is just been the wrong timing. If the timing issues go like they have so far this year, that is not a very good sign for us. But there is nothing to say against any of the guys on the team. They all do a great job of getting me in and out as fast or faster than other people that I am running against. It is just right now the times that we have had to pit because we have been running under green flag, running for a certain time, just have not been right. Then once you are off sequence, you are off sequence. There is not a whole lot you can do to fix it, and then it seems like every time you pit in that race, you are off a little bit or something does not work out right. I would be a little bit concerned, but the good thing about this season being bad at the beginning is it is totally opposite of everything else that has happened to us in the past. We have usually been leading, the last few years
Q: The speedway itself, especially for the Indy 500, seems to take a personality of its own and seems to pick (Inaudible) such as the Andrettis over the years and what have you. Do you feel now that after four times being there and as strong as you are everywhere else that maybe the first personality of the lady known as the speedway for some reason does not like Sam Hornish Jr.?

Hornish: I do not know. I mean they call Dover “The Monster Mile,” and I think Indianapolis is two and a half times that. It is two and a half times the size so it is just … It is a tough racetrack to go out there and win on. It is a long racetrack. Everybody says all four corners are identical, but in all actuality they are not. They all have a personality of their own, and they all do different things. Yes, winning this track, being the size that it is, I understand that there is Daytona and Talladega that are tracks that are as big or bigger, this track is so different because it does not have the banking. Without having the banking, you get a lot more wind coming across the corners, and the wind has a lot more affect on the cars than it would at those two tracks. This track definitely has a personality, and it is kind of one of those love-hate relationships. I cannot wait to come here every year, but it seems like I am always disappointed when I leave. But when I look back at it, I think there have been d
Q: You had mentioned earlier that the competition is just as strong and more guys have an opportunity of winning. But considering this year there was only 33 cars that even attempted to qualify and some of the other things, has any of the shine come off of this event for at least for you as a driver?

Hornish: With the lack of being an actual Bump Day, that would be the only thing. I mean the way I look at it is, it might be the smallest entered field in history. There are 33 cars, but nobody went home. But in all actuality, I mean it is probably the most competitive field in Indianapolis 500 history. There are more guys that have a chance to win this year than has been since I have been here. I think it is harder to win this race than it ever has been. It does take luck, and it does take good preparing. There are so many things that go into that. And then, you know, sometimes it just has to be your day. For me, it is the same as it always been. This is the race to win. That is the only way I can look at it. The only reason that they are not as many cars is what there has been in the past is because they went through a new chassis this year and not everybody does not have the money to go buy two $350,000 cars and get an engine programmed for $1 million just to run one race. I mean $2 million in that field. It is got the most competitive people and the best drivers. If you look at the list I mean there is so many new guys like (Tomas) Scheckter and then you have Michael (Andretti) and Little Al (Unser Jr.), and then you have the guys that are in the middle that have been in the IRL for quite a while, and you have Buddy Lazier, and you have Scott Sharp. I could probably go through and name 20 guys or more that if they won, I would not say: “Boy that is a shocker. I cannot believe that they ever had a chance at winning this race.”

Q: The only other question I have is – You’re the first or the only first driver that is not running, qualified driver that is not running a Toyota or a Honda engine, and some have already said that you guys are at a disadvantage and that Chevy seemingly was not prepared. How much more difficult does that? Are the Toyotas and Hondas that much stronger?

Hornish: You can look at the results, and you guys can pretty much take your pick and pick your side as far as what you think by looking at the results. I mean, I do not need to tell anybody that Chevrolet, I do know, has spent a lot of time and a lot of money working on this and while Toyota and Honda knew they were leaving CART last year, and the size of their companies and their race divisions could just go focus on getting a new engine made, and I am sure that they had the new engine close to being done before they ever announced that they were coming to the IRL. So they were a little bit ahead of the ball based on the fact that Chevrolet had to build a new engine for last year and then they had to build another for this year. Yes, maybe they are behind a little bit, but they had a little bit more on their plate as far as what the IRL was concerned. They were busy trying to win the championship last year, a championship in the IRL last year versus being able to work on that engine all last year.

Q: Hi, Sam. You had talked about patience in the race earlier; what have you learned in the first three races you ran here? How patience benefits you and how long being back where you started can you remain patient?

Hornish: Well, it is real tough being patient starting from 18th because you want to get up and get through all the people that are going to crash together and you do not want to get collected in somebody’s else crash. And you have people behind you hounding you also, so it is tough to be there and to remain patient. But I do know that that is what it is going to take and it does not matter if people pass you the first 20 laps or people pass you the first 50 laps or even going to the 100-lap mark, they say it is kind of like keeping it 90 percent until you get Lap 170, and then you start fighting for it. But a lot people say that, but every year gets more and more to be a sprint race because you cannot wait ‘til, you cannot always wait ‘til Lap 170 because the field is not going to be that close. And with how competitive these cars are, you are not going to be able to pass people at will.

Q: You have been asked several questions about the magnitude of the 500. Using the bowling analogy, you look on this as the 12th roll of a 300 game?

Hornish: Do I? I do not know.

Q: You know where you need one more strike?

Hornish: Yes, I mean, I know exactly… It is tough because this is the time to shine if you are going to at any point and time during the year. And I have said all the way up to here I only need to lead one lap this year, and I do not care if it is make a pass going into (Turn) 3 on the last corner of the last lap. It is the closest race in IndyCar (Series) history that I went across the line, I do not care. It is just, if that what it takes to win, that is what I want to be. Of course, you would love to go out there and beat everybody by five laps, but that just doesn’t happen anymore. I will remain patient about the way I do those things, and I am going to try to figure out, I already formulated a little bit of a plan as far as what I am going to do come Race Day. But, whether or not that works and whether or not I can stick to my own plan, that remains to be seen. So it is tough to say, “I am not going to get excited about this until it’s time” because it is the biggest race in the world and you want to be in it.

Q: Sam, there are a lot of teams that have run a lot laps this year and a lot of drivers run a lot of laps in practice. I am sure they gather a lot of information from their cars running laps, but as a driver does it help you to run more laps or does it become tiresome?

Hornish: Well, it depends on what you are running laps for. If you have to run more laps if I am working on qualifying, that that is not usually the smartest thing because you have the car trimmed out. You are pretty close to either having the car push a little bit or be loose so that is not always the funnest thing to do. But race setups it is definitely important to be out there, be on the track, be running behind people, in front of people, in dirty air and clean air, trying to figure out what your car is going to do so you know how to adjust for Race Day.

Q: Does it help you to drive more laps?

Hornish: I do not know. I mean we are pretty much close to the same setup that we started at the beginning of this month. We knew what it was going to take to make the car run, and we tweaked on it a little bit here and there, so maybe it does not help me to run so many laps. But if we were far off and were not close on the setup then we needed to be out there, and I think that, yes, it would definitely be an advantage to be able to go out there and run some great laps. But it is tough mentally to have to go out there and run that many laps because I mean I think we have run close to run 800 laps this month ourselves, you know, 2,000 miles and that is four times longer than the race itself. So it is a lot of time out there and a lot of time and patience to try to keep yourself out of trouble and safe up until Race Day.

Q: I am sorry. Sam, much is made this week about, this month actually about Robby Gordon and trying to double and so forth. Does that in anyway interest you? Is that something that you might think of doing in the future or does that have no interest to you at all?

Hornish: I would like to win the Indianapolis 500 before I go do that. That is what I have always wanted to do. I have no dreams about winning both those races in one day. Yes, it would be awesome, but you have to get through one of them before you can do the other one. My goal in racing to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, both tough to win either one of those races, so I will keep focusing on the Indy 500 for right now.

Q: Is there any… Much has been made about your spoken interest in racing in stock cars. Is there anything else that you would like to drive or are you totally satisfied with the drive to win the 500 and you will deal with whatever comes next after that?

Hornish: I am 23 years old, so have a lot of time to do a bunch of different things. My goal is to do a lot of things, and I just want to make sure that I make the most of my opportunities when they are presented to me. So I have to wait and see where it ends up at. Of course, I already ran the 24 Hours of Daytona, and I would like to be part of a winning team in that at some point in time. There are so many different things that are out there for a young race car driver to focus his attention on as far as things that have something done or have not been done. But the Indianapolis 500 was the reason I started racing, so that will probably keep my interest for a while.

K. Johnson: Sam, away from the racetrack it is pretty much published knowledge that you enjoy to go bowling. But yesterday I understand you went out on the golf course and hit the little ball around. How did that round go?

Hornish: Well, not very good. I think we had more fun picking at the group behind us than we did actually golfing. But that is what it is all about. It is fun to go out there and be able to think about something other than racing once in a while. No, I am not very good at it; it does get a little bit frustrating at times. Just have to take it and lap it off a little bit.

K. Johnson: Well, Sam, it does not look we have any more questions this morning. So we will let you get back to enjoying the little bit of down time that you have before we start going with Community Day tomorrow and then Carb Day on Thursday. Again, we certainly appreciate you having taken the time to join us today.

Hornish: Thanks for having me. It has been fun.

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