Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
MODERATOR: We are here at Texas Motor Speedway. Glad to have you here for the big championship weekend. There are two championships, obviously on the line. The Indy Racing League, and we all know about it, Sunday's championship race, the Chevy 500 but Saturday, is the League Championship event of the new Infiniti Pro Series. We have with us two of the biggest names and the guys that are 1 and 2 in the Infiniti Pro point standings. Closest to me, is 20-year-old Arie Luyendyk who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He has one pole position this year, finished second four times in six races. He is second in points, led 64 laps this season, and he, of course, is the son of two-time Indy 500 Champion, Arie Luyendyk. On the other side, your left, is A.J. Foyt IV -- but you prefer to go by Anthony; correct? 18 years old from Hockley, Texas, which I'm going assume a Houston suburb. Three pole positions this year, three wins in six races, and the other three, he's finished fourth, sixth and ninth. He's led 146 laps this season and he is the grandson of four-time Indy 500 Champion, A.J. Foyt. So it comes down to this, these two guys in Saturday's Chevy 500/BG Products 100. So, first, I'll ask each of you, and then we'll throw it up here for some questions, when the season started, did you think guys think you would come down to being the two champions for the title?
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I didn't know really what to expect, it was all so new for me. I definitely knew that A.J. would be quick and I knew that Ed would be quick, Aaron Fike, and I thought that would be the main guys and it seems to have worked itself out that way. I'm a little disappointed I have not had a win yet, but I'm glad that I'm here in front of all you and contending for the title in this last race. So, it all has not been too bad yet.
MODERATOR: Anthony, did you think it would come down to you and A.J..
A.J. FOYT IV: I knew that I've seen him race in the Formula Continental. I knew he was a very good driver. I knew coming into the League that he's to be one of the main guys to beat. I'm glad to be up here in position, leading points going into the last race. We've had a great year and the Infiniti Pro Series is doing great with its first season. We had no problems at all and got a lot of good drivers that want to move up to IRL. I see the IRL really getting big the next couple years with a lot of young drivers moving up. Just hopefully try to hold Arie off on his last race.
MODERATOR: Anthony spent a week with us going around Texas, Oklahoma, doing press conferences to promote this weekend's events, and that was before the Chicago race. So, I did not see him until, I guess it was Tuesday. What's the first thing you said to me?
A.J. FOYT IV: I told him -- I said that, you know, you should do good at Chicago because we wanted you to try to win the championship in Texas, so I feel that Eddie and Kimberly pretty much jinxed me. (Laughter). So hopefully, it doesn't carry on to this Texas race.
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: And I hope it does.
Q. If there's a dispute over who wins, are you going to start swinging away in victory lane?
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I think we are more mature than that, or at least I am.
A.J. FOYT IV: I agree.
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Anthony and I, we actually go out to dinner and stuff. We're pretty civil to each other. Not when we put the helmets on, though.
Q. Who is going to lead the most laps tomorrow between you two guys?
A.J. FOYT IV: Well, I guess that's something we are going to have to find out but hopefully it's me.
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I feel the same way. Hopefully it's me. Leading the last lap is the most important lap, though.
Q. Arie, do you have big plans if you win the championship, being a legal age this week?
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Yes, there will be some big plans. Some mornings I will have to sleep in quite late. But no, I can't party too hard because October 1, I'm going to be testing possibly the Treadway Hubbard G-Force in Kentucky, so I'll have to concentrate on that.
Q. Anthony, you have a sponsor that you can't even go into their place of business because you're 18; right?
A.J. FOYT IV: Right.
Q. Larry Foyt is in stock car racing, can you make as much money as he can or can he make as much as you? Have you thought about all that stuff?
A.J. FOYT IV: I don't really think about the money so much. I just focus on what I love to do, and I've been around the open-wheel cars -- and being that the shop is close to my house, very convenient and being able to go and learn more and more about the cars. I choose to stay in the IRL and I definitely like open-wheel racing better. I think my grandfather wanted him to go there, but if it was his choice, he could come over here, too.
MODERATOR: Now, this morning's Fort Worth Star Telegram, you told the reporter about flying back with your grandfather from Chicago, and he said -- you said he chewed on you the whole way home. Specifically, what did he say?
A.J. FOYT IV: Just in the race, about halfway through, instead of staying behind Arie, I decided -- I didn't know his teammate was right behind me. So when I moved to the outside of Arie, his teammate, like he's supposed to, got right behind Arie and pushed him and let me out there by myself. Just got on me about not paying attention to what's around me. Made a move too early, should have waited until later in the race. And then went on and on and on (Laughter) for about two hours.
MODERATOR: That sounded very reasonable and constructive. But got hired of it after a while?
A.J. FOYT IV: Yeah.
MODERATOR: Well, one of these two young men will become the first ever Infiniti Pro champion, and we're just excited that the championship race is here at Texas. And knowing his grandfather and his father for years and years, we are just thrilled to see them show up here and do so well, and I think you're going to see a lot of these guys in years to come. We appreciate it, gentlemen. Have a good race, and may the best man win and all that good stuff. Appreciate you coming in. Of course, Helio Castroneves is 27 years old, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and currently living in Miami. Of course, he is two-time Indy 500 winner. He had two wins this season, Phoenix and Indianapolis -- and this is some key stuff, interesting stuff. Five top five finishes on one-and-a-half-mile tracks in 2002. His best finish on a mile-and-a-half track was third at Homestead and at Kansas, and his worst on a one-and-a-half-mile track was fifth at Kentucky. So he does quite well on the mile-and-a-half tracks. Average finish has been 3.8. Helio has become the first driver in IRL to become the Indy 500 and Indy Racing League Champion in the same year. The winner of the 500 has gone on to win the championship 29 times since the first 500 in 1911, but it's only happened seven times since 1970 when Big Al Unser did it. Jacques Villenueve was the last driver to do it in '95. Sam Hornish, Junior is 23 years old from Defiance, Ohio. He is, of course, the 2001 Indy Racing League champion, the defending champion of the series. He had four wins in 2002, Homestead, California, Richmond and of course last week's race in Chicago. He has two wins on mile-and-a-half tracks in 2002, Homestead and Chicago, and his worst finish this season ironically came here in June at Texas after an accident with Eddie Cheever. His average finish on a mile-and-a-half track this season is 4.8. If you recall, Helio's average finish is 3.8. So those two guys finish right up there at the front of the field. He won the Chevy 500 and he is the defending champion of this race one year ago by one of the closest one, two, three finishes in Indy Racing history. Pennzoil Panther Racing has three wins at Texas Motor Speedway. Sam could become the first driver to win two Indy Racing League Championships, and if he finishes first or second, he wins the title no matter what Helio does. So I will start by asking, I assume then, Sam, the plan is to win the race?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Always. That's the plan every time I get in the race car is to go out there and be No. 1, whether it's in practice, qualifying or the race. So pretty much the same thing that we've been doing all year.
MODERATOR: And of course your plan is to win the race.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, my plan is to have 13 points ahead of this guy, here. Obviously, if he plans to win, I need to be ahead of him no matter what on Sunday. I'm sure it's going to be a good battle, as always, over here, and I'm sure it's going to decide the championship on the last lap of this race.
Q. This being Penske's first year in the Indy Racing League, what's your assessment on how well the car is performed?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, obviously, being a Penske driver, representing Marlboro Team Penske, first year in IRL, you have several questions. Several are the track; that a lot of tracks we have discovered during the race how the performance, how to setup, the gears, and so far, the speed, we didn't have much of a problem. We were able to find out because of those tests, so we really worked hard during the whole season to make sure that at least we are going as much prepared as possible during the race weekend. As everybody knows, normally we have only 45 minutes, and to set up the car in those situation is very tough. But I'm very proud of my team. The team is doing a hell of a job, putting all of the equipment together, being competitive on the field, very special, being challenging in the championship, and I'm extremely happy. So, again, here is going to be a situation that -- the good news, we have already been here. Obviously, we race at night, which might change a little bit, racing at day, but I'm extremely confident and I'm very happy to -- for all of the performances of the team this year.
Q. Sam, what's your read on Penske and how good their car has performed?
SAM HORNISH, JR. : Penske is probably -- I'm pretty sure that they have the most amount of wins in Indy cars, and they definitely have the most Indy 500 wins as a team. You know, definitely probably the best funded team coming into this year. If you were to ask me if they were going to do as well as they did, I would say yes. They have done a great job. There's nothing that you can't -- but if you would ever ask me if I thought that he could do it or they were at a disadvantage, I don't think so, because I think they have got two very good drivers and a very good team to go along with it, to be able to put the cars out there week-in and week-out and be competitive.
Q. Helio has a new teammate who is obviously not in the championship hunt. What do you expect out of Max on Sunday?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's going to be his first time on this track, I believe. It's not the first time with his equipment, racing it at Indy. I'm pretty sure he's going to do a good job. Max definitely is a fast driver and we just -- hopefully, with the situation that we have in the championship, he will be up there, as well, to make sure he can steal as much points from everyone as possible, he especially from Sam. So we just have to see. Obviously, you can never predict, especially this racetrack, especially this race, but it's good that we are in this situation. Obviously, we can't discount the teammate. At the same time, I have to go and do my job, so we're going to keep working hard to make sure we do a good job.
Q. Sam, what do you expect from his teammate Sunday ?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I don't know. Got to look at it -- two hands you can look at it. It could be a professional race or it could be also problem that is might occur from trying to help another driver win the championship. But I've talked to Max a couple of times, and I don't think he's the kind of guy that would negatively affect the outcome of the championship. I think it's going to be a long race on Sunday, and hopefully it won't be a factor of any other cars. It will just be a duel down to the end.
MODERATOR: Sam and I talked briefly after Sunday's race in Chicago. We were studying the mathematical possibility of a dead heat. You are in Texas, everything is bigger in Texas; Sam told me he really would rather win by a lap.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Hopefully the margin of victory will be bigger in Texas.
MODERATOR: No. Dead heat.
Q. What do you have to do make your car run fast on this racetrack?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Just with how closely competitive the cars are, it's tough to be very fast over another car. You have to have your car that works good on the bottom and on the top. One of the characteristics of the car is that it is as neutral of casual possible. You don't want it to be loose as all, because if you are running side by side with other cars it does definitely kick the back end of the car around, but you don't want to be pushed. So basically, just find a happy medium where the car is real neutral. You can run the low line or the high line, the way thing shuffle around around here, you can't just say, oh, my car works good on the bottom , I'm just going to run it here all day. You're going to get stuck up on the outside or vice versa.
Q. On Sunday would you like to see it come down to a heads-up duel between the two of you, and kind of may-the-better-man-win type situation?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Well, it can't really come down to a heads-up duel, because if I finish first or second, I still win. So that makes it tough, as far as that goes for Helio. But, I definitely don't want to see him go out on the first lap. That takes some of the fun -- I don't want anybody to have any excuses and say that, you know, if so and so hadn't ran into me on the first lap, I would have won. I don't want to have those excuses, either. So I would like to see it go down to the last couple of laps. I don't really, really want to see a whole lot of people up there battling. But whatever happens, my goal is to go out there and win the race, and if I win the race, I know that the points take care of themselves.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the good news, we are all professionals. So basically, I don't think anybody wants to have any problems out there. Everybody, I'm sure is going to respect each other. It's going to make the show as much nice as possible and exciting for everyone. So just have to wait and see. Hopefully, Team Penske is going to be right there to give great support.
Q. Helio, your thoughts on the penalty that was handed down yesterday after the supposed blocking at Chicago land last weekends?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the situation is very competitive and the situation that we were out there in the last few laps, Brian was able to see better than anybody, if he feels that way, he is the one that makes the call. So, he has to do whatever he has to do.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I have a feeling the penalty wasn't quite high enough. (Laughter). You have to take whatever advantage you can get.
Q. All of the money, all of the things are on the line, name in the record books that kind of thing, is that important or do you block it out and just go racing? If the prize was a popsicle at the end of the day, would you race just as hard?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think we are both the same in the fact that it doesn't matter what else happens. All we really want to do is win the race. You can go out there and you can win the points, you can do something that nobody else has done before and you can win $1 million to go along with it and that's all great. But, you know, I remember when I was five years old racing a bicycle against -- it didn't matter, just being able to say you won.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I guess it's nice to have the records. I know these things. But I tend to agree with Sam. I don't think it's that important. Obviously, the championship, for me, it's what I'm looking for right now, and I'm sure people remember the championship instead of just the win. So, I'm going to go and fight as hard as I can with whatever I have in my hands and making sure that I'm going to be there in the end.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, that's not happened last week. Everyone trying to win no matter what, I think that's going to happen same way; that's going to be the case here. They are going to try to -- a lot of people want to show the potential that they have, maybe they have got a good chance to win a race. And sometimes last race of the championship, it's what everybody remembers for the following season. So, I'm sure it's going to be a war again. I remember in Texas here in July -- or June, maybe they are going to be watching between me and Sam a little careful, but I still think it's going to be strong and competitive. So that's the good news for me.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I think that -- I don't expect anybody to give me any more room than they normally do, whether it was the first race of the season. You don't want them to give you any less, either. It's a tough balance because you have guys out there definitely racing for different purposes. Helio and I are racing to win the championship. Other guys are racing to win their first race of the year, and it's a tough thing to be in the middle of, because, I mean, you want them to give you a little bit more room. If you're right there at the end and you need an extra position, but they are trying to get a good finish, also. So I'm sure it will just come down to whatever it comes down to. Actually, getting to the point where I just wish it was Sunday right now and we could line up the cars and don't worry about qualifying and just start the race. Because there's too many is scenarios you have to go through to think about, you can drive yourself nuts by saying: What happens if this guy does this, what happens if another guy does that. I wish it was race time because you're going to find out on Sunday what's going to happen, and I can tell you that the last lap, it could very well be decided on the first lap.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Other than my family, no, I didn't bring anybody extra.
Q. For the car?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. For my team, we keep -- we have the same thing. We are not having any extra equipment to have any advantage or something like that. Basically it's just another race, obviously the last race, and we are competing in the championship. But, I guess just my guys are sharp, ready to go, as well.
SAM HORNISH, JR.: Our cars pretty much just go through a rotation. We have two cars for the team. That's all we have. If those two don't get us through the weekend, then we are in trouble.
Q. If it comes down to the last few laps and Helio is leading and you're second and it may take a little risky move to try to take a pass for the lead, do you settle for second or do you go for it?
SAM HORNISH, JR.: I try my best never to put the car to be out of the race, even when the championship doesn't really matter. So I'm sure I'll make -- kind of calculate what the plus and minuses, but always try to win. If I just sat back and finished second, there's not a whole lot of heart in that. And I believe that's the one thing that I always believe in, that I need to do when I race, put my all into it and always try to win the race. What's the fun of finishing second?
Q. Is your new teammate going to work out okay for you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I hope so. That's why we bring him here. I'm sure he's going to do a good job for the team. It's a shame that he was not here. The good news is he's doing well and he's going to come and join us on Sunday or Saturday, so he will be around. I'm sure it's going to be good, for the whole team.
Q. This track in Chicago in some ways are similar, mile-and-a-half, that kind of thing, looked like you may have been lacking for horsepower last Monday. Anymore this week?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, obviously, the good news here in Texas, you are able to go three-wide, I believe the trap, you'll be able to catch a little more, even if you are far away. I believe here you do have more ability to go around, even if your car is not as fast as you can. So, no, we don't have any change. I think we are in the same boat. But the good news is, we do have this track, which probably are going to put more passes in between us. So hopefully we are going to be in good shape.
MODERATOR: I think you all have known Texas Motor Speedway and my position on the Indy Racing League, it is my belief that right outside this building, this series came of age. It is our distinct pleasure to host the championship event of the Indy Racing League. It's all the more pleasurable when it comes down to two champions of this nature, and you're going to hear me say this over and over all weekend: We could not be more pleased more excited and more honored by Tony George and Indy Racing League than we are to host this championship event, something we look toward to happening for decades and decades to come. We hope that these two guys have a great race on Sunday and hate that one has to win and one doesn't, but they are both great champions and we appreciate you both. Thank you for bringing your talents here, and we thank all of the drivers in the Indy Racing League for bringing their skills here.
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