Guests: Scott Sharp, Sam Hornish Jr.
HOLTERMANN: We'll go ahead and get things started with first Scott Sharp. Scott, pretty good battle there at the end. You were able to sneak in get second out of it.
SCOTT SHARP: Well, we really had a great weekend for the Delphi team. Finished second. We had an unbelievable car for the first half of the race. I don't know what happened. We could run -- once we got rolling, the tires came in we could run mid-213, low-212 on our own. And it seemed like I really started to struggle with the bumps. I'm not sure if that shock absorber went bad or what happened. But about Lap 120 on, just really struggled with the bumps. I'm chasing the two guys side by side. Best draft you can have in front. I struggled to run 212. We certainly lost the pace, and you have just got to take your hat off to Buddy. So competitive. Everything basically available to everybody and you never think someone could go win four out of five races. Hats off to those guys. Really worked hard and Buddy driving extremely well.
HOLTERMANN: Sam, you're right there, too, seeing all the action in front of you. Your thoughts on the race?
SAM HORNISH JR: We struggled a little bit throughout most of the race just trying to get the car to handle the way we wanted it to to run out front. It really didn't -- I don't think really mattered whether we were out front, behind, or where we were at. We were at the same speed no matter what. Every time got within a couple cars. He couldn't capitalize. Didn't have enough power to get around. The guys did an awesome job in the pits every pit stop today. So they're doing a great job. And. You know, wish I could be a little bit more pumped up, but Buddy is gaining a little bit on the points, so I got to go back try to find something to get a little faster at the next couple of races.
HOLTERMANN: We'll open up for questions.
Q: Would you elaborate a little bit on the circuit? So competitive. Just put it in perspective. I mean, it is domination right now what Buddy is doing.
SHARP: Hats off to those guys. I don't think people look at Hemelgarn, say they got the most money. But, boy, they run like they do. And you know, I think the only thing you can pinpoint it to, those guys have been the same driver, same engineer, same crew chief, same shock absorbers, and same chassis for five years. Same tires. So, you know, they just have the continuity that none of us have. And obviously, it shows on a week in week out basis.
HOLTERMANN: With the assistance of those watching, we will be repeating questions. Bear with me at both ends.
Q: Scott, this question is for you. Normally at a points race the second-place finish you would be ecstatic. Is it lessened a little bit by the fact that two guys trying to chase down on each sides of you?
HOLTERMANN: Question to Scott about the points race. Even though he finished second, kind of not exactly helping him out with the two guys he is right around finishing right next to.
SHARP: Well, going into the weekend -- or into the race, I should say, I felt I was certainly hopeful to be able to really capitalize on these guys. And hats off to both those guys to be able to have the kind of pace they had, which seemed to be a step behind and come back, one wins the race, one finishes third. That's why they're both leading the championship. They have those kinds of performances. Sam's opened up a huge lead on me. I knew that coming in here. I knew that with four races to go. I think this most remarkable thing about those two teams, we've all had problems. They've done a great job of not having problems. Both drivers have driven well. Both teams prepared the car real well. Races where Sam has engine problem, he finished fifth or sixth, get points. Coming in here to be close to 100 points behind, you know that he is going to have some awfully bad luck, you can't worry about it. I've gone flat out, put the hammer down. I will try to win a couple of these last race, as with them all, if I could. The points will work themselves out where they do.
HOLTERMANN: Question over here.
Q: Sam, can you win the total from here by just consistency, or do you have to fight back, get Buddy and win races?
HOLTERMANN: The question was to Sam. Is consistency going to be enough to win the points race or fight Buddy off and win races?
HORNISH: I go out there, every time I get in the car, I want to win a race. I'm going to push the car just as hard as if I was 200 points ahead or 200 points behind. It doesn't matter. I want to win every race I'm in. That's why it's disappointing when you don't finish first. Second, third, whatnot are really good, but we want to step it up a little bit. We want to be in Victory Circle. We think we have a good enough team, Pennzoil does, and we can go out there and win races. That's the only part that ever disappoints us.
Q: But can you win the title just on consistency?
HORNISH: Well, I think we have shown that we are consistent. You know the hardest part about being able to go out there and compete against Buddy is the fact that Buddy runs Firestone tires, Speedway engines, and running Dallara. That's the same package we have. Basically, when it comes down to it, Buddy beats me as a driver. He gets a little bit luckier. Doesn't have as much problems. We were fast at St. Louis. We should run good at Chicago. I know it will be decent. I want to go out there and win races. I think we can win. We had an opportunity to win today, it just didn't work out that way.
Q: What was the experience like driving today? So much talk about the track. What was it actually like inside the cars?
HOLTERMANN: For both drivers the experience of driving the cars today on this track. There's been so much talk about the condition.
SHARP: It was the hardest IRL race I've ever driven. I rode every lap intense, basically, as much as I could. For us, it was pretty smooth sailing the first half of the race. The car rode like I wanted it to. Minimal adjustments in the cockpit. Was able to keep it with the balance I needed. Second half, I felt a bit like I was off-road racing a little bit. Nothing to do with the track, something to do with the car. I don't know, bad shock absorber or what. Became much more abrupt over the bumps. I'm willing to welcome the bumps. You come to all these track after the pole day yesterday, you are flat all the way around, it's easy. And what do you do? You try to make oil change, make the car go fast, can't find any speed. It's fun coming to a track like this. You can really do different things and try to find an advantage. We thought we had that advantage yesterday, but it became apparent late in the runs we didn't.
HORNISH: The way I look at it, we didn't have -- it was a difficult race. I wouldn't say it's been as hard as some of the other ones we've done this year. Richmond was a tough race. But as far as the bumps go, I got sideways quite a few times during the bumps. It was a real exciting race. Kind of edgy when you're running side-by-side with somebody. But for a track that when everybody was coming here thinking that it might be a one-line racetrack, I think it was a great show. We were able to run wide most all the day. And, you know, it was a little bit tough for me sometimes trying to run that top line, but that's what makes it exciting. I really enjoy the 1-mile tracks, the shorter tracks, because of the fact they put such bigger premium on driving the racecar, being able to go out there and make it work. Some tracks, the mile-and-a-half tracks, become, like Scott said, easy. Can't make any changes. Can't gain any advantage. But having the bumps here, that was one of the things that, you know, I think helped out, evened everything up, because it is hard. You have to have a different setup. You can't just be easy flat out all the time.
Q: Both you guys were scrambling around in the third and fourth, Buddy, Scott holding the lead.
HORNISH: You know, traffic can be a great help sometimes. It can be your biggest downfall other times. I got up beside -- I had traffic to get up beside Buddy. He ran a couple tracks side by side, came up behind Buzz. Buzz was running low. What we were told to do, if you're off the pace, try to run the low line so that the guys can know where you are going to be at. I was running low, I couldn't really squeeze Buddy off there. Made sure he had a run right in back of Buzz to even try to get around me. But I gave him enough room, just knowing that I didn't want there to be a wreck. I didn't know how close he was inside of me. I got pushed all the way up to the gray, I think. I lost three spots because of it, but it's better than being in the wall.
Q: Sam, can you imagine coming into a new team this season that 10 races into the season you would have finished every race?
HOLTERMANN: Question was to Sam about being with a new team and finished every race through 10 this year.
HORNISH: We finished all but seven laps so far this year. We have had nine top 10s, eight top fours. Been a great year. I never would have dreamed that the chemistry between myself and Pennzoil Panther team would be this good. We have run firm, won a lot of laps. They kind of went out on a limb picking me last year. A lot of people said, "Why him?" But it worked out for them and, you know, it gave me a great place -- and that's another thing, a great place to be. I have to thank Kentucky Speedway as part of that because that was -- I had already -- I did my test for Panther Racing here. I ran the race here that I actually -- I think was the first time I ever had a chance to shine at all. And, you know, Kentucky Speedway is a lot of why I'm in the position I am in right now.
Q: Sam, I believe it was 73rd lap yellow came on, and, Scott, I think, there was a radio communication with you, someone may have said you just avoided a major accident perhaps. Can either one of you talk about that?
SHARP: You're in a better position than I was.
HOLTERMANN: Question about lap 73 the caution came out and near-miss situation.
SHARP: I just crossed the yellow, came out, I crossed, went back, backed off. And afterward I was told by my crew that Buddy was a bit hidden where my car was by Sam. I don't know if that's right or not, and never saw. Luckily, I slowed down. That's all I know about it.
HORNISH: As soon as the yellow came down, he slowed up. I went a little bit higher. He didn't know what the green was. I wanted to stay out on it. I don't think Buddy saw it or knew that we were slowing down. He came up, about hit the side of me. I was sliding to the gray, almost hit the wall. He just barely got by Scott without hitting him. So it was almost a pretty big wreck there.
Q: Scott, can you kind of talk about your year a little bit?
HOLTERMANN: Just comment on your year.
SHARP: We're pleased with the Delphi team. I think we're all big achievers and pretty intense. We expected ourselves to be at this stage of the game, challenging Sam or whoever else for the points lead. And I think, you know, the big thing for Sam has been the consistency. Obviously, they ran real strong at the beginning of the year. Been consistent everywhere. For that matter, Buddy, too. He has been just everywhere else. We obviously had what happened to us in Indianapolis and what happened to us in Kansas. And cut a tire, hit the fence are two big point losses for us. It just -- when these guys keep being consistent, that's a series of awards. It's so hard to catch back up. But, you know, overall, I'm really very pleased. I have been able to pick a lot of guys up on my team. I think we've got the best group of guys out here and we're just getting better, better, and better. So we might have to wait until next year to win the championship, but that doesn't mean we won't try to win the other races.
Q: Sam, you won two races and know that everything has to go right in order to win. Is it amazing to you that somebody can win four; that everything can go so right for Buddy?
HOLTERMANN: Question to Sam, are you at all amazed that everything can go so right for Buddy and he can win four races?
HORNISH: You know, there's a lot of effort put in these teams out here. A lot of money put in the teams. The drivers do a super job. But there's nothing that you can substitute for a little bit of luck because two of the races that Buddy won, I think that we had a better car and could have beat him at Nashville and at Phoenix and -- Pikes Peak. We had a racecar at Pikes Peak, we led 156 laps, and we just missed a setup on the last set of tires, and Buddy got by us. And then we had an injector go bad and part of the wiring harness go bad at Nashville, which we were really fast there. It's a little bit tough knowing that two of the four races that he won things could be switched around so much. Always a little bit of luck here and there. A little bit more than in the last three races.
Q: For both of you, are you concerned looking at charts, 10 laps consecutively there were some drivers that were 20 miles per hour slower than you on an average of a race? Are you concerned about the danger behind that?
HOLTERMANN: Question to both drivers there were some cars that were going 20 miles per hour slower during this race consistently. Is that a concern?
SHARP: Not at all. I feel they use real good judges. Been times at other race they've been significantly off the base, park them, or find a way to go faster. Always going to have that mode of track. Easy just to flat miss the setup on some of these tracks, you're way off the base. So I didn't feel today anybody we came upon was hazardously slow. Sure, they were off, but there's always going to be that.
HORNISH: I guess the best way I can put that, I don't think there's anybody that is out there that didn't use their head. Everybody that when they knew they were that far off, they saw us, they used their response to the best that they can and got out the way. If there was somebody out there wasn't using those tools that were given to them and just really just drive around there oblivious and cause major problems, then that would be something to look at. But right now, just a little bit, or set of tires, or this or that can help you out so much with your setup on these tracks. You can be 10 miles an hour off at the beginning of the race and make all that up at the end by using the tools that you can use.
Q: Scott, you dominated the first 100 laps and it seemed like whoever was in the lead had the advantage. Why was -- with all the passing that was going on, why was it so difficult to pass for you?
SHARP: I think none of the leaders, myself included, made it easy. Pretty much you were a light speeded car. It was pretty hard to go around the outside of somebody. That's a longer way around the guy leading. Pretty hooked up, just not going to do that. So you were certainly not going to open the door. Buddy and I talked about that. Open the door, save the line. You're going to make the guy go around the outside. But I spoke about at the early press conference here beginning of the race we ran 213, low 215, 213.5 on our own. Second half seems like we had a shock-type issue. The bumps became very abrupt, started sliding around a lot more chasing the front two guys. Last 10 laps wide open, that was 212. That's the best traffic you're going to get two guys side-by-side. We lost the tick somewhere about 70, 80 to go, and gave more of a hang-on type of situation.
Q: My question is for Scott. As one of the top drivers in the league, did you feel less challenged today with the cars being neutered with the 12-degree wing?
HOLTERMANN: Question to Scott if he felt it was less of a challenge with the 12-degree wing.
SHARP: I'm looking at the blisters on my hand to help me answer that. No, not at all. I applaud Brian for that. For the first session, they went down, asked everybody what we all felt. And we all felt it would be a better show. And I think it was. It gave a little bit more downforce, let everybody get closer to running flat out. But, you know, it was certainly not a challenge. The bumps made it a pretty good challenge around here. You have to welcome it. Have to go after that. I think if it hadn't had that downforce, you would have seen guys a lot more on edge. Maybe it would have been less of a race. So it was a lot better race because of it.
Q: Would you guys -- you talked about the bumps, making it a drivers' race, in essence. But would you like to see it smoothed out little bit more or not?
HOLTERMANN: Regarding those bumps, is it still a little too rough?
SHARP: My opinion, a little bit of what Sam said, end up almost being power tracks. I think the bumps took that away today. It wasn't a power track, it was a handling track. Buddy clearly had the best car on the bumps, and he won. We have a little work to do, but I don't think they need to do anything.
HORNISH: It's kind of what I was saying earlier. I enjoy the tracks that are rougher or more of a challenge because it takes away -- you know, it enables you to get more of an advantage than tracks that are smooth, flat out easy to drive. You know, you can almost put anybody in the car and it really takes away from the engineering staff and also the driver.
Q: Scott, you were sitting behind there watching the dual between Buhl and Buddy. Were you shocked when Robbie suddenly fell off?
HOLTERMANN: Question to Scott about the Buhl and Lazier dual. Were you shocked at all when Buhl completely fell off?
SHARP: He came off fairly abruptly. I was on the inside, sort of slid on down to the inside, drove the car to the inside. I decided to roll out on it, went to the outside, and Robbie did a great job. Him and buddy were mixing it up wonderfully. Seemed like they were driving each other real hard, but they were being fair to each other, too. He certainly deserved to finish a lot better than he did.
Q: Scott, maybe you can address what Buddy has gone through here in the last two months of the season. This is really one of the most impressive stretches. He has been spectacular here.
SHARP: Well, it was something we talked about. You guys were late. The -- basically, what I said earlier was that he looked at -- our series is supposed to be extremely competitive. It is extremely competitive. Everyone has the same thing, have access to what everyone else ahs. You shouldn't go in four out of five. Hats off to Buddy. He is driving great. That team obviously -- what I attribute it to is just the chemistry those guys have. I said that I don't think the Hemelgarn team is looked at as having the most budget out there, but they sure act like they do. They perform like they do. What I said is that you think back, had the same driver, same chassis, shock absorbers, same engineer, crew chief for five years. They've got the continuity that none of us do. I think that's part of their key.
HOLTERMANN: You're asking at your own risk.
Q: Sam is that 91 car starting to look like the death mobile from "Animal House?"
HORNISH: Well, as I said before, it's really hard to gain an advantage on Buddy when we're both running Firestone tires, running Dallara, both have Speedway engines. The only thing different is pretty much the driver. So I don't know, maybe I need to do some homework.
HOLTERMANN: A couple more.
Q: So much has been made about the bumps and change, but yet there were very few incidents today. Was that more because the drivers were aware of the conditions or because of the wind change or maybe a combination?
SHARP: Not really sure. I mean, obviously, I don't know what goes on behind me, but I think everybody used their head pretty well. I think maybe on the track everyone took a little bit more for granted. Maybe they let their concentration lapse a little bit. I think everyone felt like this going into today. You had to -- knew you had to be pretty well focused today and it was going to be a challenge. I think everyone did a great job.
HOLTERMANN: Any further questions? Thank you very much.