Sam had just finished his qualifying run at Iowa Speedway on June 8 that would eventually have him starting P2 when I ambushed him for a quick Q&A.
Below are his thoughts on how to handle rain delays, IndyCar and the Indy 500, his progress as a NASCAR driver, Iowa Speedway and the prospect of climbing aboard a 900-horsepower, festival of racing rage (410 sprint car).
pressdog: How do you handle rain delays?
Sam Hornish: Try to keep yourself hydrated and fed. When you’re not sure what is going to happen with the rain sometimes you lose that focus of doing the things that you need to so that you are on top of the game when you get in the race car so that you have the right meal in you and that you are hydrated and all those different things.
A lot of times you are going to have a green race track when you go back out there (after a rain delay) with no rubber down, so you always have to be careful about what your front tires are telling you and making yourself pit if you don’t think everything is OK with those front tires. The last thing you want to do is wear out a front tire and then end up in the wall because you were being stubborn trying to stay out longer.
presdog: I talked to AJ Allmendinger about the years it took him to start even feeling a NASCAR right (story here). Are you pretty acclimated to the stock car by now?
Sam: I think I have got some more work to do, obviously. There's always every time going out there and making sure you do the right things and you learn everything you need to about the car. A lot of people were saying "Well AJ did so good do you think it’s easier to go back to IndyCars from stock cars, that it’s easier in that direction?" But really AJ grew up running open- wheel cars so it’s kind of like going home almost for him.
I feel like there is a lot of time that goes into really understanding these (stock) cars. Some guys have adapted to them really well. I see guys like Tony Stewart, when he came over, he really had a lot of good people around him that were willing to teach him the things he needed to know and he has the out-going personally where he is going to be able to learn from people and do things like that. I think if I had a little bit more of an out-going personality that I would have had an easier go of it than what I did, but you know I’m just generally a shy person and don’t go out there and I didn’t know how to talk to everybody, so a lot of things I had to learn on my own.
pressdog: After watching AJ drive in the Indy 500 did you get any twinges?
Sam: Not really. Every time I start thinking that might be something I might be interested in something comes along that changes my mind on that. I love the Indy 500. Being a fan of it is almost more fun than racing in it for me, because I put so much pressure on myself to go out there and to run well when I did that that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. I get to almost enjoy it more now because I turn the race on (TV), I watch the race, I watch qualifying and stuff like that, and think about it for 15 to 20 minutes after the race, and then I don’t have to think about it for the next 11 months like I used to do.
I thought hard about those things (some sort of return to open wheel) at the end of 2011, and obviously with what happened at Las Vegas that kind of made me take a step back. Somebody will say something to me, my wife or my kids, and it just … You know I love IndyCar racing. If I hadn’t won the Indy 500 and hadn’t won multiple races and championships over there, I might have a lot more reason or drive to be able to do that. But one of the main things is, outside of my family, is I haven’t’ accomplished over here what I came over here to do. I might not ever get to that point, but I am going to keep working at it until I do or I can’t go on any further. It’s all about really doing the best I can and staying true to myself and do all the things that need to continue to happen to send me down a successful path for this.
pressdog: Do you like the bigger crowds Nationwide draws here at Iowa Speedway?
Sam: Always love running in front of a capacity crowd. Really, what these guys have been able to do here (at Iowa Speedway) is really awesome. They fill it up pretty much every time we come out here. A lot of times you even have people standing around the fences and stuff like that. It is great, you know. I’m a Midwest guy and I’m a racing guy. You put those two together and have the opportunity to come out here and see a full crowd is great.
pressdog: Speaking of Midwest racing, you should go up the road here to Knoxville and try a winged sprint car. Ever think about that?
Sam: I haven’t ran a lot of dirt in my life. I ran go karts; I started out on dirt. But I think that I would drive a late model first before I got out there in an open-wheel car. A little more forgiving at times.