Defending His Turf
August 11, 2004 | 12:00 A.M. EST
“I’ve had a good amount of success here (Kentucky Speedway) and it’s just great. I mean I hate to lose. I don’t care if I finish second, but I never like it. I figure if I’m not winning, I’m not doing my job. If something is not quite right, I keep working at it to handle it. If I ever get to the point where I’m happy to finish second, that’s probably when I’m going to go out and find another job.”
The 25-year-old driver turned in a dominating performance last season when he led 181 of 200 laps and beat out eventual series champion Scott Dixon by 1.1712 seconds at the finish line in a race that set a series track record for average speed at 197.897 mph. The win was his third consecutive top-three and fourth consecutive top-10 Kentucky Speedway finish in as many starts.
“I thought that we had a good chance to win in 2001 and didn’t make it, but came in third. Then, we came up about a car length short in 2002. Last year, I was sitting there with about 10 laps to go thinking we were going in the right direction and we won. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return and be the defending champion next year. We’re working real hard to make sure the car is going to handle well here.”
After transitioning from Pennzoil Panther Racing to Marlboro Team Penske for the 2004 campaign, Hornish, Jr., has a solid game plan for delivering another strong Kentucky finish for his new employer.
“Kentucky is a great track,” Hornish, Jr., said. “You can run two wide and you can pass, but at the same time it’s not always easy to do those things. There can be a lot of heat, the track gets really slick and the cars start moving around a lot.
“We’ll just go out there and make sure that the car is handling well. One key to Kentucky Speedway is being able to move through traffic. I think staying out of trouble is definitely going to be the biggest thing again. I just want to go out there, finish the race, and see if we end up being happy or not. That’s the main thing you have to accomplish in these races because a lot of guys get overconfident, start pushing too hard early, get together and get themselves in trouble.”
Hornish, Jr., will enter “The Belterra Casino Indy 300” fifth in the IndyCar Series championship standings and looking to lock down his fourth straight top-five and fifth straight top-10 finish of the season.
Based on his previous experience on the track, he expects his fellow competitors to challenge him every step of the way.
“This is one of the better tracks we race because every year that we’ve been here it’s been a pretty competitive show," Hornish, Jr., said. "You get to see a lot of passing among the cars fighting for the lead and fighting for second, third and fourth.”