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Hornish hopes for more speed, fortune

7/24/2004

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Sam Hornish Jr. believes he can control
95 percent of what it takes to win races in the IndyCar series. The
other 5 percent is giving him trouble this season.

"That other 5 percent is luck, not necessarily luck as in the
horseshoe, but not being involved in other people's problems and
being in the right place at the right time,'' Hornish said Friday
after his first practice laps for Sunday's race at The Milwaukee
Mile. "We just didn't have that at the beginning of the season.''

After taking the series championship in 2001 and 2002 and
winning three races last year, Hornish comes into the Menards A.J.
Foyt Indy 225 with just one victory in 2004 and no poles. The
25-year-old driver is in fifth place in the series standings, 125
points behind leader Tony Kanaan with eight races to go.

And Hornish, winless since the season-opening race, admits to
poor driving at times. But bad luck also has hurt.

In the Indianapolis 500, the race the IRL's all-time winningest
driver desperately wants to win, Hornish was taken out when Greg
Ray and Darren Manning crashed in front of him and completed just
104 of 200 laps.

"Anything that could happen bad on the track happened right in
front of us,'' Hornish said.

But he's in better shape at this point in the season than last
year, when he won a race in August and two in September after
improving his engine. At the end of the season, he left Pennzoil
Panther Racing for Marlboro Team Penske.

In his last four races, Hornish has finished in the top 10 three
times, including second last Saturday night in Nashville, Tenn.

And he said many of the races remaining are on tracks that suit
his driving style -- including The Milwaukee Mile, where IndyCar
Series debuts Sunday. He remembers coming to the track as a child.
His mother, JoEllen, grew up in Milwaukee, and his grandmother
lived here until about a decade ago.

Hornish likes the mostly flat oval's short straightaways and
tight turns. He had the fastest practice speed of 164.868 mph
during testing in mid-June.

But on Friday, teammate Helio Castroneves' practice speed of
166.150 was much faster. Hornish was ninth-fastest with a speed of
163.757.

Scott Dixon had the second-fastest lap, behind Castroneves and
ahead of Vitor Meira.

There were two minor crashes during the afternoon practice
sessions. A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time Indy 500 winner and
race namesake A.J. Foyt, hit the wall in turn four after just one
lap. Kosuke Matsuura hit the wall in the same turn about 15 minutes
later. Neither was hurt.

Castroneves expects a tough race. He said passing was very
difficult and drivers were trying dozens of different lanes in
practice.

"It's a big challenge,'' he said.

He also pointed to the track's history of Indy-style racing,
which began with two events in 1911 featuring 10 drivers from the
first Indianapolis 500.

"It's awesome to be back here,'' he said. "Everybody knows
this place.''