NASCAR Still Unkind To Hornish

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2007 | 1 comments »
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"This year, I'd like to get the answers to a lot of questions about how this is all going to work out, and whether it will be something I like, or not. With all the open-wheel stuff and then the stock car racing, we're looking at something like 35 weekends, so I'll get a pretty good taste of it. I'm confident I can handle it, but we'll just see how it goes." – Sam Hornish Jr
Here’s how it goes: another Busch race and another dismal result for the reigning King of IndyCars.

Yes, with so little going on in the world of Indy I spent Saturday watching the ESPN coverage of the Orbitz 300 Busch series race. I could have been watching to see Big Jamie Little in here new NASCAR firesuit, positioned directly in front of a very different Ganassi pit. I could have been watching to see how the six (SIX?) former Indy 500 competitors would fare in 300 miles at Daytona International Speedway. I could even have been watching to see how the new Toyotas would fare in the series before their Cup debuts on Sunday.

But no, I was really only interested in one thing on Saturday. I wanted to see if all this down time and preparation had stoked the fire that seems to be incinerating the remains of the Sam Hornish Jr’s illustrious IndyCar career.

This would be his third race, and if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s not to judge a guy(or girl) by his(or her) first three races. (Especially those named Jeff Simmons.) And while he is still slated to compete in several more Busch series races in 2007, the fact is Uncle Sam is not really doing much for Penske’s stock car outfit aside from wrecking cars. Saturday’s race saw him finish in 31st place after being collected in a multi-car wreck (not his fault), brushing the wall a few times (probably his fault) and penalized for speeding in the pits (definitely his fault).

It would be inaccurate to say all of this, well, failure is entirely Hornish’s fault, since part of it could be related to the engineering of the car or the circumstances of driving with 42 other competitors. But at least some of his problems are related to getting acclimated with this style of racing, which has got to be very frustrating for a guy so accustomed to doing things so well. I should probably pluralize that to “guys”, since one would think The Captain can’t be too happy with the results either.

I’m told this is the kind of thing that deeply motivates a man like Hornish – this challenge, this journey to overcome the adversity – and on a certain level I can see how he would want to prove to himself that he can in fact drive that freaking car as well as anyone. But after watching the frustrating results he’s had and watching the chaotic nonsense that ensued in the closing laps on Sunday’s race, I wonder if maybe there’s a chance that after this season Uncle Sam takes a look all that NASCAR money and fame and weighs it against all those traveling weekends, all those crashes, and all those battles just to crack the Top 20 in any given week and decides against it.

Geez, at this rate maybe Roger Penske makes the decision for him. I’m not hoping to see his failure because I wish him success wherever his racing interests be, but I think most IndyCar fans want to see this stock car venture be merely a part time gig for Hornish.

Besides, this article on Hornish entitled “There’s More To Life Than Racing” makes it sound like he might appreciate having the extra Sundays afforded by the shorter IRL schedule.


  1. pressdog // February 19, 2007 11:26 AM  

    Anyone who has driven both open-wheel and stock cars will tell you they're tons different. I think it would take Sammy a whole season to get up to speed. Pretty steep learning curve. Fab story from your link at the bottom on Sam's faith. No surprising given his demeanor.