2006 Indy 500 winner Hornish hoping to rebound at the Brickyard
The last time we saw Sam Hornish Jr. smiling at the Brickyard he was kissing bricks following his 2006 Indy 500 win. This week at Indy, as he prepares for his first Cup race at the famed racetrack, Hornish is just hoping to save his season, writes Terry Blount.
- AP Photo/AJ MastSam Hornish Jr. couldn't peel himself off the bricks after winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500.Sam Hornish Jr. will not ride down the frontstretch on the old Brickyard in a chariot, pulled by a white horse and waving to the masses while crew members throw flowers on the pavement in front of him.Hornish is not the conquering hero returning home. He had no illusions of it being that way when he left his lofty status in the IndyCar Series to test his skills in NASCAR."I knew it was going to be very difficult," Hornish said. "Regardless of the on-track stuff, just the opportunity to be back in Indianapolis should be really fun." At least Hornish has a chance to return to the place of his glorious moment as the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner. Dario Franchitti doesn't have that luxury.The 2007 Indy 500 winner, who made the jump to Sprint Cup with Hornish this season, is looking for work. No sponsor stepped up to foot the bill for Franchitti's Cup ride, so team owner Chip Ganassi was forced to shut down the operation on the No. 40 Dodge four weeks ago."I definitely feel bad for him," Hornish said of Franchitti. "He made a decision to come over here and to run and to make the most of it. And when you don't get to finish it's not a fun thing for yourself or anybody around you."Things haven't been a lot of fun for Hornish this season, either. The three-time IndyCar Series champion is just another newbie in Cup, trying to learn the intricacies of racing a stock car while competing against the best in the business.Hornish ranks 33rd in the standings and hasn't posted a top-10 in the No. 77 Dodge for Penske Racing. Hornish has finished 25th or worse in 13 of 19 races. But he insists he has no regrets about his decision to leave open-wheel racing.
The track holds so much prestige. For a rookie that's never been here, you could easily get overwhelmed by it. But having run the Indy 500 before, you already know what to expect and mentally you can handle the importance of racing across the bricks.
-- Juan Pablo Montoya
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