Commentary

With Chase out of the picture, Hornish targets spot in top 35

Sam Hornish Jr. isn't chasing a Cup title, but he's still got plenty to race for -- like a coveted spot in the top 35, he writes in his diary.

Updated: September 18, 2008, 3:36 PM ET
By Sam Hornish Jr.

Obviously, I'm not in the Chase, but I'm kind of a fan of the sport, so I watch what's going on in the Chase. For sure, it's pretty exciting. If I had to pick somebody, I think Carl Edwards obviously has a pretty good chance. I wouldn't say I'm out there rooting for him, but I like Carl. He's been very nice to me, we haven't had any on-track problems, and at Daytona, we raced a lot around each other. I have a lot of respect for him, and he has gone out of his way to talk to me. I like all the other guys personally, too, but Carl is in a real good position and has run well all year.

We're kind of in a different position. We're fighting to get back in the top 35 -- we're currently 37th -- and we have to be smart about everybody we're racing against. We're not going to be taking a lot of chances like a lot of people are. The thing for me is to continue to look at it from the point of view, you watch where the guys in the Chase are, you don't want to give them a problem, but you continue to race them. You're a little more careful, but you're not going to give them a spot just because they need another couple points. If they're that much better, they'll pass you.

Everybody is fighting for something at this point, whether it's being in the top 35 or for the championship or getting another couple points. There's still a lot out there. The biggest thing for us is not only to get back in the top 35 but also to keep working on the relationship between me and crew chief Travis Geisler. We feel we have some work to do to get to the point where we run with the 2 and the 12 cars at Penske Racing. They're not running as well as they'd like, either, but we need to get to that point.

Working with Travis has been good, but for me, it's kind of making me feel old. I'm 29, and I've never had a crew chief or engineer who's younger than me. He's 27, and that makes me the fifth-oldest person on my team. It's kind of cool, but it's also weird for me. I've got a lot of respect for Travis. He's very intelligent, and we have an opportunity to have a very good working relationship, so we can both make a name for ourselves. Obviously, I didn't have any problems with previous crew chief Chris Carrier -- he's one of the best people I've ever been around in terms of being at the races. Travis and I are both young and extremely motivated to do well, and we're going to work on that chemistry the rest of this season.

As far as team chemistry, David Stremme is going to be a great addition to the team next year. He was one of the first guys when I first came over to NASCAR who came over and talked to me, before we were even on the same team. I think it's great he's getting another shot at it. The way he is as far as a teammate has really made me feel like this is a good thing that's going to make all three of us work well next year. We need to make the whole team better. Kurt Busch has been good to me, too, and hopefully it's going to be a good relationship for all three of us. David is outgoing, and as much as he wants to get back in here and prove that he belongs here, that's going to make us all better.

We're at Dover this weekend, and I really like it. It's a 1-mile track, but it feels like a speedway race more than a typical shorter track. I didn't grow up racing quarter-mile bullrings, so for me that's the thing that I have to continue to work on. The smaller the track, the more improvement I need. But Dover is a neat little place. The first time I went there last year, I got an opportunity to watch some of the practices, and it's one of the places you watch the cars and they look like they're going fast. You really get a sense for the speed there.

Sam Hornish Jr., 28, drives the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger. He will take ESPN.com readers inside his life on and off the track each week with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.

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