Commentary

Indianapolis now in the rearview for a more relaxed Hornish

It's May, Indy is in the rearview, and Sam Hornish Jr. is as relaxed as can be, he writes in his diary.

Updated: May 22, 2008, 4:43 PM ET
By Sam Hornish Jr. | Special to ESPN.com

This is the month of May, and in the past I've typically spent it preparing for the Indianapolis 500. This time, actually, I've been pretty calm and not felt like the whole world's coming to an end. It hasn't felt like May for me. The past eight years, I've been on edge all month. It's only one race, and you have a month to think about one race. I've run five races this month, and now I'm going to run another. So I haven't really missed it because we're seeing new things all the time in the Sprint Cup series. It's not like you're at the speedway for the month. You're at Richmond, Darlington, testing at Charlotte, running the All-Star race and then you go to Charlotte for the 600. To me, it's been less stressful. Some people would think, how can that be? But it has been.

[+] EnlargeSam Hornish Jr.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman2006 was all about Indy for Sam Hornish Jr., who celebrated his 500 victory with his wife, Crystal.

I haven't had time to pay attention too much to what's been going on at Indy. I watched parts of pole qualifying and watched bump day. I'm focused on so much other stuff that I don't have time to think about it. I talked to Roger Penske and Tim Cindric, so I've been keeping up on what the Penske team is doing. I guess I could say it's a little bit weird, too, that I'm not there. But I was talking to my dad, and he said this is the most relaxed he's been in the month of May in forever. I've been easier to deal with, and I'm not easy to deal with. If I hadn't ever won it, it probably would have been harder for me not to be there, but when you're outside of that, you're outside of the loop, and you just don't miss it that much.

It was pretty good All-Star weekend. I'm happy with the job the team did. I thought we had a top-five car there. The "crab walking" car got a lot of attention, that was for sure. We're real happy with how the car ran. We knew that's what it would take for us to get there. To get the car to turn like we wanted, that's what we had to do.

Everybody is running that to a certain amount, but we knew it was just for 100 miles. We won't do it for 600 miles, because we don't know the durability. It's something we saw Carl Edwards doing early in the year, but it was a while before we could test it and see whether it's something we wanted to do. It's really about using the side of the car to add downforce and have the car rotated more to turn more in the corner. It's all about getting the car rotated, but you can get yourself into trouble with it having it too much. That's what we worked on during the test in Charlotte. You can use it, but to the extent we went -- if you look at everybody's car, if you're on a percentage scale, let's say everybody is at 75 percent -- we were at 100 percent. I like it a lot better because it's more comfortable for me. I don't know why that is, but as soon as we started using it, I liked it.

I have never raced 600 miles in race by myself. I've done the 24 Hours race a couple times, so it's not like I've had my eyes totally widened. Don't get me wrong -- 200 laps at a lot of those places is long enough. Four hundred laps at Charlotte, who thought of that? In the NASCAR world, 600 miles is not that long. You have so many 500-mile races. Really, 500 laps at Bristol has to seem longer than this is going to be. I think it's super cool I got to be in the All-Star race, and now we get to do the 600. Not a whole lot of guys have been able to do all that stuff.

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.