Commentary

Season has had ups and downs, but things definitely looking up now

It's already been a long and at times grueling season for Sam Hornish Jr. He writes in his diary things are looking up now that he's back in the top 35.

Updated: June 5, 2008, 11:55 AM ET
By Sam Hornish Jr. | Special to ESPN.com

I'm happy.

A third of the way through the season now, and we got ourselves back in the top 35. We've had some ups and downs. We've had some good runs. I feel better about things. We're heading in the right direction.

[+] EnlargeSam Hornish Jr
Rusty Jarrett/Getty ImagesSam Hornish Jr. is feeling good about being back in the top 35.

I didn't participate in Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream at Eldora, but I'd love to do it just because it's something that's close to home for me both in distance and I went there when I was younger, so I have memories.

I haven't run dirt late model, though, and I know Tony has more people who want to race in it than he can accommodate.

I had people who were willing to give me a car, but I wasn't invited, so hopefully I'll do it in the future.

I did start out on dirt in go-karts, for three or four months, but not very much at all. That's just something we didn't do a whole lot of because we didn't feel that was the road to Indy.

I don't miss those early days of grassroots racing in a lot of ways.

Probably if you ask any race car driver, "If you could race anything you raced in the past, what would you run?" the answer would probably be one of the first things he or she ran because there was no pressure. I would say go-karts. I won there the most, and it was fun.

If I was paid the same salary I am now to race go-karts, it probably wouldn't be fun. There's more expected of you once you get to the point we are now. You can't complain about it because that's your livelihood. And it is better to be paid for doing something you enjoy rather than using your own money.

Haven't had a chance to get my custom golf cart for the track yet. I'm going to go pick out wheels. We were thinking about making the back end hang out like the car we ran in the All-Star race, but we didn't want to push any buttons with NASCAR.

I heard the story about Helio Castroneves, my former Penske Racing teammate in the IRL, coming to NASCAR, and I would tell him to stick to dancing.

The only thing I would have to say, Helio was complaining to me [late] last year, "I can't wait for a weekend off. I haven't had a weekend off in five weeks." And I was like, "I haven't had one off since February."

Anyone complaining about the IRL season being too long doesn't have any business complaining. This schedule is tough. I've lost about 10 pounds this year and I work out half as much and I eat twice as much. I'm so busy. I'm always going. I actually work out probably a quarter of what I did last year and an eighth of what I did in 2006 when I was doing only Indy cars.

I'm back down to 162 pounds. It's one of those things, you're so busy and probably not eating as well as you should be, you're losing weight. At Dover on Sunday, I was as tired as I've been. That felt like every bit of 600 miles, and it was only 400.

I saw other drivers laying down on top of the coolers. I changed and headed to the airport. I'm not in the best shape I've ever been, and if I could be in better shape, I'd feel better about myself. But I feel I'm physically able to race, obviously, and keep up this schedule.

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.