Commentary

Hornish on Michigan, baby Addison and a birthday celebration in wine country

What beats a solid finish in front of the hometown crowd at Michigan? A romantic birthday celebration with the wife in picturesque Napa Valley is a good start, Sam Hornish Jr. writes in his diary.

Updated: June 19, 2008, 12:26 PM ET
By Sam Hornish Jr. | Special to ESPN.com

It was a pretty decent day for us at Michigan. We were happy to be up front, although we didn't end up there, but a couple of things happened that were out of our control.

I consider Michigan my home track since it's so close to my home in Defiance, so definitely a lot of people came up who haven't been able to go to other tracks, because the economy is not great. We used to have a ton of people who used to go all over the place to support us. It was really nice to be up there and see familiar faces, and I got to spend time at home last week and this week. With all of our friends here, we've been busy, that's for sure.

[+] EnlargeSam Hornish Jr. and his baby Addison
Penske RacingAddison Hornish sports a mini model of dad's firesuit.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won, and … I wanted to win. I mean, come on! I thought it was good to see. People want to see that happen. There was some allure to it, people tuning in to see if he could break his winless streak. Now what's going to happen? That's finally over. That was a pretty big streak, over two years, for someone as competitive as he is. I was running up front, and I was pretty excited when I almost got past Jimmie Johnson, because you could see a whole bunch of people stand up to see it. But he raced me really hard. I was like, 'Man, how many of these races have you led? You can't let me lead a lap? I remember things like that. It felt good to lead a little bit. I felt good about that. I had a lot of fun this weekend. We ended up with the car overheating -- stupid hot-dog wrappers. I'm going to start a "Don't Litter" campaign at Michigan.

Now we go on to the first Cup road course of the season at Sonoma. In general, yes, I would feel comfortable on a road course, but I'm not really sure what to expect now going there. I've watched races there for a very long time. The easiest way to pass there is to push the other guy off the track. The big thing for us is to be quick enough to stay in front, so we're not getting pushed.

I like road courses. About 99 percent of what I did before I went to the IRL was road courses, and then I got out of it for about six years in the IndyCar Series, so I'm definitely looking forward to getting back in the swing of things.

You would think it would be a lot different mind-set going to a road course, but fuel mileage is a huge key at the road courses. It's who can pit the earliest but can make it to the end. That race is always a fuel mileage race. It's just so hard to pass there. Watkins Glen is a lot different, because there's lots of passing areas there. I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to add a road-course race to the Chase, but I'm sure there's a bunch of guys who would go against that idea. I don't know how I might fare, either. I might run 35th, and I would change my mind about that.

We're racing for points. We're going into Daytona three weekends from now, and we know we can race in the top 10 but can't afford to be out of the top 35 and have to qualify. We just need to keep moving ahead. We just want to get through this next weekend, we feel we should be good at Loudon, so if we can get through this weekend and be in the top 35 … we have to make sure we maximize these next two weeks.

Even though we're going to be in the wine country, I won't be doing any wine tasting. Crystal's birthday is on Monday, and we're leaving Addison with our parents in Ohio. I'm not sure that's a birthday present, but she'll only have one baby to take care of this weekend, and that's me. No matter what we do for her birthday, it will be romantic, because it's just the two of us.

As for the closed-door meeting last Friday at Michigan and NASCAR telling us not to complain about the car, I really don't know what the other cars were like. This is all I know, so I have no complaints. I figure whining is like sitting in rocking chair -- do it all you want, but you're not going to get anywhere.

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.