Hornish declines invitation to join Team USA

Updated: December 12, 2006, 5:45 PM ET
Associated Press

Sam Hornish Jr. declined an invitation to replace Jimmie Johnson on Team USA's entry in the Race of Champions Nations Cup in Paris.

Hornish, the Indy Racing League champion, was contacted by Team USA officials after Johnson broke his wrist in a fall from a golf cart during a celebrity tournament last weekend. The NASCAR star can't drive for at least four weeks.

But Hornish declined the invitation because of short notice, Susan Bradshaw Crowther told The Associated Press. The race is Saturday and the team leaves for Paris on Wednesday.

"Sam would someday love to do the Race of Champions," Crowther said. "But they called two days before he would have had to leave and Sam had other commitments already lined up. The short notice just made it impossible for Sam to accept."

Team USA is still looking for a driver to partner with X-Games champion Travis Pastrana for the race at the Stade de France.

Johnson, who teamed with Jeff Gordon and Colin Edwards to win the Nations Cup in 2002, pulled out of the event on Sunday because of his injury. He is still traveling to Paris, though, to support the team.

Some of the top names in motorsports from around the world are scheduled to compete in the Race of Champions, including Formula One drivers Jenson Button (Team England) and David Coulthard (Team Scotland) and ChampCar's Sebastien Bourdais (Team France).

The Race of Champions concept is similar to the IROC series, which pits top drivers in identically prepared stock cars. This event, though, puts the world's best circuit racers and off-road drivers in head-to-head competition.

Teams will use cars ranging from an Aston Martin V8 GT Rally, a Porsche RSR GT3 and a Renault M Degane Trophy to compete in a series of knockout heats in their own division to determine their class champion. That's followed by a shootout to determine who is "the master of motorsport," with the division winners from rally and racing going head-to-head in a super final.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press