Hornish’s Goal: Brickyard 400 And Daytona 500 Wins
Hornish is a wanker on road courses, but on the IndyCar ovals, which are 99% car, he was the best
Sam Hornish Jr. experienced plenty of frustration and low points during his first six years of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Despite racing for two of the IndyCar Series' top teams - Panther Racing and Team Penske - for five of those years, Hornish finished the Indianapolis 500 only twice, several laps down, and never better than 14th place.
But then the legendary finish of 2006 occurred and Hornish gained immortality. He came back from a pit-lane penalty and loss of momentum on an attempted pass of Marco Andretti with two laps to go to successfully pass Andretti a few hundred feet short of the checkered flag.
Hornish, who dreamed of winning the "500" all his life, flashed across the finish line a mere .0635 of a second before Andretti in front of a stunned crowd, earning a title only 66 other men can claim: Indianapolis 500 Race Winner.
Hornish moved from team owner Roger Penske's IndyCar operation to his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team in 2008. He struggled while getting used to a new type of race car, but he has shown improvement in 2009, scoring five top-10 finishes to date.
No driver has ever won at Indianapolis in more than one form of major-league racing, and winning the Brickyard 400 would put Hornish among the best drivers in history.
"That's part of the reason that I decided to come to NASCAR. I accomplished more than I ever dreamed of accomplishing in the IndyCar Series," said Hornish. "My main goal in coming to NASCAR was to come over and run the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Now that I've run three of the biggest sporting events in the world as far as racing is concerned, I want to try and take care of winning all three of them. I think that would be an amazing accomplishment."
2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya came closer to winning the "500" and "400" than anyone to date. The Bogota, Colombia native led 116 laps of the 160-lap 2009 Brickyard 400 but was caught speeding on pit lane, ending his quest for history.
In 2010, Montoya will be ready to make amends for his 2009 Brickyard heartbreak, and Hornish, a quick learner throughout his racing career, will have another season of Sprint Cup racing under his belt.
Yet another dramatic chapter in the rich, storied 100-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be written by one of two men who have experienced glory and heartbreak at the Racing Capital of the World.
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