Something told Hornish not to enter IndyCar $5M challenge
The events of Oct. 16 made Sam Hornish Jr. even more thankful for the extra family time, and strengthened his conviction that jumping to NASCAR when he did was the right call.
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Dan Wheldon died that day in a horrific 15-car crash in the IndyCar race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Teammates at Panther Racing early in their IndyCar careers, Hornish and Wheldon battled for victories and championships as opponents in later years.
"Especially around Indy cars, I always tried to distance myself from a lot of the other drivers because I didn't ever want to have to feel sorry for them - whether I was beating them or there was a wreck. I never wanted to take that into the car with me, that that was my friend or whatever," Hornish said. "But I will say Dan was one of the very few guys in racing that I would consider my friend. He was always pretty good to me."
When the IndyCar final race started in Las Vegas, Sam Hornish Jr. was working on the tree house that he's building for his daughters at the family's home in North Carolina. He took a break to retrieve some tools and caught the lap and a half before the wreck.
"I said a prayer for him," Hornish said. "I couldn't get over the fact that he didn't make it. ... I kind of went off by myself for a little bit and sat down and thought I had everything back together. Then I walked into the house and Crystal was sitting on the couch with the two girls on her lap watching them do the parade lap (in honor of Wheldon) and I just burst into tears.
"I couldn't imagine what it would be like for them. It's hard enough for people to think about that. I know it had to be going through her mind. I'm very lucky that I've done the amount of racing I have and I've only had a few small problems. Hopefully, we don't ever have any, but it definitely makes you think about what's important to you. Those kids change your mindset on a lot of things in life."
Wheldon was the only driver in the field at Las Vegas eligible to collect a $5 million bonus from IndyCar for winning the race. IndyCar originally sought to attract five drivers from outside the series for a shot at the bonus.
Hornish thought about entering his name.
"It never seemed like it was really worth it for me to do it," he said. "There was something that told me it was time to be done running Indy cars. I had run 116 races over there and won 19 times. I kept thinking 20 wins would be pretty neat. But I don't know if it was God or what, but somebody was in my ear going, 'You don't need to do that. Just stay home and watch it with your family.' " Cincinnati.com