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Indy champ Hornish NASCAR bound UPDATE #5 Jacques Villeneuve is not the only big-name who might join NASCAR full-time next year: There is still no official word on whether or not Sam Hornish Jr. will return to Penske Racing's Indy-car team in 2008, but speculation at Infineon Raceway said he is headed to Nextel Cup, too. Hornish will run five or six Cup races for Penske this fall. AutoWeek

08/26/07 If it seems Sam Hornish Jr. has been edgy of late, he has been. He admits it. "I haven't been in a good mood since Watkins Glen," he said of the July 8 race in upstate New York. "I had a great race and everything was taken away from me."

Hornish was referring to the post-race car contact he took from fellow IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan, which led to Hornish's father, Sam, shoving Kanaan on pit road.

Hornish, who finished second in the race, said he knows he shouldn't have angrily approached Kanaan immediately after climbing from his car, but he didn't think he was so far out of line to receive the same $25,000 fine as Kanaan, who intentionally bumped him heading to the pits.

Add that to the fact Hornish said he doesn't believe the IRL knows how to market its top drivers and it seems he's not interested in staying in the league.

A chance to drive in NASCAR's Nextel Cup division is calling, although he hasn't answered, at least publicly.

"It seems like I'm the first guy (in the IRL) to get an example made of me," Hornish said Saturday at Infineon Raceway. "I like driving (these cars), and I like being competitive on the road courses, but . . . I don't know.

"I guess you're going to have to (come to) NASCAR races to find out if I'm in any better of a mood over there."

Hornish will get his first chance to race a Nextel Cup car when the Indy-car season ends. It's then the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner says he'll make a decision about next season. Indy Star

07/18/07 Whenever the driver Sam Hornish Jr. pondered switching from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR, he would put together a list of pros and cons to help make the decision. For years, the cons always won and Hornish stayed loyal to the open-wheel series.

But amid reports that he will go full-time in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series next season, after eight years and three championships in the IndyCar Series, Hornish said yesterday that he was still hesitating.

“Everybody thinks that the decision’s already made,” he said during a telephone interview while home in Defiance, Ohio.

Hornish said he continued to weigh the desire for a new challenge against the difficulty of the transition to a league with 36 races a year, where competition is heated among drivers just trying to make the field every week. The IndyCar Series is much less hectic, with 17 races and no concerns about failing to qualify for a race.

“It’s kind of like a whole new world type of thing,” he said. “It’s racing, but it’s a lot different. There’s a lot of things I have to learn yet.

“I’m that kind of guy that I don’t necessarily think I can do it until I’ve done it. I guess I’m not cocky in the fact that I automatically know that I’m going to go over there just because I’ve won IndyCar races, that I can go over and I can win.”

Hornish said he would not announce a decision anytime soon.

Hornish did not fare well in his first forays into NASCAR. He started two Busch races last year, crashing each time. In five Busch events this year, his best finish is 15th. He said he needs more seat time to become accustomed to the heavier stock cars.

Hornish was also concerned about attempting to compete in the Cup series without a guaranteed spot in the field next season. As a start-up team, Hornish would have to qualify on time to make it into the first five races, including the prestigious season-opening Daytona 500.

Don Miller, the president of Penske Racing, had no such worries.

“We could see incremental improvements every time he drives it,” Miller said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”

With three titles and a victory in the 2006 Indianapolis 500, Hornish has little left to prove in the IndyCar Series. Perhaps that is why the Indy Racing League’s president, Brian Barnhart, declined to pressure Hornish during a meeting at Watkins Glen International on July 8.

“He said, ‘I’d love you to stay, but I’m not going to guilt you into making you feel like you have to or anything,’ ” Hornish said of Barnhart’s comments. “That made me feel good, that I guess on the one hand, you want people to want you to stay, but you don’t want to feel like you’re letting everyone down if you do decide to do something.” More at NY Times

07/12/07 Sam Hornish Jr. is pondering a move from his Penske Racing's open wheel to its Nextel Cup outfit, where he could join Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman next season. Testing his stock car skills in the ARCA and Busch Series, he is expected to wait until his team's September deadline to announce a decision, in part to appease his IRL sponsor, Marlboro. Penske officials feel Hornish's IRL points finish this season could have an impact. He's currently fifth, a hefty 97 out, with just seven races remaining. St Petersburg Times

07/01/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today as it appears the IRL has lost another one of its stars and it appears Hornish wants out of a series that puts so much emphasis on its female drivers, especially Danica Patrick, who can't shine his shoes.

A full-time move to NASCAR for reigning IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. seems all but certain now.  Hornish, a three-time series champion and former Indianapolis 500 winner, is expected to join the Nextel Cup Series full-time next season with Penske Racing South, The Charlotte Observer has learned.

The Observer first reported Hornish’s likely move to Cup in the 2008 season last fall. Penske already has a primary sponsor in place to field a team for Hornish, sources said Sunday. The likely company is Mobile 1, an associate sponsor on Penske’s two current Cup cars that has sponsored Hornish’s Busch Series entries this season.

Asked Sunday if Hornish could move into a third Cup car next season, team president Don Miller said nothing had been decided. Team owner Roger Penske has discounted the possibility in recent weeks.

Hornish, a 27-year-old native of Defiance, Ohio, entered two Busch races last season and has been running a mixed schedule of Busch and Automobile Racing Club of America series races this year for Penske with mixed success. His best Busch finish was 15th at Atlanta.

Hornish seemed somewhat disillusioned by the Indy Racing League in comments following Saturday night’s IndyCar Series race at Richmond, Va.

“You feel like they don’t need you sometimes,” Hornish told the PA SportsTicker. “They’ve got their stars. That’s another reason why you might want to do something else.

“It has to be something the team wants to do one way or another. There are lots of variables. I don’t want to go over there and run and if we’re not in The Chase and I get dropped.” More at the Charlotte Observer

05/25/07 This USA Today article talks about the IRL's Sam Hornish and his eventual move to NASCAR (if he can stop crashing).  This is the front page story of the racing pullout in Friday's USA Today.  The USA Today is full of news about the IRL, F1, and NASCAR on this the biggest racing weekend of the year.  And where is Champ Car?  Invisible.
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