Having won the Indianapolis 500 in 2006 in the IndyCar Series, Sam Hornish Jr. feels pressure to perform whenever he returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track that opened in the early 20th Century as a testing ground for the budding American automobile industry. He hopes to relieve some of that pressure this Saturdayby taking the checkers in the Indiana 250 at the 2.5-mile track.
Two years after his 2006 triumph, Hornish switched gears and began racing fulltime in NASCAR. After four seasons in NASCAR’s premier series, he joined the NASCAR Nationwide Series fulltime in 2012. In his first full season, he finished with 10 top fives and 22 top 10s, finishing fourth in the standings.
This year, Hornish is faring a little better with 14 top 10s in the first 18 races and led the points after each of the first seven races of the season before losing the top spot to Regan Smith. With a runner-up finish in last Sunday’s race at Chicagoland, Hornish regained control of the points lead from Smith. In the 10-race span between his two reigns atop the standings, Hornish sat second after nine of them. He fell to third for one week after a fifth-place finish in the road-course event at Road America.
Last year, in his only series start at Indy, Hornish finished runner-up to teammate Brad Keselowski. If Hornish is able to improve upon his finish and win this weekend, he would enter the record books as the first driver in history to win an Indianapolis 500 and a NASCAR national series race at the superspeedway.
With 15 races remaining on the schedule – two of them on road courses – the championship battle remains wide open. Hornish currently leads Smith by seven points with Austin Dillon one marker back in third. In fact, the top-10 drivers are separated by only 69 points which is surmountable, given that Smith forfeited a 58-point lead over just five races.