News & Multimedia

Meet The Nationwide Drivers: Sam Hornish Jr

Sam Hornish Jr. is no stranger to faithful Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans. He passed Marco Andretti exiting Turn 4 on the sprint to the Yard of Bricks to win the 2006 Indianapolis 500 in what was one of the most exciting finishes in the century-long history of the Speedway.

Hornish raced Indy cars from 2000-2007, earning three IZOD IndyCar Series championships in addition to his memorable victory in the Indianapolis 500. After that sustained success, he felt he needed a new challenge and asked for a transfer from Roger Penske’s Indy car team to his NASCAR effort.

It was a brave move by Hornish, who had quickly established himself as the poster boy for the Indy Racing League as an American oval specialist. Hornish won 19 IRL-sanctioned Indy car races, but as the IRL transitioned into the IZOD IndyCar Series with the addition of road racing venues and specialist drivers, Hornish felt his skill-set was more suited for the oval-dominated world of NASCAR.

The transition was not easy. Hornish was a skilled road racer in karts, but struggled on road and street courses when he advanced into Formula Atlantic cars. However, he won an oval Atlantic race at Chicago Motor Speedway, catching the eye of IRL team owner Paul Diatlovich. Hornish ran a partial IRL season for PDM racing in 2000 with a best finish of third place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

That run led to his big break: signing with IRL front-runner Panther Racing. Hornish won his first two races for Panther at the start of 2001, and he went on to win the IRL championship in 2001 and ’02. Then came The Call: Hornish was asked to join Penske Racing in 2004, and he promptly won his debut race for the legendary team.

However, 2004 and ’05 were a struggle for Penske and all the other teams that didn’t use the dominant Honda engine. In 2006, when all cars in the IRL competed with Honda engines, Hornish claimed his Indianapolis 500 win and his third series championship.

By then, there were already three road races on the IRL schedule and Hornish could sense major changes coming. So he asked Penske for a transfer to NASCAR and ‘The Captain’ complied.

But as several other Indy car drivers who pursued a stock car career found out, the transition from rear-engine open-wheel cars to NASCAR is incredibly difficult. Hornish failed to qualify in his first six attempts at a NASCAR Sprint Cup race in late 2007, and after finishing 15th in his inaugural Daytona 500, Hornish scored only two more top-20 results in his next 37 starts.

His performance improved in 2009, with seven top ten and two top five finishes, but he was still a distant 28th in the rankings. A third and final Sprint Cup campaign left Hornish 29th in the championship and ousted from Penske’s Cup team.

Regrouping, Sam spent time at home in Defiance, Ohio, with his growing family and focused on a part-time Nationwide Series effort, still for Penske. The breakthrough came at Phoenix International Raceway, where Hornish scored his first Nationwide Series win in late 2011.

That led to a full-time Nationwide campaign for Penske in 2012, and Hornish has made the most of it. He currently lies fourth in the Nationwide championship standings with three top five finishes, and must be regarded as one of the strongest candidates to win the inaugural Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.

More importantly, as he returns to the site of his most prestigious race win, Hornish has no regrets about leaving Indy cars to pursue a stock car career.

“At some point you’ve got to take yourself out of your comfort zone and test yourself,” he declared. “Even if it doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, you’re not thinking about it for the rest of your life.

“I know that I accomplished everything that I wanted to in Indy cars and a whole heck of a lot more.”

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Meet The Nationwide Drivers: Sam Hornish Jr
Meet The Nationwide Drivers: Sam Hornish Jr
Sam Hornish Jr. is no stranger to faithful Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans. He passed Marco Andretti exiting Turn 4 on the sprint to the Yard of Bricks to win the 2006 Indianapolis 500 in what was one of the most exciting finishes in the century-long history of the Speedway.
Read More
Related Media
Kyle Busch
Monday Racing Roundup: Kyle Busch Wins NASCAR Sprint Cup Title at Homestead
Finishing off one of the most remarkable comebacks in NASCAR history—indeed, in the annals of sport—Kyle Busch won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and, with it, his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Read More
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Monday Racing Roundup: Championship Foursome Set
A serendipitous sequence of pit stops and a drizzle that turned into a downpour made a winner of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Sunday night’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the start of which was delayed from day to night by rain in the afternoon.
Read More
Hulman Terrace Club
New Hulman Terrace Club Offers Premium Seating for IMS Events
The Hulman Terrace Club, located on the outside of the front straightaway of the famed 2.5-mile oval past the exit of Turn 4, will feature more than 1,000 seats plus ADA-accessible seating for fans seeking a club option similar to what is offered at many other major U.S. stadiums. It’s the first new seating option at IMS in more than a decade and a key piece of the ongoing Project 100 initiative. Pre-sale registration is available here with tickets officially going on sale Dec. 1.
Read More
Jimmie Johnson
Monday Racing Roundup: Johnson Completes Texas Sweep
On Sunday, the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion completed a sweep of this year’s Texas Motor Speedway races, powering past hapless Brad Keselowski with three laps left to win the AAA Texas 500 for the fourth straight year.
Read More
Jeff Gordon
Monday Racing Roundup: Gordon Punches Ticket for Chase Finale
Long before Gordon held off Jamie McMurray in a two-lap run to the finish as darkness consumed the .526-mile short track, Kenseth ended polesitter Joey Logano’s remarkable run in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by pile-driving Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford, which was leading the race at the time, into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 454 of 500.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 664
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact Laura Wyamn at (317) 492-8557 or email at
Latest Tweets
We’re thankful for all our race fans, drivers and teams, which all made for a wonderful 2015 season.
about 23 hours ago