News & Media

Six Pack: Hornish Jr. embraces underdog role

July 24, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Former IndyCar star feels he could sneak up on others for the Nationwide title

Sam Hornish Jr., the former IndyCar star who currently sits fourth in the Nationwide Series standings, answers this week's six questions.

1. Do you feel like you're a dark-horse contender for the Nationwide championship?

Follow your favorite driver's chance of winning this week's race and the series title.

Hornish: If you looked where we were [five weeks] ago, we were a little more than 70 points out. The fact that we've closed that door a little bit [to a 42-point deficit] and just continue to be consistent, that's what we need to do. We knew that the [restrictor] plate races were going to be a little bit difficult for us, so we were happy to get out of [Daytona] weekend only losing a couple of points to those other guys. I feel like the places that we're going to make it up are the road courses, the flat tracks, and we've got a couple of those coming up over the next few weeks.

2. Do you prefer sort of flying under the radar a little?

Hornish: I guess we'd rather be the underdog and be the one that doesn't have to answer all the questions. Then you can sneak up on it a little bit.

3. What would it mean for you to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Nationwide race there Saturday?

Hornish: It would sure mean a lot. I really like the flat tracks that we run at, so I'm looking forward to going to Indianapolis. I haven't been there in almost two years. I always enjoy going to the speedway just for all the sentimental reasons, mostly the things I remember as a kid -- going with Dad and my mom and having a good time. We'd love to be able to add something to that.

At the end of the day, though, we just need to go out there thinking about points. I'd love to win, but I don't think we're going to throw away the points if we're running second on the last lap, trying to make something happen. But you never know.

4. What's going to be the biggest challenge for the Nationwide cars that are running there for the first time?

Hornish: I think that it's going to be a lot like what the 500 was in the fact that these Nationwide cars have so much drag on 'em that there's going to be two- and three-wide running down the straightaways, and everybody is going to have to figure out how to file into the corners.

5. Coming into this season, did you see this as a make-or-break year for you at Penske Racing?

Hornish: I really haven't had much more than a one-year contract since I first came over to run on the NASCAR side, so every year is kind of a make-or-break in some ways. I look at this year as this was a great opportunity having Alliance Truck Parts come on and be our primary sponsor and having the Wurth group jump up and be able to give us the opportunity to run full-time, you know, to run for the championship. I thought we were going to be a little bit better starting the year, but it appeared that we lost a little bit in what we had competition-wise toward the end of last year to where we started off this year, and we've had to work on the cars.

The biggest thing that I look at is what's [Penske teammate] Brad [Keselowski] doing? Brad has obviously won three races over here on the Sprint Cup side. With the exception of the first couple of races of the year, we ran real close to Brad all year, finished right in front of him, right behind him [in Nationwide races]. I know as long as I keep up with him and beat him that I feel like if I get the right opportunity on the Cup level, I can do some good things over there, too. I try to judge myself off of him, and I've learned a lot from the last two seasons, being able to sit back and to watch [him in Cup races]. If I can take anything away from it, to just learn a little bit more, that's a great thing to be able to go out there and do that.

6. Do you have an advantage over some others this weekend because of all the laps you've made at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Hornish: Compared to Ricky [Stenhouse Jr.] and Austin [Dillon], maybe. They don't have any time [on the IMS track], but [Nationwide points leader] Elliott [Sadler] sure does as far as that goes. And some of the races that Austin has been to, his first time at a track this year, he's run really well at. I'm not going to take it as anything other than we've got to go there and do the same thing that we do every weekend. We've got to be smart.