Sam Hornish Jr,, a NASCAR Nationwide driver, recently took time to do a Q&A session with The Capital Sports Report. His interview is about his racing career and views.
TCSR: You have raced go-karts, before going into Indy Cars. Did that previous go-kart experience help you with your Indy Car experience?
SHJR: “When you are racing go-karts, it is the smallest car that you’re ever going to run. There’s always a logical progression that you move up. Going to the Indy Car Series, my previous experiences were all stepping stones to get to the Indy Car Series. I thought it was the best form that I could have went through to get to driving Indy Cars. Once you go to NASCAR, like I’ve done, you are driving a stock car, so a lot of the guys start out driving go-karts, then go onto legends cars, and move into late models. There’s basically two different paths that you may travel, depending on where you want to end up at. When I was driving go-karts, my goal was to get to Indianapolis to race Indy Cars.”
TCSR: When you have the chance with NASCAR being off, do you still watch Indy Cars?
SHJR: “Yeah, I watch all kinds of racing. I consider myself more of a race fan than being a race car driver. Whenever I get an opportunity to watch, I’m watching stock cars, Indy Cars – I like all kinds of racing. On many of my weekends, I’ll watch whatever kind of racing there is on TV. I like to watch Indy Cars, because I have an opportunity to enjoy it and not have the stress that comes with partaking in it. I get to have fun and be a kid again.”
TCSR: You won back-to-back Indy Car Championships in 2001 and 2002. Could you talk about winning them?
SHJR: “It was a great time having that opportunity. When I won my first championship, people said that it was a fluke and it couldn’t happen again. The following year, the so-called experts were picking other drivers to win, but we were able to win it again. We came pretty close to winning three in a row, even with two engine failures early in the third year. We went to the final race with an opportunity to win the season championship. If I had won the race – and I was actually leading the race with about 15 laps to go then my engine blew up – so if we would have had a more consistent engine program that year, we would have had the opportunity to win a third championship.”
TCSR: You won the Indianapolis 500 on the final lap. You were the first person to ever do it on the final lap until this year when Dan Wheldon do it, as well, after a crash by J.R. Hildebrand. What was going through your mind when you did that?
SHJR: “The Indianapolis 500 is one of the longest races that have been going on. They have one of the largest attendances of any event in the world. I grew up two and a half hours away from Indianapolis, and my goal when I started racing, was to race in the Indianapolis 500. I didn’t know if that goal would ever happen, but when that goal came to race in the Indianapolis 500 several times, it was more than a dream come true. But to win that day was pretty unbelievable in the fashion that I did win. I am the only person that could say they made a pass for the lead on the last lap (now Dan Wheldon, too) is something that I’ll remember forever. For me, I can’t believe that it’s been 6 race years ago. A lot of things in my life have changed since then. I’ll never forget that day for sure.”
TCSR: Since you left Indy Car after the 2007 season, you were able to see the early stages of Danica Mania (Danica Patrick). What do you think about the accomplishments she’s been able to earn in racing, both in Indy Cars and in NASCAR?
SHJR: “I’ve actually known Danica since I was 12-years-old. For me, I’ve known her forever it seems like, and I’ve competed against her many times. I race her different than some of the other people that I race against. She’s definitely the most competitive female driver that I’ve ever raced against. She has a right to be out there with the guys. There’s a lot of speculation about what she’s going to do next year.”
SHJR: “I basically wanted a new challenge in my life. I had won everything that I could potentially win driving an Indy Car. I did more driving an Indy Car than I ever envisioned myself doing. I felt like the opportunity that presented itself was too much to turn down.”
TCSR: You are one of a select few drivers that have raced in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. What one did you like racing in more?
SHJR: “Yes, you are right, that I’m one of only a handful of drivers that have actually raced in both spectaculars. It is really hard for me to chose, because I like both races for different reasons.”
TCSR: You have racing in the 2010 Sprint Cup and finished 29th in the overall standings. But this year, you have not raced in any Sprint Cup races, why is that?
SHJR: “We haven’t been able to secure sponsorship. It has made much better sense to drive in the Nationwide Series this year. We’re running a part-time schedule this year. We’re hoping to race in a couple of Sprint Cup races later this year if we can get the sponsorship, but right now, that doesn’t look good. It’s a tough time to get sponsorships.”
TCSR: After you are done racing and have to retire. What would you like to do when you can’t drive a car anymore in NASCAR or other circuits?
SHJR: “I don’t know what I’ll end up doing. I’ll consider going into broadcasting, but I’m a long ways away from retiring. I can’t think too much about that right now when I still have races to focus on.”
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