NASCAR’s top three tours head to Indy this weekend. The Cup circuit is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400. Indiana is ready to eagerly welcome the racing teams and fans. I am eager for Indycars to welcome back Sam Hornish, Jr.
This comes not from rumors or inside information. It doesn’t come from disliking Hornish. On the contrary, it comes from liking him and being a fan. And watching Hornish rise, become a champion, and display his talent where it truly belongs. In Indycars.
He went from a driver with promise to a race winner. He went from a race winner to crown holder. He won three titles in six years. And he snagged the memorable 2006 Indianapolis 500 with a pass of Marco Andretti in the race’s final feet. He has driven for top flight Indycar teams Panther Racing and Penske.
For the past two-and-a-half years Hornish has steered a NASCAR Cup ride for Penske. He currently sits 29th in points and can count Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski as teammates.
When the open wheel star migrated within the Penske camp to the fendered racers, a reported motivating force was money. Rookies and back-of-the-pack Cup drivers had larger paychecks than Hornish had with all of his Indycar trophies. So over to stockcars he came.
His 2010 race winnings alone top $1.9 million so far with no top ten finishes, no top fives, and no wins. That is a pretty healthy paycheck for barely being ranked inside the top thirty.
I consistently have conversations with friends who have been around racing for over thirty years. The topic eventually leans towards the attitudes of people involved in today’s racing, where money is more important than actual racing results.
I am all for making as much money as I can. But when money leads my decision making process well beyond any other factor, then it often becomes the wrong choice. If my driving career had moved upward years ago and the money was real good for quite a while, the competitive instinct that got me to the top must kick in sometime.
Racing for wins is, or at least should, be much more important than at what motorsports level my ego is stroked.
Sam Hornish is a struggling stock car driver. He left a championship winning Indycar platform for a better payday in NASCAR. As a fan of good racing and good racers I selfishly hope he has made enough money to satisfy himself. It would be wonderful if the Brickyard folks had their welcome arms back open for Hornish. In May.
Indycar is going through a period of reinvention and resurgence. The group still has a long way to go to catch a glimpse of NASCAR’s national popularity, yet it could use a driver like Hornish. The sport needs marketable American drivers to bolster its strength. The established champion from Defiance, Ohio fits the bill.
Watching races for most of my life, it is much more enjoyable to see a good driver race up front than languish in the back because he is making more money and on a bigger stage.
I love to see a championship racecar driver display his talent. It is even better when he has a realistic shot at that championship. Sam Hornish holding a trophy over his head once again would be a welcome sight.
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