Sam Hornish Jr
Sam Hornish Jr. is an American racing driver who won three IndyCar championship titles in 2001, 2002 and 2006. He achieved 19 IndyCar wins, including the victory at 2006 Indianapolis 500.
After a successful open-wheel racing career, he switched to NASCAR and raced stock cars from 2008 to 2017. He recorded 288 starts in all three NASCAR national divisions, winning five times in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series.
Three seasons in USF2000 championship
Sam Hornish Jr. (full name Samuel Jon Hornish Jr.) was born in July 1979 in Defiance, Ohio. He started racing very early, at the age of 11, driving go-karts. After four years of racing Sam reached the top, and he won the World Karting Association U.S. Grand National championship.
In 1996, Sam progressed from karts to bigger single-seaters. From 1996 to 1998, he recorded 32 races in the U.S. F2000 National Championship. In Hornish's final season in the series, he scored his best result - the second-place finish at Pikes Peak International Raceway. As a member of Primus Racing team, he finished seventh in points in 1998. The following year, Sam moved to Micheal Shank Racing and Atlantic Championship. At the wheel of Toyota-powered Swift 008a, he finished seventh in the standings, with one victory at Chicago Motor Speedway.
DNF at 1999 Daytona 24-hour race
During the 1999 season, Sam had a one-off appearance in the United States Road Racing Championship. He competed for Intersport Racing and joined Jon Field, Ryan Jones and Mike Shank at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. Their prototype, starting in eighth place, finished 42nd after retiring on lap 400 due to gearbox failure.
IndyCar debut in 2000 with PDM Racing
In 2000, Hornish debuted in IndyCar Series (the official name was Indy Racing Northern Light Series). His first race was at Walt Disney World Speedway. He started in 19th place and finished 20th, driving #18 G-Force GF05-Oldsmobile of PDM Racing.
First Indy podium for Sam at Las Vegas
In the season's third race, the Vegas Indy 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Hornish started 18th and finished third, which was his first podium finish in his career. During the season, the team replaced G-Force with Dallara IR00 and with that car, Hornish qualified 14th at his first Indianapolis 500. At mid-race, Hornish was involved in an accident which relegated him to 24th place. After eight races, Hornish ended his IndyCar rookie season at 21st place.
Two IndyCar titles with Panther Racing
The best period of his career followed, with two consecutive IndyCar titles in 2001 and 2002. Both titles were won with Panther Racing.
He began the 2001 season with consecutive victories at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami, driving #4 Oldsmobile-powered Dallara. At the Indianapolis 500, Hornish qualified in 13th place. He finished 14th, four laps behind after an early spin. Hornish continued to drive well and he clinched the title with one race remaining. At the season-ending race at Texas, he scored his third victory and won the championship with 503 points, 105 points ahead of second-placed Buddy Lazier. Being only 22 at that time, Sam became the youngest champion in series history.
Hornish was victorious with a new engine
In 2002, Hornish stayed with Panther Racing. The team changed the manufacturer and switched to Chevrolet. Hornish's #4 car was victorious again at the season-opening Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami. Hornish then won the Yamaha Indy 400 at California Speedway, defeating Jaques Lazier by 0.028 second.
At the 2002 Indianapolis 500, he qualified in 7th place. In the race, Hornish brushed the wall on lap 78, damaging his suspension. He returned to the race and finished in 25th place, ten laps behind.
Epic 2003 win at Chicagoland
Later in the season, he won three more times - at Richmond International Raceway, Chicagoland, and Texas. At the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland, he defeated Al Unser Jr. by 0.0024 seconds, which was the closest finish in series history. In total, Hornish collected five victories and won the title by just 20 points ahead Helio Castroneves.
In the third season with Panther Racing, Hornish scored three wins and finished fifth in the championship. He won the races in Kentucky, Chicago, and California. At the 2003 Indianapolis 500, he qualified in 18th place. In the race, Hornish retired with a blown engine after completing 195 of the 200 laps.
The closest top-three finishes in series history
During the season, Panther Racing and several other teams using the Chevrolet engine switched to a new engine by Cosworth which was badged as a Chevrolet engine. After the change, Hornish's results began improving, including three victories. At Chicago, he won the race by 0.0099s over Scott Dixon and 0.0100s over Bryan Herta, the closest top-three finishes in series history.
Going into the season-ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Hornish was mathematically eligible to win the championship; however, his car had a spray problem after 176 of 195 laps. He finished 17th and was fifth in the final points standings with 461 points.
Victorious debut with a new team
In 2004, Hornish had the fantastic debut in his new car - #6 Dallara IR03 (Toyota) of Marlboro Team Penske. He won the season opener at Homestead-Miami in his first race with the team. It remained his only victory in 2004, and with two more podiums, he finished seventh in the championship standings.
His fifth participation at Indianapolis was finished with a crash. He battled Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon and led for nine laps. On lap 105, entering the main straightaway out of the fourth turn, Hornish tried to pass Darren Manning and Greg Ray's lapped car. They collided, crashing into the pit lane.
Two crashes at the 2005 Indianapolis 500
In 2005, Hornish finished third in the championship after two wins in 16 races with Marlboro Team Penske's Dallara IR2-Toyota. He won at Phoenix and Milwaukee Mile.
During the practice for the 2005 Indianapolis 500, he drove over a piece of debris after Paul Dana's second-turn crash and flipped over. Two days later, Hornish qualified in second place. He was leading the race for 77 laps but crashed out after 146 laps.
Third Indy title and first Indy 500 victory
Hornish re-signed for Penske in the season of 2006. The team changed the manufacturers, joining Honda when Toyota and Chevrolet left the series. Hornish won four races (Indianapolis, Richmond, Kansas and Kentucky) and took his third IndyCar title.
His season highlight was the Indianapolis 500 when he passed Marco Andretti for the lead on the final lap to win. Hornish later said about the pass:"I figured I came all this way, I ought to give myself one more shot at it. I kind of looked at it as, I was going to drive over him if I had to. For Marco to come as a rookie and drive like that he should be proud no matter what."
In the season-ending race at Chicagoland, Hornish qualified for the pole position and finished third, clinching his third series championship and Penske's first. Although he and Dan Wheldon finished the year with the same number of points, the tie was broken by wins - Hornish had four, and Wheldon two.
One more attempt at Rolex 24 at Daytona
During 2006, Hornish expanded his racing program to NASCAR. He began his stock car racing career with two starts in the NASCAR Busch Series competing at both Phoenix and Miami for Penske Racing.
At the beginning of 2007, Hornish competed at Rolex 24 at Daytona for the second time in his career. He was driving Michael Shank Racing's Lexus Riley prototype together with Mark Patterson, Oswaldo Negri Jr., and Helio Castroneves. They started 22nd and finished 9th overall.
Last Indy victory for Hornish Jr at Texas Motor Speedway
Season 2007 was Hornish's last year in the IndyCar Series. He drove #6 Penske Dallara-Honda and finished fifth in the championship standings, with one victory and four podiums. Hornish's only win of the season and his last in the IndyCar Series was the Bombardier Learjet 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. At 2007 Indianapolis 500, he started fifth place and finished fourth when the race was halted by rain after 166 laps.
Full-time NASCAR contract with Penske
During the 2007 season, Hornish had more participations in the NASCAR races than in the previous season. He debuted in NASCAR Nextel Cup competing at both Phoenix and Miami in the #12 Dodge for Team Penske. In the NASCAR Busch Series, he competed with Penske's Dodge in nine races with a top finish being the 15th place at Atlanta. He had a one-off appearance in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, winning the pole at Michigan and finishing second in the race.
In 2008, Hornish signed as a full-time driver of Penske's #77 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Although he was optimistic about a potential IndyCar return and claimed that he wants to compete again at Indy 500, he never came back to IndyCar series.
Second-best rookie in 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season
Hornish's debuting full-time NASCAR season wasn't so successful in general, with 13th place at Lowe's Motor Speedway as season's best result, but he finished second in the rookie standings behind Regan Smith. In the overall classification, he was 35th. The highlight of the season was the exhibition Sprint Showdown at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where Hornish started eighth and finished second. He also qualified for the exhibition 2008 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and finished seventh.
Fourth place at Pocono as a career best Sprint Cup result
During 2008, Hornish also drove eight races for Penske in the renamed Nationwide Series. His best finish of the season was eleventh place at Darlington Raceway. Late in the season, Hornish drove one race in the Craftsman Truck Series for Bobby Hamilton Racing in its #4 Dodge Ram, starting 16th and finishing ninth at Martinsville Speedway.
In the 2009 Sprint Cup season, Hornish returned to the grid with Penske's #77 Dodge. Hornish's victory in the Sprint Showdown at Lowe's Motor Speedway qualified him for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, where he started 19th and finished 16th. In the championship races, his best result was fourth place at Pocono. It remained his career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup result. Hornish finished 28th in the final standings.
Video : Huge crash of Sam Hornish jr. and Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen International
Back to Nationwide Series in 2011
The third year in a row, he was driving for Penske during the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. He made significant improvements in his average starting position, average finishing position, laps completed, and laps led, but still without wins and podiums. He finished 29th in the standings.
Before the 2011 season, Penske sold the owners' points of its #77 car to Rusty Wallace Racing. As a result, Penske moved Hornish to the Nationwide Series to drive the team's #12 Dodge for a limited number of races. Hornish drove 13 races and scored his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway.
Double program with Penske in 2012
In 2012, Hornish had the full-season seat in the #12 Dodge. Sam scored his first-ever NASCAR pole at Watkins Glen and after ten Top 5 finishes, he was fourth in the championship standings. At the summer Daytona race of NASCAR Sprint Cup, he took over #22 Penske Dodge from AJ Allmendinger, who was suspended after failing the drug test. Sam competed in the last 20 Cup races of the season.
Nationwide Series runner-up in 2013
In 2013, Penske had replaced Dodge with Ford Mustang and Hornish had the best NASCAR Nationwide season to date, with 16 Top 5 finishes and one victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished second in the championship (behind Austin Dillon) and helped Penske to win owner's Nationwide championship title.
Despite Sam's good results, car owner Roger Penske said that Hornish would be released due to lack of sponsorship. So, after 11 years of driving for Penske, Sam lost the place and he had to find a new arrangement.
Success with JGR led to contract with Richard Petty Motorsports
Sam competed part-time in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series in the #54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. He scored a win at Iowa Speedway and ran competitively in each of eight races he entered.
Sam's plan was to show Sprint Cup Series teams that he could continue to be competitive in NASCAR. The decision paid off and ended with the signing of a full-time ride for him in the Richard Petty Motorsports' #9 Ford Fusion for 2015.
Retiring from racing after two more Xfinity Series wins
Hornish began the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season with a twelfth-place finish at the Daytona 500. At Talladega Superspeedway, he had a season-best sixth-place finish. He later finished in the top ten at both road-course races (Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International), but in general, his performance was under the expectations and he was dropped out again at the end of the season. Hornish also drove Biagi-DenBeste Racing's #98 Ford Mustang part-time in the Xfinity Series (the former Nationwide Series). In three races with the team, he had one lead-lap finish, a 14th place at Texas.
He recorded few more appearances in the Xfinity Series in 2016 and 2017, including two victories, then completely retired from racing in 2018. In 2016, he won Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway with Joe Gibbs Racing and them in 2017, he won one more race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Team Penske.
Sam was helping his hometown Defiance
Sam Hornish hasn’t forgotten his roots and he was actively involved in giving back to the sport and his community. In his hometown of Defiance, Ohio, he was involved in the creation of a senior center as well as the addition of a heart center at the Defiance Medical Center.
He also turned his love for bowling into a successful charity campaign at the fall race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. In conjunction with Speedway Children’s Charities, Hornish, Jr. has raised over $500,000 to benefit the children of north Texas.
The special collection of historic vehicles
Sam Hornish also enjoys customizing vehicles. His collection includes a 1930 Model A Ford, 1951 Mercury, 1955 Chevrolet Del Ray, 1965 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and 1967 Chevrolet pick-up truck as well as a Corvette ZO6 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.
Sam had a rare honor of having his car on the cover of the popular video game. Hornish's yellow #4 Panther Racing car appeared on the cover of the 2003 IndyCar Series video game.
As one of the America's top drivers, Sam was a frequent guest at various TV shows, but he was also co-hosting the racing news and highlight show SPEED Center in 2012. In 2014, he was the commentator for the NBCSN broadcast of the IndyCar GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and was a NASCAR analyst for Fox Sports 1 throughout the season.