Sam Hornish Jr ... Wasn't he that IndyCar driver?

The career paths of race car drivers are absolutely fascinating. Sam Hornish Jr.'s is no exception.

Sam Hornish Jr ... Wasn't he that IndyCar driver?
Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge
Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge crashes
Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge hits the wall
Panther Racing crew member signaling Sam Hornish Jr. to come in for a pitstop
Victory lane: race winner Sam Hornish Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr.
Darren Manning and Sam Hornish Jr. crash on pit road
Sam Hornish Jr.
Race winner Sam Hornish Jr. celebrates
Sam Hornish Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Championship contenders press conference: NASCAR Nationwide Series contender Sam Hornish Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr. and Panther Racing
Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge

If you have come onto the racing scene in the last 5 or 6 years, you might not really know the name Sam Hornish Jr. 

Today it was made official by Richard Petty Motorsports that they are giving him the keys to the #9 car being vacated by Marcos Ambrose. 

It all made me think of the career courses of drivers, and how unique they are to each of them. Some make their way slowly up the ranks and peak before falling fast...or slow.

But Hornish has a really interesting route in his racing career carved out already. At 35, the fact that I saw him bombing around the Daytona Nationwide garage in February baffled me. Once he got out of that weird in-a-car, out-of-the-car situation at Penske, I figured he would go find a nice spot on a Corvette sports car team and dissapear into the background like we see a lot of these drivers, who are putting on years and zeros in the W column of their resumes year after year.

But Hornish is different. He isn't giving up. His big win at Iowa this year in Nationwide proves that. The race was full of some of the best up and comers, but he took the win in Gibbs prepared equipment.

But at the end of the day, I don't know if signing with that team is a way to end your career on a high note. Just ask Ambrose, who I bet cannot wait to board a plane back home and into (hopefully) some great V8 equipment.

So for all you young'ns out there, here are some things I can tell you about Hornish Jr. He kicked butt in IndyCar. Didn't really matter which team either. He won championships with Panther Racing and Penske Racing. He even destroyed one young boy's dream at the 2006 Indy 500, passing Marco Andretti within meters of the finish line. 

 

He also holds on to the title of winning one of the closest IndyCar races to date. Something like 0.0024 over Al Unser Jr. in 2002 at Chicago. A can't miss highlight of his career.

Lastly, he is apparently the nicest guy ever. Here is a bit where he had to deal with an angry Danica Patrick... 

He blew a tire heading into the trioval at Talladega heading to the checkered flag, and unfortunately collected Patrick. She then immediately retaliated by putting Hornish, and his Penske racing car into the wall at very high speeds. And he was the one who apologized in the whole situation.

Mr. Hornish Jr. You have the patience of a saint.

At the end of the day, in 116 IndyCar starts he found a way to win 19 of them, and stand with the top three in 47 of them. Three (yes, 3) IndyCar championships and he all but gives it up in 2008 to go NASCAR racing. You have to chase the money trail, but damn Sam...you were so good in IndyCar!

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