Sam Hornish Jr.

(Photos courtesy Sam Hornish Jr.)

Sam Hornish Jr. takes slight detour on way to Indy 500: 4,300-mile trip to Alaska

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Sam Hornish Jr. may not be racing right now, but he’s sure logged a lot of miles of late.

Just before he returned to Indianapolis late last month to take part in the festivities of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, Hornish – who won the 2006 Indy 500 – took to the road for a unique trip with his father, Sam Sr.

He recently spoke exclusively with about the father-son journey they enjoyed.

“We’d been planning for the last six or seven years,” Sam Jr. said. “It was a bucket list kind of thing. My dad has had this dream since he was 10 years old that he wanted to drive the Alaska Highway. It’s something he always wanted to do.

“At this point in my life, I’m trying to pay back all the things people have done for me, so he and I decided to do it and we had a blast.”

Sam Hornish Jr. (foreground) takes a selfie with his father, Sam Sr., when the first reached Alaska.

Father and son Hornish drove from Ohio to Chicago, flew to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, rented an RV and over the next 10 days were constantly on the go.

“The funny thing about it is that you think that this is a vacation and Sam’s not turning that many miles since he’s not racing, but from one Wednesday to the next Wednesday, we drove 4,300 miles,” Sam Jr. said. “And before that, I drove almost 1,000 miles to get to my dad and pick him up and then to go to the airport to fly out. Then I did the same getting back to North Carolina. The way I looked at it, by the time the month of May was over, I’d driven 10,000 miles.

“Sometimes, you have to go out and do some of the things other people want to do. You can’t just chase your own dreams all the time.”

Along the path of their journey, father and son — both sporting beards — saw all of the best that nature had to offer, including countless moose, elk, deer, black bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep and more.

Oh yes, and one other thing, Hornish said with a laugh: “I didn’t know there was so many trees in the world!”

Their trusty RV was definitely up to the task. While a good portion of the journey was on paved four-lane roads, they also had to deal with extremely rough terrain as well.


“The last 50 kilometers on the road to Alaska, the road is nothing but potholes,” Hornish said. “If you go down to 30 kilometers an hour, it’s the roughest ride you’re going to feel, so you have to go like 50 and just skip across the top of all the bumps.”

Hornish had done a great deal of preparation and planning for the trip, but ran into a few surprises along the way.

“The Alaska Highway starts in Dawson Creek, B.C., and goes to Delta Junction, Alaska, which is about 1,422 miles,” he said. “We also got to about 50 to 75 kilometers from the Arctic Circle.

“All the trucks that are going to the Alaska Pipeline all stopped to re-tie down their load because of how bumpy it’s going to be. There’s signs there that say, ‘Travel at your own risk.’ And here I am, I’ve got this little RV and the road we were on to get it to that point was like unbelievable, like 1,000-foot drop-offs and not a ton of a lot of guardrail.

“You would think in a lot of ways, to me, looking at it, it would remind you of being in South America and some of the roads they have down there. We drove all around Alaska, went to Fairbanks, Anchorage and all that it had to offer. I’m sure we could have spent three weeks doing it.”

Along the way, the Hornishes also were witness to the devastation of the massive Fort McMurray fire in northeastern Alberta.

“With all the fires they were having in Fort McMurray, there was a place heading back to Alberta that was burned up on both sides of the road for about 15 miles,” the younger Hornish said. “It wasn’t like that when we drove through there on our way to Alaska.

“We got back about 36 hours before we had to turn in the RV and get on the plane, and all of a sudden there was this kind of fog rolling in – when it was actually smoke (from the fires).


“You could see how quickly it happened. You get this total devastation when, seven days earlier, it was lush and green and beautiful.”

Hornish enjoyed the trip with his father so much that he gave very little thought to racing – although he admits he was bummed out that he missed the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Dover on TV because he was in the Yukon Territory – where there was no TV, phones or internet service.

Other than looking forward to returning to Indy for the 100th 500, Hornish, who turns 37 on July 2, barely thought about racing while on the trip. But he hasn’t given up on getting back behind the wheel again, he said.

“I’m hoping to do a little bit of racing this year, but to be honest with you, I want to do it the right way, to do it in good equipment,” said Hornish, who last raced in 2015 with Richard Petty Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “Last year was so frustrating, knowing it was going to take a miracle to win a race.

“I’d worked so hard to stay in racing and to give myself the opportunity to almost win a championship (finished second in the Xfinity Series in 2013).”

And while “I’m just at a point where it’s about spending time with my wife and my kids and trying to do things for other people that helped me to achieve my goals,” Hornish still has the itch to drive again.

He’s looked into returning to NASCAR, may do some competitive go-kart racing and also has interest in endurance and sports car racing.

“I feel very fortunate that I’ve gotten the opportunity to run the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona,” Hornish said. “So, I’d like to do a little more of road-racing stuff.

“That’s what I primarily did up until I went to Indy cars. Everybody looked at me just as an oval-only guy. I’d like the opportunity to work on my road course craft a little bit more.”

After nearly 10,000 miles on a road course of a different kind, with lots of bumpy roadway and hundreds of turns, that very well may have been the best preparation for Hornish to indeed climb back into his firesuit and get back behind the wheel very soon.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Report: Phoenix closing in on IndyCar return for 2016


Phoenix International Raceway is closer to returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar than it has been at any point in the past ten years, according to a new report. reports that a date and distance for a race in 2016 have already been agreed by the circuit and INDYCAR, but that a firm deal still remains unsigned.

PIR last hosted an IndyCar race back in 2005, won by Sam Hornish Jr., and although a return has been mooted for some time, plans have failed to come to fruition.

However, according to circuit president Bryan Sperber, a deal is closer now that it has been since the race fell off the calendar ten years ago.

“This is the closest we’ve been in ten years,” Sperber told azcentral sports.

“We working hard on it but it’s not a done deal. There have been things we’ve worked hard on in the past that didn’t [happen].”

Earlier this year, Hulman and Co. (INDYCAR’s parent company) CEO Mark Miles confirmed that Phoenix was being discussed when formulating the calendar, and suggested a date as early as February to give the circuit’s NASCAR events plenty of breathing room.

According to the report, a date of April 2 2016 has been agreed by PIR and INDYCAR, with the race running for 250 miles that evening. This would see it slot in two weeks before the Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 17).

Hulman and Co. chief revenue officer Jay Frye confirmed that there was a desire to return to PIR from both the circuit and INDYCAR, and that every effort would be made to take the series back for 2016.

“I think there’s genuine enthusiasm on both sides,” Frye said.

“Phoenix is very important to the league, our partners and fans. We’re making every attempt to explore every option to go back there.”

Road America redux: A look back, and a look ahead

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Do you remember the year 2007? Specifically August 12, 2007?

That date, eight years ago today, was when the last open-wheel race was held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

The Champ Car World Series’ Generac Power Grand Prix was won by Sebastien Bourdais, driving the No. 1 McDonald’s Panoz / Cosworth for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing.

This is worth noting after the Verizon IndyCar Series and Road America announced last week open-wheel racing would return to the 4.048-mile road course next year the weekend of June 26.

I don’t remember that day. At the time I was preparing for my junior year at Springdale High School in Arkansas and had yet to write a journalistic word. But MotorSports Talk’s Tony DiZinno was there covering his first on-site race, weeks before starting school at Marquette.

DiZinno: I’ll make this brief. Road America was awesome.

Perhaps it was being a wide-eyed 18-year-old, the first race I could cover after 11 years of being a fan and writing for fun for the better part of eight or nine years.

Perhaps it was the ambiance of the place – practically a state park with a race track carved in-between the trees, with the best track food to boot.

Or perhaps it was the reality that this was the first time I could convert my fandom into work, meeting some of my heroes at the time and hearing the mix of cars from Champ Cars, ALMS and Atlantic over the weekend.

In short, even though it was work, I was hooked – and the memories gleaned from that year still last years later, and laid the groundwork for where I’ve been able to make it today. Some of the people I met that weekend have become instrumental in my career, as valuable friends, colleagues and sounding boards.

It cemented my love for the track so many have spoke so highly of.

Much has changed in the intervening years. Instead of Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” topping the charts, it’s “Cheerleader” by OMI.

In theaters, “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation” is the movie to see in the place of “Rush Hour 3.”

Oh, and there is just one major open-wheel series in North America. Seven months after Bourdais won at Road America – for his fifth of eight wins in 14 races that year – the Indy Racing League and Champ Car ended a 12-year war between the two series by merging back under the IndyCar banner.

Eight years later, how familiar is IndyCar, as a single series, compared to that weekend in Elkhart Lake?

Of the nine teams that made up the 17-car field that day, only two team owners’ names could be found in the most recent race at Mid-Ohio: Dale Coyne and Michael Lanigan. Coyne runs his two-car team and Lanigan, who was part of Newman-Haas in 2007, is now the third name of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Another team, PKV Racing, co-owned by Jimmy Vasser, has since become KVSH Racing and KV Racing Technology.

When it comes to drivers, Bourdais, Graham Rahal (finished third), Justin Wilson (eighth), Simon Pagenaud (11th) and Will Power (16th) are the only participants found in IndyCar, though Oriol Servia (fourth) and Alex Tagliani (fifth) can usually be seen in Indianapolis in May. Paul Tracy (finished 12th), is now an IndyCar analyst for NBCSN.

Meijer Indy 300
Meijer Indy 300Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images

That same weekend Champ Car was at Road America, the IRL was at Kentucky Speedway for the mouthful Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Edy’s.

Won by Tony Kanaan – competing for Andretti Green Racing – the race contained six current Indy Car drivers: Kanaan, Scott Dixon (second), Marco Andretti (fourth), Ed Carpenter (seventh), Helio Castroneves (ninth) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (15th).

Also in the field: Danica Patrick, the late Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. and Sarah Fisher. That weekend, Franchitti’s car went airborne – after the checkered flag – for the second race in a row.

For the Champ Car Series in 2007, Road America represented the 10th race of the season. Here’s a look at the drivers in the field, their finishing order on Aug. 12, 2007 and where they are in 2015.

  1. Sebastien Bourdais  (France): 2007 – Owner: Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing; 2015 – KVSH Racing. Two wins through 14 races in IndyCar. Left Champ Car for Formula One in 2008, returned to IndyCar in 2011.
  2. Dan Clarke (United Kingdom): 2007 –  Minardi Team USA, last of two seasons in Champ Car; 2015 – raced several times in the in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge with LAP Motorsports in a MINI JCW.
  3. Graham Rahal (USA): 2007 – Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing; 2015 – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, second in the IndyCar points, a career high, with two races left after two wins, his first since 2008 at St. Petersburg.
  4. Oriol Servia (Spain): 2007 – Forsythe Championship Racing; 2015 – last raced in 99th Indianapolis 500 with RLL Racing, managing director for Dragon Racing in Formula E Championship.
  5. Alex Tagliani (Canada): 2007 – RSPORTS; 2015 – competed in 99th Indy 500 with A.J. Foyt Racing, will compete in NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio on Saturday for Team Penske.
  6. Jan Heylen (Belgium): 2007 – nine races with Conquest Racing, one podium; 2015 – four races in TUDOR United Sports Car Championship with Wright Motorsports.
  7. Tristan Gommendy (France): 2007 – 11 races with PKV Racing; 2015 – competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Thiriet by TDS Racing.
  8. Justin Wilson (United Kingdom): 2007 – RSPORTS, one win; 2015 – part time IndyCar schedule with Andretti Autosport, one podium in five races.
  9. Bruno Junqueira (Brazil): 2007 – Dale Coyne Racing, three podiums; 2015 – nine races and one win (Laguna Seca) in TUDOR with RSR Racing, what had been RSPORTS in a one-year partnership with RuSPORT.
  10. Neel Jani (Switzerland): 2007 -PKV Racing, three podiums; 2015 – Porsche factory driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship, polesitter and finished fifth in 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  11. Simon Pagenaud (France): 2007 – Team Australia, eighth in points; 2015 – first season with Team Penske in IndyCar, four career wins.
  12. Paul Tracy (Canada): 2007 – 12 races with Forsythe Championship Racing, one win (Cleveland), last season of more than six races; 2015 – analyst for NBCSN.
  13. Alex Figge (USA): 2007 – 13 races with Pacific Coast Motorsports; 2015 – Off-road truck racing, and drove for K-PAX Racing in World Challenge GT in 2014.
  14. Robert Doornbos (Netherlands): 2007 – Minardi Team USA, two wins, rookie of the year; 2015 – Not racing actively.
  15. Katherine Legge (United Kingdom): 2007 – Dale Coyne Racing, 15th in points; 2015 – seven races in TUDOR with the DeltaWing team.
  16. Will Power (Australia): 2007 – Team Australia, two wins; 2015 – Team Penske, defending IndyCar champion, 25 career wins.
  17. Ryan Dalziel (Scotland): 2007 – 11 races for Pacific Coast Motorsports; 2015 – full-time in FIA World Endurance Championship with Tequila Patron ESM; two races in TUDOR with the same team; competing in Pirelli World Challenge with EFFORT Racing.

Sam Hornish Jr. reflects on 2006 Indy 500 win (VIDEO)


As Sam Hornish Jr. looks ahead to this weekend’s Brickyard 400, he looks back on his memorable, and remarkable, 2006 Indianapolis 500 win in Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA.

He made a last lap pass of Marco Andretti exiting Turn 4 to score his first and only win in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Hunter-Reay makes it a six-pack for Andretti in Iowa with first 2015 win (VIDEO)


After what’s been a tough season so far, Michael Andretti probably needed a six-pack.

Ryan Hunter-Reay gave his team owner one Saturday night.

WATCH: Full replay of Iowa Corn 300

Hunter-Reay took an overdue first win of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with his third overall and second straight win at the Iowa Speedway. It’s the team’s sixth straight win at the 0.894-mile oval dating to 2010.

He also becomes the ninth different race winner of 2015.

Hunter-Reay got ahead of erstwhile dominant driver Josef Newgarden with an earlier pit stop on the final sequence, and held off the two-time 2015 winner by 0.5046 of a second.

“It felt like we had something there. This No. 28 DHL Honda was on rails,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis. “I was driving the snot out of it. I kept my foot to the floor. A lot of work in the cockpit. This one we really hard to work for after such a tough season.

“We got in victory lane in one of the most competitive seasons.”

Hunter-Reay’s win and Newgarden’s runner-up finish were somewhat overshadowed by some mid-July fireworks on IndyCar’s shortest track, involving IndyCar’s youngest driver.

Sage Karam, 20 years old, scored his first career IndyCar podium in third, as Chip Ganassi Racing’s lone driver to make the checkered flag. He passed Carlos Munoz for the final podium position, to complete the first all-American podium since Sam Hornish Jr., Marco and Michael Andretti in the 2006 Indianapolis 500.

But he only did so after drawing the ire of Ed Carpenter in the race’s final 20 laps. The two ran side-by-side for a period after the final restart from the sixth and final full course caution period.

An animated Carpenter was screaming on the radio – as Karam had earlier in the race – and would later hunt down the 20-year old on pit lane. The pair exchanged words and had a distinct difference of opinion about the racing style.

Graham Rahal survived a roller-coaster day en route to fourth ahead of Munoz, with Carpenter and Marco Andretti making it six Americans in the top seven.

Rahal’s day was mired by a flat tire, then persistent shifting issues that left him stuck in sixth gear for the majority of the final 250 laps. Two well-timed yellows helped keep Rahal from going a lap down after he’d got back on the lead lap, and saved his day as he moved into second in the championship.

It was a tough day for the title contenders. Juan Pablo Montoya entered with a 54-point lead and crashed out just 10 laps in, which opened the door for others to move ahead.

But mechanical issues sidelined Scott Dixon on Lap 234; his crew performed a minor miracle to get him back out, although he was resigned to an eventual 18th place finish, and thus gained only six points on Montoya.

Helio Castroneves was also well-positioned but faded to 11th in the final stint of the race after qualifying on pole.

Tony Kanaan was also unfortunate to retire with a mechanical issue, after he had been in the top three for most of the first 200 laps.

Today’s result promotes Rahal into second, now 42 back of Montoya with just three races remaining, and the second-to-last road course race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 2.


NEWTON, Iowa – Results Saturday of the Iowa Corn 300 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 0.894 mile Iowa Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 300, Running
2. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 300, Running
3. (10) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 300, Running
4. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 300, Running
5. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 300, Running
6. (11) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 300, Running
7. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 300, Running
8. (19) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 300, Running
9. (24) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 300, Running
10. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 300, Running
11. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 300, Running
12. (20) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 299, Running
13. (21) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 299, Running
14. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 299, Running
15. (14) James Jakes, Honda, 299, Running
16. (23) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 299, Running
17. (18) Justin Wilson, Honda, 297, Running
18. (4) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 263, Running
19. (15) Takuma Sato, Honda, 260, Contact
20. (13) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 191, Contact
21. (2) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 189, Mechanical
22. (16) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 170, Contact
23. (22) Pippa Mann, Honda, 136, Handling
24. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 9, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 129.943
Time of Race: 02:03:50.3315
Margin of victory: 0.5046 of a second
Cautions: 6 for 73 laps
Lead changes: 14 among 10 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Castroneves 1
Kanaan 2 – 68
Castroneves 69 – 77
Kanaan 78 – 80
Power 81 – 82
Jakes 83 – 85
Bourdais 86 -91
Kimball 92 – 98
Castroneves 99 – 105
Newgarden 106 – 125
Castroneves 126 – 158
Newgarden 159 – 249
Hawksworth 250 – 256
Rahal 257 – 263
Hunter-Reay 264 – 300

Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: Montoya 445, Rahal 403, Dixon 397, Castroneves 391, Power 390, Bourdais 366, Andretti 358, Newgarden 352, Kanaan 324, Pagenaud 294.