IndyCar career seems like ‘a different lifetime’ to Sam Hornish Jr.


For eight years, from 2001 to 2007, Sam Hornish Jr. competed in the Verizon IndyCar series for three different teams. Each year saw Hornish attempt to capture an Indianapolis 500 win. Then, in 2006, Hornish passed Marco Andretti on the last lap to win the 90th running of race.

Life is much different now for the Ohio native, nine years after he kissed the bricks.

“It’s often tough to remember a whole lot about IndyCar racing,” Hornish told reporters Wednesday. “I was only married for a couple of years at that point in time without any kids. Pretty much spent all my time in Ohio that I wasn’t at a race track.”

In 2008, Hornish made the jump to NASCAR to race in the Sprint Cup Series for Penske. After bouncing back and forth between the Cup and Xfinity Series for years, Hornish is back full-time in the former with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Now, we’re running 38 races a year, (have) three kids and live in North Carolina,” Hornish said. “It seems like a different lifetime, not so much a life time ago.”

Hornish and his team were at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Sprint Cup’s testing for the Brickyard 400 on July 26. While he competed in the Sprint Cup race at IMS four times for Penske, he’s never came close to equaling his 2006 success in IndyCar, finishing no better than 16th.

Hornish’s has won only three times in Xfinity Series. But the lack of consistent success doesn’t have the 35-year-old yearning to recreate his open-wheel success. At least not anytime soon.

“Everytime I think about the possibility of coming back, there’s something that pops up that tells me it’s not time to do that or its not the right thing to do,” Hornish said. “I still don’t feel like I’ve done what was trying to accomplish over here on the stock car side yet. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done with that. If I felt that I could get to the point being where I wanted to be competitively over here, there might be that opportunity.”

Hornish said it’s almost easier on himself as a driver to not return for a one-off appearance in the Indy 500 and that he get’s to enjoy the race like he did as a kid watching it on TV in Defiance, Ohio.

“When the race is over, if I like who won, I’ll watch the interview. If I don’t, I’ll change the channel and I don’t have to think about it for the next 12 months,” Hornish said. “(As a driver) it is definitely a lot easier not carrying it with you all year long, waiting for the next one to come along, because whether you do good or bad, you just sit there for the next 364 days and prepare. It takes up a lot of your time when you’re a driver.”

Another part of Hornish’s legacy is that he is just one of two American-born drivers to win the Indy 500 since Buddy Rice in 2004, with Ryan Hunter-Reay the last in 2014. Hornish was asked what it meant to him to see Josef Newgarden, a Tennessee native, win his first IndyCar race on Sunday.

“I’m sure Josef would say ahead of me, it’s been a long time coming,” Hornish said. “He’s definitely had the speed at a lot of different race tracks where you thought it was just around the corner, but it was being able to put the whole puzzle together.”

What made it even better, Hornish believes, is the win came from driver on a small team, Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing, and not a large, four-team operation.

“If you look at the ownership of the team, with Ed (Carpenter) and Sarah (Fisher), those things (and) Drivers that have wanted to move to that next step of being part of it, I think it’s good for the sport in general to be able get those kind of teams to victory lane,” Hornish said.


Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.