Hornish's Goals May Include Brickyard

Thursday, March 15th 2007, 8:13 am
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Defending the Indianapolis 500 title will be tough enough for Sam Hornish Jr., but he says he'd like to win twice on the historic 2 1/2-mile oval this year.

Hornish, who already has driven in two NASCAR Busch races this season, said Wednesday he likes the idea of trying to drive in both major American races at the track _ Indy and the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

``The biggest thing would be our resources,'' Hornish said. ``But if they asked me to do it, I'd do it.''

It's not unprecedented. A few NASCAR drivers, most notably Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon, have competed in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend and later returned to compete in the Brickyard 400.

Throughout his Indy Racing League career, Hornish has been competitive in nearly anything he's driven. He won back-to-back points titles with Panther Racing in 2001 and 2002 before moving to Team Penske, and has finished outside the top five points leaders only once since joining the circuit full time in 2001.

Last year, Hornish became the first driver in series history to win three points titles, courtesy of a tiebreaker assessed after the last race of the season.

On March 24 at Homestead, the 27-year-old Hornish is expected to make his 100th career Indy car start. The only active driver with more is 39-year-old Scott Sharp.

Indianapolis has given Hornish his most memorable _ and exasperating _ moments.

From 2000-05, Hornish never had a top-10 Indy finish, crashing out of the race three times and dropping out with an engine problem in 2003.

One daring move changed his image forever.

After pulling out of the pits with the fuel hose still connected to the car and being assessed a penalty late in last year's race, Hornish charged back. He nearly collided with race leader Marco Andretti on the next-to-last lap before overtaking Andretti with a nifty low move just yards from the finish line. Hornish won the second-closest finish in Indy history by 0.0635 seconds.

Try duplicating that.

``You always go to Indy and expect to run strong, and this year will be no different,'' Hornish said. ``To come back and win, especially to come back and win in the fashion we did last year will be tough. Hopefully we can do it a little more than 100 feet from the finish line.''

Hornish might be setting himself up for even greater expectations. When asked if he had any inkling about running in the July 29 Nextel Cup race in Indianapolis, he didn't hesitate.

``I'm trying to work on Roger (Penske) as far as that goes,'' Hornish said. ``I think it would require a little bit of testing, and the biggest thing would be our resources. Obviously, we don't want to take away from what Kurt (Busch) and Ryan (Newman) do there.''

Busch and Newman are the two regular drivers for Penske's NASCAR team.

Still, despite the allure of NASCAR, Hornish said he is committed to his day job.

He's excited that the circuit has added two courses _ at Michigan and Mid-Ohio _ near his hometown of Defiance, Ohio, and remains focused on becoming the first four-time points champion in the 11-year history of the IRL.

Hornish also is trying to become only the sixth driver in Indy history to repeat as champion, something his teammate Helio Castroneves accomplished in 2001-02.

But if it's Hornish's choice, he'd like to become the first driver in Indy track history to win twice in the same year.