Hornish struggles with stock car, ponders future
The long-rumored promotion of three-time Indy Racing League champion and 2006 Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. to the Nextel Cup level for 2008 is expected to be announced this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
However, the Defiance, Ohio, native still is trying to qualify for his first Cup event. Thus far this season, he's 0-for-6 in qualifying attempts. He'll try again Friday to make the 43-car field for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 Nextel Cup race.
Hornish spoke recently about his frustrations this year trying to make his Cup debut, as well as driving a third car for Penske Racing next season on the Nextel Cup level.
Q. How tough has it been trying to adapt to Nextel Cup racing, let alone qualify for your first race?
A. "A lot of people look at it from the outside and don't realize how tough it's going to be. We expected it was going to be tough. That's the challenge of it, what I find exciting, and that's going to make it all the more fun when we do get into the races and do get to run with those guys."
Q. You have several scenarios for next season. You can race full-time in Cup, run a full or partial schedule in the Nationwide Series (or combo with a full-time Cup effort, as well), or go back to the IRL. What do you think will happen?
A. "I don't know. It's tough to say. I think we'd be a little closer along to making the decision or might have made it by now if we had had more success than what we've been doing so far (in stock car racing). The way I look at it, and I've told the team 100 times, I'm here to do whatever I can to suit you guys the best. Stay in Indy Car? That's what I'll do. If you want me to go drive semi trucks somewhere, I'll do that, too. Just the fact that I'm getting to race is what I like."
Q. As difficult as things have been, rumors persist that team owner Roger Penske might switch you to Kurt Busch's car next season for the first five races. That way, you get an automatic starting berth and don't have to stress so much about qualifying. Busch, meanwhile, would also get automatic starts for being a past Cup champion. Would you like that?
A. "I don't think you're going to see any switching of the cars. It's going to be up to me to make the races."