Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...We all know Sam is the one of the most successful drivers in recent history in open-wheel racing...
* Sam was the youngest driver ever to win an IndyCar Series race (age 21) at the time. (Thanks Tez!) * Sam became the youngest driver to win the IndyCar Series crown at just 22 years old. * Sam is the only driver to win back-to-back IndyCar Series championships. * In 2006, Sam won the Indianapolis 500 for Penske in dramatic fashion passing Marco Andretti on the last lap and then went on to win the IndyCar Series championship for a third time.
So by 2007, Sam was pretty much in a "been there done that" state of mind with open wheel racing when he decided to try his hand at stock cars.
In November 2007, Sam was announced as the driver of the Penske No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge and I was lucky enough to interview him. Some of you may have seen snippets of this video on Foxsports but this is the un-edited version.
Notice anything about Sam in the interview? I dunno...relaxed, funny, not giving the party line answers...kinda refreshing?
Ok, ok, so he didn't win Rookie of the Year in his first full season in NASCAR but I will contend he had to deal with sub par equipment at Penske last year (evidence - Kurt) and none-the-less managed to finish with several top 15's and raced his way into the All Star Race. He didn't meet his goal of finishing in the top 20 but he did keep his job. Yes, yes, he did kiss with the wall a lot but hey, he was learning!
That brings us to 2009. Sam started off the season strong contending for top 10s in the first six races only to fall victim to wrecks not of his own making. He finally got his first top 10 in NASCAR in April at Phoenix and followed that up with a sixth-place finish at Richmond. Sam got his first NASCAR victory winning the Sprint Showdown and he finally cracked the top 5 with his fourth-place finish at Pocono a few weeks ago. And then, well, there was this past week where he got his bell rung big time...
So why do I like Sam Hornish, Jr so much? Let's get the obvious out of the way -- * Cute, Cute, CUTE! * Fellow Ohioan * Is buds with Helio * Has a whipper-snapper 28 year old crew chief (Travis Geisler) so they are the true Young Guns of Team Penske and I like watching the youngin's compete.
But mostly I root for Sam because he is a proven champion, who didn't rest on his laurels and went out and learned a completely different sport enduring struggles, wrecks, and very hard hits. "Quit" is not in Sam's vocabulary and he will keep at it until he is a champion again. I find that very admirable.