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Published: 6/13/2007

Hornish in ARCA event at MIS

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BROOKLYN, Mich. Sam Hornish Jr. has officially entered the field for Friday s ARCA 200 race at Michigan International Speedway, a move that was the catalyst for a chain reaction of other official events.

The top brass at ARCA and at MIS are officially excited about what the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion brings to the table. They are understandably giddy over the interest the only three-time winner of the IndyCar Series championship adds, and the prospect of the fans of the northwest Ohio native and resident spiking attendance at the race.

It certainly doesn t hurt at all to have a driver of his stature enter the race, MIS president Roger Curtis said yesterday. He s got such a loyal following from the Defiance area, so clearly we expect Sam s presence to have an impact.

Curtis said the Defiance zip code sees the most traffic in the MIS ticket office when Hornish comes to the Irish Hills track each summer for the IndyCar Series event.

Now that s he s running a few events in stock cars, there s no reason to think that trend won t play out on that side, too, Curtis said.

Hornish was at MIS recently, just a day after finishing fourth in this year s Indy 500, testing a Penske Racing stock car with designs on making a run in the ARCA event here. The ARCA RE/MAX Series race on Friday kicks off the first MIS racing weekend of the summer, and will be followed by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday, and the Nextel Cup Citizen s Bank 400 on Sunday.

With sponsorship now lined up, and Hornish officially in the mix, the ARCA 200 race qualifying, which will take place Thursday afternoon, officially got tougher.

Sam being here changes things on a lot of levels, and it certainly doesn t hurt at all, ARCA president Ron Drager said. The bottom line on the racing side is, it is another car that everybody has to beat.

Drager said Hornish, who is entering his first ARCA event, and his first stock car race at MIS, brings a powerful resume. Besides his participation in the full slate of events in the IndyCar Series, where he won at Texas last weekend, when you add an Indy 500 champion, and the next thing you talk about is the involvement and backing of Penske Racing, it absolutely adds a lot of positives, Drager said. And with Sam being from real close by in Defiance, that s another benefit.

Hornish said his close proximity to MIS has made for a lengthy relationship with the track.

I ve always enjoyed going to Michigan, Hornish said. Since it s so close to home, I call it my home track. My family and I would always get tickets to all three races there, every year. I ve gone to more races here as a fan than at any other track.

Drager said that contrary to what some might see as the threat posed by a powerhouse team and a world class driver dropping in on an established circuit, he expects the ARCA regulars to relish the opportunity to run around the two-mile, D-shaped oval with the Indy 500 champion.

A great percentage of our teams are our regulars, and they are giving it everything they ve got in those 23 races we ll run this year, Drager said.

And right away you could say that you d bet those regulars hate it when something like this takes place, but our teams are very good about putting it in proper perspective. They ll say it s a good thing a rising tide lifts all boats. Sam being here just elevates the whole series.

Hornish, who is one of about 20 IndyCar Series drivers who are testing today on the 2.25-mile layout at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington, said he likes the opportunity to take on MIS in a different format. Since he is also running a limited Busch Series schedule for Penske this summer, Hornish expects to get three cracks at MIS Friday s ARCA race, and the IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 400 and the Busch Series CARFAX 250 in August.

We definitely run a different line here in the stock cars than we do in the Indy cars, Hornish said, adding that the ARCA race will provide valuable study time for the Busch event. And it s a little bumpier, but it s fun. The fact that we were going to run here was what I was most excited about, regarding the Busch program.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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