BROOKLYN, Mich. - Sam Hornish Jr. put his car on the pole for this evening's ARCA 200 race at Michigan International Speedway, the first ARCA RE/MAX Series race of his career.
After turning his fast qualifying lap at 186.205 miles an hour, the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion and the only three-time winner of the IndyCar Series points title was still somewhat cautious about his foray into the stock car racing ranks.
"Well, I don't ever really feel comfortable in this car, or the other stock cars for that matter," said Hornish, who is also running a limited Busch Series schedule for Penske Racing this year.
"A lot of it's a guessing game for me. With the Indy cars, I know what it needs to feel like to be capable of winning the race. Most of the times going into the race I know whether we have a car capable of winning or not, without having some huge stroke of luck or something happen for us. With this, I still don't know."
Hornish, who won last weekend's IndyCar Series race at Texas with a dominant performance, leading 159 of 228 laps, has been in the top 10 in all seven of the IndyCar events this season. He said the experience in the open-wheeled car makes a world of difference.
"I think in racing to stay on top, you always have to be learning something, and in the Indy car, I learn something maybe every couple of races," Hornish said. "In this, it's every time I'm out in the car I learn something new. It's a lot of fun for me to be able to do this, learn, and try something new."
Hornish will be followed in this evening's starting grid by Evernham Motorsports developmental driver Erin Crocker, who qualified second with a lap of 183.556 mph. Ken Butler III, who won the recent ARCA race at Toledo Speedway, qualified in the 21st position.
Hornish said he approaches the ARCA race as an opportunity to get in a lot of track time in advance of the August Busch Series event at MIS, which the Defiance native intends to enter.
"We knew we were going to run the Busch race here in August, and the team really didn't have any plans to come and run this race, but I started bugging them," he said. "It's a race, and it'll be good practice for the Busch race. The biggest thing is really the fact that I don't get enough practice time. Most of the time when I'm in the car, it's running a Busch race."
Hornish said he entered the ARCA event with the blessing of team owner Roger Penske, who is the coordinator of race-day activities when Hornish competes in the IndyCar Series.
"I don't know what Roger's main priority is, but I think a lot of times he might be trying to make me happy by having me do this," Hornish said.
"When we first started talking about me coming to Penske Racing, there's always been that talk about possibly doing some Busch racing - stock car racing somewhere down the line.
It's great that he's allowing me to do it. A lot of guys aren't fortunate enough to be able dabble in it a little bit to see if it's something they enjoy doing, or even can do."
Hornish said his Mobil 1 Dodge team did not place a lot of emphasis on winning the pole, but he likes the option of running out front.
"The best thing about starting up front is - I've said so many times about not getting enough practice time - the worst thing that can happen is getting taken out on the 10th lap and all your practice time is gone. Hopefully starting out front you have less opportunity for that to happen."
He said Penske has placed a priority on continuing the learning process in the stock.
"My main goal for [today] is the same as what Roger told me - to finish all the laps," Hornish said. "You don't have to worry about winning or anything like that, just get your 100 laps of practice in race conditions."