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Published: Friday, 10/12/2007

Hornish wonders about his future in NASCAR

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sam Hornish Jr. Sam Hornish Jr.
RICK HAVNER / AP Enlarge

CONCORD, N.C. As the list of open-wheel stars moving to NASCAR grows, Sam Hornish Jr. remains undecided about his future.

He s had tremendous success in IndyCars winning three championships and last year s Indianapolis 500 but his tryout in stock cars hasn t been nearly as smooth.

He s still trying to make his first Nextel Cup event after three failed attempts, and was set to try again last night in qualifying at Lowe s Motor Speedway.

We knew it was going to be difficult coming in, he said. We d like to have been racing a couple times so far, but we knew this was a possibility. We knew this was going to be tough, and that s why I said I wanted to do this.

A longtime open-wheel loyalist, Hornish now finds himself one of the many newcomers in NASCAR.

The road was paved last summer by Juan Pablo Montoya, who left Formula One for the Cup Series, and the defections have been fast and furious ever since. In the past week, reigning IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and Champ Car star Patrick Carpentier both said they will run full Cup schedules next season.

Former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve, also scheduled to run a full season, made his Cup debut last week at Talladega and Scott Speed raced in the ARCA event there in preparation for a full season in that series.

All the moves have been full of fanfare, but Hornish has just quietly plugging along. He can t get into a Cup race, and he s not turned too many heads in the eight Busch Series events he s run, with a 15th-place finish at Atlanta earlier this season his best showing.

But Hornish cautions that it s unfair to judge him against drivers who have been racing stock cars far longer than he has.

These guys have more races in stock cars the past two months then I have my entire life, he said. We knew it was going to be tough and that s why we didn t decide, we re going to do it next year, lets just go do it.

We re here trying to get track time, trying to get experience, so if I do go this route, I ll at least have a little experience and at least have been to some of these tracks before.

But Hornish remains undecided on what route he plans to go. Car owner Roger Penske is leaving the decision up to him, assuring Hornish there will be a seat for him in either series.

And unlike some of the other open-wheel defectors, Hornish believes he has a choice.

Some of the Formula One guys, there is no where else for them to go and this was a place where they could have an opportunity, Hornish said. And Dario, I hear he had his deal to come to NASCAR for two years, and he didn t have a whole lot of success in the IRL until this year. So that may have been a case of, let s go try something different.

But for me, this has been something that s always intrigued me. I always wanted to run the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400. And I know in order to ever have a chance to win, you ve got to be doing it full time.

As the American star of open-wheel racing, Hornish admits to pressure surrounding his upcoming decision.

I ve tried to really stay with the IRL and do all the things I could do, he said. I feel I can only do so much somebody will replace me. It might not be today or tomorrow, but there will always be the next American driver. I think I ve tried to do the best I could for myself, the league and open wheel racing in general.

CONCORD, N.C. Ryan Newman dominates qualifying at Lowe s Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson dominates the races. The pair will start on the front row in the Bank of America 500.

Newman captured his seventh career pole at the track when he knocked Johnson off the top spot with a speed of 189.394 mph in qualifying last night.

Johnson, who has won five of the past 12 races at LMS, will start second after a lap of 188.990. Bobby Labonte qualified third, followed by points leader Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray.

It felt really good to knock off Jimmie, said Newman. I knew he was going to be tough after practice. It s nice to finally do it.

It is Newman s 42nd career pole.



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