IRL: Hornish Jr receives tribute from his hometown

SAM HORNISH JR. DAY -­ A PERFECT TRIBUTE Sam Hornish Jr. was honored in his hometown of Defiance, OH this past Wednesday by thousands of local fans who came out to commemorate his recent victory at the Indianapolis 500 mile race. The event, Sam...

SAM HORNISH JR. DAY -­ A PERFECT TRIBUTE

Sam Hornish Jr. was honored in his hometown of Defiance, OH this past Wednesday by thousands of local fans who came out to commemorate his recent victory at the Indianapolis 500 mile race. The event, Sam Hornish Jr. Day, started with a VIP Reception at the Defiance Hospital and a tour of the Sam Hornish Family Heart Center and continued with a 40-unit parade followed by a rally at the local mall. The entire day embodied all that the 27 year-old Hornish Jr. represents.

Wednesday was Sam Hornish Jr.'s ideal Indy 500 celebration, a nice small-town get together with 10,000 of his closet friends. Sure, being on "Late Night with David Letterman" and getting to meet the President of the United States George W. Bush were magnificent honors that he gladly accepted and appreciated, but Hornish Jr. is just a regular guy from Defiance, OH. While he's accomplished things on four wheels at the tender age of 27 that most couldn't imagine doing in a lifetime, he's still very much entrenched in his community.

"I love being from Northwest Ohio and I can't imagine a better place to live," Hornish Jr. exclaimed to the crowd at Defiance's Northtowne Mall. "When I'm traveling all over the world, I always take the latest possible flight out and the earliest possible flight back home so I can be here as much as I can to spend time with my friends and family."

For him, the day couldn't have been any better. Thousands of supporters turned out to celebrate not with the Indy 500 winner but with their neighbor, friend and former classmate. The parade took place in downtown Defiance, Hornish Jr.'s stomping grounds, where each and every storefront had a tribute to Sam and his victory at the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 in the way of banners and window paintings. It was a typical small-town event, but inexplicably unique as the community hadn't hosted a parade for more than fifty years ­ not since President Eisenhower was in town at groundbreaking ceremonies for the Defiance College Library in 1953.

Following the parade, Hornish Jr., Joie Chitwood President & COO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Mayor of Defiance Bob Armstrong participated in a ceremony honoring the Indy 500 winner at the local shopping mall. The grand finale of the evening was the unveiling of a monument dedicated to Hornish Jr.'s efforts that will be placed in a local park to signify their "hometown hero's" accomplishment.

"I just had a great time tonight," said Hornish Jr. after the event. "To be honored by my community like this is just an unbelievable feeling. When I first heard that the City of Defiance wanted to do this for me I said `why would they want to honor me?' But after seeing what a fantastic job everyone did, I just couldn't be more proud. This community has given me and my family so much support over the years; it was an honor to have been able to celebrate with them tonight."

It's fitting that Hornish Jr.'s entire community wholeheartedly embraced him for his accomplishment this past May; as the world-class racecar driver has always kept his community at the top of his priority list. Hornish Jr. and his family have never forgotten their roots and their generosity can be seen throughout the town of Defiance. Over the past few years, Hornish Jr. and his family have created the "Sam Hornish Family Heart Center" at the Defiance Medical Center; the "Sam Hornish Family Youth Lounge" at the Defiance YMCA; the "Sam Hornish Family Chapel" at the new Hospice Center; and the "Sam Hornish Family Fitness Room" at Tinora High School, which is minutes away from Hornish Jr.'s childhood home. In addition, Hornish Jr. is in the process of creating the "Sam Hornish Jr. Foundation," which will act as the vehicle for all of his future philanthropic activities.

"Those that are given a lot have a lot of expectations placed on them," explains Hornish Jr. "I've been lucky enough to be blessed with good fortune and a happy, healthy family and I want to be able to help provide for those less fortunate than myself. To be able to be in a position to help is a wonderful thing and you can't expect other people to give if you don't lead by example."

-team penske

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis