Hornish makes his own luck this weekend at Watkins Glen

Eric Mauk

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said that luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

That being the case, Sam Hornish Jr.’s last few seasons have more than prepared him for the opportunity provided by A.J. Allmendinger’s drug suspension – allowing the former Indianapolis 500 winner to make his own luck this weekend at Watkins Glen.

Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge
Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Presented with the chance to revive a flagging NASCAR Sprint Cup career when he was tabbed to replace Allmendinger in the Penske Racing Dodge, Hornish proved this weekend that he learned a few things in his four years of toil after jumping from Indy cars.

He won the pole and finished third in the Nationwide event on Saturday, then used his racecraft to put himself in position for a late-race charge that gave him a top-five finish in Sunday’s Sprint Cup event.

“I thought that we had a great car, great strategy and it all worked out today,” Hornish reported. “We had to come a long way from the back (17th) to start the race but I knew that the car was fast enough to make my way up through the pack. I just had to be patient and not wear the car out before the end of the race.

“I probably ran about 95 percent most of the day knowing that I needed a fast car late in the day to have a shot at a top 10 or better,” Hornish continued. “It was about five laps to go when I really put the hammer down and run as hard as I can. I’m proud of this team. We continue to get better each week and that’s what you need at this level.”

Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge
Sam Hornish Jr., Penske Racing Dodge

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Never known as a great road-course racer during his time in open-wheel racing, Hornish did the same thing on Saturday, rolling from pole and staying out of trouble on his way to a third-place finish. The result allowed Hornish to leapfrog Austin Dillon in the Nationwide series standings and into third place – just 24 points behind points leader Elliot Sadler.

“That’s what you have to do. I felt like today was the day that we were going to have an opportunity to gain on the championship point lead,” said Hornish.”When we have days like this and can be smart about the things that we do, it always helps to have a good handling racecar to allow you to do that. We want to win races but we know we need to get top-fives and be consistent before that happens. You don’t need to win every race to win the championship. You just have to be smart and that’s what we’ve done so far.”

Hornish’s resurgence has caught the eye of many racing pundits, and has not gone unnoticed on his own team. Sunday runner-up and Hornish’s Penske Racing stablemate Brad Keselowski has seen the change in the Ohio-born driver and believes thathe is ready to take the next step in his career.

“I mean, there's no doubt, and we've talked about it, Roger (Penske) and I have even talked about it, he's done a phenomenal job of growing as a driver,” Keselowski said. “I think running in both series has been huge for him. I think he's gaining a lot of confidence and starting to come into his own in a way. His progress as of late has been something I'm proud to see. I hope that in some small way I'm a part of that in working with him. It's something that I think we all enjoy watching – a driver get the hang of this sport, especially a guy as kind and who has paid some dues like Sam has.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers A.J. Allmendinger , Brad Keselowski , Austin Dillon , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske
Article type Commentary
Tags dodge, hornish, nascar-cup, nascar-ns, nationwide, penske, watkins glen