While Sam Hornish Jr. has taken a bit of a step backwards, from racing in the Cup Series last year to now competing in select Nationwide races, he firmly believes that this step back will most surely lead soon to big steps forward.
[media-credit name=”David Yeazall ” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Hornish will be back in his Nationwide No. 12 Penske race car this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. He will be sponsored for his fourth start of the Nationwide season, the Bubba Burger 250, by Olympic Paints, a sponsor that was on his car for his best finish to date, a fourth place finish at Pocono a few years ago.
“I couldn’t be more excited for this weekend’s race at Richmond,” Hornish said. “It’s one of my favorite tracks and I have a lot of success here. I’ve always liked the track.”
Hornish is also coming off a successful run at Talladega where he led laps and was in the top five most of the day. He finished the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide race at Talladega in the 13th spot.
Yet, in spite of moving forward with the 2011 Nationwide season, Hornish’s step back has not been without its challenges.
“It’s been rough for us,” Hornish admitted. “All the guys that work on my car have other jobs at the shop. So, we’re a side project a little bit.”
“It’s not exactly a perfect scenario,” Hornish said. “But sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward.”
“We want to race in the Cup Series but this allows me to keep my foot in the game,” Hornish said of his Nationwide schedule. “We want to give this opportunity to our sponsor to get their feet wet in it and understand where they wanted to be and what they wanted to do. We feel like we’re growing a sponsor and it’s a way to keep myself in the game.”
In spite of the step back, Hornish truly is embracing the opportunities and the lessons to be learned from it.
“For me, it gives me the opportunity to work with new people and a new sponsor,” Hornish said. “On the personal side, I’ve had a lot more time to spend with my family. That’s been one of the benefits of this scenario.”
Hornish also is careful to put his step back this year in perspective, particularly with the difficulties that so many have experienced with the recent storms and tornadoes in the Midwest and Southern parts of the country.
“It’s obviously an unfortunate situation for a lot of people and we’re definitely thinking of that this weekend,” Hornish said. “I woke up five times throughout the night watching the news and the weather. It’s unfortunate for sure.”
He also got a perspective check when he visited injured soldiers at the Hunter Homes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia in preparation for the race weekend.
“We did a walk through the spinal cord injury unit at the VA and met a lot of nice people,” Hornish said. “It was a good day and it puts a lot of things in perspective.”
Another benefit of Hornish’s step back is being able to participate in his newest off-track gig, giving voice to Roary the Racing Car, an animated series carried on the PBS Kids Sprout Channel. Roary the Racing Car tracks the adventures of a young race car that resides at the Silver Hatch Racetrack, exploring his relationship with his race car friends and Big Chris, a mechanic who loves karaoke.
“That’s definitely a fun thing for me to do,” Hornish said. “It’s a once in a lifetime and most guys don’t get to have a part on a TV show. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Bottom line, however, Hornish yearns to get himself and his season moving forward so that he can position himself for a return to the Cup Series at some point in the very near future.
“Obviously my goal is to get back into the Cup Series one way or another,” Hornish said. “I don’t just want to start and park.”
“So, I’m just looking how to do that,” Hornish said. “We’ll just see how things play out.”
“I feel like the next step forward is just right around the corner for us,” Hornish continued. “With my previous success at Richmond and how well our test went, I’ve got a good feeling about this weekend.”
“For the fans who are supporting us and giving us wishes and prayers to race more often, I’m hoping we get that job done for them.”