Sunday, May 25, 2003

Hornish hopes a win will quiet his critics

Indy has proven bad luck for IRL points champ

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Sam Hornish Jr. has been asked the question often. Answering it has proved difficult.

For two seasons, Hornish has done virtually everything on the Indy Racing League circuit - taking back-to-back points championships, winning on six different tracks and earning nearly $5 million. But what about the Indianapolis 500?

"I hear that question quite a few times, and basically I'm trying to figure out a way to get people to stop asking it," he said. "I guess the only way to do that is to win Indy."

Hornish enters today's race again hoping to change an undistinguished record on the 2 1/2-mile oval.

He's never started on the front row, never finished in the top 10, never even led a lap here - stats not befitting a points champion.

He'll start 18th today, the lowest of his four Indy starts, and despite being the highest-qualified starter with a Chevy engine, he still has struggled.

"If he wins the race this year with what he has to work with, they should rename this place after him," team owner John Barnes said Wednesday.

Barnes isn't bashful about his regard for Hornish's skills. He calls Hornish, who turns 24 in July, the best open-wheel racer in America, maybe even the world.

More important for the IRL, Hornish has all the traits needed to be its poster boy: He's young, charismatic and successful.

After posting eight wins in his last 28 races and becoming the first IRL driver to win consecutive points titles, Hornish still isn't its best-known figure. That distinction belongs to Helio Castroneves for one reason - he's a two-time Indy winner. He is the Phil Mickelson of the IRL - a good competitor who failed to win the "big one."

"It's depressing sometimes, because I know we could have had some good races," said Hornish, who's 10th in the IRL points standings. "I always look forward to coming back here, I just don't like to talk about it."

Barnes explains Hornish's struggles as part inexperience, part timing. In his first two Indy starts, Barnes said Hornish was too impatient. Last year, Hornish spent the entire month preaching patience. His reward? Finishing ahead of only eight other drivers and last among those who hadn't dropped out of the race or crashed. In his two other Indy starts, Hornish finished 24th and 14th.

While some view Hornish as the IRL's face of the future, there have been murmurs he is considering moving to NASCAR next season. His contract with Panther Racing runs out this year, and Barnes said he does not know if Hornish will leave the IRL.

Marlins 5, Reds 4
Daugherty: Baseball's fan base
Bat keeps Castro in infield
Reds notebook: Encarnacion has walked in Guillen's shoes
DAYTON: Minor league, major draw
Reds chatter
Reds Q & A
Down on the farm

NL: Glavine unlucky in Atlanta return
AL: Blue Jays deal reeling Yankees another loss
MLB power rankings
Japanese on way to All-Star Game

Bengals Q & A

A-10 moves entire tourney to Dayton

Muscle, fitness key to competing

St. X hangs on to continue streak
Titans win behind SS Kalcheck
Lander leads Lebanon to district win
St. Henry boys are state favorites
Wyoming wins 2nd straight title
CCD doesn't surprise as it repeats
CovCath proves its doubters wrong
Groeschen: Football signees get a sendoff on June 12
Schmidt: Heritage's Iverson courting scholarship
Saturday's results

Lady Surge land McDonald's star
Swarm fall to Islanders

Pick a story, enjoy the ride
Indy 500: Today's field of 33
Alonso makes name on F1 circuit
Hornish hopes a win will quiet his critics
Drivers warned to keep start safe
Car owner Ganassi chases daily double
Catalyst can cut amount of carbon monoxide
Buschwhacker Kenseth wins

Wiser Nets eliminate Pistons
Nowitzki doubtful for tonight's Game 4

Brodeur vs. Giguere in championship matchup

Perry's 61 ties course record

French Open: Serena leading a hungry pack

The naming game
Tale of the Tape - Michael Andretti vs. Michael Corleone
Page Two power rankings