Inspiring Athletes

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Sam Hornish Jr. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

He won the Indianapolis 500 and two Indy Car championships. Then suddenly, Sam Hornish Jr., decided to follow the likes of Tony Stewart, Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya into the very different world of stock car racing.

Since then, he’s found modest success at the NASCAR Sprint Cup level with Penske Racing and more recently taken up the opportunity to rebuild some competitive capital in the Nationwide Series. But no matter where Hornish races, it’s his strong faith upbringing that always sustains him.

In this interview with Hornish, we learn more about his family’s racing obsession, the importance of maintaining his Christian witness and why (despite what his mom says) he won’t be gracing a church pulpit anytime soon:

Chad Bonham: Do you sometimes feel like you were destined to be a racecar driver?

Sam Hornish: I’m a big race fan. I got that from my parents. They’ve always been big race fans. I think we only went to Disney World once but other than that our family vacations were always to races. They supported me so much early on in my career. They supported me financially and emotionally. And even though they don’t need to support me financially anymore, they’re still always around trying to help me out and making sure I have the right mindset. I feel like my parents are a very big influence on who I am. I feel very lucky to have two parents that care so much about me and they have such a strong interest in what I do.

Bonham: Are you still comfortable with your move to NASCAR?

Sam Hornish Jr. prepares for fall season Sprint Cup race in 2006 (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Hornish: I’m very thankful for what I was able to accomplish (at Indy Car). But I’m the kind of guy that tries to look at today and what’s going on today and how I can make myself better for tomorrow. I don’t think about the past too much. Somewhere down the road when I retire I’ll probably be able to appreciate it a little more. Right now, it’s just about staying focused and making myself better over here.”

Bonham: Your mom once said that if you weren’t a race car driver, you’d be a pastor. Do you agree with that assessment?

Hornish: This is kind of my own way to minister to people. It’s not necessarily about being the guy that’s up there sharing from a pulpit. But I’ve been able to profess my faith and maybe reach more people than if I had been a pastor. The one thing that would’ve kept me from being a pastor is my fear of public speaking. I have a hard time believing that people care about what I have to say sometimes.

Bonham: How does your faith in God keep you in the right frame of mind?

Sam Hornish Jr., with daughter Addison at the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona on July 2, 2010 (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Hornish: Faith plays a big role in helping me stay even keeled. Having the support of (Motor Racing Outreach) has also been great. I don’t know what I would do if we didn’t have that available to us. It’s been an amazing thing to be a part of. You can read the Bible five times through but when you go and hear someone talk about what they see through the Word, it can open your eyes to a lot more. It’s always good to get a different point of view.

Bonham: How do you handle the pressure of big-time racing and still maintain your Christian witness?

Hornish: I try not to talk about it too much because I don’t want people to think that I’ll never make a mistake and be that guy throwing a helmet at somebody else’s car. But I’ve tried to always be that guy that understands that people are going to make mistakes and realize that sometimes it’s just not my day. I’m not always going to take the high road but I’ll always try to do that. There’s a certain responsibility we have to these fans. Part of that for me is being a good Christian person and doing the right thing. It’s about helping kids feel better by signing autographs. We’re not just out here driving race cars.

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