Commentary

High expectations heading to Indy

Updated: August 17, 2013, 10:27 AM ET
By Sam Hornish Jr. | Special to ESPN.com

Hey, everyone. It has been a while since the last time we've had the chance to catch up. During that time, the Alliance Truck Parts/Wurth team and I have also been doing a lot of catching up. The last time I wrote, we had just had our only DNF of the year, and we were 58 points out of first place in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings. Now, five races later, we are in the lead again with a slight advantage over the second- and third-place drivers.

[+] EnlargeSam Hornish Jr.
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty ImagesSam Hornish Jr. got to kiss the bricks after winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500.

This weekend we are returning to a track that is particularly memorable and special to me as it is for many -- the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In an earlier blog, just before the Indy 500, I talked a little bit about Indy. Now we are heading there for the second time with the Nationwide Series and our first time with our Ford Mustang. We had a pretty decent race there last year as we finished second right behind our Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski. That was certainly a pretty big deal since Roger Penske has such a long and storied history at the Brickyard.

It has been a busy time, as over the summer months we race every weekend. Even though it's hectic, I like to spend as much time as I can with my family during the summertime, just like most of you, I am sure. Our daughter Addie will be starting school before long, so we are trying to make the most of this time.

Right now our second daughter, Eliza, is still just a bit too young to participate in some of the activities so sometimes it's just Addie and me that venture out together. I like to take her to a river tow path that is close to our home in Ohio. It's really pretty cool. It makes for a very interesting and entertaining outing. Walking along the tow path is enjoyable as it's really peaceful and there's also a lot of history associated with that area. While we are out there, I do my best to point out wildlife and share as much as I know about the tow paths in the area. Addie seems to enjoy it as much as I do, which makes it truly special for the two of us.

Another highlight of this summer took place on the way to our Nationwide Series race in Chicago. We took Addie and Eliza to the America Girls Store. For those of you that are not familiar with this place, it is almost theme-park-like in scale, and it is like a doll fantasy land for young girls. We let the girls pick out a doll and a few accessories to go with them. This was kind of a two-day deal as we did some of it on Thursday afternoon, and then we had breakfast there on Friday morning. If you have daughters, this is something you should look into as they'll love this place.

That covers some of the things that have been going on off-track, now for a little on-track review. As I mentioned at the beginning, we've done a lot of catching up in the series point standings. The Michigan race cost us a lot of points as our car broke and we finished 32nd while our championship competition won the race. The following weekend at Road America we did pretty well, finishing fifth, though we still dropped to third in the standings. That is the lowest we've been in the points battle so far this year.

[+] EnlargeSam Hornish Jr.
Chris Trotman/NASCAR/Getty ImagesSam Hornish Jr. won the pole for the Nationwide Series stop at Chicagoland Speedway on July 21.

After that, we raced at Kentucky and managed a top-10 as we finished ninth, yet we made it back up to second in the series standings. The next two races at Daytona and Loudon we finished seventh, which is respectable, but we're capable of better. Daytona was especially tough as we led 61 laps and then got shuffled back on the last restart. Then last weekend at Chicago we had a fast Ford Mustang and led 56 laps. We just missed out on the win as our teammate Joey Logano got past us on the last restart to give Penske Racing its first 1-2 finish of the year. So even though we came up just a little short for the win, we did reclaim the top spot in the series standings, which is something we feel pretty good about.

I don't always remember to share them with you, but another thing that we do a lot of through the summer months is to visit our sponsors when we are close to one of their facilities. On the way to Road America we stopped by the Snap-on plant in Crystal Lake, Ill. It was pretty cool to see that place. It was a giant distribution center. They ship tools all over the world from that facility, and they gave me a big ol' crow bar, which I haven't had the chance to use yet. We also visited a Cintas plant on the way to Kentucky, an SKF facility outside of Chicago and then this week we made an appearance for Alliance Truck Parts in Syracuse, N.Y. So as you can see we tend to stay pretty busy between races.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, we are heading into the Indiana 250 at the Brickyard. This race gives us an opportunity to do something that no other driver has, which is to win at the speedway in two different series. That would be something significant, and we're going to give it our best shot. We still have to keep in mind how tight this championship battle is and race smart. The way the season is shaping up it looks like it is going to take consistent top-5 finishes to earn the championship.

Over the past five races since the last blog, we've traveled many miles. We've also made up a lot of ground in the series point standings, and we've had some fantastic times with the girls, too. While it has been extremely busy and sometimes almost overwhelming as I do my best to give my all to racing and my family, I am grateful for all of the opportunities and for the wonderful family that we have.

Thanks for reading.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Sam Hornish Jr. drives the No. 12 Ford Mustang for Penske Racing. He will share his thoughts on and off the track with ESPN.com readers periodically this season. Follow him on Twitter @samhornish and on Facebook.

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