I tested this week at Nashville, and being smaller and with less banking than Texas, it doesn't really help all that much to get ready for Texas. But it's still a good place to go because you get some decent straightaway speed, and since it's concrete, it has more grip. The test wasn't really to emphasize what tracks we're preparing for, because right now, we feel we've got enough work to do just to get the cars right in general.
I'm looking forward to Texas for a lot of reasons, starting with my celebrity bowling tournament Thursday night. It's the fourth one I've done, having started it when I was driving Indy cars, and we're a little bit late this year doing it late October versus doing it in early June like we've done in the past, but I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great night for us. I had often thought if we could have done it around a NASCAR race we'd do really well, so hopefully I'm right.
Speedway Children's Charities and Texas Motor Speedway a few years ago approached me about doing a benefit, and they knew I was more interested in bowling than golf. A lot of people ask me, "Why Texas?" Well, TMS approached me and asked about it, and really, I'm able to do a lot in my home state of Ohio and give back to my community there and also in Indianapolis, because I used to spend a month of my year there preparing for the Indianapolis 500. We like to give back to places outside of our home base, and if you think about it, there are so many people who come to our races, it's nice to give something back to them. It's all about being able to give back to the people who support us and allow us to do what we love to do, and I'm grateful for them.
I have quite a few bowling balls. I bought one a while back, and I have six now. Because I participate in a lot of bowling tournaments and stuff like that and meet guys like professional bowlers Mike Alby and Danny Wiseman, they've been good to me, giving me bowling balls. The thing that people don't realize about bowling is the top 10 or 15 guys on the tour bring in excess of 30 balls to an event. People think you bowl a straight ball like most people learn to bowl, but when you get up there in the professional ranks, in order to keep guys from getting 300 all the time, they actually change the way the lanes are patterned, and there's a machine that oils the lanes, and that changes the way the ball spins. That way, these guys will end up bowling a 210 in the final round.
When I used to bowl all the time, I went to the same place and bowled on the same lanes. I could average 200 pretty easily. But when you go to these lanes where the pros go … I bowled a 115 the first time. It's really like a racetrack. Depending on the day and the weather, the track does different things, just like a bowling lane after it's been oiled. It's just amazing, though, how detailed it gets. One guy had 50 balls at one event, and a lot of the balls are undrilled so that way they can determine how your fingers need to be in the ball so it gets a certain spin. The balls are made with different materials for the same reason. There's a lot of things involved, a lot like racing, that people don't know about.
The best number I've bowled was a 246. I bowled seriously one year before I started running Indy cars, when I used to have my own time … before I got married … and had a kid. What will I bowl on Thursday? I'll say somewhere between 115 and 200. I doubt I'll be any lower than 115.
The fourth Sam Hornish Jr. Celebrity Bowling Tournament is Thursday night at Brunswick Zone-Watauga in Texas. For information, visit www.scctexas.org. The event, which also includes an auction of sports memorabilia, begins at 7 p.m.
Sam Hornish Jr., 28, drives the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger. He will take ESPN.com readers inside his life on and off the track each week with the help of writer Angelique S. Chengelis.