Hornish Jr., Patrick to Renew Kentucky Acquaintances in the Feed The Children 300
A racing rivalry 17 years in the making will open a new chapter tonight when Danica Patrick and Sam Hornish Jr. square off in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
Patrick and Hornish Jr. will share Kentucky Speedway NASCAR space for the first time tonight. Hornish Jr., a six-year NASCAR racing veteran, enters the 12th NNS race in track history ranked fourth in the series standings while Patrick sits 10th.
Driving hard and driven to win, Patrick and Hornish Jr., have found that sharing space and spotlights often leads to bruised egos and dented fenders.
Hornish, 32, and Patrick, 30, began their shared history as go-kart racing teenagers. A crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the North American Karting Championships was the first time the two locked horns and traded paint.
As their careers rolled onto the tracks of the IndyCar Series, the chase for checkered flags travelled along separate paths. Hornish Jr. drove beneath the radar to 19 wins and three series titles while Patrick became the face of IndyCar, despite winning just once and finishing career-best fifth in points in 2009.
Hornish Jr., and Patrick went head-to-head three times in Kentucky Spedway IndyCar Series events, a track that yielded victories to Hornish Jr., in 2003 and 2006. Patrick's scored her IndyCar Series track- best eighth-place finishes in 2009 and 2006.
Hornish Jr., moved to full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) racing in 2008 with Penske Racing, the same team that powered him in the IndyCar Series. When 108 starts produced only two top-five finishes without a victory, a sponsorship departure floated a cloud of uncertainty over Hornish Jr.'s racing future. In 2011, the Defiance, Ohio, native signed moved to Penske's NNS team. Hornish won at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 12 and finished 23rd in the season points race.
Patrick signed with the Dale Earnhardt Jr. owned JR Motorsports team in 2010 and split the next two seasons between IndyCar and NNS racing. In 2011, she finished 26th in points, but recorded the best NASCAR finish by a female competitor when she crossed the finish line fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
With her star and stock soaring, Patrick placed IndyCar Series racing in the rear view this season to race full-time in the NNS. The move set the stage for Patrick and Hornish to renew their rivalry and the tandem gladly obliged.
On May 5, they reunited at Talladega Superspeedway. Patrick, feeling her car was given a final-lap squeeze job by Hornish Jr.'s car, nosed Hornish Jr.'s car into the wall after crossing start-finish line.
Just more a month later, Patrick and Hornish Jr., had a second encounter at Dover International Speedway that put Patrick into the Monster Mile's wall. Hornish Jr., offered a qualified apology, citing a flat tire as the cause of the crash.
Patrick's issues have not been limited to Hornish. Her bid for a NASCAR career-best finish was dashed when Jacques Villeneuve spun her out on the final lap at Road America last week, giving new life to speculation that Patrick is getting pushed around either because she is a woman or a rookie… or both.
Earnhardt Jr. said Patrick's issues with Hornish Jr., and other drivers can only be resolved by Patrick.
"I think some people she has a history with and some guys don't respect anybody. Everybody sort of goes through that. Joey Logano went through that, where he had to sort of put his foot down with guys shoving him around the racetrack," Earhnardt said. "I probably went through that a little bit in my career. Every guy has to stand up for themselves at some point, and not just take notice of that individual they are in confrontation with, but really set the tone throughout the entire garage."
Patrick, however, has never made issue of any treatment she's received from Hornish Jr., or any other driver.
"People around me that have been around and seen these things, they are telling me that this shouldn't be happening, I am being treated a little unfairly and I'm getting roughed up a little bit," Patrick said. "All I can do is use my experience of how I treat other drivers and decide for myself whether or not I feel like they've been a little tough out there.
"You just have to give it back. You have to earn their respect that way. If they did something to you, you need to attempt to stop it," Patrick said.
Patrick will have her next chance to gain the respect of Hornish Jr., and the rest of a 43-car NNS field when she takes the Feed the Children 300 green flag tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at speedway gates.Story by Jeff Hibbs