SAM HORNISH/#39 Mobil 1 Dodge is attempting to make his first start in the NASCAR Busch Series. In the first practice early Friday afternoon, Hornish was thirty-eighth fastest in a field of 47 drivers vying for the 43-car grid. He turned a 28.623/125.773 mph. KYLE BUSCH/#5 Lowes Chevrolet was fastest at 27,761/129.678 mph.
Hornish said he's a bit nervous and a lot of new things he has to learn, including how to drive the car into pit lane. "Some things you have to try and pick up as quickly as you can."
Hornish said "I'll be harder on myself than anyone else. I will be as realistic as I can going into this. If I'm smart and patient and stay out of trouble, there's no reason we shouldn't be in the top fifteen."
When asked if he is ready to race NASCAR full time, Hornish said it was "too soon to tell how I'm going to fare, or if I will 100 percent like it. Racing NASCAR gives me the opportunity to try something different, and race against drivers I've never driven with before. Penske Racing has been supportive in whatever I want to do in racing. That's the great thing about driving for Roger - I don't have to give up my IRL seat to race here in Busch. And there will be a certain amount of pride for Roger if I do well here in NASCAR. It will be a busy season and with both IRL and NASCAR, I will have a good idea of what a 38-race schedule will be like."
Indy Racing League will be testing at Daytona International Speedway in January 2007. Hornish, who races IRL with Penske Motorsports, expects to spend a lot of time during the 'off season' in Daytona. "Why wouldn't we want to race there? I think it will be a neat thing. A night race would be great."
Hornish thinks the two American open wheel series are as healthy as they can be while remaining separate. "If it hadn't been for TONY (TONY GEORGE, President of Indy Racing League) bringing American drivers to an open wheel series, you wouldn't know who Sam Hornish was."
Meanwhile, the driver that Hornish last raced as a Rookie in the 2000 Indianapolis 500, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/#42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge, was fifteenth fastest in the first Busch practice, with 28.163/127.827 mph. Montoya ran his won and only Indy 500, starting second as a Rookie and winning. Hornish also started that race as a Rookie in twenty-fourth place and finished fourteenth. He tried six more times and this year won the Indy 500 from the pole, in one of closest and exciting finishes seen at The Brickyard.
The Rookie Busch Series practice, which includes new drivers but not necessarily officially declared Rookies was mid-afternoon Friday. The weather continued to be sunny and warm, with an autumnal crisp and breeze.
Hornish was second fastest among the 14 drivers on track, behind SHANE HUFFMAN/#88 NAVY Chevrolet, and ahead of JPM in third place. Busch Series Qualifying is Saturday morning.