By admin | May 21, 2009
By Richard Allen
Tony Stewart and Sam Hornish, Jr. each won a race at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Saturday night. That is not all these two drivers have in common.
Both of these drivers grew up in the heart of Indy Car racing territory. Stewart is from Indiana while Hornish hails from Ohio. Both began racing go-karts at an early age with an eye toward one day roaring around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May.
Both drivers were fortunate enough to achieve their goal. Their racing careers landed them at the world’s most famous race course to pursue the coveted glass of milk that awaits the winner of the Indianapolis 500 mile race.
Both had successful careers in the Indy Car ranks.
In the mid-1990s, Stewart seemed well on his way to achieving his goal of Indy glory. He was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1996. The next year he won the Indy Racing League season championship.
However, the declining state of open wheel racing in the U.S. during the late 1990s forced Stewart to look elsewhere in order to build his racing career. In 1999 he took up racing in NASCAR’s highest division full time.
Since that time there has been little reason to look back. He has won two NASCAR championships and has managed two wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, albeit in stock cars rather than open wheel machines.
Even though there are marked similarities, the career of Sam Hornish differs from that of Stewart in two significant ways. First, Hornish achieved the feat that both of these drivers yearned for in their younger days. In 2006, he won the Indianapolis 500 by making a pass for the lead just before crossing the finish line.
A second contrast in the careers of these men is the fact that Stewart has had far more success in NASCAR. While Hornish has won three Indy Car titles, Stewart has scored the previously mentioned NASCAR championships.
Now, both drivers are racing for highly financed teams that provide the equipment capable of winning NASCAR races. However, instead of racing around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the month of May, they will be applying their trade at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway just outside Charlotte, NC this Memorial Day weekend.
While the race that both of these men grew up dreaming of winning is finishing in Indianapolis, they will be preparing to fire their engines for a 600 mile endurance test in Charlotte.
Both have already experienced success in this month of May. However, one has to wonder if they would have liked that success to have come in a different location.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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