By age 12 Hornish was racing go-karts all around the Midwest and Southeast. At the World Karting Association Nationals in Charlotte in 1992, Hornish and then-12-year-old Sarah Fisher were dueling for the win on the last lap. When Fisher—who is starting in row 7 in Sunday's 500—went for the pass, Hornish bumped her off the track and won the race. Afterward Fisher, who at the time was bigger than Hornish, threatened to beat him up. "I got in the little jerk's face," recalls Fisher, "and we haven't really talked since. I'll say this: Sam will do whatever it takes to win."
"Sam is a lot like me," says retired four-time Indy 500 champ Rick Mears. "Some guys go as fast as they can all the time. Sam has discipline. He understands that the most important lap is the last one."
In his free time Hornish, like any good ol' American race driver, likes to hunt—for morel mushrooms, a rare delicacy that grows in the area. On a recent evening in Napoleon, just as the last blush of sunlight faded from the Ohio sky, Hornish tramped the woods searching for morels. "I can't be any further away from racing than I am right now" said Hornish, "but the Indy 500 is always on my mind. I've raced in the 500 four times, and my best finish is 14th. I've struggled. But I've imagined winning there all my life. It would be so...so...."
Hornish couldn't say what it would be like to stand in Victory Lane. On Sunday, though, he just might find out.
Good Teammates Don't Bump
Like all multiple-car owners, Jack Roush has one rule that his drivers must always follow: Never wreck a teammate.
Last Saturday night at the Nextel All-Star Challenge, Kurt Busch momentarily forgot this directive. Hurtling down the front straightaway on Lap 11 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, Busch bumped into the back of teammate Greg Biffle's car, which sent Biffle into the wall and triggered a 13-car crash that knocked Busch out as well. " Kurt Busch got his head up...whatever, you know," Biffle fumed after he got out of his wrecked Ford, and later declared that either he or Busch would have to leave the Roush team.
The night wasn't a total loss for Roush, however. Another of his drivers, Matt Kenseth, took the checkered flag and the $1 million payout—cash that Roush can now use to repair two totaled cars.