World Champ Racer Sam Hornish Jr. Speaks to UVU Students, Encourages Next Generation of Racers

Sam Hornish Jr. is a family man. He loves spending time with his wife and daughters and gets around in a pickup truck. But what the world knows him for is his incredible success in professional racing.

Hornish shared his success story with UVU students and faculty on Monday. This is the second time in three months that the pro racer offered life and career advice to Wolverines. The first meeting was in Indiana last December along with “The King,” Richard Petty (check out the photo gallery below and watch the accompanying video for a full recap).

At just 26 years of age, Hornish had accomplished his lifelong dream — to win the Indianapolis 500, often called the Indy 500.

The Indy 500 is a 500-mile race comprised of 200 laps around a circuit. Being eligible to compete in the race alone is a significant accomplishment.

Sam grew up racing and spent his weekends go-karting with his dad. He said that his passion and skill started at a young age, when he first decided to become a professional racer.

“When I was a kid we didn’t go to Disneyland, we went to the races,” Hornish said, as he fondly recalled his first experiences with racing.

Hornish would go on to 25 career wins, including the Indy 500 and three Indy Car Series championships. In 2006, he won the Indy 500 by just 6/100ths of a second, which was the second-closest in Indy history at the time.

But he insists that his success comes as a result of teamwork. In professional racing, a crew is assembled to build and repair the car, fine-tune the engine, and monitor the driver’s performance in great detail.

“Each person on the team plays an integral part,” Hornish said. “Everyone needs to work together and do their part to win the race.”

Throughout the race, crew members service the car and give live feedback to their driver. Hornish said that he always considered what would be best for the team, by making sure to drive his best and know the limits of the car he was driving.

In professional racing, drivers reach speeds up to 250 mph. Surprisingly, that isn’t the hardest part for Hornish. For him, it’s waiting at the starting line and nervously anticipating the signal to begin the race.

Hornish competed in both Indy Car and NASCAR races — a transition that didn’t come easily to him at first. He said it was a test of his ego and rapport with his team.

But Hornish isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. He credits his success in part to his willingness to try new things.

“I was willing to roll the dice a few times and ran races maybe other drivers wouldn’t.”

Hornish encouraged students to work hard and be willing to take opportunities as they come. He promised that “being in the right place at the right time” has a lot to do with your character and work ethic.

“Many people think they’re above doing certain types of jobs,” he said. “If you have good character, you will go far.”

Hornish encouraged UVU students to pursue careers in automotive technology. His takeaway was for students to share their love of racing with the next generation and ensure they have the opportunity to learn the skills needed to succeed in the industry.

The College of Engineering and Technology at UVU offers five programs in transportation technology, with opportunities for students to earn an associate degree, diploma, or certificate.

To find out more about the transportation technology department at UVU, click here