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NASCAR's Sam Hornish Jr. is a case study of a racer's tenacity

NASCAR's Sam Hornish Jr. is a case study of a racer's tenacity
Sam Hornish Jr. in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., on Sept. 20. (Daniel Shirey / Getty Images)

There have been more than a few occasions in recent years when one might have asked: Why does Sam Hornish Jr. still do this?

After winning three IndyCar series titles and 19 IndyCar races, including the crown jewel Indianapolis 500 in 2006, Hornish joined some other open-wheel drivers who migrated to NASCAR.

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Yet even for someone with Hornish's record and skill, stock-car racing proved to be exceptionally difficult. Hornish often struggled in both NASCAR's elite Sprint Cup Series and then in its second-level Nationwide Series.

But Hornish, the 35-year-old native of Defiance, Ohio, known for his pronounced sideburns, is nothing if not tenacious. He refused to give up on NASCAR racing and won three Nationwide races between 2011 and 2014.

And his perseverance paid off Wednesday.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Hornish would return to the premier Cup series next year, driving its No. 9 Ford full time. He'll replace Marcos Ambrose, who's leaving after this season to return to his native Australia.

In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday, Hornish said his struggles had "all been worth it."

"Even the bad days — as long as you can weather them and understand that it doesn't necessarily define who you are as a person or even as your career goes, even on the bad days I got to do what I always wanted to do growing up, and not too many people get to say that," he said.

"You learn a lot more about yourself from defeats and things like that," Hornish added. "There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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