I got a rare opportunity to interview the wife of Sam Hornish Jr., who drives the No. 77 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The former Crystal Liechty attended Archbold High School in Archbold, Ohio, along with Sam, her high school sweetheart, and the two were married on June 5, 2004, in Indianapolis, a week after the Indy 500. They recently moved closer to Penske Racing near Charlotte, North Carolina from Ohio after Sam Hornish Jr became a rookie driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 2008.
So what is like to be the wife of a man who races at speeds over 200 MPH in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series for a living?
As high school sweethearts, Crystal developed a love of racing traveling to races to watch Sam Hornish Jr compete in his earliest years in racing. Sam Hornish Jr. is best known for his open wheel accomplishments, which include an Indianapolis 500 victory and three Indy Racing League championships. She is Sam's #1 fan of course and needs to be a very dedicated fan as the NASCAR Sprint Cup race season begins in February and runs through November each year, the longest sporting event season on National TV. This includes 41 races and a ton of packing and unpacking for Crystal and Sam with baby Addison in tow. Crystal and Sam Hornish Jr. welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Addison Faith on February 4, 2008. Addison weighed in at 7 lbs, 2 oz and was 18 inches long. Addison went to her first race at only 3 weeks old; she is 8 months old now and a seasoned race fan. She even has her own custom made racing fire suit, (pictured, right).
Crystal mentioned after Addison was born they feel like they are moving each time they travel to a new race venue with all the extra bags full of baby needs, including the pack-n-play, stroller, car seat and baby toys. Travel together as a race family can be a daunting task, which Crystal Hornish handles with a smile and a commitment to family togetherness. "It is so important to be together as a family so Addison and I try to make most all of Sam's races", says Crystal Hornish. Yes, NASCAR is a family affair, for spectators and competitors - not only families like Sam and Crystal Hornish Jr., but also the extended family the sport creates between fans and racers. One of the reason I am a fan.
I so admire Crystal's commitment to keep the family together as much as possible. Her biggest challenge is missing family who all live in their hometown in Ohio. The support of grandparents, aunts and other close friends and family is what she misses most being on the road. From time to time grandparents and aunts on both sides come to the races or they take a break to visit and it provides time for her and Sam to get some quality time together with family and a break from parenting a new baby on the road. Moving fast, traveling most of eight months out of the year with a baby on her hip.
Her most exciting moment as the proud wife of Sam Hornish Jr. was when he won the Indianapolis 500 in 2006. Her complete joy, excitement and pride watching her husband take the victory lap in his Corvette that day is one for the family memory book for sure. The 90th Indianapolis 500 was held on Sunday, May 28, 2006. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the race with the first final-lap pass for victory in race history, by overtaking, on the final straightaway, rookie Marco Andretti, whose father Michael Andretti finished third. The margin of victory was 0.0635 seconds, the second-closest finish in the history of the 500.
What kind of car does Crystal Hornish Jr. drive? A Cadillac Escalade, a roomy, comfortable and safe ride with plenty of room for all of their gear, Sam's racing gear and all that baby gear for Addison!