Hornish returning to the ‘500’?

Could 2006 Indy winner make a comeback next year?

Sam Hornish Jr., NASCAR driver.

It may or may not have taken a while for most people to get used to that, but it appears that we’ve have done so. His three IZOD IndyCar Series championships and his 2006 Indianapolis 500 victories are fond memories, but they’re still just memories.

But maybe Hornish has one more magical moment to create in an IndyCar. During yesterday’s announcement of Shell-Pennzoil sponsoring Helio Castroneves’ No. 3 machine at next year’s “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Team Penske owner Roger Penske confirmed that Hornish — who has just completed his third season in Penske’s Sprint Cup operation, may have an entry at the ‘500’ as well.

On a conference call earlier this afternoon, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric gave his approval of a potential Indy 500 entry for Hornish, saying that if the Ohio native wanted to run in the event, “he needs to raise his hand and we’ll figure it out.” However, he also said that there were no plans for that currently in the works.

Hornish’s NASCAR career is murky at the moment, as he has no primary sponsorship on his No. 77 Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series. All that’s concrete is a ride in next year’s Daytona 500 and it’s been reported that he may have to take a step down to the Nationwide Series.

It’s way too early to think about Hornish returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an open-wheel machine, but the idea leads to the question of how IndyCar fans would accept him coming back.

A solid section of support for Hornish is assumed. After all, he definitely gave American fans something to shout about during his IndyCar career. His championship victories with Panther Racing and his stunning win at the ‘500’ over Marco Andretti will always be remembered for the right reasons.

But I also distinctly remember a lot of “he’s going after the money” or “he’s throwing away his legacy” or “he’s sold out” getting thrown around the message boards when he left the IZOD IndyCar Series after the 2007 campaign.

While Hornish’s departure definitely hurt, he had accomplished everything he’d wanted to accomplish in the sport. There’s no shame in wanting a new challenge. However, I reckon that some fans have long memories.

What do you think? If Hornish came back to the ‘500,’ would you pull for him, root against him, or be indifferent to his progress?