Sam Hornish Jr.’s life has changed greatly since he won the Indianapolis 500 and his third IndyRacing League championship two years ago.
He left the open-wheel, open cockpit for stock cars at the end of last year, and he’s adjusted to getting into his driver’s seat by climbing through a window instead of flinging his legs over a side pod.
An even bigger change was becoming a father for the first time when his wife, Crystal, gave birth to Addison on Feb. 4.
That new role is a reason why he became narrator for the new children’s educational television show “Roary the Racing Car,” which debuts Monday on the PBS Kids Sprout Network (Cox digital 329 in Southern Nevada).
The “turbo-charged preschool series” follows Roary “a bright, lovable and energetic single-seater, and his amazing and diverse group of race friends.”
It is Hornish’s first chance to work as a narrator, a role filled by legendary Sterling Moss for the British version.
“It was great for me to do,” Hornish said in a recent telephone interview. “Teaching kids positive things like teamwork and always giving your best sends a great message.”
So far he’s completed 54 half-hour episodes and recalls taking nearly two hours to complete the first two.
“I’d never done it before and was getting frustrated so I reached into my pocket and put my daughter’s picture on the stand next to the script. It changed my mood.”
Hornish raced through the last 52 like a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
“I would have done it whether I was a new dad or not, but I can’t wait until my daughter can watch and know that’s my voice.”
“Roary” — created by the same folks who gave kids “Bob the Builder” — is geared for preschoolers. I watched one episode, and it’s entertaining and beneficial for kids of all ages.
He agreed that one scary element of the cartoon is that Roary’s crew chief — Big Chris — looks a lot like Michael Waltrip, especially the curly, big hair.
And we wondered how the late Dale Earnhardt would feel about the No. 3 car in the show being pink and resembling a Toyota Prius.
I’ll record “Roary” even though I don’t have kids or grandkids.
It’s unfortunate that viewership around here will be limited to the expanded digital service by Cox, but the RoaryTheRacingCar.com Web site offers much of what the show does.
“Roary” and his racecar friends will run within Sprout’s 9 a.m.-noon lineup that includes “Sesame Street” and “Thomas and Friends.” It’s scary that “Teletubbies” is on the list, but that just might be my hang-up.
You have to check out “Roary the Racing Car” and share it with family and friends who have little kids.
HORNISH THE RACER
I couldn’t talk to Hornish about “Roary” without shifting the topic to racing.
He is nearing the end of his rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and is 35th in points heading into Saturday night’s race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C. He is only three points behind Regan Smith in the rookie-of-the-year race.
Hornish’s best finish this year was 13th on Memorial Day weekend at Lowe’s.
He’s struggled in the No. 77 Penske Racing Dodge but so have teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch and everyone else driving a Dodge.
Hornish spent seven years racing in the IRL when open-wheel racing was split into two factions. Although this is the first time since 1995 America has only one open-wheel series, he has no regrets about switching to NASCAR.
“I made that decision because I wanted a new challenge. I accomplished more in IndyCar than I ever thought I would.”