Wheres Hornish Headed?

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Two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. and Panther Racing, the team he won the championships with in 2001 and 2002, will part ways at the conclusion of the 2003 season.

Hornish joined the team in 2001 and has since earned nine victories. His nine career wins is an IndyCar Series record. The latest victory came in dominating fashion Aug. 17 at Kentucky Speedway when Hornish led 181 of the 200 laps en route to a victory in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara.

"To leave Panther Racing at the end of this year is the hardest decision that I have ever made," Hornish said. "Panther Racing is a great team with great people and tremendous partners. I am extremely proud of the success that we have been able to achieve together and truly appreciate the chance that I was given to demonstrate my talents on the track. I would like to leave Panther with a third consecutive IRL championship and that is where my focus will be from now until season's end."

Panther Racing officials said Hornish will make his future driving intentions known by the end of August.

"We have had a magical ride since Sam joined Panther Racing in 2001, and we hope to secure a third championship this season," said team co-owner John Barnes. "It was clear yesterday, when we won Kentucky, that this combination is the toughest in open-wheel racing today. But things change and sometimes people need to step out of a comfort zone and stretch a bit. We wish Sam the best in whatever he decides to pursue."

Hornish and Panther Racing are fifth in the IndyCar Series point standings with 308 points. He is 77 points behind leader Tony Kanaan, who has 385.

Officials from Panther Racing, which has a record 12 wins in the IndyCar Series, will begin compiling a short list of drivers to fill the vacancy left by Hornish.

"There are a lot of talented drivers who have expressed an interest in driving for Panther Racing," Barnes said. "We will begin our search immediately to determine what direction Panther Racing will take for 2004."

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