Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr. were the last two winners of the Indianapolis 500.
The former open-wheel stars are a long way from winning anything in a stock car.
Franchitti, who won both the 500 and the IndyCar series championship last year, is off to a slow start in Sprint Cup, struggling to a 33rd-place finish Sunday. He was four laps behind winner Kyle Busch and finds himself 38th in the standings through four races, already a staggering 401 points behind overall leader Busch.
Hornish, who won the Indy 500 in 2006 with a memorable pass of Marco Andretti on the final straightaway, isn’t doing much better in the bigger, bulkier cars. He was 25th at Atlanta, two laps behind the winner, and is 36th in the point standings.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” said Hornish, who drives for Roger Penske. “Each time we go to one of these races and get to run the full thing, I’ve got a better idea of what I need out of the car the next time we come back. We were pretty much loose all day.”
Franchitti is in the same predicament, trying to get as much track time as possible without getting in anyone’s way.
“It was important to finish,” he said. “It’s like that every week for us: a big learning experience.”
With everyone complaining about the handling of the Goodyear tires, even those who ran up front, Hornish and Franchitti were mainly concerned with making sure they were around to take the checkered flag.
“I cannot believe how loose the cars were all day,” said Franchitti, who landed a Sprint Cup ride with Chip Ganassi’s team after his success in open-wheelers. “We were just hanging on. We hit the wall a couple of times.”
Juan Pablo Montoya’s strong rookie season opened the door for a number of former open-wheel stars to make the switch to Cup cars this year. But they’re all back markers at this point.
Patrick Carpentier is 44th in the standings. Jacques Villeneuve, a former Indy 500 and Formula One champion, lost his ride with Bill Davis Racing after failing to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500.
“We want to run better, more competitive,” Carpentier said. “I want to mix it with these guys a little bit more.”
Another crossover from open-wheelers, second-year Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger, was pulled from the No. 84 car by the Red Bull team after failing to qualify for the first three races of the year.
Veteran Cup driver Mike Skinner took over for Allmendinger, got the car in the Atlanta field and finished 27th. The other Red Bull driver, Brian Vickers, was ninth and one of just 12 drivers to finish on the lead lap.