Hornish a three-time champ in IndyCar

Sam Hornish Jr. won the Indianapolis 500 in May 2006, then wrapped up the series title the same year. AP Photo/AJ Mast

We introduced you to Sebastien Bourdais on Monday as we roll out the nine candidates for ESPN.com's Driver of the Decade -- in alphabetical order -- over the next two weeks. Our panel of experts has voted for its top drivers. You will get your turn when we stage a SportsNation fan vote on Jan. 8.

The Driver of the Decade will be revealed on Jan. 11.

Meet candidate No. 2 …

Sam Hornish Jr.
Series: IndyCar

A three-time IndyCar Series champion during the decade (most of any driver), Hornish stormed onto the scene in 2001 when he became the youngest champion ever (age 22) in a major North American open-wheel series. That same season, he also became the first IndyCar champion to clinch the title before the final race of the season.

The next year, Hornish became the series' first two-time champion.

Then, in 2006, he won the title and the Indianapolis 500. Although he won the title via a tiebreaker, Hornish rightfully deserved the championship, considering he had double the wins than co-points leader Dan Wheldon.

That 2006 title came with Penske. His first two championships came with Panther Racing. Certainly an impressive feat to win titles with two different teams within the span of four years.

Hornish's 19 wins in the series since 2000 are the second-most of any driver (Scott Dixon passed him this season), and Hornish has been out of the series competing in Sprint Cup for the past two years.

Meet the nine Driver of the Decade contenders, who will be revealed one at a time ...
Monday: Sebastien Bourdais
Tuesday: Sam Hornish Jr.
• Coming Wednesday: Jimmie Johnson

Tom McKean is a studio researcher at ESPN.