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Sam Hornish Jr Chance at Joe Gibbs Racing Could Be His Last

January 13th, 2014 at 5:23 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

Sam Hornish Jr is one of the most well known names in auto racing. When Hornish was in the IndyCar Series he was one of the best drivers during that era. He won three championships and the 2006 Indianapolis 500. The Ohio native was a huge name and in the 2007 season Hornish made the decision he was going to move to NASCAR and take a stab at NASCAR at the age of 29. 

'Sam Hornish, Jr.' photo (c) 2008, Freewheeling Daredevil - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/It was a gigantic move for Hornish. With very little stock car experience Hornish was moving full-time to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with car owner Roger Penske. It turned out to be a disaster for Hornish. In his three full seasons in the Sprint Cup Series, Hornish finished 35th, 28th and 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. It was a stunning development for the one time prominent open wheel driver. After three seasons Hornish's sponsor, Mobil 1, decided not to renew a contract with Penske Racing and Hornish was without a ride in the Sprint Cup Series at the age of 32. 

Hornish's car owner, Roger Penske, was determined to get Hornish a ride. He signed a part time Nationwide deal with sponsor Alliance Truck Parts and Hornish was given a second opportunity and this one he took advantage of. Hornish learned a lot in the Nationwide Series and won his first NASCAR race at Phoenix in November 2011. Shortly after it was announced that Hornish would run full time in the Nationwide Series and had two stellar seasons with Penske in the Nationwide Series, finishing fourth in the points in 2012 and second in the points in 2013. 

Due to several factors out of Hornish's control, he found himself out of a ride heading into the 2013 offseason. It was recently announced that Hornish would drive seven races for Joe Gibbs Racing driving the #54 Toyota, sharing the ride with Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch. It's an interesting opportunity for Hornish because several sources say that he turned down a full-time low level Sprint Cup Series ride. 

Hornish's deal is and interesting one because if Hornish runs well in the seven races he could very well be sold as a full-time driver in 2015. Hornish now has an opportunity to prove he can win races in good stuff. If he wins it is very likely a company would want to associate themselves with Hornish, who is a good guy and would have added to his resume. 

However, that sometimes is easier said than done. For Hornish, who will be 35 years old in July, he needs to win big and fast or he could be out of a ride. If he struggles in the seven races he runs for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 it could mean the end of Hornish's career as far as being a major stock car racer is concerned. 

'IMG_4990' photo (c) 2012, Parker Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Another problem for Hornish is he will be compared to Kyle Busch. Busch is known as one of the best drivers in NASCAR today and whenever Busch goes to the Nationwide Series always seems to run really well, especially in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Busch won 12 of the 26 races he entered in the 2013 season and is the all time Nationwide Series race winner with 63 victories. How will this effect Hornish? A top ten finish for Hornish may not be good enough. People will not give Hornish as much credit for the top ten run considering what Busch does in that car most of the time. Hornish's age won't do him any favors either. It will be hard to sell a sponsor to a 35 year old driver who isn't as good as Kyle Busch

Hornish is on shaky ground and it was an interesting decision to leave a Sprint Cup ride on the table for a part-time Nationwide deal. Hornish hopes that he can prove himself and win some races and get him a big opportunity for something nice in 2015. 

Tags: Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch, Motorsports, NASCAR, sam hornish jr

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