Hornish will share Kyle Busch’s Nationwide ride part-time (UPDATED)

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UPDATE, 12:10 p.m. ET: Make that “potentially” below an “actually.” Sam Hornish Jr. will run at least seven races in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the team announced Monday.

Hornish will race at Talladega, both races at the now-NASCAR owned Iowa Speedway, Road America, Chicago, Mid-Ohio and Kentucky.

Sam Hornish Jr. won his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series race and finished second in this year’s championship, but despite his efforts for Penske Racing, the team was unable to secure enough sponsorship for him to continue in that seat into 2014.

So, potentially, he could join Joe Gibbs Racing in a ride-share with Kyle Busch in the No. 54 Toyota. Lee Spencer of FOXSports.com reports sources say he will.

Hornish, who has spent the last 10 years of his career with Penske, four years in IndyCar (2004-2007) and the last six in NASCAR (2008-2013), is at something of a career crossroads. He has certainly demonstrated the skills and put together the results in Nationwide over the last couple years to merit a return to the Sprint Cup ranks.

But, as several mid-field Cup contenders have found, the path back to Cup can include a detour to Nationwide. Besides Hornish, drivers like Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith and Brian Vickers stand out over the last few years. Vickers will make his Cup return with Michael Waltrip Racing for 2014. The Cup field is filled with more Nationwide graduates than in recent years, but they’re all drivers set for their first full Cup seasons (series champion Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Parker Kligerman, Michael Annett among others).

Winning in a part-time situation with what would arguably be one of the best cars on the Nationwide grid – one that won 12 times in Busch’s hands in 2013 – can only boost Hornish’s stock. But it’s unfortunate that the sponsorship situation is such that this is all Hornish appears likely to race in 2014.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.