Report: Sam Hornish Jr. to drive No. 9 Petty car in 2015

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Sam Hornish Jr. has found his way back to a full-time ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The three-time IndyCar Series champion and former Indianapolis 500 winner has had to make do with a part-time Nationwide Series drive at Joe Gibbs Racing this season after he and Team Penske parted ways following last year’s NNS campaign.

But now comes word from Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer that Hornish will take over the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford next season and replace the outgoing Marcos Ambrose.

With Ambrose set to return home to Australia at season’s end in order to race in V8 Supercars, Hornish has now apparently been tabbed for his second full-time run in Sprint Cup.

RPM representatives have set up a teleconference for tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. ET, which could yield an official announcement.

Hornish last ran full-time in Cup from 2008 to 2010 with Penske, but only collected two Top-5 finishes over that time span. However, a step down to the Nationwide Series allowed Hornish to evolve into a solid stock car racer.

After finishing fourth in the NNS standings in 2012, Hornish chased current Cup rookie Austin Dillon all the way to the end in the 2013 championship before losing out by a mere three points.

That led to Hornish’s current part-time effort with JGR, where he’s been either especially strong (one win at Iowa, two poles, four Top-5s, four Top-10s) or suffering from bad luck (two engine failures and a crash).

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”