It’s not every day that a three-time IndyCar champion and an Indianapolis 500 winner literally falls into your lap.
So when Richard Petty Motorsports learned Sam Hornish Jr. might be available to fill the hole that would be created by the departure of Marcos Ambrose, RPM jumped at the chance to bring Hornish into the fold for 2015.
Hornish, who lost the 2013 Nationwide championship by three points to Austin Dillon while racing for Team Penske, won at Iowa Speedway last May during an eight-race slate in 2014 for Joe Gibbs Racing, but the Defiance, Ohio, native has been trying to return to the Sprint Cup Series since his last full season on NASCAR’s premier circuit with Penske in 2010.
When Ambrose announced last summer he would be returning to his native Australia and the V8 Supercar Series after the season, RPM began the search and settled on a deal with Hornish last October.
“Going back to the Cup series, it’s a lot different than what it was when I did it the last time,” Hornish said.
He also made 20 Sprint events for Penske in 2012, replacing AJ Allmendinger after he was suspended for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.
“I think we have a lot of things to look forward to,” Hornish said Wednesday during the third day of the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte. “I think the only thing we’re lacking right now is we need to sit down and really set out a map of what are we going to feel comfortable with throughout the year, what are our goals going to be and figuring out how we’re going to continue to evaluate ourselves to be able to move forward and get to where we want to go.”
Hornish has driven for three of racing’s most iconic names: Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs and now Hall of Famer Richard Petty.
Hornish tested three times with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer late in 2014 before NASCAR’s testing ban took effect.
“The toughest part of this,” Hornish said, “is to have the opportunity to be able to come to Richard Petty Motorsports and then think about it for four months or so before we actually get to go out and do racing.
“With the lack of testing we’ve been able to do, we’ve only had three tests so far and to have the opportunity to work with Drew. We both seem like we want similar things on the race car. When you have a unified direction, you can streamline things at the shop as having the 9 and 43 (teammate Aric Almirola) as far as finding what direction to head and how to make our cars better each weekend.”
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