Jan 6, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
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.
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.
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