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Hornish Hoping For A Happy Homecoming

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 11 2011

Sam Hornish Jr. will be back in a Sprint Cup car on Sunday and happily so. (RacinToday.com/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

While Sam Hornish Jr., is enjoying spending more time with his young family these days,  he has missed the weekly racing grind and, particularly, racing in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

The former open-wheel racing star lost his full-time Cup ride at the end of last season when Penske Racing cut back to two cars due to lack of sponsorship.

These days, Hornish is racing only part-time in the second-tier Nationwide Series. At least he was until a phone call gave Hornish a new opportunity this weekend a Pocono Raceway.

“I got a call from Penske (Racing) asking if I was interested in running the (No.) 38 (Front Row Ford) while Travis (Kvapil) was racing trucks,” he said. “I was on the phone with Front Row about half an hour later working it out. It came together pretty fast, but I was excited to do it.”

Since the car is not in the top 35 in points, Hornish will had to – and easily did as he will start 26th –qualify for the Pocono field on Saturday, but it’s still a great opportunity.

Hornish, who has made 108 Cup starts since moving from the IndyCar Series to stock car racing, and Pocono’s tricky 2.5-mile tri-oval has been one of his best and most

Sam Hornish Jr. will climb back into a Cup car this weekend. (File photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

consistent tracks.

He has one top-five, two top-10s and four top-15 finishes in six career Cup starts in the Pocono Mountains.

“I’m really excited to get back in a Cup car,” Hornish said. “And it’s not just an opportunity to run a Cup race, but I get to race at Pocono. That’s a track a lot of drivers don’t like and it puts them in a bad mood trying to figure it out. And that actually can pay dividends for e because I like racing there and I go there with confidence.

“I’ve run well there in the past two years with four top-15 finishes. It’s going to be difficult, obviously, because there’s not a lot of time to work together to prepare.”

Hornish spent time at the Front Row shop, so it can be pretty uncomfortable over the course of the race, Hornish explained. “So it’s important to have a good fit in the car. … And I’ve been spending some time with (crew chief) Jay Guy, going over the set-up of the car, so we have a good game plan going in.

“I knew Jay from when he was at Penske, but I didn’t work directly with him. But I’m looking forward to working with him this week.”

Besides having the opportunity to race in Cup for the first time this year, Hornish is looking at this weekend as an opportunity to expand his racing horizons.

“As challenging as it’s going to be coming in for one race with a team I haven’t worked with before, it’s refreshing at the same time,” he said. “I’ve only race a stock car with Penske, so it will be good to try something different and get that experience.”

Being a realist, Hornish isn’t setting his sights too high.

“Our goal Sundayis a top 20,” he said. “Front Row is a small teamthat runs a full-time schedule for two cars, but the budgetisn’t the same as some of the bigger teams. So, if we finish in the front half of the field, my speed date with Front Row will be a success.”

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 11 2011
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