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Hornish Jr. To Drive No. 9 Petty Sprint Cup Car In ’15

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 8 2014

Sam Hornish Jr. will drive a Cup car for Richard Petty Racing next season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Sam Hornish Jr. has driven for The Captain and The Coach. Next season, he will drive for The King.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday that it has hired veteran Hornish Jr. to take the place of Marcos Ambrose as driver of the No. 9 RPM Ford in the Sprint Cup Series.

Hornish Jr. will begin driving the car full time in 2015.

“Feel like this is a great opportunity for me,” he said during a teleconference on Wednesday “It really means a lot to me. Being able to drive for Richard Petty is just awesome.”

Hornish Jr., a native of Ohio, began life in big time auto racing as a driver in the Indy Racing League. He won the series championships in 2001 and 2002 in the series when he was driving for Panther Racing.

He moved over to Roger Penske’s Team Penske in 2004 where he won the 2006 Indianapolis 500 and another series championship. In his eight years in Indy cars, he won 19 races.

He moved to NASCAR in 2006, driving for “The Captain” in the Nationwide Series.

In 2006, Hornish moved to Sprint Cup full time for Penske.

From 2011 through the present, he has driven part time in Cup. He drove full time in the Nationwide Series for Penske in 2012 and 2013.

This year, he has driven eight NNS races and one Cup race for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hornish Jr. has won three NNS races in 107 starts but is yet to win a Cup race in 131 starts.

He said Wednesday that he now “feels better prepared” for racing in NASCAR after “taking lumps” in previous seasons.

“I think at the point that I was getting ready to go full-time on my first go round,” he said, “it was maybe at the course of having 12 or 15 Stock Car races in general under my belt, so obviously having that opportunity, I got to work with quite a few different crew chiefs over the past couple years, and really what that allows me to do is be able to better understand what’s going through those guys’ heads. Pick up things that I like from one crew chief to the next and be able to in my routine about the way I transfer my notes and my thoughts on the car and the direction that we need to go. I’m better able to be able to express those feelings and to lead the crew chief in a direction, and also at the same time I’m better able to understand when they’ve got a good point of the direction that they want to head in and I can feel free to release the reigns a little bit there.

“This is a different opportunity, for sure, than the one that I had previously. I’m not going to talk bad about anybody or anything like that, but there were a lot of different things that made that not work. The thing that I need to be thankful for over the long run is that I stayed in the fold long enough and held to my values of what I felt was going to get myself back into having the opportunity to be in a competitive Cup ride. Did the right things and had good people around me too in order to put myself in good positions and try to get back to this point. I’ve worked four years to get back to this point, and I feel like as a driver I’ve come a long way. I found my voice, really, as far as what you need to have as far as a Cup driver’s concerned about directionally trying to help steer your organization.”

At RPM, Hornish Jr.  will join a team that is showing signs of moving up in the NASCAR world. One of its drivers, Aric Almirola, made the Chase for the first time this year. Ambrose, its second driver, came up just short of becoming a Chaser.

“I haven’t accomplished what I came over here for,” Hornish Jr. said of his reasons for pressing on in NASCAR

” A lot of people want to always ask me, ‘Why don’t you just go back to Indy Cars,’ and I never came over here because I wanted to have a little more fame or I felt like I was gonna make any more money doing it. I came over here because I was intrigued by the competition side of it. I felt like I had accomplished what I wanted to in the Indy Car Series and now I put myself back in a position where I can continue to build on what I originally came over here for, and the Nationwide Series is not in any way a step back because it gave me the opportunity to have this and it’s very competitive on that side as well. I just like the competition aspect of it.

“I’m hungry to go out there and do well. This is a lot about me living up to my expectations.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 8 2014
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