Sam Hornish Jr. Eyeing a Cup Return in the Near FutureBy Jason Schultz
Any driver will tell you that being put into a ride before you know you’re ready for it can be catastrophic for your career. If you’re not ready for the ride, then you likely won’t succeed. When Sam Hornish Jr. made the transition from the Indy Car circuit to the NASCAR circuit back in 2007, he struggled right off of the bat. The lack of stock-car experience he had made it difficult for him to run well. His team-owner Roger Penske made the call in 2012 to put Hornish Jr. in the Nationwide Series so he could earn some experience. After one full-time season in the Nationwide Series, Hornish Jr. is starting to shape up to be a full-time Cup driver once again.
Last season for Hornish Jr. wasn’t exactly what he and his team had hoped for, but it did bring him some valuable stock-car experience. Just six races in to 2013, Hornish Jr. is showing off all of his ability behind the wheel of a stock car. He is in the points lead and he has already won a race. If he can have a similar performance throughout the rest of the season, he will be competing for the championship once November rolls around.
A Nationwide Series championship for Hornish Jr. will mean so much. First, it will show the NASCAR world that he has learned a lot in the last few years and that he is ready to return to the Cup Series. Second, it will show that he really does have stock-car talent and the risky move he made from Indy Car to NASCAR was very much worth it. Finally, it means that Hornish Jr. can easily be back in the top level of NASCAR and compete for the win each and every week. If he is to win the championship this season, it will be a major career milestone and it will show the world that he can perform well in a stock-car.
One major thing that Hornish Jr. will need to do in order to win the championship this season is to be consistent. If he’s consistent, then he will be able to stay in the running for the championship. Inconsistency could mean more time in the Nationwide Series next season which could help him learn even more about driving a stock-car, but he likely doesn’t even need it. The one factor that has to be different for him if he does return to the Cup Series is that he needs to be able to perform well and be in contention for the Chase.
When he left the Cup Series after 2010, it was much needed. Inconsistency and bad finishes plagued his season which left many to question his placement in NASCAR’s top series. It was clear that he needed to learn more so he could compete with the big-time Cup drivers. Currently, he is able to compete with the biggest Cup stars when they run in the Nationwide Series and that could mean he could do the same in the Cup races.
For Roger Penske to bring him back to the Cup Series, he’ll need to see a Sam Hornish Jr. that is capable of winning races each and every week. If Roger does see that, he will surely start a third Cup team again. Hornish Jr. currently has loyal Nationwide Series sponsors and if those sponsors want to venture up to the Cup Series with him, he’ll be golden. His Cup return may not come in 2014, but it will definitely be coming in the near future.
Success in NASCAR is one thing that Sam Hornish Jr. hasn’t got to taste yet. He is currently acquiring all the aspects success requires in the Nationwide Series and that could lead to future Cup achievements. He has gotten all the way up the NASCAR ladder before, but he fell back down when he couldn’t accomplish the things he needed to. Continuing to do well in the Nationwide Series could allow him to get right back up that ladder and show the whole NASCAR world that he is back and ready to succeed.