This past Saturday, Sam Hornish, Jr. was on standby to drive Matt Kenseth’s Nationwide car if Kenseth expecting wife were to go into labor. Then Sunday, he really had no plan. He started Sunday morning with no plans, other than to get a bite to eat during the Cup race at Auto Club Speedway. That all changed just an hour and ten minutes before the green flag was to drop.
Denny Hamlin was under the weather with a severe sinus infection that affected his vision. I can personally relate, as a sufferer of occular migranes. They’re no fun and I can’t imagine racing during that pain. Neither could the infield care center. Hamlin ended up being hospitalized as the race was starting, and Sam Hornish was rushed to the 11’s pits to see if he could even fit into Hamlin’s seat.
Hornish admitted the cockpit setup was less that optimal, with him being closer to the steering wheel than normal and the seat squeezing him in Hamlin;’s smaller seat. At the race’s end that saw the two Kyles in the field finishing first and second, Hornish finished in the top 20 at 17th. Not bad for a guy who hadn’t prepped for the race at all and had a car setup inside and out for someone completely else.
Even more miraculously is that Hornish hadn’t been in a cup car at all since 2013’s season finale at Homestead-Miami. With both those disadvantages, he still ended up ahead of 26 other drivers.
This is all more fuel to the fire that it’s a shame and tragedy that Hornish doesn’t have a full time ride in either the Nationwide Series or the Sprint Cup Series. This by the way is the year after Hornish was the runner-up to Austin Dillon in the Nationwide series. Penske, Hornish’s team last year didn’t have a sponsor to keep Hornish in a ride for 2014.
I’ve never been a proponent of keeping the full time Cup drivers from competing in the Nationwide series, but it is really messed up when a guy who ran quite successfully full time in the Nationwide series the year before, doesn’t have a ride at a team that’s still fielding teams in the Series.
That’s my only beef with Cup drivers coming down to the Nationwide series.
Hornish will be in the series later on in the year, but only part time. Later in Natiowide’s series, he’s filling in for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54’s Kyle Busch on some dates Busch isn’t driving the 54.
The hope is JGR will be able to field a car for Hornish in 2015 fulltime in the Nationwide series. Also, with JGR only having three Cup cars, maybe there’s a possibility of fielding a fourth car for Hornish evevntually.
Regardless, it’s really sad that a driver as talented and as successful as Hornish is struggling to find a ride and sponsorship.