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Hornish Situation A Serious Head-Scratcher.  Not really UPDATE #2 A reader asks, Dear AR1.com, How could Sam Hornish Jr. go from being such a successful IndyCar driver to a complete backmarker in NASCAR?  Karen Lamb

Dear Karen, That's simple.  His success in IndyCar came on 100% throttle no talent required oval tracks where the high downforce IndyCar was firmly planted under him.  On road courses he was a backmarker.  NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow requires that you drive it with the tail out to be fast on the ovals.  The best drivers, like Johnson can do it well, but others like Hornish and Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggle and fail.  Mark C.

01/22/11 Sam Hornish Jr. said it’s “just business,” that his eight-year career with Penske Racing – in which he won an IndyCar title and the 2006 Indianapolis 500 – has been reduced to 10 Nationwide Series races as he looks for a full-time Sprint Cup ride.

Hornish Jr., who had eight top-10 finishes in 108 Cup races, lost his primary sponsor when Mobil1 discontinued its relationship with Penske and was replaced by Shell-Pennzoil in a deal that funded Kurt Busch’s Cup car and provided associate sponsorships to all three of Penske’s Indy cars.

“It’s a perfect storm of imperfect events for me,” Hornish Jr. said on Friday. “No one is expanding and everyone is trying to hold on for what they can right now.

"Last year, when we’re up against guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart for sponsorships, you’ve got a four-time and two-time champion, you can’t blame any sponsor for wanting to get on their car versus ours.”

Hornish said he is scheduled to run 10 sponsored Nationwide events for Penske. The team, he said, will not fund the car internally beyond those events. News Observer

01/18/11 Okay, so I fully understand that Roger Penske is a very smart guy.  He’s been extremely successful as both a business man and a race team owner.  I also know that I’m just a lowly tire changer, and if I really knew what I was talking about, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this blog post.  But this situation with Sam Hornish is really starting to make me wonder about his decision making.  Hornish has done absolutely nothing in his five years of NASCAR competition to suggest that he deserves another chance.  And yet, Penske confirmed to Lee Spencer this weekend that Hornish will run in at least 10 Nationwide Series races this season.

Hornish’s skills in open wheel racing are irrefutable.  He’s one of the most successful and decorated drivers in the history of the sport (3 championships, 19 wins, Indy 500 winner).  Those skills however have not translated over to stock car racing.  Since coming into NASCAR in 2006, Hornish has two top five and nine top ten finishes in 128 starts across the Truck, NNS, and Cup Series.

And now, instead of giving Justin Allgaier or Parker Kligerman more opportunities to learn and gain experience, Penske will waste at least 10 starts on a hopeless Hornish.  For what?

Just so we are clear on what Penske let walk out the door when he released Allgaier, through two full years of NNS competition, Allgaier amassed one win, 11 top five, and 32 top ten finishes to go along with three poles and two top six points finishes.  And Kligerman’s NNS statistics are also better when compared to Hornish’s, and he was in sub-par equipment on many occasions.

It is almost unfathomable to me to think that with two young, very talented drivers in the pipeline, Penske continues to give Hornish opportunities.  I realize that Allgaier was let go due to the loss of Verizon as a sponsor, but there is no way that Hornish is more marketable to potential sponsors then Allgaier or Kligerman.  Any name recognition Hornish had from his IndyCar days has long since been killed by his mediocre Cup career.

In a time when it appears as though we could go a few years (starting with the 2010 season) without a solid Cup rookie class, it’s very frustrating to watch talented young drivers get pushed aside for someone who has already proven they don’t have what it takes.

Mr. Penske, you’ve done a lot of great things in your career, but you’ve officially botched this one. NASCAR Insiders

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