Sam Hornish ready for next chapter of his NASCAR career

Sam Hornish Jr. came within three points of winning the Nationwide Series championship in 2013, and while he has no championship trophy, his performance should be good enough to get him something else — a ride for 2014.

Hornish said Monday that he hopes to have something lined up soon. He found out in September that he wouldn’t be back at Penske Racing, where he has spent his whole NASCAR career. Having spent the last 10 years at Penske, where he won an Indianapolis 500 and one of his three IndyCar championships, Hornish drove in only 11 Nationwide races before moving to Cup in 2008. His inexperience showed as he finished 35th, 28th and 29th in the Cup standings. he was a part-time Nationwide driver in 2011 before finishing fourth in the 2012 Nationwide standings and then second in 2013.

While Penske always felt that he pushed Hornish to Cup too soon, he didn’t have sponsorship for him in Cup for 2014 and didn’t appear interested in having Hornish, who has two career Nationwide victories, compete in the development Nationwide series for another year.

That left Hornish looking, and until recently, without much of anything for 2014. In fact, he indicated he’s going to have to tell one of the potential suitors that he won’t race for them next year.

“It’s really great to have an opportunity," Hornish said following the Nationwide awards ceremony Monday. “For a while there it looked like there may not be any opportunities.

"It's almost like when you date a girl, you’ve got all these other girls wanting to date you, and when you don’t have a girlfriend, it’s really hard to find one."

The 34-year-old Hornish can afford to be picky. He lives very modestly, has done some television work on Sundays when not racing in Cup. He says he hasn’t had time to worry too much as he has two young children to take care of when not racing.

“As opposed to getting something that I don’t have any outside chance of winning in, I’d rather sit at home," Hornish said. “I’ve come too far to put myself in a position where I would bang my head against the wall and not have any opportunity to win.

“I’ve worked really hard to financially secure myself. I do this because I want to do it. I’m not going to do it just to be out there and say I’m a racecar driver."

Hornish has had to try to overcome the perception that he would struggle with another Cup opportunity. But Hornish competed in 19 Cup races for Penske after AJ Allmendinger was fired in 2012. He had an average finish of 19th — six spots better than his third full-time season in Cup — but the full-time ride went to Joey Logano.

“I didn’t know enough (when I started) of what I needed at the time (to say) this is what I needed to be better because I was just doubting myself," Hornish said. “With the right tools, I believe we have shown what we can do."

While he has plans to race in 2014, he leaves 2013 with a little bit of disappointment. He described his feeling at Homestead like the fictional kid who doesn’t find the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

“(You think) the golden ticket probably makes the chocolate taste terrible and you want to tell yourself you really didn’t want it that bad — but deep down you do," Hornish said. Sporting News

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