He ended up second to Austin Dillon in the final standings. Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch won the race. Hornish was near the front for much of the 200 laps, but faltered down the stretch on worn tires.
Now, he faces an uncertain future.
"To see Sam race at the level he did with Kyle, right there all night, shows what a great racer he is," Penske said. "My issue with myself is I started him in the Cup level with no practice. One of the greatest open-wheel racers we had in IndyCar. I think maybe I started his career backwards."
So far, Hornish has no ride set up for 2014. He declined to even talk to Chip Ganassi Racing about replacing Dario Franchitti, the four-time IndyCar champion who abruptly retired earlier this week because of injuries and health concerns.
With Hornish committed to stock-car racing, some wonder where he will land next season, maybe he will step down to trucks. He knows he is not good enough to compete in today's IndyCar series and the level of driver talent in the series now, so he won't be going back there.
Penske, though, doesn't believe Hornish's NASCAR career is over.
"I think people want him," said Penske, who still managed to win the Nationwide owners' championship. "I think he's going to have a chance to drive something next year. A couple things out there look quite promising. I would support him always.
"He needs to have a good ride because he's a quality guy, a family man. Remember, he won an Indy 500 for us. That's pretty special."