With Penske’s announcement that the former driver of the 22 Cup car, AJ Allmendinger, has been released from the ride, new doors have opened for free agents looking for a team in 2013. Sam Hornish Jr., however, is currently behind the wheel of the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, and with his performance in the previous two Cup races, it seems likely that he’s trying to prove himself a fitting candidate for it. If Hornish Jr. can continue this pattern, with his top five finish last week in the Watkin’s Glen Cup race, and a promising run today, he might just close the door on the other free agent eying his ride.
Hornish Jr., who moved from three full-time Cup seasons with Penske (2008, 2009, and 2010, besides two DNQs in 2008), to a part-time Nationwide schedule in 2011, to a now full-time Nationwide schedule with Penske, spent the weekend in Montreal, focusing on the Nationwide race and driver’s championship standings. Parker Kligerman practiced and qualified his Cup ride, and Hornish Jr. started today’s race with no seat time this weekend. After starting in 41st, he made his way to the front and ran near there for the majority of the day.. which is a tough feat for even the best of Cup drivers. After a late pit stop, Hornish Jr. came home twelfth, though his day promised better than that.
Not only are we seeing stellar performance in Cup, but Hornish Jr. has moved from fourth in the Nationwide points championship to second since he began double duty, making him a threat for the title. Personally, I thought that double duty would distract Hornish Jr. from his Nationwide title, but it seems to be doing the contradictory. If Sam Hornish Jr. can keep up his current performance, in both Nationwide and Cup, and he feels ready to move back up to Cup, he’ll have a strong campaign for that 22 ride in 2013.