(WOMR file photo)
It is quite unfortunate for Sam Hornish, Jr. that his return to the Sprint Cup series has been less than ideal, in fact it has been totally dismal!
Prior to his full-time return to the Sprint Cup Series this season with Richard Petty Motorsports, Hornish had competed in just 23 series events over the course of the past four years. Twenty of those came from a partial schedule with his former employer Team Penske, and the other two were a fill-in stint for the injured Denny Hamlin and a one-off deal with Front Row Motorsports.
RPM came into 2015 with a renewed feeling of promise, an extra bounce in their step,and ready mingshapen in 2015. The famed No. 43 team had made some great strides in 2014 with Aric Almirola, including a Chase birth and the return of Smithfield Foods, one of the leaders in the packaged meats category with several brands in their portfolio – including their popular bacon line. Come on, doesn’t everyone love bacon?
Prior to the beginning of The Chase last season, Marcos Ambrose announced that he would not be returning to the team, leaving RPM with the task of finding a suitable successor. David Ragan and Hornish were at the top of the list, and it had seemed as though Ragan was leading in the polls. Ultimately, Hornish got the nod and it was well received by his long-standing fan base, originating from his open-wheel days. There was hope for the Hornish loyal that Sam would finally establish himself in NASCAR as the talented racer that he was in Indy Cars.
This season, Hornish has scored just three top-10s; one in the Daytona 500 and the others in both road courses. He’s currently 25th in the standings, and has finished on the lead lap just seven times.
Nine years in the series with a total of 153 starts, Hornish has led less than 75 laps and finished in the top-10 only 12 times.
However, you can’t lay all the blame on the guy that holds the wheel. Richard Petty Motorsports had severed ties with their alliance team, Roush Fenway – whose Cup series program has been in a downward spiral for over two years – and there is certainty that the rest of the Ford camp is taking a backseat to Team Penske at this point. In case you were sleeoping under a rock, both Penske cars are solidly in the Chase.
Andrew Murstein, the majority partner in RPM brought primary sponsor Medallion Financial to the team. Murstein is also the founder, president and largest shareholder in the publicly held company. So, in essence, the No. 9 team is self-funded, much like Barney Visser’s Furiture Row Racing, however, RPM has had much less success on the track!
Do not be surprised if Richard Petty Motorsports sports a much different look in 2016. They have moved into a much bigger shop that is allowing the team to become much more self-reliant. There are rumors that the team will switch manufacturers in 2016. It would not be a far fetched thought that Sam Hornish, Jr. is a one and done deal. With the possible demise of Michael Waltrip Racing, David Regan becomes a hot commodity, and a possible replacement for Hornish in 2016.
It is too bad that the likeable Hornish just is unable to make the transition from Indy Car champ and Indy 500 winner to a high quality NASCAR driver. This sport is all about “what have you done for me lately”. And with that in mind, Hornish has had a very lackluster performance on his, most likely, last chance in NASCAR!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!