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Published: Sunday, 9/19/2010

Hornish hints at return to IndyCar competition


LOUDON, N.H. - Sam Hornish, Jr., is no longer discounting a potential return to IndyCar racing now that Penske Racing has given him permission to look for a new ride.

The three-time open-wheel champion is in danger of losing his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride because sponsor Mobil 1 is leaving at the end of the season. If sponsorship can't be found, Hornish could be out of a Cup seat with owner Roger Penske.

"They asked what my preference was, and my preference was to stay in the Cup Series," the northwest Ohio native said. "They're not going to stand in my way if I get the opportunity to be able to do that."

Hornish had previously been opposed to open-wheel, insisting that he'd stay in NASCAR no matter what. But he seemed to soften at New Hampshire, particularly now that Dan Wheldon has announced he'll leave Panther Racing at the end of the season.

Hornish drove for Panther Racing in open-wheel before he was signed by Penske.

"I need to see how everything plays out," Hornish said. "I've said a lot of times I don't have a lot of interest to go back. But I'm not going to say never. My goal is to try to stay in the Cup series, and if I have to take a step back and run Nationwide, that's a possibility. I'll have to wait and see how it plays out, I guess."

The Nationwide Series is a real possibility for Hornish because Penske is in the middle of trying to organize its lineups and sponsorship issues could also play into who drives which cars next season. The team currently fields Dodges for Hornish, Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski in the Cup Series, and Keselowski and Justin Allgaier in Nationwide.

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