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Published: Friday, 2/18/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Hornish to race in Nationwide Series this year

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr., stands next to his No. 12 Dodge Challenger SRT8 that will run Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in the Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race. Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr., stands next to his No. 12 Dodge Challenger SRT8 that will run Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in the Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race.
AUTOSTOCK USA/TYLER BARRICK Enlarge
Sam Hornish Jr.'s stock car racing career continues at Daytona International Speedway Saturday, where the Defiance native starts 17th in the field for the Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race.

This is not the Sprint Cup Series, where Hornish has competed full-time for the past three seasons, but it is still NASCAR. The squeeze on sponsorship dollars ultimately cost Hornish his Sprint Cup ride, but he expects to make the most of the opportunity to race in the second-tier Nationwide Series.

"We have been working hard to get a program in place for this year, and I am glad to get back to the race track," Hornish said this week as he put his No. 12 Dodge Challenger SRT8 through its paces on the newly resurfaced two-and-a-half mile Daytona tri-oval.

Hornish is scheduled to compete in selected Nationwide races this season, and he hopes to see that program expand due to success on the track. He expects to get a boost from the backing of his Penske Racing team, plus the momentum of Dodge's first Nationwide championship, won last year by Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski.

Hornish, who had seven top-15 finishes while running all 36 Cup Series races last season, has competed in 20 Nationwide races over the past five years. The Nationwide car he will race Saturday at Daytona is fitted with a restrictor plate, which throws a new wrinkle into the works.

"I am really excited about the first race of the season," Hornish said. "I have not run a Nationwide Series restrictor plate race since 2007, so I am looking forward to this. It is great to have Dodge backing us for this event."

Hornish, who won the 2006 Indianapolis 500 with a dramatic last-lap pass, is a three-time champion in the IndyCar Series. He dabbled in a few stock car races in 2006 and 2007, winning the pole for the ARCA Series race at MIS in 2007, and finishing second.

Following the 2007 season, he left the IndyCar Series as its all-time leader in wins (19) and laps led (3,428). In his 108 career Sprint Cup races, Hornish has two top five finishes, and seven in the top 10. He has won more than $12 million in the series.

Hornish, whose car will carry a special integrated "Dodge 392" paint scheme in today's race, said he starts the season loaded with optimism.

"We have a lot of possibilities in this program and I am looking forward to running with Dodge and building our relationship with Alliance Truck Parts over the course of this season," Hornish said.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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