Hornish set to make Sprint Cup start

Defiance native is Nationwide leader


Defiance native Sam Hornish, Jr., will make his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season when he drives in the STP 400 on Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Penske Racing announced Hornish’s start Thursday night on its Web site and its Twitter account. Hornish leads the Nationwide Series points standings.

“Our initial focus is on qualifying,” Hornish said in a statement on Penskeracing.com. “We have to get our No. 12 SKF Ford in the race. Once we have accomplished that we will go to work on the race setup. After that we must execute during the race in order to contend, and we plan on contending.”

Hornish finished fourth in qualifying and will start Sunday’s race behind pole winner Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Hornish’s Sprint Cup start, however, comes in the wake of a controversial week for Penske Racing.

On Wednesday, NASCAR penalized Penske Racing after officials confiscated rear-end parts of the cars driven by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano following the NRA 500 on April 13 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.

NASCAR docked Keselowski and Logano 25 points each in the Sprint Cup standings and suspended their crew chiefs, car chiefs, engineers, and team manager for six weeks.

Additionally, NASCAR fined Keselowski’s and Logano’s crew chiefs $100,000 each for violations that occurred during pre-race inspections at Texas Motor Speedway.

However, Hornish will join teammates Keselowski and Logano in Sunday’s STP 400 field. Sunday is Hornish’s first Sprint Cup start since the final race of the 2012 season in November.

Hornish replaced A.J. Allmendinger for the final 19 Sprint Cup races in 2012, after NASCAR suspended — and later reinstated — Allmendinger for testing positive for a banned stimulant.

Hornish’s highest Sprint Cup finish last season came Aug. 12 at Watkins Glen International, where he finished fifth in the Finger Lakes 355.

Hornish, a three-time IndyCar champion and the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion, leads the Nationwide Series standings with 221 points, two ahead of Regan Smith. The Nationwide schedule continues Friday with the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.