Sam Hornish Jr. joins Joe Gibbs Racing, will make limited Nationwide starts

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sharing the No. 54 car with Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. is set to drive seven Nationwide Series races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Sam Hornish Jr. has proven deserving of a full-time ride be it in Sprint Cup or the Nationwide Series. A year ago he finished second in Nationwide points and missed out on the championship by a mere three points.

However, as it became evident that a lack of sponsorship would prevent him from returning to Penske Racing and securing a permanent seat elsewhere, the former winner of the Indianapolis 500 said it was important to find a NASCAR team that would allow him to be competitive.

That opportunity arose Monday when Joe Gibbs Racing signed Hornish to drive its No. 54 Nationwide entry part-time, sharing the car with Kyle Busch.

Not disheartened by his inability to procure a full-time ride, Hornish called the chance to join JGR a "great opportunity." He recognizes the chance to challenge for wins -- albeit on a limited basis -- is more favorable than running every race for an uncompetitive backmarker.

"It's the best possible situation for me to jump into great equipment and have the opportunity to go right out and win" Hornish said in a release. "I couldn't have asked for anything better. These are great people, top notch. To partner with Kyle, and all this team provides, with the support of Joe and J.D., it provides me with everything I need to succeed."

Hornish will run in a minimum of seven races with his first start May 3 at Talladega Superspeedway. He will also make starts at Iowa (twice), Road America, Chicagoland, Mid-Ohio and Kentucky -- all standalone events where the Cup Series is not competing.

Busch will continue as primary driver of the No. 54 competing in 26 Nationwide events -- the same number of races he ran in 2013. A year ago he won 12 of 26 races and played a pivotal role in the 54 team finishing second in the owners' championship.

"Last year we lost the chance for another owner's championship by a slim margin and I think you can expect a close battle again this season," Busch said. "Having an experienced guy in there to fill the role on a regular basis when I'm not there, gives (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) the opportunity for real consistency.

"Sam was a strong competitor last year and I look forward to having him on our side this season."

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