Sam Hornish Jr. started from pole position and finished 5th in his first Nationwide start of the 2014 season at Talladega.
When Sam Hornish Jr. began racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2006, his results were poor. It took him 20 starts and four years before he finally earned his first top-10 at Richmond in the Spring of 2011, finishing seventh.
However, in November of 2011, he recorded his first career Nationwide win at Phoenix and although he went winless in 2012, he still finished fourth in points with one pole, 10 top-fives and 22 top-10s. In 2013, he narrowly lost the Nationwide championship to Austin Dillon despite snagging four poles, one race win, 16 top-fives, and 25 top-10s.
Yet, after the season finale at Homestead, Hornish found himself without a ride when he was released from Penske Racing, the team that saw him to 130 Sprint Cup Series starts, two Nationwide Series wins, an Indy 500 win (2006) and an IndyCar championship (2006).
It didn’t take long before Hornish found a ride with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Although JGR competes on an even playing field in the Sprint Cup Series, their Toyota's have a tendency to obliterate the Nationwide Series competition. Their Nationwide program is brutally strong, and with that being said it seems that Hornish may have found the perfect ride for his comeback trail.
At the time of this writing, Hornish currently has the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota on the pole for the Nationwide Talladega race. Considering that Talladega will be his first start in the Nationwide Series this season, his pole-winning run made a strong statement on his status with the team.
Granted, with the new qualifying rules, his run may be chalked up to the draft, or that Talladega is usually a crap-shoot. Take into consideration that the JGR Toyotas are not only strong, but Hornish has successfully made that transition from IndyCar champion to NASCAR driver. It may have taken an extended period of time, but Hornish has matured enough to be considered a contender in whatever vehicle he sets foot in.
Hornish is a NASCAR winner. It’s safe to call him a winner because he’s done so multiple times. He’s a competent driver who has adapted quite nicely to stock cars, and the fact that he’s running only seven races for JGR instead of a full season seems a bit like robbery to a driver who could very well dominate the Nationwide Series, if given proper seat time.
Until then, Hornish has seven races to prove himself. He started it off on the right foot, but given his skill and the strength of the JGR Toyota's, he has no reason to flounder with the No. 54.