Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday it has signed Sam Hornish Jr. to replace Marcos Ambrose as driver of its No. 9 Ford Fusion for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The multi-year deal brings the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champ back into NASCAR’s top league for the first time since 2010. He currently drives in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing (ABOVE). He won at Iowa Speedway in May and took pole positions at Talladega and Mid-Ohio.
Drew Blickensderfer will serve as Hornish’s crew chief in the No. 9
“This is a great opportunity to join Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 9 Ford team in the Sprint Cup Series,” Hornish said. “Richard Petty, Andrew Murstein and Doug Bergeron have built this organization into a championship-contending team with world-class sponsors and partners.
RPM’s second driver, Aric Almirola, made the Chase this year and Hornish pointed to that as sign of momentum for the team. “Many people have noticed the progress being made here and I’m ready to build off this momentum,” he said.
Hornish says he is confident his second time around as a Sprint Cup full-timer will go better than his first with Penske Racing, with whom he moved into stock car racing. He has started at least one Cup race every year since 2007 with three top-fives and nine top-10s in 131 race starts. Hornish’s best career finish is a fourth place at Pocono in 2009.
“I feel like I’m a lot better prepared. I feel like I’m more ready to go full time than with my first go-around with only about 12-15 stock car races under my belt,” Hornish said. “This is a different opportunity for sure than the one I had previously. But if everything had gone perfectly the first go-around I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work for Richard Petty, so I’m thankful.”
Team principal Richard Petty said Hornish was an ideal fit for the organization.
“Sam is a really good fit for RPM and will be a great addition to the team,” said Petty. “He’s a family man who fits well with our core values and he will be a great ambassador for our partners.
“Sam’s also proven that he can win races and compete for a championship. He came into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a steep learning curve from open wheel racing, but has shown in the Nationwide Series that he is a winner. We feel that he can get the No. 9 team to Victory Lane and compete in ‘The Chase’ for us.”
Ambrose announced last month that he was leaving NASCAR at season’s end to join Hornish’s old team, Penske, in its new V8 Supercars program