2012 Ride: No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge
2012 Primary Sponsor: Alliance Truck Parts
2012 Owner: Roger Penske
2012 Crew Chief: Chad Walter
Stats: 33 races; 0 wins, 10 top 5s, 22 top 10s, 1 pole, 0 DNFs, 4th in points.
Average Finish: 9.7.
Best Finish: 2nd – three times (Indianapolis, Montreal, Kentucky – September).
2012 Team Ranking: 1st of 2. While Brad Keselowski and others combined in the No. 22, Hornish was the only full-time Nationwide driver for Penske and the only one eligible for driver points. However, Keselowski won three times, also scoring more top-5 finishes than Hornish (11) in a limited schedule. That served notice the Cup champ would easily be a championship contender on this side of the pond — should the rules ever allow for Cupwhackers to return full-time.
High Point: A second-place finish in the inaugural Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis was nice for Hornish, who was expected to do well at the track where he once won the Indy 500. It was also the start of a streak of four top-5 results; a runner-up performance, a few weeks later in Montreal propelled a surging Hornish to second in series points. It’s easily the most consistent streak put together throughout his time running in NASCAR.
Low Point: Hornish’s worst result of the year came at Charlotte in the Fall. Contact with Justin Allgaier early in the race sent Hornish to the garage for lengthy repairs, his car severely banged up. He returned to the track, soldiering on to a 35th-place finish but the damage was done. Fourth in the series standings, the one-time title hopeful was all but mathematically eliminated from contention.
Summary: Team owner Roger Penske has taken the blame for rushing Hornish’s development, a half-dozen years ago when he moved his championship driver from the IZOD IndyCar Series to NASCAR. To that effort, he essentially started over with Hornish and it’s paid off, with the driver posting his best season to date in the Nationwide Series. Although he didn’t post a win in 2012, as he did in 2011, Hornish showed more consistent performance.
When A.J. Allmendinger’s seat in Sprint Cup unexpectedly opened up halfway through the season, the Ohio native also stepped in and did double duty for the remainder of the year. There are those who thought Hornish got slighted when Joey Logano was given the Cup ride for 2013, but Penske would like to make a run at the Nationwide championship and he’d like Hornish to be the one to do it. The Captain may also be making doubly sure he doesn’t make the same mistake twice with rushing Hornish to Cup. Another solid campaign in Nationwide certainly won’t hurt.
Off-Track News: Did you know Hornish, behind the scenes enjoys customizing automobiles? He has a collection that includes a 1930 Model A Ford, a 1951 Mercury, a 1955 Chevrolet Del Ray, a 1965 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, a 1967 Chevrolet pick-up truck and a Corvette C06 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.
2013 Outlook: Hornish will return for another full-time season in the No. 12 Penske Ford, driving Nationwide full-time for 2013. The team will be getting used to the new manufacturer but will have long-time Ford crew chief Greg Erwin to help with the transition. Hornish has been improving over the last several years, so Penske Racing is looking to make a serious run at the championship before potentially making a move to Cup, with Hornish a second time in 2014.
2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: N/A.
2012 Grade: A-. This was by far Hornish’s best season in NASCAR. A few more wins, a touch more consistency, and he will have a chance at that championship in 2013.
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