Sam Hornish Jr. wants to drive 22 car

Updated: July 10, 2012, 5:29 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sam Hornish Jr. has let Penske Racing officials know he is interested in driving the No. 22 Sprint Cup car full time if AJ Allmendinger's suspension becomes lengthy.

Allmendinger was "temporarily suspended" by NASCAR prior to Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway because he failed a drug test. He has requested a test of the "B" sample of the test he took the previous week at Kentucky.

Allmendinger
Allmendinger
Hornish
Hornish

If that test comes back negative, Allmendinger will be re-instated. If that test supports the "A" test, which typically is the case, then Allmendinger would have to go through NASCAR's Road to Recovery program that likely would keep him out at least through the rest of this season.

Hornish was a last-minute replacement for Allmendinger at Daytona, finishing 33rd after a blown tire midway through the race all but ended his night. He was tabbed on Monday to drive this weekend at New Hampshire.

"This is definitely not the way that I would like to do it," Hornish said of getting back in a Cup car. "But at the end of the day, I feel like with the way things have been in racing lately, I feel like you take what you can get at this point and time."

Hornish said he texted team owner Roger Penske on Sunday morning to let him know he was available if Allmendinger's suspension lingered the rest of this season and into 2013.

He was adamant it was not out of disrespect to Allmendinger, whose contract ends after this season.

"I don't see how anybody could blame me for wanting that opportunity if it becomes available," Hornish said. "I'm not going to push to make anything happen, but I definitely wanted to let them know that I was interested in it and available to do it if they had the need for me to."

The former IndyCar champion drove three full seasons (2008-2010) in Cup for Penske Racing before being demoted to the Nationwide Series last season. He had only two top-five finishes and eight top 10s during his Cup seasons, finishing no better than 28th in points.

His goal since has been to return to Cup. Penske said after Hornish won last year's Nationwide Series race at Phoenix, the plan was to run the former Indianapolis 500 winner full time in Nationwide in 2012 and move to Cup in 2013.

There has been speculation that Nationwide sponsors, led by Alliance Truck Parts, might follow Hornish into Cup next year. But there are no guarantees like there would be with No. 22 sponsored by Shell Pennzoil, which sponsored Hornish during his IndyCar championship runs in 2001 and 2002.

"We haven't really gotten into conversations about what next year will hold with our sponsors," Hornish said. "We would like to think with the way we're running that we would continue to move forward with them, but we don't have anything set in stone."

Hornish is fourth in the Nationwide standings, only 35 points behind Elliott Sadler.

"That's part of why we continue to focus so much of our time and energy on the Nationwide Series," Hornish said. "It's really important for them (sponsors) to know how important that is and not lose sight of that."

Hornish said there are only two real conflicts with the Nationwide schedule should he be asked to drive the No. 22 the rest of the year. They would be when Nationwide is at Iowa on Aug. 4 and Cup at Pocono on Aug. 5, and when Nationwide is at Montreal on the Aug. 18 and Cup at Michigan on Aug. 19.

He said Penske won't make a decision on the rest of the 22 schedule until the "B" sample results are in -- likely by the end of this week -- noting there will be plenty of time because Cup has as week off after this weekend.

"I'm looking at having a good weekend," Hornish said of New Hampshire. "We don't know anything other than that. It's a this weekend-type thing."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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