Despite tough rookie season, Hornish will not go back to IndyCar

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Sam Hornish Jr. put an end to the rumors Friday, saying he is committed to NASCAR and will not return to the IndyCar Series in 2009.

Hornish, a three-time IndyCar Series champion and the 2006 Indy 500 champion, is a rookie this season in Sprint Cup. Hornish has struggled, posting only three finishes in the top 20 and no finishes in the top 10.

But Hornish said he is committed to making things work on the No. 77 Dodge team at Penske Racing.

"All that talk [about going back to IndyCar] is basically untrue," Hornish said. "I think all this got started with Dario [Franchitti] deciding to go back. Then all the questions to me were about what am I going to do?"

Franchitti, the 2007 Indy 500 winner and series champion, also was a Sprint Cup rookie this year, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. But the team never acquired a full-time sponsor for the No. 40 Dodge, so Ganassi parked the car in July, leaving Franchitti without a ride.

Franchitti opted to return to IndyCar next year and drive for Ganassi's open-wheel team.

Hornish has no plans to return to Roger Penske's IndyCar operation. It's possible Penske could have an open seat next year on his two-car operation. Helio Castroneves is involved in legal problems over tax-evasion charges.

"I've talked to Roger about Helio, but not about me coming back," Hornish said. "I don't think it's in his mind at all to have me go back over there. He invested a lot of time and money about seeing this through."

Hornish finds it a bit unusual that so many people have speculated about his returning to IndyCar.

"It's funny," he said, "the two years before I came to NASCAR, everybody asked me when I was going to make the jump from IndyCar to NASCAR. Now everybody asked me when I'm going back to IndyCar. I guess wherever I am they want me to be somewhere else."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.