Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) announced Wednesday during a teleconference with NASCAR media members that Sam Hornish, Jr. will drive the No. 9 Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2015. Hornish joins RPM from Joe Gibbs Racing where he scored one win and four top-five finishes in only eight starts this season driving part-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The 35-year-old began his professional career in the IndyCar Series where he had 19 wins, including the 2006 Indianapolis 500, and three championships. His last championship came with Penske Racing and then owner Roger Penske helped Hornish make the transition into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
RPM announced in September that Marcos Ambrose, who has been with the team since 2011, would return to his native home of Australia at the end of the 2014 season. The team said at the time that the decision to leave the No. 9 team was a personal one by Ambrose.
“This is a great opportunity to join Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 9 Ford team in the Sprint Cup Series,” said Hornish in a team press release. “Owners Richard Petty, Andrew Murstein and Doug Bergeron have built this organization into a championship-contending team with world-class sponsors and partners. Many people have noticed to the progress being made here and I’m ready to build off this momentum. My goal is to put the No. 9 team in victory lane in 2015 and be a competitor in ‘The Chase’.”
Drew Blickensderfer, who has three Sprint Cup career wins, will continue to serve as crew chief on the No. 9 Ford.
“Sam is a really good fit for RPM and will be a great addition to the team,” said Petty. 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.”
RPM was represented in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase by Aric Almirola in the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion. He secured his spot in the championship by virtue of his win at the July Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Although Almirola appeared to be headed for a top-10 finish in the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway, his championship hopes ended with 35 laps to go when the engine expired on the car. He finished 41st and was not able to rally in the next two races of the round and was one of four drivers who failed to advance.
The NASCAR teams head to Charlotte Motor Speedway this week when most of the teams will get a break from travel and compete in the city where they are based. The Nationwide drivers will compete Friday night and the Sprint Cup drivers will race Saturday under the lights.