Take a look at Sam Hornish Jr's retro scheme that he will run at Darlington Raceway this weekend, inspired by Mark Martin.
Veteran ready for return to Sprint Cup Series, working with Almirola Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup appearance behind it, a new, decorated driver in tow and the dust settling on a massive race shop relocation, it's obvious that Richard Petty Motorsports is in the midst of a progressive transformation. The team, which saw Aric Almirola pick up his first career premier series victory last July at Daytona International Speedway to vault the No. 43 Ford into the sport's playoffs, recently moved its headquarters to an 80,000 square foot building in Mooresville, North Carolina, completely redesigning how it proceeds with day-to-day operations to really hammer the focus on a "one-team approach" -- with a two-car race shop and 35 new employees. Gone are the separate offices and garages of old. Crew chiefs, car chiefs and engineers now all interact openly with each other at their desks, while shop employees work side-by-side, knowing a set of shared goals is in place for the 2015 season. It's a new way of doing things that runs all the way up to the drivers themselves, Almirola and the incoming former Indianapolis 500 winner, Sam Hornish Jr . "I think Sam brings a lot of versatility," said team owner and seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty. "Marcos (Ambrose) was super on road courses and stuff, but he never got the hang of being ready. He could have good races and bad races and good times in the races, but I think Sam will be much more consistent with it. "In our testing, ( Hornish and Almirola) both felt the same thing in the car. Whether they'd change the air pressure or they'd change the springs and both of them feel the same thing. With Marcos, he was one way and Aric was the other way and so it was hard to compare them. Now we've got two cars that we can sit down and say, 'OK, you try this and I'll try that and if it works, we'll put it on the other car.' That should be an advantage for all of us." Hornish Jr ., the 2013 XFINITY Series runner-up, has three full-time Sprint Cup Series seasons and 131 starts under his belt and will replace Ambrose in the No. 9 car. He comes to RPM after racing part-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 in an effort to position himself for a competitive Sprint Cup ride in 2015 -- which appears to be exactly what he's done. It was announced Wednesday during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom that, despite having sold sponsorship for just 10 of the schedule's 36 races thus far, Hornish will be running a full slate, starting with the season opening Daytona 500 . With less than a month to go before the Great American Race, the lack of sponsorship is daunting but offers a view into what the King and Co. think of Hornish's talent behind the wheel. Performance on the track comes first, sponsorship later. For an organization and owner that have long been at the helm of motorsports innovation, the investments that RPM is making to grow and build for the future is clear. Its current focus is on testing new ideas and implementing them into the cars, something that they haven't necessarily beem able to do in recent years. With the tools and space that the new shop allows it to explore and take advantage of, combined with two drivers that are very much on the same page to start the season -- something that Petty alluded to not being the case with Almirola and Ambrose -- it should give RPM the flexibility to continue its growth from last season to expand its goals and increase performance in the coming years. "Aric came to all three of the tests and we got the opportunity to jump back and forth out of the car to see what each of us liked as far as driving goes and I feel like that's one of the main benefits right now," said Hornish , who led the eighth-most XFINITY Series laps in 2014 despite running just eight of the schedule's 33 races. "It seems like we both want similar things out of the race car. ... When we get to the race track, hopefully we'll be able to cover twice as much ground as far as finding what's going to be a direction to head and make our cars better each weekend." Hornish's last full-time Cup season was in 2010 -- in a Dodge, no less -- so there's certainly going to be some adjusting to do in the early going, especially considering he hasn't competed full-time at all since 2013. He knows there's going to be bumps in the road, but he's willing to put in the work necessary to make his mark on this avenue of motorsports before the 35-year-old starts to think about wrapping up his racing career. "Going back to the Cup Series full-time, it's a lot different than when I did it last time. I feel like we've got a lot of things to look forward to," Hornish said. "I want to be a part of building something. ... I feel like the best thing that I can do in the situation that I'm in right now is to try to be a good leader and keep people excited about what's going on and to move the program forward because I know that I'm not going to be racing forever. If I can get to the point where I leave it better than when I found it, I feel like that’s my main goal." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Richard Petty Motorsports announces crew chief change effective for Kansas Sam Hornish Jr . will have a new crew chief on the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with Kevin "Bono" Manion coming aboard to be the team's new pit boss. The move takes effect immediately ahead of Saturday's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Kansas Speedway . Manion comes to Richard Petty Motorsports after serving as Alex Bowman 's crew chief for the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team for nine races this season. In his career, Manion has been atop the pit box for 328 Sprint Cup races with five victories including wins in the 2010 Daytona 500 and at Indianapolis, Charlotte and Talladega with Jamie McMurray behind the wheel. Manion also guided Martin Truex Jr . to his first career premier series win at Dover in June of 2007. Manion also has 15 wins as a crew chief in what is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series. With Manion departing the No. 7 team, TBR team owner Tommy Baldwin will take over as crew chief for Bowman, starting immediately according to a press release from the team. "I'm very happy for Bono; we've been friends a long time," Baldwin said Tuesday. "I wish him nothing but the best. Climbing atop the pit box is somewhat of a familiar role for me, and I look forward to working with Alex." Drew Blickensderfer, who has been with Richard Petty Motorsports since the end of the 2012 season, was the crew chief for the first 10 races this season with Hornish . Blickensderfer has three wins atop the pit box including the opening two races of the 2009 season (including the 2009 Daytona 500 with Matt Kenseth ) but his last victory as a crew chief came in 2011 with David Ragan at the July Daytona race. Blickensderfer has been offered another position in the organization, according to a release provided by RPM. "We began the season with changes to the No. 9 race team, most notably with the addition of Sam as our driver," Sammy Johns, the Petty team's director of competition said in a release. "We are now looking to give Sam all the tools he needed to be successful. We feel that Kevin will bring some new ideas to help better our performance. We welcome him to the Petty family." Hornish is coming off a sixth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, his first top-10 with Richard Petty Motorsports . The 35-year-old is currently 28th in the point standings. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sam Hornish Jr . suffers a flat tire, sending him hard into the Turn 1 wall.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr . slams into the back end of Sam Hornish Jr . entering Turn 1 as the No. 9 has a problem.
Bruce: Driver readies for second chance with team on upswing Sam Hornish Jr . will return to full-time competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2015 as driver of the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports . Can Hornish , a former open-wheel champion with 131 starts in the series, contend for wins? Can he follow in teammate Aric Almirola 's footsteps and earn a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup? Does RPM have the tools and personnel to provide Hornish with the opportunity to accomplish either of those goals? Hornish , 35, obviously believes that's the case. Although he hasn't competed in a full-time capacity in the Sprint Cup Series since 2010, when he finished 29th in points with Team Penske, Hornish hasn't exactly been sitting at home on the couch. He finished out the year for Penske in 2012, running 20 races in the No. 22 entry after AJ Allmendinger was suspended. That same year, he finished fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings. The following season, he finished second in the Nationwide Series, falling just three points short of the title won by Austin Dillon . He's made nine NASCAR starts this season, eight for Joe Gibbs Racing in Nationwide, winning at Iowa in the team's No. 54 Toyota. His lone Sprint Cup start came at Auto Club Speedway , a last-minute call putting him in the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin after Hamlin was sidelined for medical reasons. Age isn't an issue -- six of this year's 13 race winners are 35 or older, and they have combined for 15 wins in 30 races. Experience shouldn't be a problem, although rule changes, the lack of testing opportunities and getting settled in with a new team will affect how quickly the team is able to get up to speed. Why return to the series in a full-time capacity? Hornish said he's yet to complete what he originally hoped to accomplish when he made the transition from IndyCar, where he won championships in 2001, 2002 and 2006. "A lot of people want to ask me 'why don't you go back to IndyCar?' " Hornish said Wednesday. "I never came over here because I wanted to have a little bit more fame or I felt like I was going to make any more money doing it. I came over here because I was intrigued by the competition side of it. "I felt like I had accomplished what I wanted to in the IndyCar Series. Now I put myself back in position where I could continue to build on what I originally came over here for." And RPM, he said, can help him accomplish that. It won't be easy. While the organization clearly has made gains in the past few seasons, its drivers have won only sporadically. Almirola's victory this season, in July at Daytona, earned the driver a spot in this year's Chase, but both he and Marcos Ambrose struggled to find the consistency necessary to be a factor on a weekly basis. It's been a year of slow improvement for the group. Although Almirola failed to advance out of the first round of the Chase, he earned his first career win, and his two top-five and seven top-10 finishes are career bests. Ambrose, who will return to Australia after the 2014 season, failed to earn the victory that could have put his No. 9 team in the Chase. His three top-five and five top-10 finishes through 30 races this year are on par with previous years' results. While he says the organization is "not where we want to be yet," Sammy Johns, director of competition for RPM, said the gains the group has made this year helped attract a driver with the potential and talent of Hornish . RPM could have gone the other way with its choice, opting for a young driver with less experience. But by choosing Hornish , the team clearly expects to continue to move forward without taking a step back. Both driver and team have something to prove. "It's kind of like a small ship," Hornish said of the organization. "It's a lot easier to turn, and they've got a lot of things heading in a really good direction." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Filling in for Denny Hamlin, Sam Hornish Jr . managed to finish 17th at Fontana
Sam Hornish Jr . gets heavy damage after making contact with Trevor Bayne at Fontana.
Cole Whitt runs into the back of Sam Hornish Jr . when Hornish stops abruptly to avoid contact with Danica Patrick on pit road during practice at Kentucky Speedway.
Richard Petty Motorsports' newest driver, Sam Hornish Jr ., talks about his return to the Sprint Cup Series.