By AMANDA VINCENT
Sam Hornish Jr. isn’t expected to return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2016 to continue as driver of the No. 9 Ford for the organization in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The 2015 season has been Hornish’s first behind the wheel of the No. 9.
After several published reports speculating that Hornish wouldn’t remain with RPM, car co-owner Richard Petty addressed the media during the recent Phoenix International Raceway weekend and all but confirmed that Hornish would not continue with the race team by saying he didn’t expect Hornish to return. Petty did say that RPM would continue to field two cars full-time in the Sprint Cup Series, with Aric Almirola returning to the seat of the No. 43 Ford.
“We’re still working on what we’re going to do with the 9 car and crew and all that stuff,” Petty said. “Things are looking up. We’ve got some stuff coming down the pike, but we don’t have it corralled yet.”
Hornish has struggled in 2015. In 35 races, he has only three top-10 finishes and is 25th in points with one race remaining Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In addition to the identity of the driver of the No. 9 for 2016, unknowns also surround the identity of a primary sponsor for the car.
The name most often thrown around to replace Hornish in the No. 9 next season is David Ragan. Ragan, the driver of the No. 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing, will be displaced when MWR shutters operations at season’s end.
Another name worth mentioning is that of Regan Smith. Smith has raced in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series the last few seasons and has been a championship contender at that level as driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet of the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports. He is losing his ride with that team at the end of the season. Smith has Sprint Cup experience, formerly racing rull-time for Furniture Row Racing, and has had his eyes on a return to Sprint Cup Racing.
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