Sam Hornish Jr. focuses on Nationwide

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Sam Hornish Jr. said Monday he hopes to run a minimum of 11 Nationwide Series races this season for Penske Racing.

Hornish said a lack of sponsorship forced Penske to drop his Sprint Cup Series ride. A deal with Alliance Truck Parts gave Hornish enough funding for eight Nationwide races, and the team will try to add more as the season goes on.

"I'm looking forward to getting to run the minimum of 11 races in the Nationwide series, build our brand and maybe bring some new sponsorship to the team," Hornish said. "We're taking baby steps to back to where we want to be, where I want to be, in the Cup Series."

Hornish spent the last three years racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series. He has eight top-10 finishes, and a career-best finish of 28th in the points.

Hornish won three championships in the IndyCar Series and the 2006 Indianapolis 500. He moved to NASCAR after the 2007 season.

Penske did not reveal Hornish's schedule for 2011, and Hornish downplayed the possibility of potentially running this year's Indy 500, which marks the 100th anniversary of the race.

"I don't know how much desire I have to do that, it would have to be the right program," Hornish said. "The thing that intrigues me the most is it's the 100th anniversary. If I'm not in the race, I'll for sure be there at some point during the month."

He also reflected on a recent party sponsor Marlboro hosted to celebrate its racing history. The festivities were marked by a video presentation that included clips of Hornish's race-winning pass at Indy.

"It was nice to remember you once did something after getting dirt kicked in your face the last three years," Hornish said. "I kind of needed that."

Team owner Roger Penske shouldered some of the blame for Hornish's struggles in NASCAR, saying moving him to the highest level of stock car racing with so little testing hurt Hornish's development.

"I probably put him in that situation, and we're at the point where we've got to be honest about this," Penske said. "I told him 'Let's take a step back and try to build a program for you.' "

Penske said it "doesn't make any sense" for Hornish to run the Indy 500 because they want to keep him focused on developing in NASCAR.