CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nearly a month and three races have passed since Sam Hornish Jr. earned a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. The wait to hit the track for the Defiance native is over, however, with Hornish taking to the track on Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Dollar General 300 Miles of Courage in the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge.
The race can be seen live on ESPN2.
Hornish has several reasons to be excited heading into this event:
• It's the first of four straight races Hornish will compete in to finish the season.
• Hornish will be driving a brand new Penske Racing Dodge Challenger, the same type of car that has taken teammate Brad Keselowski to wins in two of the last three Nationwide events.
• Hornish remembers his strong run in the spring at Charlotte before a pit road mishap put him a lap down.
• Help is on the way, with Kurt Busch's NASCAR Sprint Cup pit crew taking over duties on Hornish's car for this Nationwide race.
"I'm really excited for this weekend and for the rest of the year," stated Hornish. "We had a really good run at Charlotte in the spring before we ended up having a tire get away from us in the pits on a green-flag pit stop. That cost us a drive-through penalty and put us a lap down, and the race went green the rest of the way. At the time we were running in the top five.
"So I'm looking forward to going back there again to try and get a finish we deserve," continued Hornish. "We've got a new car and I'm looking forward to having some fun with it. The stuff we've been running this year was the first generation (Car of Tomorrow) stuff, but the new car will have aerodynamics and a better chassis. A lot of the technology from the Cup cars is coming over the Nationwide cars now."
After having several problems in the pits during the course of his abbreviated season, Hornish is really looking forward to having an experienced pit crew for this weekend's action.
"With the pit crew coming over from the No. 22 team, I'm really optimistic that we can compete for a victory," Hornish said. "The change came about after the issues we've had this year, and had again at Chicago. It's tough for a crew when they're not doing it every week, but it's something that had to happen. Now we just need to prove we can put it all together on Friday."
At the present time, Penske Racing and Alliance Truck Parts continue to work on a deal that would put Hornish in the seat of the No. 12 Dodge full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2012. While no deal has been finalized, Hornish knows that strong finishes to this season could go a long way toward what could happen for next year.
"It's super important for us to finish the year strong in these last four races ... and I'm looking forward to racing a lot over the next month or so," Hornish said. "It's certainly where I want to be and getting the chance to really get some continuity with (crew chief) Chad (Walter) and not have a month break in there. It makes it tough for both of us.
"The best thing for me is that Charlotte has been one of my favorite places to race, even way back in my go-karting days," concluded Hornish. "I have fond memories of racing on the infield there in go-karts and I have fond memories of racing there in the All-Star races too. It's also like a home race for me, with us having a home in the area. It's the one time this year I'll get to sleep in my own bed after the race. There's going to be a lot of family and friends here this weekend too, so I would love to have a good run on Friday."