Castroneves' return puts new pressure on Hornish
Hornish had made it clear last week in
Penske had hired
Power has proven himself capable of running at the front in his short stint with Penske. He was second on Sunday at Long Beach and was sixth in the opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. Power won't run this weekend at Kansas Speedway, but will be in the car with the same sponsor for the Indianapolis 500. The team says it hasn't determined a race schedule beyond Indy for Power.
With Castroneves, an emerging star in
Hornish didn't want to return anyway. After three IndyCar championships and 19 wins, including the Indy 500 in 2006, he'd accomplished everything he'd dreamed of. Hornish was sitting in Turn One at Indianapolis when
By the middle of 2007, at the age of 28, Hornish was saying to himself, "What can I do next?" and the only answer was Sprint Cup. Penske was receptive and the move was made.
It required Penske to expand his Cup team to three cars, an expensive proposition. He didn't have the full sponsorship to fund it and likely believed he could find it for a driver with Hornish's resume.
Funding for the Cup program became a larger issue this year when Verizon completed its acquisition of Alltel,
Without a major sponsor for Stremme and an underfunded primary for Hornish, there is pressure to perform at a level that will attract more sponsorship. Without more funding, it seems unlikely that Penske will continue with three cars next season.
There has been talk that
Hornish has the most to prove and Penske has made that clear. "This is the year and he knows it too," Penske told James. "We've got to see some good progress and he's got to see it."
At Phoenix, Hornish took a big step forward with a top-10 finish. He needs to take more just like it in the next 28 races if he's going to secure his future in Cup.