Penske favourite to land Hornish

Sam Hornish Jr will sign this week with Roger Penske, who plans to move him into Rusty Wallace's stock car in 2005, according to AUTOSPORT sources

Penske favourite to land Hornish

An anonymous insider has suggested that Hornish will run a mix of IRL IndyCar Series, NASCAR Busch Series and ARCA races for Penske in 2004, then replace Wallace on Penske's NASCAR Nextel Cup team in 2005.

When asked about the report Friday during practice for the Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway, Hornish replied: "I really can't comment on that."

Speaking under condition of anonymity, the source said Hornish's contract with Penske will cover three years, the last two of which are specified for Nextel Cup. Wallace is expected to retire following the 2004 season.

Hornish's move will not displace Gil de Ferran next year on Penske's IRL team, the source said. Instead, Penske will expand his IRL team to three cars for at least a portion of the 2004 season, something he previously indicated he would not do.

Penske was not at Nazareth Speedway on Friday, team officials said. Penske Racing president Tim Cindric could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, Hornish said he would not return to Pennzoil Panther Racing, with which he had won IRL championships in 2001 and 2002. Hornish, who will complete the 2003 season with Panther, indicated he will make an announcement later this week regarding his plans for 2004.

"I just told everybody that next year is next year and that [driving for Panther] is one of the things I won't be doing," Hornish said Friday. "It was a tough decision, but we have to focus on winning this race and winning this championship."

Meanwhile, de Ferran acknowledged that he has heard talk about Hornish joining Penske's IRL team, but did not confirm the reports.

"I've read all that stuff," de Ferran said. "I suppose I know where it all started. You've got to figure things out with bits of information. I don't have any privileged information that would help me to tell you anything otherwise."

As he has several times this season, de Ferran - who won the Indianapolis 500 in May - indicated he would return to race with Penske in 2004, again nixing rumors of his retirement.

"I can't add any more than what I've already said," de Ferran said. "I'm having a good time and only have plans to continue on."

Hornish hinted strongly at his interest in NASCAR during an IRL teleconference Tuesday. However, he stopped short of revealing his plans for 2004. Shortly after the teleconference, he indicated he still had details to finalise and would make an announcement sometime next week.

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