Sam Hornish Jr

Sam Hornish Jr. believes that his performances in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series merit a step up to a Sprint Cup seat in 2014.

The three-time IndyCar champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner moved across to stock cars with Penske full time in 2008, but disappointing results over the next three years and the loss of his sponsor Mobil 1 forced him to step back to Nationwide in 2011.

Hornish has made irregular Cup starts since, but his focus on Nationwide earned him fourth in last year’s standings, and he is eight points behind championship leader Austin Dillon going into this weekend’s finale at Homestead. The 34-year-old admitted that the demotion to Nationwide had ultimately been beneficial but he says that he feels ready to return to NASCAR’s top tier next season.

“I definitely feel I belong in the Cup Series,” Hornish said. “Taking the step back was to prove what I’ve known for a long time: given the equipment, the right people around me, what I would be capable of.

“Each one of those experiences was a learning one. At one point, because I’d been so successful on the IndyCar side, I was going to pick up the car and carry it on my back if it wasn’t good enough.

“I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to be able to come out here and be in it long enough to prove what I’ve known for a long time. Pacing myself back and doing what I’m capable of, not trying to carry the car, also getting the right people around me, are the biggest things that have helped me out.”