Heather Williams/KWCH

Heather Williams/KWCH (October 2, 2012)

Sam Hornish stared down 5 1/2 lbs of food Tuesday at the Turn 2 Lounge inside the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway. The burger is called the "Beast", but is nothing compared to what Hornish has already tackled this season.

It's been three months since he was forced into double duty due to AJ Allmendinger's suspension from NASCAR. Since then the former Indy Car champion has taken a tough situation and run with it. He has an average finish of 18th, including a top five finish at Watkins Glen. In fact, he has three top-12 finishes in just eight race.

"I can see the difference between the team is now and when I was running cup full-time," said Hornish. "Just how much better the cars are. And we have better people around there. This sport is just about having better people around you."

For Hornish, that also includes his teammate Brad Keselowski who also leads the chase for the Championship standings.

"It's been good for the organization and one of the things that I think has helped as well is the fact that Brad and I like similar things out of the race car," said Hornish. "So now when we go somewhere and test everybody doesn't think that I'm crazy because he generally likes the same things I do and vica versa. So we're able to build off of each other."

Hornish is also currently forth in the Nationwide series standings 60 points behind leader Elliott Sadler.

"We'd like to be in the top three in points so we've got a little bit to get there," said Hornish. "We've had some really good runs lately, But we've had a could of cut down tires that kept us from finishing where we should have."

With the growing success in the Nationwide series, and a seeming successful audition on the cup side, many thought that Hornish might get to drive the number 22 car permanently. But instead Penske decided to bring in Joey Logano. And as of right now, Hornish's future is uncertain.

But he has been there before. After three seasons driving for Penske in the cup series, he lost that ride at the end of the 2010 season. A drop back to the Nationwide series brought success, with a win and 25 top tens in just under two seasons.

He knew he was better equipped to succeed this time around.

"I knew it wasn't all my fault the things the happened," said Hornish of his previous cup series experience. "But I knew there were things that I could do better. So with the improvement of my team and the improvement of myself it's really shown what we are able to do."

So know he is ready to tackle the next challenge what ever it may be.

"We're gonna drive some race cars," said Hornish. "We don't have anything set in stone yet."

Before he could move on to that, there was the unfinished business of the "Beast." Hornish managed to down nearly two pounds of the behemoth burger in 15 minutes. He finished second against a sea of guys that had at least 50 pounds on him.

But Hornish is used to meeting any challenge put before him.

"We're just gonna keep out head up and keep going forward," said Hornish. "I'd like to get a (Nationwide) win before the season is over. We've got five more races to do that in. So we just keep going forward."