Hornish now qualified for first 5 races

Updated: February 4, 2009, 1:49 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Bill Davis has become a minority owner of the team now known as Penske Championship Racing, a move giving Sam Hornish Jr. points that will guarantee him a spot in the season's first five races.

With the addition of Davis, the team changed its name to Penske Championship Racing from Penske Racing. Bud Denker, the senior vice president of Penske Corporation, confirmed the move on Wednesday.

Denker said Davis was brought on board to assure that Hornish and his sponsor, Mobile 1, were a part of the upcoming Daytona 500 and the next four races.

Davis retained the points from the No. 22 car driven by Dave Blaney last season, even though he sold his race team and engine company during the offseason. The No. 22 finished last season 31st in owner points, and those points will now will go to Hornish in the No. 77 car.

The top 35 are guaranteed a spot in the first five races.

"It was very important for the sponsors," Denker said.

The move could spell bad news for Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger, who were 36th and 37th in points, respectively. Both drivers were hoping that drivers' points from last season would go unused, vaulting them into the top 35 and guaranteed starts.

Had Blaney's 22 points not been used, each would have moved up one spot in the standings, putting Ambrose automatically into the opener.

And now Richard Childress Racing is attempting to purchase points for Clint Bowyer's new team, the No. 33, another move that might keep Ambrose and Allmendinger from automatically qualifying.

NASCAR is expected to release the top 35 for Daytona on Friday.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter