Accident Relegates Hornish to 37th Place Finish at Bristol

August 24, 2008

BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 23, 2008) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in the 37th position on Saturday night. Starting in the 35th spot, Hornish ran well until he was collected in a multi-car accident on lap 216. The Mobil 1 crew worked hard and was able to return Hornish to the 500-lap race, ensuring the team remained in the top-35 in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup owners points standings.

With newly-appointed crew chief, Travis Geisler, at the helm of the No. 77 team, Hornish and crew have set their focus on the final races of the 2008 season.

“I want to be able to feel like we’ve got a 13-race foundation to build upon going into next year,” said Geisler prior to the event. “I think this Mobil 1 team has the potential, and I know Sam has the potential, to have a top-15 car every week. That’s where we hope to finish out the season.”             

As racing action began at the famed .533-mile oval, it did not take long for Hornish to report that the Mobil 1 Dodge was too tight-handling overall. By lap 63 he was running in the 36th position, one lap down to the leaders.

When the first caution of the race came out on lap 96, Hornish was posted in 34th place and radioed the team that the Mobil 1 Dodge was tight from the center of the corners through exit.

On lap 99, Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. He restarted the race on lap 102 in the 35th position.

A long green flag run commenced and Hornish reported that the adjustments had improved the handling of the Mobil 1 Dodge on corner exit. By lap 150, Hornish remained in the 35th position.

When the caution flag waved on lap 195, only 18 cars remained on the lead lap. Hornish noted that the Mobil 1 machine remained tight in the center of the corners but was improved on entry and exit. He came to pit road on lap 202 for four tires, fuel, track bar and wedge adjustments. He restarted the race on lap 206 in 34th place.

On lap 216, Hornish was collected in a multi-car accident, when the No. 5 and No. 55 cars got together, leaving Hornish with no place to go except into the fracas. While NASCAR cleaned up the seven-car wreckage, racing action was red-flagged for more than 12 minutes, halting all cars on track and all work in the garage area. The Mobil 1 crew surveyed the damaged to the No. 77 machine, and once the caution was displayed, feverishly went to work making repairs to the race car. With valuable owner points on the line, the team was aware of the importance of getting back in the race.

After removing the nose of the Mobil 1 Dodge and making extensive repairs, Hornish returned to the race on lap 382. Within two laps, Hornish had gained three spots in the running order. He made his last pit stop of the race on lap 455 for four tires, fuel and adjustments. He restarted the race in 37th place.

On lap 469, smoke began pour from the No. 77 Dodge and Hornish quickly came to pit road. With fluids leaking from the race car, Geisler made the call to retire from the race.

“In the interest of safety, let’s go ahead and pack it up for the night,” radioed Geisler to the Mobil 1 team. “We’ve done what we could and we’ve gained as many positions as possible. Everybody did a great job getting us back out there tonight.”

Hornish finished the Food City 500 in 37th place, 203 laps down to race winner Carl Edwards. The No. 77 Dodge is 35th in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner points standings.

“It was a disappointing night for the Mobil 1 team,” said Hornish after the race. “Everybody got together pushing each other real hard and we got caught up in the accident. There’s not a lot of room out there and little time to react. There just wasn’t anywhere to go.

“Before the accident, I feel that I learned quite a bit about getting around the track here at Bristol. I think we will see the results of that when we return here next season. I’m proud of this team tonight. Even though we only gained 12 points by returning the race, those points helped us remain in the top-35 in owner points. Every point counts.”

Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finished in 6th and 15th place, respectively.

Hornish and the No. 77 team head west to Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, Calif., next weekend for the excitement of Sunday night racing in the Pepsi 500. Racing action will be televised live on ESPN at 7 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast on MRN at 7:15 p.m. EDT.