Hornish Finishes 22nd in Lenox 301 at New Hampshire

July 15, 2012

LOUDON, N.H. (July 15, 2012) – Sam Hornish Jr., fill-in driver for the No. 22 Penske Racing Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team, started 24th and finished 22nd in today’s LENOX Tools 301 here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  For Hornish, today’s race marked his second event in relief of the “temporary suspended” AJ Allmendinger, but it offered the first real race for working closely with crew chief Todd Gordon.

“A little bit frustrating,” said Hornish, currently fourth in Nationwide Series points and a serious contender for that series’ championship.  “We were really free on entry and that kind of plagued us most of the day.  We struggled with it but we persevered and brought the car home, didn’t get into any bang-ups and hopefully didn’t make anybody mad (smiles).  At the end of the day, I was pretty happy with how the guys did in the pits.  It just didn’t seem like we ever got the right adjustment to make it better.  What we had at the beginning of the race was what we had at the end of the race."

“Hey, I got to drive a Cup car two more times; I’m not disappointed at all,” Hornish said.  “I wish both races had gone a little better but the first one, we couldn’t do anything about Daytona and the tire coming apart.  This one, I think the big thing was that we didn’t really know what we wanted out of the car and I didn’t know what I wanted for this first race back in the Cup car because I haven’t driven on this flat-of-a-track for quite a while.  It’s definitely a lot different than what the Nationwide cars are.  I’m really grateful to Penske Racing and Shell-Pennzoil for giving me the opportunity.” 

Hornish started today’s race from the 24th position and had advanced into the top-20 early in the race, but fighting the handling conditions he described, he was running 23rd when the first round of green-flag pit stops were the order.  The four-tire-and-fuel stop on Lap 63 saw the team go with air pressure adjustments. 

After the stops cycled around on Lap 73, Hornish was up to 18th.  However, he had fallen to 20th on Lap 88, when the first caution flag of the race was displayed.  The caution for debris was a needed break for the No. 22 team as the leader was running less than four seconds behind when the yellow came out.

During the ensuing pit stops, Gordon called for four tires, fuel, air pressure adjustments and a round down on the track bar.  With 23 cars on the lead lap, Hornish was shown as 20th on the Lap 93 restart. 

Hornish maintained his position as the second round of green-flag stops saw him hit pit road on Lap 154 for four tires, air pressure adjustments and fuel.  The “Double-Deuce” wound up going a lap down during the cycling of stops and was running 22nd on Lap 160.

Debris again caused a second caution flag on Lap 189.  Hornish hit pit road under the yellow on Lap 192 for four tires, more air pressure adjustments and fuel.  He was 21st and running a lap down on the Lap 196 restart as the threat for rain moved into the area.

David Reutimann’s blown engine on Lap 233 brought out the third yellow flag of the day.  Since Hornish had enough fuel to last another 40 laps, Gordon and crew decided to stay out, take the wave-around and return to the lead lap.

Hornish was 21st and running on the lead lap for the Lap 239 restart.  However, the team never got the caution they were hoping for and had to pit again under the green on Lap 274.  The call was for right-side tires, one can of fuel and 1 1/2 rounds down on the track bar. 

Hornish fell to 24th and running a lap down to the leaders after the trip to pit road.  He was able to make up two positions during the final laps and was credited with a 22nd-place finish.  He was the third car in the finishing order running one lap down at the checkered flag.

Kasey Kahne picked up his second victory of the season here today after a dominant Denny Hamlin went with four tires on the last pit stop.  Hamlin had led 150 laps before the final stops with 66 laps remaining.  A communications mistake saw the No. 11 take on four tires while all the other leaders went with only two.

Hamlin lined up 13th on the restart and put on a driving exhibition coming back up through the field.  With no additional cautions to bunch the cars up, he had to settle for the runner-up spot, crossing the finish line 2.738 seconds behind winner Kahne.  Clint Bowyer finished third.  Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has incredibly completed every possible lap in the first 19 races, came home fourth and Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski finished fifth in the Miller Lite Dodge.

Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman completed today’s top-10 finishers.

Even though Hornish didn’t get the finish he was hoping for here this afternoon, he still found positives in today’s race.

“I mean, it was really important but the big thing for us was just to make sure we were smart about how we ran and to stay out of trouble,” he said.  “I would have liked to finish on the lead lap but that really wasn’t in the cards for us today.  At times, I thought we were pretty good but we just weren’t consistent enough.  We didn’t have that corner entry stability to be able to drive in the corner to pass people.  I could get up to ‘em, roll the center on ‘em in the middle of the corners and come up off the corner beside ‘em but I couldn’t drive it down in there like I needed to be really be able to make passes.”

Asked about having team owner Roger Penske here the last two days and very active on the team radios, Hornish added, “Well, believe it or not, there’s a time when he called my races so he was on the radio a lot more than that even.  It’s always good to have the boss here.  I heard him in my ear yesterday for the first time since maybe Las Vegas or somewhere in that period of the year, so it had been 10 or 12 races at least.  We’re glad to have him here and wish we could have put on a little bit better show today.  But there’s always next weekend and we’ll get out there with the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger and see if we can’t figure out how to win this year when we go to Chicago.”

While Hornish will be on the road next weekend for the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, the Sprint Cup Series teams get their final “off week” of the season.  Starting with the July 29 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the tour will be in action every weekend through the season-ending Nov. 18 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida.