KANSAS CITY, Kan. (October 4, 2009) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 AAA Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 18th in the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. Hornish remains 27th in the 2009 driver point standings, just 65 points out of 25th place.
Starting the race from the 33rd position, Hornish and the AAA team were focused on advancing in the running order to try and secure a strong finish at the 1.5-mile speedway. Hornish immediately reported a tight-handling condition on the AAA machine after taking the green flag. With two caution periods in the first seven laps of the race, the No. 77 team pitted twice to address the issue and improve the race car.
The adjustments worked as Hornish relayed on lap 21 that the AAA Dodge rolled well through the center of the turns and was just slightly loose-handling while exiting the corners. When the first round of green flag pit stops began shortly after lap 50, the AAA crew turned out an impressive stop for four tires and fuel, as well as air pressure and track bar adjustments. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in the 23rd spot.
The methodical approach of the AAA team proved successful as Hornish emerged as one of the fastest cars on the race track during the next run. When the caution flag waved on lap 67, he was posted in the 21st position. Hornish returned to pit road for service, taking four tires instead of two like many other teams, and he restarted the race in 20th place.
When another round of green flag pit stops began near the midpoint of the race, Hornish had advanced to eighth place when the caution flag was displayed. He came to pit road for service and was assessed a speeding penalty that forced him to line up at the end of the longest line on track. Hornish restarted the race from the 24th spot and was once again tasked with advancing through the field.
Hornish and the AAA team continued to make gains on the handling of the No. 77 Dodge throughout the second half of the race. When the caution flag was displayed on lap 236, Hornish was running in the 21st position, one lap down to the leaders. The team opted not to pit in order for Hornish to be waved around to the tail end of the lead lap. Able to go the distance to the checkered flag on fuel, Hornish made the most of his return to lead-lap racing and finished the race in 18th place. It marked the 13th top-20 finish for Hornish this season.
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and David Stremme finished the race in 11th place and 25th place, respectively.
“Today was a hard fought, solid top-20 finish that was a group effort on the part of this entire team,” said Hornish. “We had a couple of mistakes and got caught a lap down at one point, but the end result is a top-20 finish and those haven’t been easy for us to come by this season. We have either been inside the top-10 or outside of the top-20 a lot this year and consistent top-20 finishes are the building blocks for a strong showing in the driver point standings. Overall, it was a good day for this AAA team.”
Hornish and the No. 77 team head to Auto Club Speedway for the Pepsi 500 in Fontana, Calif. on Sunday, October 11, 2009. Racing action will air live on the ABC television network beginning at 2:30 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio starting at 3:15 p.m. EDT.