FONTANA, Calif. (October 11, 2009) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 12th in the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday to score his ninth top-15 result of the season. Hornish is now ranked 26th in the season driver point standings, just 40 points outside of 25th place.
Starting the 500-mile race from the 22nd spot, Hornish quickly relayed that the Mobil 1 Dodge was handling tight in the center of turns 3 and 4 and loose in the middle of turns 1 and 2. When the first round of green flag pit stops began, Hornish was running in the 17th position and came to pit road on lap 39 for service. The Mobil 1 team performed several adjustments to try and improve the handling of the No. 77 Dodge.
During the next run, Hornish reported that the car was still tight-handling, but the performance was better coming off the corners. Hornish maintained position near the top-20 in the running order for much of the first half of the race and the team used a series of pit stops to make adjustments to the race car. When Hornish came to pit road under the caution flag on lap 81, the Mobil 1 crew performed the fastest stop on pit road, completing a four-tire stop in an impressive 12.7 seconds.
At the midpoint of the race, Hornish was posted in the 23rd position. As cloud cover cleared to blue skies at Auto Club Speedway, track conditions began to change and the Mobil 1 team was faced with a loose-handling race car. The team once again employed pit road adjustments to address the handling issues on the Mobil 1 Dodge.
When the caution flag waved on lap 183, Hornish was running in 24th place, one lap down to the leaders. The team opted not to pit in order to get the “wave around” to the tail end of the lead lap for the race restart. The No. 77 team hoped for a quick caution period to solidify position on the lead lap and come to pit road for service. The move proved successful when the caution flag came out on the restart of the race. After coming to the pits, Hornish restarted the race in 23rd place on the lead lap.
With 50 laps to go, Hornish was posted in 20th place on the lead lap. Continuing to race hard, Hornish was able to avoid a multi-car accident on lap 246 that occurred directly in front of the Mobil 1 Dodge. A green/white/checkered flag finish ensued and Hornish crossed the finish line in the 12th position.
“It was a long day for us. The Mobil 1 Dodge wasn’t what we needed it to be early in the race or in the middle, but we kept running all day,” said Hornish. “We stayed out of the wrecks and did what we needed to do. That’s what we’ve been saying all along, days that we don’t have good days, we need to soldier on and make sure we make it to the end and at least get a top-20 out of it instead of a 35th-place finish. I’m real proud of the guys. We’ll work harder and hopefully have a better car when we come back here next year.”
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and David Stremme finished the race in eighth and 16th place, respectively.
Hornish and the No. 77 team return to Lowe’s Motor Speedway this week for the NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America. Racing action will air live on Saturday, October 17, 2009 on the ABC television network beginning at 7 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on PRN Radio starting at 6:15 p.m.