LOUDON, N.H. (September 19, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 10th in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The result is the first top-10 finish of the season for the No. 77 team, and second for Hornish at the 1.058-mile oval.
After starting the race from the 15th spot, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team were intent on earning another strong finish at the “Magic Mile.” When the first caution flag of the race was displayed, Hornish was posted in the 17th position and radioed that the race car was tight in the center of the turns. He came to pit road on lap 26 for what was planned to be a two-tire pit stop with adjustments. However, Hornish had trouble exiting the pit stall due to tight conditions on pit road. As a result, the Mobil 1 team opted to take four tires and restarted the race from 37th place.
Tasked with advancing back through the field, Hornish was running 28th when the caution flag waved on lap 39. The Mobil 1 team opted not to make a pit stop and advanced into 18th-place for the lap 43 restart. A long green-flag run ensued, and Hornish relayed that the handling of the race car was somewhat improved in the center of the turns. He was running in 13th-place when the first round of green-flag pit stops began, and he came to pit road for four tires and fuel, along with track bar and air pressure adjustments. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in the 22nd spot.
The adjustments to the Mobil 1 Dodge caused the tight-handling condition in the center of the corners to return and Hornish fell one lap down to the leaders on lap 121. When the caution flag came out once again on lap 146 for debris, Hornish was running in 23rd-place and came to pit road for substantial adjustments. Racing action resumed just past the midpoint of the 300-lap event with Hornish in 28th-place, one lap down.
In a matter of laps, Hornish advanced into the “lucky dog” position as the first car one lap down to the leaders. When the caution flag came out on lap 206, he was still in position for the “free pass” and was allowed to return to lead-lap racing and came to pit road for service.
Pleased with the handling on the Mobil 1 machine, Hornish raced hard and proved to have one of the stronger cars on the racetrack. A series of caution periods during the second half of the race allowed the Mobil 1 team to employ pit strategy to advance into the top 10. Hornish was able to maintain position near the front of the field, and as several of the leaders ran out of fuel coming to the checkered flag, Hornish crossed the start/finish line in 10th place.
“We’ve gone through a lot of different things trying to figure out why we haven’t been able to run as well as we did last year. We didn’t have a great run today, but we did what we needed to do,” said Hornish. “I passed about six cars on a restart to get back in position for the lucky dog. It took about 30 laps before we finally got the caution.
“The Mobil 1 Dodge was pretty good today. It just wasn’t as good as we needed it to be at the end. We were way too tight the last couple of runs. I think if it had played out without those last two restarts, we would have had a top-five car.”
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski finished the race in 13th and 18th place, respectively.
Now ranked 27th in the driver point standings, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team head to Dover International Speedway next weekend for the AAA 400 on Sunday, September 26, 2010. Racing action will air live on the ESPN television network beginning at 1 p.m. EDT. The race will also be broadcast live on MRN and Sirius Satellite Radio.