MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 24, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 25th in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon after an eventful and caution-filled race.
Hornish lined up to start the 500-lap, short-track race from the 24th spot. During the first green flag run of the race, he relayed that the Mobil 1 Dodge was tight-handling in the center of the turns and loose-handling on corner exit. When the first of 15 caution periods came out on lap 48, Hornish came to pit road for service and restarted the race from the 22nd position.
A series of cautions plagued the first half of the race and the Mobil 1 team continued to address the handling concerns on the No. 77 Dodge, especially the loose condition affecting the car on the exit of the turns. After working his way into the top 20, Hornish was involved in an on-track exchange with the No. 82 car of Scott Speed. He came to pit road under caution for four fresh tires, fuel and a damage assessment before restarting the race on lap 190 in 27th place.
As the midpoint of the race approached, the caution flag was displayed on lap 223 for an accident involving the Nos. 12 and 00 cars. While trying to clear the area of the spin, Hornish was unable to avoid contact with both cars but only received minor damage to the Mobil 1 Dodge. The No. 77 team opted not to pit and Hornish restarted the race in 22nd place.
Hornish maintained his position near the top 20 as racing action continued at the shortest track on the Cup Series circuit. On lap 304, Hornish was running outside of Marcos Ambrose when his No. 47 car began to spin and hit the Mobil 1 machine in the left-front wheel and forced Hornish to brush the outside wall. The yellow flag was not displayed and Hornish remained on track for 44 laps before the next caution period to come to pit road for repairs, falling two laps down to the leaders in the process. The Mobil 1 team used a series of pit stops under the caution to adjust the front-end alignment of the race car and Hornish restarted the race in 27th place.
As the race moved toward its conclusion, Hornish was involved in another incident on lap 358 when the No. 78 car of Regan Smith made contact with the No. 77 Dodge. Hornish came to pit road for four fresh tires and service and lined up to restart the race from the 27th spot.
Despite the “beating and banging” that comes with stock car racing at Martinsville Speedway, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team were able to stay on track until the checkered flag waved, securing a 25th-place finish at the paperclip-shaped oval.
“We actually had a decent car today,” said crew chief Travis Geisler after the race. “We were going to run top 20 for sure; we were running around 15th to 20th all day. We were on the outside of the No. 47, trying to get by him when he lost it on the inside and came up and hit us in the left-front wheel. That knocked the toe out. There’s no stability on braking once you have that situation. We tried to fix it up best we could, but had already lost a couple laps trying to get it repaired. It was a tough day for us, but we’re happy for the No. 12 team for posting their first top-10 finish of the year.”
Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch finished the race in 10th and 16th place, respectively.
Still ranked 29th in the driver point standings, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team head to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend for the Amp Energy Juice 500 on Sunday, October 31, 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.