FORT WORTH, Texas (November 7, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 AAA Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 18th in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday after battling a tight-handling car and utilizing late-race pit strategy to secure his 12th top-20 finish of the season.
After starting the race from the 27th position, Hornish reported that the AAA Dodge was tight-handling on the exit of the corners at the 1.5-mile oval. When the first caution flag of the race waved on lap 12, Hornish was posted in the 30th spot. He came to pit road for four tires and fuel, along with right-side air pressure and track bar adjustments. Hornish restarted the race in 29th place.
The handling of the AAA machine remained on the tight side as racing action continued. After substantial adjustments were made to the No. 77 Dodge under caution on lap 43, Hornish restarted the race from the 36th position and set himself to the task of advancing through the field.
On lap 58, Hornish was running in 34th place when the AAA Dodge spun and brushed the outside wall while entering Turn 3. The incident brought out the third caution period of the day. Hornish came to pit lane for service and a damage assessment, and after returning to the pits for additional repairs, he restarted the race in 36th place.
The tight-handling condition on the No. 77 Dodge persisted, and it was especially evident at the start of a run. At the midpoint of the 334-lap event, cooler temperatures and changing track conditions began to affect the landscape of the race, with Hornish running in the 24th spot, still on the lead lap.
Long green-flag runs marked the second half of the 500-mile race, as the AAA team continued to adjust the No. 77 Dodge with Hornish falling one lap down to the leaders on lap 237. As the final cycle of green-flag pit stops began, Hornish and the team decided to stay out on track as long as possible in hopes of taking advantage of a favorable caution flag. When the yellow flag was displayed for debris on lap 299, Hornish was running in the 13th spot, once again on the lead lap. He restarted the race with 30 laps to go in 17th place.
Hornish charged hard for the remaining laps of the race and crossed the finish line in the 18th position.
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski finished the race in 24th and 33rd place, respectively.
“We battled all afternoon for track position and it paid off for us,” said Hornish. “We stayed out under caution and got ourselves back on the lead lap, gambling and playing the card that we needed to play. We got the AAA Dodge a top-20 finish. We got loose a couple of times, scrubbed the wall, but we stayed in it and kept digging to bring home the best finish that we could. I’m happy to make it to the end.”
Still ranked 28th in the driver point standings, Hornish and the No. 77 team head to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend for the Kobalt Tools 500 on Sunday, November 14, 2010. Racing action will air live on the ESPN television network beginning at 3 p.m. EST. The race will also be broadcast live on MRN and Sirius Satellite Radio.