HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 21, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 24th in the Ford 400 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.
Hornish qualified 26th for the 400-mile race, but had to start the race from the rear of the field after the team was forced to unload its backup car during the final practice on Saturday. Once racing action was underway, Hornish radioed that the Mobil 1 machine was tight-handling in the middle of the corners and it was over-rotating under acceleration on the exit of the turns, sliding on the hot track surface.
The Mobil 1 crew used several pit stops during the first half of the race to make adjustments to the car in hopes of improving the handling issues facing Hornish under the heat of the South Florida sun. A few laps before the midpoint of the 267-lap race, Hornish made contact with the outside wall, which caused a noticeably tight-handling condition on the Mobil 1 machine. The No. 77 team used the caution period to service the car and make necessary repairs before the restart as Hornish lined up in 25th place, one lap down to the leaders.
Hornish and the No. 77 team chose to take the “wave around” option when the caution flag was displayed on lap 163. Electing not to make a pit stop, Hornish was allowed to restart the race behind the leaders and he returned to lead-lap racing. A timely caution on lap 186 allowed Hornish to avoid pitting under green-flag conditions and he maintained his position on the lead lap. After service on the Mobil 1 Dodge, Hornish restarted the race with 75 laps to go from the 23rd position.
In the closing stage of the race, Hornish remained on track while the majority of the field came to pit road under green-flag conditions and he advanced to the seventh spot when the caution flag waved on lap 242. Hornish came to pit road for service and restarted the race in 13th place. He raced hard until the checkered flag waved, as he crossed the finish line in the 24th position.
“I’m proud of everyone on this Mobil 1 Dodge team,” said Hornish. “I got us behind a bit early in the race. I saw Kurt (Busch) check up and get into the wall in front of me and I had to slow down a bit. It’s unfortunate that we got behind. We got our car decent there for a while, but it just wasn’t enough. I’m proud of all these guys who worked hard every week. Knowing all year long that we didn’t know what would happen in 2011, it means a lot to me how hard they worked all season. I’ve got a lot of friends that work on this car and I hope that I have a chance to work with them again sometime down the road.”
Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch finished the race in 13th and 18th place, respectively.
The final race of 2010 marked the end of a decades-long relationship with Penske Racing and Mobil 1, which served as primary sponsor for Hornish since his transition to NASCAR from the open-wheel ranks. Hornish finished the 2010 season ranked 29th in the driver point standings, as he earned a total of one top-10, seven top-15 and 12 top-20 finishes.