MEXICO CITY (April 20, 2008) – Penske Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr. performed well in his first experience in a NASCAR road course event, with a 13th-place finish in the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge Charger in Sunday’s Corona Mexico 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series event. Hornish Jr. ran a strong race on the eight-turn, 2.518-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez course, including running as high as fifth, but a mid-race incident dropped him toward the rear of the field. But the Penske Truck Rental team did not give up and recovered for a top-15 finish in just their second Nationwide Series start of 2008.
Setting out with the intention of gaining experience in NASCAR stock car in preparation for upcoming Cup Series road course competition, Hornish Jr. started the race in the 11th position and began moving up through the field. Green-flag pit stops began on lap 10 and Hornish Jr. radioed to his team that the Penske Truck Rental Dodge was a little “free” handling overall.
Hornish Jr. was up to fifth place when he brought the bright yellow No. 12 Dodge to pit road on lap 16 for service. The Penske Truck Rental crew quickly changed four tires, added fuel and made an air pressure adjustment.
By lap 22, Hornish Jr. was posting lap times that were three-hundredths of a second off the pace of then-race leader Scott Pruett. The Penske Truck Rental Dodge was still loose, but handling well in turns seven and eight.
Keeping pit strategy in mind, crew chief Matt Gimbel made the call not to pit when another caution flag waved on lap 34. Not quite safely inside the team’s fuel window, the No. 12 needed to remain on track for nearly ten additional laps. Hornish Jr. restarted the race on lap 42 in eighth place.
Just four laps later, Hornish Jr. decided to make a pit stop under green flag conditions due to tire wear concerns. He came to pit road for four tires, a tank of fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments.
Two laps after rejoining the field, the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental machine was involved in an incident with the No. 5 car driven by Mexican driver Adrian Fernandez. The Penske Truck Rental team was called to action when Hornish Jr. came to pit road and changed four tires, added fuel and made repairs, including knocking out the front “toe” and fixing minor fender damage.
Hornish Jr. fell to a low position of 32nd as racing action resumed on lap 51. Still running on the lead lap, he began to quickly work his way through the field. With 10 laps to go, Hornish Jr. was running solidly in the 13th position and was poised to advance even further before the race’s conclusion.
As the field approached the white flag, Hornish Jr. was up to 11th place in the running order, but ran off the track in turn four in order to avoid spinning, falling two positions and taking the checkered flag in 13th.
“My first road course race in a NASCAR stock car was pretty much what I expected it to be,” said Hornish Jr. “We were able to run all of the laps and get as much experience as possible. It was unfortunate that we got involved with the No. 5 car as I was trying to go for the pass. We had a good recovery and a decent finish. I hate that I gave up two spots on the last lap but the race was fun and good preparation as we move forward in the Cup Series to Sonoma and Watkins Glen.”
Hornish Jr. and the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge team return to action in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in two weeks when the circuit races under the lights at Richmond International Raceway on Friday, May 2, 2008 for the Lipton Tea 250. The race will be televised live on ESPN beginning at 7 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio at 7:30 p.m. EDT.