RICHMOND, Va. (May 2, 2008) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, captured a 15th place finish in the Lipton TEA 250 at Richmond International Raceway on Friday night. Pit strategy, as called by crew chief Matt Gimbel, prevailed late in the race allowing Hornish Jr. to earn his third top-20 finish in as many starts in the Nationwide Series.
Hornish Jr. has scored two wins at Richmond International Raceway in the IndyCar Series and is no stranger to the .75-mile D-shaped oval. After qualifying in the 28th position, Hornish Jr. was tasked with relying on past experiences to work his way through the 43 car field.
Shortly after racing action began, Hornish Jr. reported that the Penske Truck Rental Dodge was somewhat tight-handling in turns three and four. As a long green flag run ensued, it was not long before the leaders began lapping the field. Hornish Jr. fell one lap down on lap 58.
When the first caution of the race came out on lap 65, Hornish Jr. was posted in the 23rd position. He came to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted the race on lap 73 in 23rd place.
A caution for debris just five laps later placed Hornish Jr. as the first car one lap down, or the “lucky dog,” after the Penske Truck Rental team opted not to make a pit stop. As racing action resumed, Hornish Jr. raced with determination to be awarded his lap back in the event of a caution. However, the race remained under green flag conditions, allowing the leaders to lap the field and spoiling the team’s chance to be the “lucky dog.” With 100 laps to go in the race, only 15 cars remained on the lead lap.
On lap 227 the caution flag waved again and Hornish Jr. was posted in 21st place, one lap down to the leader. Crew chief Gimbel again employed pit strategy to position the Penske Truck Rental Dodge the first car one lap down. Opting not to pit, Hornish Jr. was poised once again to return to lead lap racing in the event of a caution.
When racing action resumed on lap 234, a caution came out immediately for a single-car accident on the frontstretch. Hornish Jr. and team were awarded the “free pass” back onto the lead lap. He came to pit road for four scuffed tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. He restarted the race on lap 239 in 17th place on the lead lap.
In the final ten laps of race, Hornish Jr. was able to climb two positions to capture a 15th place finish.
“We put ourselves in the right place at the right time,” said Hornish Jr. “We were one lap down for most of the race and seemed stuck just outside the top-20. Matt (Gimbel) made the right call and with just ten laps to go we were able to race our way up to 15th place. We are going to run the next few Nationwide races and hope to build upon our recent success in the Penske truck Rental Dodge.”
Hornish Jr. and the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge team head to Darlington Raceway next weekend for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on Friday, May 10, 2008. The race will be televised live on ESPN2 beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio at 7:30 p.m. EDT.