FORT WORTH, Texas (November 2, 2008) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Penske Truck Rental Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, was the top-finishing Dodge driver and Rookie of the Year contender in the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. After starting in 21st place, Hornish and the Penske Truck Rental team worked throughout the 501-mile event to secure a 23rd place finish, continuing his lead in the close battle for the 2008 “Rookie of the Year” title.
Hornish, a three-time IndyCar Series winner at the 1.5-mile oval, lined up to start the Dickies 500 in the 21st position. Once the green flag waved, Hornish radioed that the Penske Truck Rental Dodge was loose-handling in the center of the corners and tight-handling through the middle, noting that he was unable to run the bottom of the race track because the No. 77 Dodge was too loose-handling entering the turns.
The first round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 48, with Hornish coming to pit road for service on lap 50 while running in the 33rd position. The Penske Truck Rental crew quickly changed four tires, added fuel, and performed air pressure, track bar and wedge adjustments. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in 30th place, running one lap down to the leaders.
When the first caution of the race came on lap 56, Hornish relayed to the team that the Penske Truck Rental Dodge was too loose-handling overall. He came to pit road for right-side tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. He restarted the race on lap 64 in 33rd place.
By lap 100, Hornish was running in the 31st position, one lap down to the leaders. On lap 135, he reported that the handling of the Penske Truck Rental Dodge was relatively the same as earlier, but better on exit of the turns. Running in 27th place, Hornish came to pit road on lap 112 for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in 31st place, one lap down to the leaders.
When the second caution of the race came out for debris on lap 143, Hornish told crew chief Travis Geisler that the Penske Truck Rental Dodge needed more “forward bite,” or rear grip under acceleration on exit. Running in 30th place, Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted the race on lap 148 in the 32nd position.
By the mid-point of the 334-lap race, Hornish was 28th, running one lap down to the lead-lap cars, but ahead of fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Regan Smith. On lap 180, he relayed to the team that the car was pretty good overall.
“The track is going to start changing as the sun goes down,” Geisler radioed to Hornish. “We’re going to have to keep up with the track so we’re not going to make any changes during this next pit stop and adjust as necessary after that.”
Hornish was one of the first drivers to come to pit road under green-flag conditions on lap 197, while running in 26th place. After a pit stop for four tires and fuel, Hornish was running in the 27th position when pit stops were complete.
With 100 laps to go, Hornish was running in 28th place, two laps down to the leaders. When the caution flag waved for debris on lap 239, Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a right-rear wedge adjustment. He restarted the race on lap 245 in the 32nd position.
In the waning laps of the race, the Penske Truck Rental machine was much improved and Hornish was consistently posting top-10 lap times. The No. 77 team used their remaining pit stops to fine tune the race car and Hornish crossed the start/finish line in 23rd place, two laps down to race winner Carl Edwards.
For the fourth consecutive week, Hornish received “Rookie of the Race” honors as the top-finishing rookie contender. The No. 77 team remains 37th in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner points standings, 100 points outside of 35th place.
“We had a respectable run today with the Penske Truck Rental Dodge,” said Hornish. “We were right where we were at Charlotte and Atlanta. I’m real happy with the guys that worked on the Penske Truck Rental Dodge. They gave me a decent car. We were just off on it too much early to be able to be where we needed to be. We’ll just keep working on our program as the season comes to a close.”
Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finished the race in 28th and 41st place, respectively.
Hornish and the Penske Racing team head to Phoenix International Raceway for the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on November 9, 2008. Race coverage will air live on the ABC television network at 3 p.m. EST and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio beginning at 2:45 p.m. EST.