Martinsville, VA. (October 25, 2009) - Sam Hornish, Jr., driver of the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger for Penske Racing, saw his day end early Sunday at Martinsville Speedway after two spins and hard contact with the wall led to a 36th-place finish in the Tums Fast Relief 500. With the result, Hornish remained 27th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, just 115 points out of 25th place.
Hornish started the 500-lap event from the 31st position on the 0.526-mile track in his backup car after a spin during Friday’s practice session resulted in heavy damage to his primary machine. Hornish and the No. 77 crew were further handicapped Saturday when rain showers, heavy at times, moved through Martinsville, Va., forcing NASCAR to cancel both morning practice sessions.
Hornish faced a tight-handling condition on the Mobil 1 Dodge in the entry and exit of the turns, but he continued to fight for position. During the second caution period, Hornish brought the Penske Racing No. 77 car to pit road on lap 46 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments focused on helping the car’s performance through the center of the turns.
When the field received the green flag again on lap 51, Hornish was posted in the 27th position. He fought his way through traffic and was running in 20th place when the third caution flag of the race was displayed on lap 89.
Hornish once again reported tight-handling conditions on the car. Crew Chief Travis Geisler called him down pit road for four tires, fuel and a trackbar adjustment.
Hornish remained posted in the 20th position when the field was shown the green flag again, but he began to fall back in the order as the laps ticked off. Despite the team’s attempts to free up the car’s handling, the Mobil 1 Dodge would not respond.
While working to find a balance that would allow him to get back on the gas sooner coming off the turns, Hornish and the Mobil 1 machine were hit from behind on lap 176. The rear end of the No. 77 Dodge Charger snapped around and received damage to the right-side quarter panel.
Hornish came down pit road to the attention of his crew for four tires and fuel under yellow flag conditions on laps 178. Geisler sent Hornish back out on the racing surface with the intention of bringing his driver back down pit road for a toe adjustment, but the green flag was displayed and Hornish remained on track with the rest of the field.
With the damage from the contact, the car’s handling proved to be an even bigger challenge. Hornish spun on lap 195 and suffered heavy damage to his car. Hornish drove his car to the garage where, for 90 laps, the Penske Racing No. 77 crew worked in conjunction with the No. 12 Penske Dodge team to try and repair the Mobil 1 Dodge so it could return to competition.
On lap 285, Hornish returned to the track, running 90 laps behind the race leaders.
On lap 339, Hornish continued to fight the car’s handling and Geisler sent him to the garage where seven laps later the crew chief made the call to end the team’s day.
“The Mobil 1 Dodge never had a chance this weekend,” said Hornish. “We came into Martinsville with high hopes and that quickly went away on Friday. We had no practice yesterday to get the car where we wanted it, but the team did everything they could to give me the best race car possible, given the circumstances. We’ll just keep moving forward.”
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and David Stremme finished the race in 17th and 33rd place, respectively, on Sunday.
The Cup Series next heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the Amp Energy 500 on Sunday, November 1. Race coverage will air live on the ABC television network beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Hornish qualified his Penske Truck Rental/AAA Dodge Charger in the fourth position at Talladega earlier this year, but was relegated to a 34th-place finish after a late-race accident.
Sam Hornish Jr. Tums Fast Relief 500 Statistics
Laps Led: 0