Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 7th in Season-Ending Ford 300
November 20, 2011HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 19, 2011) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger, finished in the seventh position during Saturday evening’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) Ford 300 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This event marked the 12th NNS race of the 2011 season for Hornish and his 11th start in the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge.
Coming off his first NNS victory one week earlier in Phoenix, Hornish began the 200-lap race from the 12th position, after posting a qualifying time of 32.934 seconds or 163.964 miles per hour, during Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session. The performance marked the ninth time that the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge started in the top-15 this season. Hornish started the Ford 300 strong and was able to improve his position through the first few laps of the race.
When the mandatory competition caution flag was displayed on lap 35, Hornish radioed to the team that the car ran better in the second grove of the race track and too loose on the bottom. The No. 12 crew changed all four tires, added two cans of fuel to the car and made a wedge adjustment in order to tighten the handling of the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge. Hornish restarted the race in the 14th position and began posting lap times consistent with those of the race leaders.
By running in the second groove of the track, Hornish was able to pass the next four cars and found himself battling with the No. 2 car of Elliot Sadler for the ninth position. Hornish felt as if the front splitter was hitting the bumps along the backstretch of the track and he radioed to Crew Chief, Chad Walter, to take a look at the car during the team’s next pit stop. While planning to make a green flag pit stop on lap 93, the caution flag came out and Hornish was able to not only take over the race lead but also pit while under caution, which allowed the team to take more time and make necessary adjustments to the car. The Alliance Truck Parts crew changed all four tires, filled the car with fuel and sent Hornish back out onto the track in the fifth position.
As the race continued, Hornish began to find his rhythm and was able to concentrate on passing the cars in front of him. When the Ford 300 reached the halfway mark, Hornish had raced his way into the fourth position and he was consistently running some of the fastest lap times on the track. Hornish radioed into his crew that the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge was able to run the second groove in Turns 1 and 2 which helped him maintain his track position and work his way into a rhythm with the car as the track began to cool down.
With the closing laps of the race approaching, Walter radioed to Hornish to save fuel in order to ensure that the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge would have enough to make it to the end if the race was extended to a green-white-checkered flag finish. When the caution flag flew on lap 174 as the No. 16 car of Trevor Bayne suffered a flat tire, Hornish came down pit road for the final time of the season to receive four fresh tires, two cans of fuel and tape to the left corner of the grill in order to improve the car’s loose-handling condition. As the laps continued to wind down, Hornish found himself closing in on the leaders and he was able to cross the start finish line for the final time of the 2011 season in the seventh position behind race winner and Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski.
“It was a pretty solid night for the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger,” said Hornish. “We didn’t have the short run that we needed late in the race to crack into the top five. We had our ups and downs all night. We felt that we had a really good long-run speed in the car to compete all night. We raced some top-10s, won at Phoenix last weekend and had another top-10 tonight. We just need to continue to improve on our short-run speed. I think everyone on this team gained a lot of valuable experience and that can only be a positive thing heading into next year. Our race changes have been improving and everything that we have done in the last four races has helped make us a team to contend with next season.”
Penske Racing and Alliance Truck Parts enjoyed a strong start to their partnership in 2011 and they look forward to building together with Hornish and No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Challenger next season. Hornish finished the season 23rd in points, as he earned a total of five top-10 and eight top-15 finishes, including the victory at Phoenix International Raceway, all while competing in a limited NNS schedule.
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