Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 35th at Talladega

April 28, 2008

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 27, 2008) – In his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Talladega Superspeedway, Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, finished the Aaron’s 499 in 35th place on Sunday.  Despite a blown right-front tire and engine trouble, the finish was enough to maintain position in the top 35 in the 2008 owner points standings. 
The Mobil 1 team had entered into the race weekend intent on building upon their success in the 2008 Daytona 500, also a “restrictor plate” event.  In Daytona, Hornish Jr. ran inside the top ten for much of that race, capturing a 15th-place finish.
Hornish Jr. started the Talladega race from the 37th position.  Once racing action began, he reported that the Mobil 1 machine was slightly tight-handling the middle of the corners, but he was still able to work his way through the field. When the first caution of the race waved at lap 19, Hornish Jr. was running in the 22nd position. The Mobil 1 crew decided to pit for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment, restarting the race on lap 22 in 20th place.

After the stop, Hornish Jr. was able to run with the race leaders and was inside the top ten by lap 50. It was only seven laps later, however, that he felt a vibration and was forced to come to pit road under green flag conditions for left side tires and fuel. Back on track, the No. 77 Mobil 1 machine was running in 37th, one lap down to the leaders, as the first round of green flag pit stops began for the field on lap 60. Hornish Jr. returned to lead-lap status when the field completed their stops, listed in 26th place.

Unfortunately the vibration that Hornish Jr. felt persisted and a right front tire blew on lap 76, resulting in the No. 77 Dodge glancing the wall. After the incident, Hornish Jr. came to pit road for four tires and a tank of fuel and returned to the track to fight his way through Talladega traffic.

By the mid-point of the 188-lap event, Hornish Jr. was running in the 38th position, two laps down to the leaders, as the second round of green flag pit stops for the field was about to begin. He pitted on lap 115 for two right side tires and fuel.

Just as Hornish Jr. was re-entering the track, the caution flag waved, allowing the No. 77 to return to the pits on lap 118 to fix the front toe on the race car which had been ”knocked in” laps earlier as a result of the blown tire. The Mobil 1 team also changed left side tires and added fuel, with Hornish Jr. restarting the race on lap 120 in 37th place, still running two laps down.

Another caution waved on lap 143, allowing Hornish Jr. to pit for four tires and fuel, positioning him to remain on track until the end of the race. However, soon after pitting, he radioed that something was amiss with the engine. The No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge briefly visited the garage area for inspection and Hornish Jr. returned the track to complete as many laps as possible to earn valuable owner points.

In the end, he finished the race in a disappointing 35th place, but ended up 34th in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Owner’s point standings.

“We had a pretty decent car and were running well at the start of the race,” said Hornish Jr. after the Aaron’s 499 concluded. “We unfortunately blew a tire and then had something happen to the engine but we were able to finish the race. It wasn’t the day we hoped we would have but we will just keep moving forward.”

Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finished the race in 8th and 39th place, respectively.

The Mobil 1 team heads to Richmond International Raceway for the excitement of Saturday night racing on May 3, 2008. The Crown Royal presents the Dan Lowry 400 will air live on FOX at 7 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio at 7:30 p.m. EDT.