Hornish Jr. Races Into All-Star Race, Finishes Seventh

May 18, 2008

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 17, 2008) – Sam Hornish Jr, driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, captured one of two competition transfer spots in the Sprint Showdown and advanced into the non-points, million-dollar NASCAR All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Saturday night. After a second-place finish in the 40-lap Showdown, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team captured a seventh-place finish in the 100-lap All-Star Race after starting 23rd in a field of 24 competitors.

In the Sprint Showdown qualifying race, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team knew they had a race car capable of securing one of the top-two finishing positions needed to transfer to the All-Star Race. In the first of two 20 lap segments, Hornish had one of the dominant cars on track. At lap 20, he was the fastest car on the track and running in the fifth position.

At the beginning of the second segment, Hornish was in the third place as the green flag waved but dropped quickly to eighth in the running order when he spun the tires of the Mobil 1 Dodge on the restart. With just 20 laps to recover, he effortlessly worked his way into second place and was challenging A.J. Allmendinger for the win as the checkered flag waved. Hornish and the Mobil 1 team immediately lined up to start the four-segment, million-dollar All-Star Race in the 23rd position.

“I’m super-excited about finishing second right now and being able to transfer into the All-Star Race,” said Hornish after the Showdown. “I think we’ve got a really good car.  If we can avoid the wrecks out there, and make sure we can make it to the end, I think that we’re going to have a shot at running in the top-10, hopefully a little bit better than that.”    

Riding the momentum of an impressive finish in the Showdown, Hornish and team were tasked with racing through an impressive All-Star field, which included NASCAR Sprint Cup series race winners, former season champions and previous All-Star Race winners.

“You’re doing a great job but we’ve got more work to do here,” Mobil 1 team crew chief Chris Carrier radioed Hornish during pace laps for the main event. “We aren’t done yet tonight.”     

Just as racing action got underway, Hornish brushed the wall on lap three, damaging the right rear bumper. On lap 10, he was forced to bring the Mobil 1 machine to pit road under green flag conditions when the right rear tire went flat. Hornish dropped to last place in the running order and was two laps down to the leader at the end of the first of four 25-lap segments.

During the first caution period, the team changed four tires, added fuel and made repairs to the Mobil 1 Dodge. As the only car not on the lead lap, Hornish was the recipient of the “free pass” and was granted one lap back headed into the second segment. During the second segment, Hornish consistently posted top-10 lap times and passed nine cars in 25 laps.

There was a 10 minute period at the half-way point of the race for the teams to make adjustments to their race cars. The Mobil 1 crew changed four tires, added fuel and made additional repairs to the car. Hornish was awarded the “free pass” once again when the caution came out to end the second segment returning him to the lead lap.

During the third segment of the race, Hornish climbed from the 24th position to 14th place in 25 laps. All teams were required to make a pit stop headed into the final 25-lap segment of the race. Hornish came to pit road for a splash of fuel only. The move gained the No. 77 team six spots on track.

In the last 25 laps of the race, the Mobil 1 Dodge was once again dominant on the race track. After slipping several positions, Hornish picked competitors off with ease, ultimately overcoming a two-lap deficit to capture a seventh-place finish.

 “We had a really good car. I thought we had a car that was capable of running in the top-10 here. Once we got out there running, I think we had one that was capable of winning,” said Hornish. “I was just really happy with the way that the Mobil 1 Dodge handled tonight and the guys did a great job in the pits. “    

“Tonight is a confidence builder for Sam undoubtedly,” said Carrier after the race. “I told the team earlier that tonight could be the shot in the arm that turns our whole season around as long as we perform. Momentum is a huge tool. It’s the best or worst tool there is in any competitive sport. Now we’ve got some momentum on our side and that’s what we’ve been looking for all year.” 

Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finished the race in sixth and 22nd place, respectively.

Hornish and the Mobil 1 team are now preparing for the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the 2008 NASCAR season, next weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Race coverage will air live on the FOX network at 5 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on PRN Radio at 5:30 p.m. EDT.