Hornish Jr. Leads Penske Production at Coca-Cola 600

May 26, 2008

CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2008) – In the longest and most demanding race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, Penske Racing drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman finished 13th, 16th and 21st respectively in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway Sunday night.

Hornish Jr. started 20th and despite falling one lap down early on, worked his way back onto the lead lap, capturing a career-best 13th-place finish in the Memorial Day weekend event. The 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner and top-finishing rookie of the race, Hornish Jr. and the Chris Carrier-led No. 77 team are now just three points outside of the top 35 in the owner points standings.

“I’m really happy with how the Mobil 1 team performed tonight,” said Hornish Jr. “The car was good and it ran well. It took us a while to get our lap back but ultimately it was a good night for us. It’s like a win for me. It took me seven times at Indy to finally finish a race. We completed all 600 miles tonight so that feels good.”

Busch started the 600 from the eighth spot.  Even though he was fighting a loose handling condition during the early laps, he made steady progress to scoot around Jimmie Johnson for the lead on Lap 67.  He led twice for 64 laps and was running second on Lap 161 when a blown right-front tire sent him careening into the wall to bring out the second yellow flag of the race.  Falling victim to another incident three-quarters of the way through the race, Busch’s No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge suffered additional damage but managed to post a 16th place finish.

“After having a car that was strong enough to get up there and lead like we did, I’d be dishonest to not admit that it was a disappointing night for us,” Busch said.  “This just seems to happen too often with our cars.  We have some really fast periods of races only to have problems with the right-front-tire.  I really thought that we had a fifth-place car at worst for about half of the race and then the tire blew.  I know that all the guys around me were trying to make me see how things could have been worse by telling me that this guy had this happen to him and that guy had something else bad happen to him.  Maybe I’ll understand it all tomorrow when I look back and it all sinks in.”

“That was a really weird race and I can understand why Kurt is a little frustrated,” said crew chief Pat Tryson.  “It was like you really didn’t want to lead the race because misfortune was soon to follow.  We definitely had more than our share of tire problems here tonight and I’m sure that Goodyear is already all over it.   The bottom line is that I look back on our race at Darlington and then here tonight and I have to think that we’re making some progress in racing these new cars.  I know that we still have a ton of work to do yet, but we’re much better than we were a couple of months back.  I’m really proud of the job that Sam (Hornish Jr.) Chris (Carrier) and all the guys over there on the No. 77 team did here tonight.  They got a lap down and fought back like a veteran team would.  With a little better luck, they would have finished in the top-10 here tonight.”

Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge team also endured a night of ups and downs during the Coca-Cola 600.  After starting 38th and running as high as ninth during the 400-lap race, Newman was hit with a pit road speeding penalty and was later caught up in an accident which caused substantial damage to the car.  As a result, Newman finished in 21st place, currently 14th in the NASCAR Cup point standings, 85 points shy of the 12th-place cut-off for the NASCAR Chase for the Cup.

“It was not the night we had hoped for with our Alltel Dodge,” Newman said. “I felt like we had a good car tonight as long as we could keep up with the changing track conditions and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, we got a penalty for speeding on pit road after we had gotten into the top 10, which put us back in the pack. Then we got caught up in a crash on a restart with 100 laps to go when we were trying to work our way back up front. The damage was too much for our car to be competitive, so that pretty much ended our night. We’re disappointed, but we are going to one of my favorite tracks next weekend (Dover International Speedway), and we’re looking forward to making up lost ground there.”

The Penske Racing trio head to test in Pocono and then onto Dover International Speedway for the Best Buy 400 at the “Monster Mile” on Sunday, June 1, 2008. Race coverage will air live on the FOX network at 1:30 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio beginning at 1:15 p.m. EDT. 

Be sure to check out Busch and No. 12 Alltel Dodge crew chief Roy McCauley on the Team Cam at PenskeRacing.com this week as share their thoughts on the Pocono test and racing at the “Monster Mile”