Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 31st at Infineon Raceway

June 23, 2008

SONOMA, Calif. (June 22, 2008) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, captured a 31st place finish in his first NASCAR event at  the 1.99-mile, 11-turn Infineon Raceway on Sunday. The Mobil 1 team remains in 33rd in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner point standings, just 15 points out of 30th place.

As the field of NASCAR regulars and road course “ringers” approached the green flag on Sunday afternoon, Mobil 1 team crew chief Chris Carrier focused his rookie driver, who was starting the race in 17th place.  “Have a lot of fun out there and stay on the road,” radioed Carrier. “Be smooth and we’ll have a good day.”

By lap 10, Hornish relayed to the Mobil 1 crew that the No. 77 had no “forward bite,” or the lack of rear grip on acceleration, which could cause the rear tires to spin.  A few laps later, he radioed again that the Mobil 1 machine was experiencing additional handling issues and sliding on the track.  “We have no rear grip,” said Hornish. “The back end is all over the place on braking and on acceleration.”

Hornish was running in the 30th position as the first round of green flag pit stops began on lap 25 and competitors started to make their stops. As the Mobil 1 team was preparing to make their pit stop, the first caution flag of the race waved on lap 29. As he had not entered pit lane yet, Hornish was posted in 21st place.

Hornish came to pit road on lap 30 for four tires, a tank of fuel, track bar and rear air pressure adjustments. He explained to the Mobil 1 team the issue he was facing on track: “I can’t seem to get off of the corner but I’ll keep working at it. I have to overdrive it into the corners to help me on exit.”

Restarting the race on lap 32 in the 30th position, Hornish avoided a spin in turn two, but no caution was displayed. By lap 47, Hornish was running in 33rd and noted that the lack of forward bite on the Mobil 1 Dodge was still the main issue he faced on track. 

“Whatever you can think of for forward bite, we need to do it,” radioed Hornish.

By the midpoint of the 110-lap race, Hornish was in 34th place. Green flag pit stops began once again on lap 67 and the caution flag waved just two laps later. Hornish came to pit road on lap 71 for four tires, fuel, air pressure and track bar adjustments.  He restarted the race on lap 74 in 29th place.

When the caution was displayed again for the third time on lap 75, Hornish was in 28th place and the team decided to make a pit stop for four tires and fuel only. The team made the move to ensure that Hornish could race aggressively through the end of the race without fuel mileage concerns.

Hornish continued to battle grip issues on track and with 20 laps to go he was posted in 32nd place. The closing laps of the race saw three cautions and one red-flag period that lasted just over 12 minutes. Coming to the white flag, Hornish had trouble in turn 10 and ultimately finished the Toyota/Save Mart 250 in 31st place.

Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finished the race in 7th and 32nd place, respectively.

“I’m glad to have completed my first road course race in Cup Series competition,” said Hornish after the race. “I wish we could have had a better finish but we continue to work hard and come together as a team. It felt like the Mobil 1 Dodge did not have any forward bite and I had to adjust my driving accordingly. Today was definitely a learning experience.”

Hornish Jr. and the Mobil 1 team head to New Hampshire International Speedway next weekend for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Racing action will air live on the TNT television network on Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 12:30 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on PRN Radio beginning at 1:15 p.m. EDT.