Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 26th at Pocono

August 4, 2008

LONG POND, Pa. (August 3, 2008) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, made his second start at the triangle-shaped Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. After qualifying in the 26th position, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team employed pit strategy as weather became a factor during the 200-lap event. Hornish finished the race in 26th place and the No. 77 team remains 34th in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup owner points standings.

As the field approached the green flag for the start of the 500-mile race, Hornish and the Mobil 1 team looked to continue their forward momentum at flat tracks, or tracks with little to no banking.

It was on lap one that drama began, as Hornish narrowly avoided being collected in a caution when a two-car accident occurred directly in front of him. Feeling that the tires on the Mobil 1 Dodge were in fine shape, the team opted not to pit. Hornish restarted the race on lap four in the 22nd spot.

On lap six, Hornish radioed that the Mobil 1 Dodge was a little too tight-handling overall. When the caution flag waved on lap seven for a single-car spin, the No. 77 team chose not to pit to gain track position. Hornish restarted the race on lap 11 in the 20th position.

Due to heavy rains that cancelled both practice sessions on Saturday, NASCAR called a “competition caution” on lap 20. Hornish had worked his way to 17th place when he came to pit road on lap 21 for four fresh tires, a tank of fuel and left-side air pressure adjustments to improve the overall grip of the Mobil1 machine. When the green flag waved on lap 24, Hornish was in the 26th position.

Over the next green flag run, Hornish posted competitive lap times and advanced through the field, but on lap 36 he radioed that the Mobil 1 Dodge was loose from corner entry to exit. Hornish was able to drive through the loose condition and was in 14th place when he came to pit road on lap 53 during the first cycle of green flag pit stops. The Mobil 1 crew quickly changed four tires, added fuel and made right-side air pressure and track bar adjustments. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was running in 20th place.

The caution flag waved for debris on lap 67 and Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment, lining up to restart the race on lap 70 in 28th place. By lap 81, he reported that the Mobil 1 Dodge was again very loose-handling overall.

Hornish was able to come to pit road on lap 89 under caution for adjustments to the race car and the Mobil 1 crew changed four tires, added fuel, and made track bar, air pressure and wedge adjustments. He restarted the race in 28th place as the half-way mark drew near.

The Mobil1 machine remained on the loose side as racing action continued. When the caution flag waved on lap 128 for rain, Mobil 1 team crew chief Chris Carrier made the call to stay on track in hopes of gaining valuable track position.

“We’re going to stay out,” Carrier radioed his team while looking at weather reports. “It looks like there is a larger storm cell behind this one. We’re going to take a chance and see what we can get here.”

The strategic move gained the No. 77 team 14 positions as Hornish went from 22nd to 8th place as other teams came to pit road under the caution. The rain came down harder and the race was halted. After a 41 minute red flag period, racing action resumed on lap 134, with Hornish running inside the top-10.

On lap 145, Hornish got loose coming off of turn three and brushed the wall which caused him to slip to 12th in the running order. Hornish was able to hold onto that spot as a needed green flag pit stop drew near for the team.

Hornish came to pit road on lap 160 for four tires, fuel, track bar and air pressure adjustments, rejoining the race in 35th place. However, as the rest of the field began to make green flag pit stops on lap 165, Hornish advanced in the running order.

The Mobil1 team made the last pit stop of the race on lap 181 with Hornish running in 12th place. After a green-flag stop for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments, he was posted in 36th place.

With fuel mileage a concern for many teams, Hornish raced hard to the checkered flag as others ran out of gas on the final lap. He finished the race in 26th place.

“I’m real happy with the Mobil 1 Dodge and all the guys that work on it,” said Hornish. “The car was good and we had a top-15 car if not better than that. I’m real happy with the progress that we’ve made since we were here last time.  It seems like things are kind of starting to come together for us.  We need to keep this consistency up of having top-15 cars and then we’re going to start finishing there a lot more often.”

Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch finished in 14th and 38th place, respectively.

Hornish and the Mobil 1 team prepare to “hit the road” next weekend at Watkins Glen International for the second, and final, road course race of the season. The Centurion Boats at the Glen will be televised live on August 10, 2008 on ESPN at 1 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast on MRN at 1:15 p.m. EDT.