Accident Ends Strong Effort for Hornish in Talladega

April 26, 2009

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 26, 2009) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Penske Truck Rental/AAA Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 34th in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.

Hornish fell ill overnight prior to the 188-lap event and the team enlisted fellow racer Travis Kvapil to standby in the event that Hornish could not finish the race. However, Hornish ran strong all afternoon and remained in the No. 77 car until a late-race accident damaged the Penske Truck Rental/AAA Dodge beyond repair.

After qualifying an impressive fourth for the 500-mile race, Hornish was happy with his Dodge Charger from the very start. Avoiding a 14-car pile-up on lap six, Hornish pitted for tires and fuel and rejoined the front of the field for the ensuing race restart, lining up in the 11th spot.

Pleased with Penske Truck Rental/AAA machine, the No. 77 team made no adjustments during a series of pit stops in the first half of the race. Hornish ran consistently inside the top-15 and passed the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin for the lead on lap 83. When the caution flag waved on lap 84, Hornish was still leading and he provided the team with an update on how he was feeling.

“I feel pretty good,” reported Hornish. “I’m a little warm but I don’t feel any worse since we started the race.”

Hornish pitted for four tires and fuel on lap 86 and restarted the race in 10th place two laps later. As is common in Talladega, Hornish was shuffled in the draft to 22nd place as the field approached the midpoint of the race. When the caution flag waved again on lap 123, Hornish was running 15th.

The No. 77 team employed pit strategy when the caution flag came out on lap 146. Hornish pitted for fuel only and lined up for the restart in the second position behind teammate Kurt Busch. However, with 25 laps to go, Hornish had fallen back to 26th place.

Hornish was on the move back toward the front when he was collected in 10-car collision on the backstretch at lap 181. Unfortunately, the damage to the No. 77 Dodge was too severe to continue and Hornish was relegated to a 34th-place finish.

The No. 77 team remains 31st in the 2009 Sprint Cup Series owner point standings, now 106 points outside of the 25th position.

Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and David Stremme finished the race in sixth place and 31st place, respectively.

“We had a pretty good day going in our Penske Truck Rental/AAA Dodge,” said Hornish. “We got out there and led some laps…actually led them and not just by staying out (under caution). I’m really happy with all the work the guys on the No. 77 crew put in again.

“Today was a big jump up for all of Penske Racing compared to what we had at Daytona. My hat is off to Penske Engines and the guys in the fabrication shop that built these cars. We’ll go to Richmond next weekend and hopefully build on the momentum that I still feel we have.”  

Hornish and the No. 77 team head to Richmond International Raceway for the Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400 on Saturday, May 2, 2009. Racing action will air live on the FOX television network beginning at 7 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on MRN starting at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

Sam Hornish Jr. Aaron’s 499 Statistics
Start: 4
Finish: 34
Laps: 179/188
Laps Led: 3
Status: Accident