Hornish Has Wild Ride at The Glen, Finishes 36th

August 11, 2009

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 10, 2009) – Penske Racing’s Sam Hornish Jr. had his race end prematurely on lap 62 of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen on Monday afternoon after contact with another competitor sent the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger hard into the turn 10 tire barrier, relegating the Ohio native to a 36th-place finish.

Hornish started the NASCAR Cup Series event from the 36th position on Monday, one day after inclement weather in upstate New York forced the postponement the 90-lap race.

By Monday, Hornish was anxious to compete on the 2.45-mile road course and back up his solid practice times from the weekend.

“This weekend has had its ups and downs,” Hornish said. “[The Mobil 1 Dodge] was fast in practice on Friday but we also had brake issues which carried over to qualifying. Then Saturday’s practice times were good, but the brake issues were a problem again.”

The Mobil 1 team’s roller coaster ride continued on Monday while Hornish fought an ill-handling race car. On lap eight, Hornish radioed his crew to tell them the car was bouncing around the circuit and he was also dealing with a tight-handling condition in the center of the turns.

On lap 19, while the field ran under caution, Hornish came down pit road to the attention of the Mobil 1 crew. Following crew chief Travis Geisler’s direction, the team put spring rubbers in both sides of the car, changed all four tires and sent the Mobil 1 Dodge back out with a full tank of fuel.
The green flag was displayed again on lap 21 and Hornish moved into the 32nd position. When the second caution flag of the day waived two laps later, Hornish had moved the Mobil 1 Dodge into the 27th position.

To gain track position, Hornish did not pit and he was posted in 19th place when the field took the green flag on lap 26. 

Over the next 10 laps, the Mobil 1 team dealt with several issues. Hornish fought loose-handling conditions around the track, with the car being especially free in the left-hand turns. He suspected a tire was going flat but remained on the track. 

In addition to the handling challenges, Hornish kept an eye on the water temperature on the Mobil 1 machine that was caused by a brief off-track excursion.

On lap 37, Geisler brought Hornish down pit road for fuel, tires and a right-rear wedge adjustment to help tighten the car’s handling. Shortly after Hornish returned to track in 34th position, Geisler confirmed the driver’s suspicions – the left rear tire was down on pressure.

On lap 39, Hornish told the team that the water pressure was down, and on lap 41, the Mobil 1 team received a break when the caution flag was displayed. Hornish brought his car down pit road on lap 43 and the crew worked to cool the engine and removed tape from the grill. Hornish re-entered the track ahead of the pace car to maintain his position and returned to the pits on the next lap for four tires and fuel.

Green flag stops began on lap 54 and four laps later, Hornish came down pit road for fuel only. He returned to the track posted in the 18th position.

On lap 62, Hornish’s race came to a sudden end with a wild ride in the Mobil 1 Dodge. Contact with another competitor forced Hornish’s car into the tire barrier on the outside of the carousel which bounced the Mobil 1 Dodge right back into oncoming traffic and it was struck by two more cars.

"Kasey [Kahne] got a little loose beneath me and tried to correct," Hornish said after the incident. "It was the same thing I would have had to do if I were below him, because if you're on the bottom and you're spinning anyhow, you're going to hit the guy on the outside.”

Hornish credited NASCAR and his Penske Racing crew with their focus on safety, following the dramatic accident. 

“It's unfortunate,” Hornish said “I'm just really thankful that we do all the precautions that we do, and make the cars as safe as they are. I thought hitting the tire barrier was going to be the tough one. I didn't think I was going to get hit by two more cars. It was a rough day for us, a rough week for us."

Hornish, who is now 28th in the driver standings, and the Mobil 1 crew head to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. for the CARFAX 400 next weekend. The Sunday, August 16 race broadcast will air live on ESPN with pre-race coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Radio broadcasts will also air on MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio channel 128.