Hornish Overcomes Adversity to Finish 16th in California

February 21, 2010

FONTANA, Calif. (February 21, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Auto Club Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 16th in the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California on Sunday.

Proudly displaying the Auto Club paint scheme on the No. 77 machine, Hornish started the 250-lap event in the eighth position. With little rubber on the track due to overnight rains, Hornish reported that the Auto Club Dodge was loose-handling coming out of the turns and didn’t have enough forward bite, or enough acceleration, exiting the corners.

Hornish came to the pits during the first round of green flag stops on lap 38 while running in the 15th spot. Crew chief Travis Geisler called for four tires and fuel, as well as air pressure and wedge adjustments, to the No. 77. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in 18th place.

As racing action continued, Hornish reported that the Auto Club Dodge had developed a tight-handling condition through the center of the corners. When the caution flag was displayed on lap 92, Hornish was posted in the 19th spot. He came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a right-side track bar adjustment. He restarted the race in 15th place.

At the midpoint of the Auto Club 500, Hornish was running in the 21st position. When the caution flag was displayed again on lap 140, the Auto Club team opted not to pit in order to gain valuable track position. Hornish lined up for the restart in the fourth position and quickly advanced to second place. Hornish did not pit when another caution flag came out on lap 147 and he maintained his position on track.

After he relinquished the 12th spot for a green flag pit stop on lap 180, Hornish was caught speeding when he entered pit road. He received a drive through penalty that caused him to fall one lap down to the leaders. The Auto Club team employed pit strategy during the next caution, opting not to pit to return to the lead lap.

On lap 222, Hornish came to pit road under green flag conditions for the team’s final stop of the race. A caution flag came out while Hornish was on pit road and he found himself running one lap down to leaders once again. The team chose not to pit during the next caution period in order to return to lead-lap racing.

Hornish raced for position in the closing laps and secured a 16th-place finish. Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski finished the race in sixth place and 21st place, respectively.

After the first two races of the season, Hornish currently sits 26th in the 2010 driver point standings.

“The Auto Club Dodge was really good today,” said Hornish. “It’s a shame that caution came out (lap 149) because I was ready to pass Jeff Gordon for the lead. Travis (Geisler), our crew chief, put it best when he said we had an imperfect day and finished 16th. We had a pit road speeding penalty and then we pitted and the yellow came out. It was just one of those days. We made some mistakes, but still came away with a top 20 and that’s a good sign.”

Hornish and the No. 77 team head to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend for the excitement of the Shelby American on Sunday, February 28, 2010. Race coverage will air live on the FOX television network beginning at 3 p.m. ET. The event will also be broadcast live on PRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.