Engines Issue Hampers Strong Run for Hornish in Atlanta

March 7, 2010

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 7, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 28th in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday after an engine issue hampered a strong run for the No. 77 team.

Starting from the 36th position, Hornish and crew chief Travis Geisler were aware that patience and communication would be key to a strong result at the 1.5-mile oval. When the first caution flag of the race was displayed on lap three, the Mobil 1 team opted not to make a pit stop in order to gain position on track. Hornish advanced to 24th place on the race restart and prepared to continue to move forward.

A series of cautions in the first half of the race allowed the Mobil 1 team to fine tune the race car as Hornish was running inside the top 20 by lap 100. As lap times of other competitors slowed during longer runs, Hornish posted competitive times and he relayed that the handling on the No. 77 Dodge improved later in the fuel run.

When the caution flag came out on lap 157, Hornish was running 11th and reported that the Mobil 1 Dodge was handling a bit free entering the corners and tight in the center of the turns, but he felt it was minimal compared to the overall performance of the car. Hornish then came to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and a slight track bar adjustment. After a strong pit stop by the Mobil 1 crew, Hornish lined up for the restart on lap 163 in the 11th spot.

With tire-wear problems affecting several teams, Hornish demonstrated patience on track and steadily advanced with no real tire concerns.

Hornish raced into the top 10 and continued to be one of the fastest cars on track when he reported an engine issue with just under 100 laps to go. With a noticeable loss of power, Hornish dropped quickly in the running order and the No. 77 team worked to salvage the best finish possible under the circumstances. Hornish ultimately finished 28th, but the result did not reflect the team’s performance on Sunday.

“We had a good day going and we really had something for everybody on the long runs,” said Hornish, who is now ranked 31st in the Cup Series driver point standings. “After about 20 to 25 laps, we could run as fast or faster than anybody out there. Compared to our normal Atlanta package, this is a big improvement.  We just can’t keep having these little problems, especially when we’re running in the top-10. We’ll take it from here and move forward. I’m really proud of all the guys on the Mobil 1 Dodge.”

Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch scored his first victory of the 2010 season with an impressive performance on Sunday. Brad Keselowski was involved in a late-race accident that relegated him to a 36th-place finish.
After a weekend off, the Mobil 1 team will head to Bristol Motor Speedway for the short-track excitement of the Food City 500 on Sunday, March 21. Race coverage will air live on the FOX television network beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Race coverage will also be broadcast live on PRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.