Hornish Contends for the Win, Finishes 11th at Pocono

June 7, 2010

LONG POND, Pa. (June 6, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 11th in the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon after racing for the lead, and his first NASCAR victory in a points race, in the closing laps of the event.

With ominous skies overhead on race day, the forecast called for strong storms around the start of the race. As the field approached the green flag to start the scheduled 200-lap event, heavy rainfall set in and quickly passed through the area. Racing action finally got underway nearly two hours after the scheduled start at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, with Hornish starting in the 19th spot.

NASCAR called a “competition caution” on lap 15 due to inclement weather and Hornish reported that the Mobil 1 Dodge was tight-handling in the center of the turns and loose-handling on the exit of the corners. He came to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments. He restarted the race on lap 19 from the 18th position.

As teams prepared for the first round of green-flag pits stops, Hornish reported that the car continued to handle just as it had before. He came to pit road a few laps earlier than planned when he felt a vibration in the right-front tire. After pitting for fresh tires, fuel and additional adjustments, the Mobil 1 team noted that there was a small worrisome spot on the tire in question, but everything else looked fine. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was running in 20th place.

Hornish began posting competitive lap times as the midpoint of the race approached. A caution flag came out at lap 97 with Hornish running in the 19th spot. After a pit stop for tires, fuel and adjustments, he restarted the race on lap 100 in the 17th position.

Fuel mileage strategy came into play for the No. 77 team as the final laps of the race approached. Under a caution flag on lap 153, Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Just before the restart, he pitted for a final splash of fuel in hopes of being able to go the distance without another stop. He restarted the race on lap 165 in 18th place.

 A caution flag came out on the restart, and Hornish did not make a pit stop like many of the lead laps cars did for fuel. He restarted the event in second place behind teammate Kurt Busch and assumed the race lead by lap 172. After another caution flag just a few laps later, Hornish led the field to the green flag. He remained in the lead for a total of 16 laps before relinquishing the point to Tony Stewart and eventual race winner Denny Hamlin.

While running in fourth place with a little over a lap to go, the caution flag waved and set the stage for a green-white-checkered flag restart. Hornish restarted the race in the fourth position and crossed the start/finish line in 11th place, marking the best finish of the season for Hornish and the No. 77 team.

“The Mobil 1 Dodge was pretty good today,” said Hornish. “We definitely had a top-15 car. It wasn’t the greatest car, but we had a good strategy. (Crew chief) Travis (Geisler) had a good strategy. Man, it was rough seeing Denny (Hamlin) about 10 feet from the start/finish line (to complete lap 199) when the yellow came out and we were running fourth.  Obviously, we wanted to win, but a fourth would have been great.

“I ran so hard trying to keep Denny and Tony (Stewart) behind me, I killed the rear tires. I just had nothing to get going on the last restart. I spun the tires, got hit and spun them again. I used everything I could to make it a 200-lap race, but it ended up 204 laps.”

Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski finished the race in sixth and 21st place respectively.

Hornish and the Mobil 1 team head to Michigan International Speedway next weekend for the Heluva! Good Sour Cream Dips 400 on Sunday, June 13, 2010. Racing action will air live on the TNT television network beginning at 1 p.m. EDT. The race will also be broadcast live on MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.