Hornish Finishes 36th at Infineon Raceway

June 21, 2010

SONOMA, Calif. (June 20, 2010) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Cup Series, struggled with an ill-handling race car throughout the weekend at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway. Though he improved his track position during Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, a multiple-car incident dashed Hornish’s hopes for a strong finish. After becoming involved in the crash, the No. 77 Mobil 1 team worked feverishly to return its machine to action and salvage a 36th-place finish.

Hornish qualified in the 39th position for the event at the famed California road course, but was forced to the rear of the field to start the race after the team went to backup car over the weekend. With wife Crystal and daughter Addison in attendance on Father’s Day, Hornish patiently made his way up to the 34th position, which is where he was running when the first caution period of the day occurred on lap 10.  In an effort to improve the car’s ability to turn in the corners, crew chief Travis Geisler called for right side track bar adjustments when Hornish brought his machine down pit road two laps later. 

“We need to improve rear grip and forward drive off the corners,” Hornish reported to his team.  Hornish passed six more competitors before Geisler brought the No. 77 car back in for another pit stop.  On lap 21, Hornish came down pit road in the 28th position for more track bar adjustments and a splash of fuel. The Mobil 1 Dodge was only in its pit stall for a few seconds before Hornish returned to the race track in the 40th position. 

“You’re turning 81-second laps – that’s consistent with the front runners,” Geisler informed his driver.  As the leaders began making green-flag pit stops, Hornish continued to post consistent lap times and move through the field. By lap 45, Hornish ran in 27th place, but he reported that the Mobil 1 Dodge was loose-handling entering the turns and was tight in the center of the corners. Despite the ill-handling condition of his race car, Hornish fell no further than four positions before the race’s second caution flag was displayed to the field on lap 58. Geisler called Hornish to pit road and the Mobil 1 crew took advantage of the caution period to make several adjustments to their race car. The No. 77 car received four new Goodyear tires and fuel, as well as air pressure and wedge adjustments, to help Hornish navigate the challenging 11-turn race course.

Hornish took the green flag to restart the race in the 27th position on lap 61. Teammate Brad Keselowski spun in a single-car incident in Turn 10 only two laps later to bring out the third caution flag of the day. Hornish spotted the spin and quickly came to pit lane. This provided an opportunity for the No. 77 team to top off its fuel load. Geisler also instructed his crew to install four fresh tires while under caution. 

Unfortunately, NASCAR penalized the team for visiting pit lane too early. Despite the penalty, the No. 77 team was able to top off on fuel one more time before the green flag restart on lap 67. 

Poised to outlast the majority of the field, Hornish prepared to improve his position in the running order. As he crossed the start/finish line, Hornish was unable to avoid a crash involving multiple cars.  The Mobil 1 Dodge Charger was one of several cars that could not make it back to the garage under its own power.  Hornish was able to exit his machine after the incident, but he was taken to the infield care center for evaluation, per NASCAR rules.

The No. 77 crew worked hard to repair their machine so they could finish the race and Hornish was able to rejoin the action on lap 84 in the 38th position. The wounded No. 77 machine was able to overtake two competitors before earning a 36th-place finish at the checkered flag.

“We were just trying to make sure that we were smart all race. We had good fuel mileage with our Mobil 1 Dodge and could make it to the end (of the race) with where we were on fuel,” said Hornish after being released from the medical center.  “I was just trying to get a good clean restart and I think somebody didn’t go up front and that just packed everything up. By the time we bended the corner I was underneath everything…it’s a tough day for sure.”

Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski finished the race in 32nd and 35th place, respectively.

Hornish, who is now ranked 29th in the Cup Series driver standings, and the Mobil 1 team head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday, June 27, 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 PRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.