Hornish Hangs Tough To Finish 32nd at Phoenix

November 15, 2010

AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 14, 2010) - Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil1 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished 32nd in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday after fighting through handling issues and a late-race incident. Hornish ran solidly inside the top-25 for much of the race until contact caused him to pit to repair a tire rub. The incident put him back in the 32nd position, where he finished the race.

Hornish started 16th on the grid after lapping the one-mile tri-oval in 26.659 seconds at a speed of 135.039 miles per hour during Friday qualifying. The race began under clear skies and very comfortable 70 degree temperatures in Phoenix.

The first incident of the race, which occurred on lap two, involved Hornish as the No. 71 machine driven by Brendan Gaughan lost control and made light contact with the Mobil 1 car. Hornish radioed his crew after the incident to report that he thought the car was not damaged too badly. The race was run under green-flag conditions for quite awhile until the Penske Racing No. 12 Dodge driven by Brad Keselowski made contact with the outside wall on lap 59. Under caution, Hornish relayed that his car was loose getting into the corners, tight in the middle and loose coming off the turns. On lap 60, the Mobil1 Dodge came to pit road where the crew made suspension and air pressure adjustments and added four new Goodyear tires as well as a full tank of fuel.

When the race was restarted on lap 65, the No. 77 car was running in the 29th position. As the run progressed, Hornish radioed that the car was lacking power coming out of the corners and he felt it needed further work. During the next segment of the race, the handling issues continued on the Mobil 1 Dodge, but Hornish pressed on and was able to move up to the 26th position.

On lap 101, a caution flag was displayed for debris on the circuit and the Mobil1 crew once again went to work on the No. 77 car. The car was equipped with four new tires, topped off with fuel and the crew also made tire pressure, track bar and wedge adjustments. When the green flag flew to restart the race on lap 105, Hornish was running in the 22nd position.

At the midpoint of the race, Hornish continued to battle the car's handling. At the 250-lap mark, a questionable move by Paul Menard caused the No. 77 driver to take evasive maneuvers in order to avoid contact as the Mobil 1 Dodge drove through the infield grass. The incident damaged the front end and caused a tire rub. As a result, Hornish had to make an unscheduled pit stop to help clear the fender and to take on new tires. During the stop, the Mobil1 car lost two more laps to the leaders and Hornish eventually secured a 32nd-place finish.

"The first run of the race wasn't very good for us, we faded a little bit," said No. 77 team crew chief, Travis Geisler. "The second run, we made some adjustments and got ourselves back up to 22nd, ran there for a couple of runs and felt like we were going to be in pretty good shape. Unfortunately, we got off a little bit and it happened to be the longest run of the race, so we ended up a lap down. Then, we had some contact with the 98 and had to pit for a tire rub. It just kind of unraveled a little bit on us. It seemed like we were going to get it together for a decent run with the Mobil 1 Dodge, but it just didn't work out. We'll get after it for Homestead and see if we can end this season on a positive note."

Hornish and the No. 77 team will now travel to Homestead-Miami Speedway for next weekend's season-ending Ford 400. The race will air live on Sunday, November 21 at 1:00 p.m. ET on the ESPN Television network and it will also be broadcast on the MRN radio network as well as Sirius Satellite radio, channel 128.