Early-Race Incidents Relegate Hornish to 35th at Atlanta HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2009) -- Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta...
Early-Race Incidents Relegate Hornish to 35th at Atlanta
HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2009) -- Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the 35th position on Sunday night after two early-race incidents placed the No. 77 team in a deficit that proved too large to overcome.
Starting from the 30th position, it took only a few laps for Hornish to relay that the Mobil 1 Dodge was very loose-handling entering the corners and extremely tight through the center of the turns. Hornish asked the team to focus on improving the handling of the No. 77 through the corners.
On lap 36, Hornish was involved in a single-car spin coming off of turn 4, but he was able to avoid damaging the Mobil 1 machine. Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment and the crew cleaned the grass out of the grille of the car that came as a result of the infield spin. After he returned to the track, Hornish radioed that he felt a vibration in the No. 77 and he returned to pit road. After the Mobil 1 crew addressed the problem, Hornish restarted the race on lap 40 in the 40th position, one lap down to the leaders.
On lap 58, Hornish was working his way through the lapped cars for the coveted "lucky dog" position in hopes of returning to lead-lap racing when a flat left-rear tire caused the No. 77 Dodge to spin once again. Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a left-rear wedge adjustment. He took the green flag race restart in 40th place, running two laps down to the leaders.
When the caution flag came out on lap 104, Hornish was still running two laps down in 37th place, but was posting competitive lap times despite the deficit. The Mobil 1 team opted to stay on track in order to gain back one lap. At the midpoint of the race, Hornish was posted in 34th place, running one lap down to the frontrunners. He reported that the handling on the No. 77 Dodge was much improved.
The Mobil1 team utilized its remaining pit stops to work on the handling of the racecar, while Hornish focused on learning as much as he could during the last portion of the 325-lap event. When the checkered flag waved, Hornish crossed the finish line in the 35th position, five laps down to race winner Kasey Kahne. Hornish remained 27th in the 2009 driver points standings, 69 points outside of 25th place.
"Tonight was a tough race for our Mobil 1 team," said Hornish. "The car wasn't where we wanted it to be at the beginning of the race and we struggled to make it better. We had tires go flat, problems on pit road and the driver made mistakes too. When you get yourselves into situations like we did tonight, you need to learn from it and move forward."