Penske Racing press release
SAM HORNISH JR. WINS AT PHOENIX FOR FIRST NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES VICTORY
AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 12, 2011) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger, earned his first NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) victory in Saturday afternoon’s Wypall 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). The event marked the 11th NNS race of the 2011 season for Hornish and his 10th start in the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge.
Hornish began the 200-lap race from the fifth position, after posting a qualifying time of 26.199 seconds or 132.358 miles per hour, during Saturday morning’s qualifying session. The performance marked the eighth time that the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge started in the top-10 this season. Hornish started the Wypall 200 strong and was able to maintain his fifth place starting position through the first few laps of the race.
By the time lap 30 rolled around, Hornish had radioed to the team that his car was handling loose entering the PIR corners, yet he was still able to post consistent lap times with the race leaders. The No. 12 team made its first pit stop of the afternoon on lap 82 when the No. 82 car driven by Reed Sorenson made contact with the wall on the backstretch. Crew Chief Chad Walter called Hornish down pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires and one can of fuel. Hornish restarted the race in the ninth position and quickly motored past the field to reclaim fifth place.
Still fighting a loose-handling condition, the drive of the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge off the corners was still where Hornish wanted it to be as he drove his black and yellow Challenger around the cars in front of him. When the third caution flag of the race flew on lap 84, Hornish radioed to his Penske Racing crew that he was starting to feel a slight vibration from the right front of the car. Walter called for spring rubber and wedge adjustments to the rear of the No. 12 in hopes that the changes would correct the car’s loose handling conditions.
As the Wypall 200 reached the halfway mark, Hornish had raced his way into the seventh position and he was looking to once again make his way into the top five. As he calmly made his way through lapped traffic, Hornish began make up ground on the cars in front of him. When the fourth caution flag of the race flew on lap 129, Walter called for only two Goodyear tires and one can of fuel. The stop proved to be a key move in the victory as it allowed Hornish to make it the rest of the race on fuel and he also picked up valuable track position on pit lane as he restarted the race in the second position.
Hornish captured the lead of the race on lap 139. When the fifth caution flag of the afternoon flew, Hornish debated whether to start on the outside or inside of the field after watching several cars spin their tires on previous race restarts. Ultimately, he chose the inside line with the encouragement of team owner Roger Penske over the radio. As the green flag flew, Hornish found himself pulling away from the rest of the field. After another quick caution, Hornish found himself leading Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski, to the green flag for the restart on lap 165. Even as the vibration he felt earlier in the race continued to intensify, Hornish was still able to distance himself from the rest of the field and earn his first Nationwide Series victory.
“We had a good day. We had a good car. It’s been a great day,” said Hornish. “We had a good car starting out the race. We hung out in fifth or sixth-place and eventually came down and decided to go for two tires. I don’t know what else he (Crew chief, Chad Walter) changed but that thing turned so much better than what we had before. Man, I’m so happy about it. I came out here and I saw the new race track and I’m like ‘I don’t know’ but now I love it. It’s been a lot of fun. Phoenix has always been one of my favorite places. I started my first Nationwide Series race here, my first Sprint Cup race, won my first IndyCar Series race here and now I’ve won my first Nationwide Series race here. We’ve got some more work to do, obviously, but I feel blessed to be here and drive this Alliance Truck Parts Dodge. I’m thankful for all of our supporters at Penske Racing. We felt like there were a couple of other times this year that he had the opportunity to win, so it feel great to actually get to do so.”