Fontana II: Sam Hornish Jr race report

Hornish Finishes 31st in Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway September 1, 2008 FONTANA, Calif. (August 31, 2008) -- Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Penske Truck Rental Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished the Pepsi...

Hornish Finishes 31st in Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway September 1, 2008

FONTANA, Calif. (August 31, 2008) -- Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Penske Truck Rental Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finished the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway in 31st place on Sunday night. After starting in the 32nd position, Hornish and the Penske Truck Rental machine were plagued with handling issues for much of the race. The No. 77 team now sits 36th in the 2008 Sprint Cup owner points standings.

On Sunday, it took only four laps of green flag racing for the first caution of the 500-mile race to be displayed at the two-mile D-shaped oval. Hornish reported that the Penske Truck Rental Dodge was loose on entry into the turns and tight in the center. Crew chief Travis Geisler made the call not to pit in order to get a better understanding of the handling of the race car and Hornish restarted the race on lap eight in the 26th position.

When the caution was displayed for debris on lap 19, Hornish radioed that he was unable to run the bottom line on the track because the No. 77 machine was too tight in the center and off of the turns. Running in 33rd place, Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel, track bar, and wedge adjustments in hopes of helping him run better on the bottom line. He restarted the race on lap 24 in the 35th position.

In a matter of laps, Hornish noted that the round of adjustments caused the Penske Truck Rental Dodge to become loose on entry and exit of the turns. When the caution came out on lap 42, Hornish was running 36th. He came to pit road for four fresh tires and fuel, as well as wedge, track bar and left-side air pressure adjustments. Hornish restarted the race in 30th place.

"The car is good on long runs," radioed Geisler to Hornish. "It just takes too long to get things going."

As Hornish set to the task of gaining position on track, he reported that the Penske Truck Rental machine became extremely loose-handling on that run. When the caution flag waved once again on lap 68, he came to pit road for four tires, fuel, track bar and wedge adjustments. He restarted the race on lap 73 in 31st place.

A long green flag run ensued, and the Penske Truck Rental team prepared to make its first green flag pit stop of the race. Hornish relayed that the race car was free off of the corners and he wasn't able to "get the power down."

Running in 28th place, Hornish came to pit road under green on lap 110 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. The Penske Truck Rental team performed a strong pit stop and, when the running order cycled through, Hornish remained in the 28th position.

At the mid-point of the race, Hornish was in 27th place, running one lap down to the leaders. When the caution waved once again on lap 145, he reported that the race car was too "free" all around the corners. Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments. He restarted the race in 32nd place, with just under 100 laps to go.

As night fell and racing action began to wind down, the Penske Truck Rental team took precautions so as not to over-adjust the race car in order to keep up with changing track conditions. The team used subsequent pit stops to continue to make adjustments to the No. 77 Dodge but was unable to find the right balance

When the checkered flag fell, Hornish crossed the start/finish line in 31st place, one lap down to race winner Jimmie Johnson.

"We were never really able to get the Penske Truck Rental Dodge where we needed it to be," said Hornish after the race. "We couldn't get the balance just right and didn't get the finish we needed to stay in the top-35 in owner points. We'll put this behind us and work hard to rebound at Richmond next weekend."

-credit: pr

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Series NASCAR Cup