Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 21st at Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 27, 2008) -- Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend after ...
Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 21st at Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 27, 2008) -- Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend after making the transition from the IndyCar Series to NASCAR. The 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner qualified in the 38th position and was able to persevere through extreme tire wear issues for the duration of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard to secure a 21st place finish. The No. 77 team remains 34th in the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series owner points standings.
During practice on Saturday, teams began to note that the issued sets of race tires were wearing down after only a handful of laps on the famed 2.5-mile oval track. As the race began on Sunday afternoon, NASCAR informed teams that there would be a competition caution on lap 10 due to the unusual tire wear seen during practice.
The first caution of the race came out on lap three when the No. 55 machine spun in turn two, nearly collecting the Mobil 1 Dodge. Hornish came to pit road on lap seven for right side tires and restarted the race in the 36th position.
NASCAR called for a competition caution on lap 14, but another accident pre-empted the mandatory yellow-flag period. Hornish came to pit road for four tires and a track bar adjustment to alleviate a slightly loose-handling condition around the relatively flat corners. Teams were not permitted by NASCAR to take fuel on pit stops until the next mandated caution on lap 30.
It was on lap 28 that the right front tire on the Mobil 1 machine went down and Hornish was forced to pit road for four tires. However, he was able to get his lap back when a caution came out for debris on the very next lap. Hornish came to pit road again on lap 30, this time for fuel and a wedge adjustment, lining up to restart the race in 35th place.
On lap 45, Hornish was forced to pit road again due a right rear flat tire. When the caution came out just two laps later, Hornish was once again awarded his lap back for being the first car one lap down.
At that point of the 160-lap event, teams were averaging approximately 11 laps on each set of tires. Due to the extreme tire wear, NASCAR continued to schedule competition cautions within that window to ensure competitor safety. In total, six of the 11 caution periods were mandated cautions.
With rapid tire wear issues and competition cautions slated for every 11 green flag laps, it was difficult for drivers to race hard and for teams to employ much pit strategy. However at the mid-point of the race, Hornish had worked his way into the top-20 in the running order despite flat-tire troubles.
Hornish maintained position near the top-20 in the running order until the third competition caution was called on lap 97. Running in 25th place, Hornish had radioed that the Mobil 1 Dodge had a right rear tire going down when the yellow flag was displayed. While working his way to pit road under caution, the tire went flat, costing the No. 77 team additional track position.
Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment on lap 98 and lined up to restart the race in 29th place.
As track action continued, tire wear issues remained constant. In an effort to go for the best possible finishing position, the Mobil 1 team employed pit strategy during the final two competition cautions of the race, opting for four tires on lap 139 and two tires on lap 150.
When the race restarted for the last time on lap 153, it was a seven lap shootout to gain as much position on track as possible. Hornish, who restarted in 23rd place, gained two spots securing a 21st place finish in a true team effort by the Mobil 1 crew.
"Despite all of the starts and stops, I feel that we had a really good day," said Hornish. "Unfortunately, today's race was a situation where the cars and the tires did not agree with each other.
"I know it wasn't the race that fans were expecting, but there was a lot of action out there. It was exciting because you were on the edge of your seat hoping your tires would make it to the next caution. I'm real happy that everything went as well as it did for the Mobil 1 team today."