Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 22nd at Michigan Sam Hornish Jr, driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, experienced a day of "firsts" on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Hornish celebrated his...
Sam Hornish Jr. Finishes 22nd at Michigan
Sam Hornish Jr, driver of the Penske Racing No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, experienced a day of "firsts" on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). Hornish celebrated his first Father's Day as a new dad, made his first Cup start at MIS in Sunday's LifeLock 400 and led the race twice -- another first in his rookie Cup season. Unfortunately, a late-race spin relegated Hornish to a 22nd place finish. The No. 77 Mobil 1 team advanced two spots in the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series owners point standings.
Hailing from nearby Defiance, Ohio, Hornish considers the two-mile D-shaped oval his "home track." Hornish started the race in front of friends and family in the 35th position after qualifying was rained out on Friday, but was soon up to 30th when the first caution of the race came out on lap two.
Hornish reported that the Mobil 1 Dodge was slightly loose-handling overall, mostly on the entry and exit of the turns. The team opted not to make a pit stop and Hornish restarted the race in 29th place.
Hornish continued to gain ground on track and by lap 25 he was running in 19th place. The Mobil 1 Dodge soon came to pit road under green flag conditions on lap 39 for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in 21st place.
"You are doing a great job out there," radioed Mobil 1 team crew chief Chris Carrier to his driver. "We are going to have a really good day today."
By lap 50, Hornish was back in 19th place and posting top-10 lap times. The following 25 laps saw the No. 77 continue to advance to the 14th position as the second round of green flag pit stops approached.
Hornish came to pit road on lap 79 for four tires, a tank of fuel and a wedge adjustment. When the field cycled through the green flag stops, Hornish was posted in 16th place and reporting to his crew that the Mobil 1 Dodge was loose handling after the wedge change.
Hornish slipped several positions when a fortunate caution for debris came out on lap 91. Running in the 18th position, Hornish came to pit road for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and the previous wedge adjustment was reversed. He restarted the race on lap 96 in 21st place.
By the mid-point of the 200-lap race, Hornish was in 19th place and reported that the No. 77 Dodge was "way too loose all the way around the corners."
When the caution flag waved once again on lap 101, the Mobil 1 crew was ready to tighten up the No. 77 machine, which was in 22nd place. Hornish came to pit road on lap 103 for four tires, fuel, a track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment in the left-side tires.
Approaching the green flag to restart the race on lap 106, spotter Nick DiFazio advised Hornish as the field doubled up for the restart. "You're coming to the green," said DiFazio. "Make some good decisions as you're moving through this traffic on the restart."
Hornish held steady on track as the next round of green flag pit stops began around lap 135. On lap 142, Hornish led his first lap in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition before pitting on lap 143 for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments. When pit stops cycled through, Hornish was posted in 23rd place.
When the caution flag waved again just a few laps later, Hornish and team decided not to pit in order to gain valuable track position. The move catapulted Hornish into second place behind the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson. Another caution period occurred immediately upon the restart and the No. 77 team opted not to pit once again.
As racing action resumed, Hornish battled Johnson for the lead, catching him on lap 162 and making his first green flag pass for first place in Sprint Cup competition. Johnson retook the lead on the next lap with Hornish running a solid second until rising water temperatures caused by debris on the grille forced him to pit under green on lap 178.
After a pit stop for right side tires and fuel, as well as a grille cleaning, Hornish rejoined the race in 25th place on the lead lap. The field began to pit under green flag conditions shortly thereafter. As the race drew to a close, Hornish spun in turn four with three laps to go, which created a green/white/checkered flag finish. Hornish was able to return to the race and finished in 22nd place.
The Mobil 1 Dodge started overheating and we had to pit," said Hornish after the event. "I feel really bad for the team but the car was way too loose. This group is working hard and things are really coming together for us."