RICHMOND, Va. (Saturday, May 2, 2009) Sam Hornish Jr. drove the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger to a sixth-place finish Saturday night in the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway, a career-best in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
Hornish collected his first top 10 in his 44th Sprint Cup start just two weeks earlier at Phoenix, a one-mile oval. Saturday nights effort came on RIRs .75-mile layout. He started 28th but had worked his way to 18th by lap 65 and was in the top 15 by lap 100. He made it into the top 10 at the halfway mark and ran as high as fourth during the final 150 laps of the 400-lap event.
Our Mobil 1 Dodge was outstanding pretty much all night long, said Hornish. We waited maybe one stop too long to come in and get tires or we might have had something for them there at the end. Im real proud of these guys and how hard they worked. I told a lot of people yesterday we had a better car than where we qualified. We were able to get out of here with another top-10 finish. I like the short tracks more all the time. I wouldnt have thought my first two top 10s would come on short tracks. Weve had some real good runs and been real strong this year. I feel like Im learning all the time. The team is growing and getting stronger. Penske Racing as a whole is also getting stronger.
Hornish was running in the top 10 last week at Talladega before being caught up in a 10-car mishap just eight laps from the finish.
This caps off a really strong month for us, said No. 77 crew chief Travis Geisler. We didnt have the finish at Talladega, but weve been this good for the last month. Were really starting to show it now. Sam put together an awesome race. Everyone on this Mobil 1 team is really stepping it up and we appreciate Dodges support and everything theyve done for us. This new engine package, everything put together has made a special program for us this season. I think we can see it with all the Penske cars.
The improvement over last season was evident in all three Penske teams Saturday night. The three were running in the top 10 with just 73 laps remaining. Circumstances prevented the trio from posting top-10 finishes.
Kurt Busch, the point leader entering the event, didnt qualify as well as expected, but once the race started there was little doubt how strong the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge would be under racing conditions. Busch started 17th, moved to fourth by lap 56 and took the lead for the first time on lap 96 just before a round of green-flag pit stops.
Busch would lead a second time in the race and stayed near the front throughout the night. The No. 2 Dodge was the class of the field on long runs. Unfortunately, the race was slowed by 15 yellow flags. An adjustment that failed to produce the desired results late in the race proved to be costly.
We were a solid top-five car with the Miller Lite Dodge until we messed with the track bar during a stop with just over 100 laps to go, Busch said. We changed (our set-up) back, but it was too late because we fell out of contention with the guys who took on tires with 50 laps to go. At the end (of the race), we were sitting ducks trying to hang on to all we could. We just didnt have anything at all left for them.
Busch trails leader Jeff Gordon by 10 points as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington for another Saturday night event.
It was a back-and-forth night for our Miller Lite Dodge, said crew chief Pat Tryson. Track position was important, but so were tires. We didnt give up track position there at the end and probably should have come in and taken tires. That hurt us. We had a top-five car and just didnt come out of the race with the finish that reflected how strong our car was most of the night.
The third Penske entry, David Stremme in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, was running seventh on lap 326 when he was involved in a three-car mishap in turn four. Stremme started 11th, best among the seven Dodges in the 43-car field.
Despite what the finish says, it was a real solid night for the Penske Racing Dodge, said Stremme. We had a good race car, but had some problems on pit road and then got hit in the back and wrecked to put us out of the race. We had a top-15 car, probably a top-10 car and just got taken out.
The night didnt go as well for the four Dodge entries from Richard Petty Motorsports. Handling issues put the teams at a disadvantage early. The 15 cautions provided sufficient opportunities to make adjustments and by the time the race was down to the final 50 laps, the teams had battled back.
Reed Sorenson finished 20th in the McDonalds McCafe Dodge while AJ Allmendinger was right behind in 21st in the PVA.com Kings Cup Dodge. Elliott Sadler finished 25th in the Stanley Tools Dodge. All three went a lap down early in the race, but were back on the lead lap at the checkered flag.
We could have finished a little bit better, but we just werent good at the start of the race and that set us back a bit, said Sorenson. Our McDonalds Dodge got better near the end of the race and we picked up a bunch of positions. We finished 20th, but I really think that we had a top-15 car at the end of the race for sure.
Kasey Kahne finished 29th in the Budweiser Dodge.
THE DODGE BOYS
Driver Team Finished
Sam Hornish Jr. No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger 6
Kurt Busch No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger 12
Reed Sorenson No. 43 McDonalds McCafe Dodge Charger 20
AJ Allmendinger No. 44 PVA.org Dodge Charger 21
Elliott Sadler No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge Charger 25
Kasey Kahne No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger 29
David Stremme No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger 38
Driver Rank Starts Points Behind Wins Poles T5s T10s
Kurt Busch 2 10 1431 -10 1 0 3 6
Kasey Kahne 17 10 1106 -335 0 0 1 2
Reed Sorenson 22 10 984 -457 0 0 0 1
David Stremme 27 10 948 -493 0 0 0 0
AJ Allmendinger 28 10 947 -494 0 0 1 2
Elliott Sadler 29 10 933 -508 0 0 1 1
Sam Hornish Jr. 30 10 925 -516 0 0 0 2
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
(After 10 of 36 Races)
1. Jeff Gordon 1, 441
2. Kurt Busch -10
3. Tony Stewart -39
4. Denny Hamlin -120
5. Kyle Busch -127
6. Jimmie Johnson -151
7. Jeff Burton -184
8. Clint Bowyer -229
9. Carl Edwards 237
10. Ryan Newman -243
11. Greg Biffle -248
12. Matt Kenseth -254