Hornish scores career-best Sprint Cup finish
Hornish scores career-best Sprint Cup finish
Posted Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009, 9:56 am in Employee News
Sam Hornish Jr. posted a career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish of fourth in Monday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. The event was postponed one day due to rain.
Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch raced in the top 10 throughout the 200-lap event with both leading the race during the afternoon. Kahne led twice for 35 laps and Busch was at the point for 14 circuits. Kahne finished fourth and Busch ended up ninth.
Mother Nature disrupted the racing activities throughout the weekend. Friday’s qualifying was rained out. Fortunately, there were only 43 cars attempting to qualify, so all were assured spots in the starting field. Weather conditions improved Saturday with the Sprint Cup drivers getting in two scheduled practice sessions.
Rains throughout the morning hours on Sunday produced obstacles NASCAR and track officials could not overcome. Although the rain stopped in the afternoon, there was no solution to stopping the water seeping up through the racing surface, forcing the event to be postponed until Monday.
Hornish’s previous best was a sixth, recorded earlier this year at Richmond. It was his fourth top 10 of the season and second in the last five events. Hornish ran as high as second and, on a couple of occasions, made a serious challenge for the lead.
Pit strategy played a key role in getting the No. 77 PPG Dodge Charger into the top 10. Once there, Hornish made the most of the opportunity, holding off strong challenges for the position over the final 13 laps.
“We didn’t have a good car all day,” Hornish said. “We were pretty good starting out (the race) and then we got really loose in the middle portion and kind of ran out of things to try. We tried to get some track position (with pit strategy). Once we got track position, we were able to hold on and took a car that was probably a 15th-place car at the end and got us up to fourth. I’m just really happy with the PPG Dodge. It was a lot of fun going out there and racing today. The closer you get up to the front, the more fun it is.
“The pit strategy worked out really well. We made some changes on the PPG Dodge that didn’t quite help us out. We got back in the pack and ran out of things to try other than getting some track position. Once we got up there, we weren’t good enough to win, but we were a top-five car. I’m just real proud of all these guys that work on the PPG Dodge and look forward to next weekend and try it again.”
Kahne was never out of the top 10 except during the two green-flag pit cycles during the race. The No. 9 Budweiser Dodge was extremely fast when out front in clean air.
“We were in the top five all day with our Budweiser Dodge, he said. “The team does an awesome job. The cars have been great. Kenny Francis (crew chief), Keith Rodden (car engineer) and everybody behind the scenes have been doing a really good job. Our pit stops are flawless. The guys do a great job .. in and off pit road really quick .. so thanks to them, we keep rolling. We just need to keep it up each week and get into the Chase.
Kahne entered the race eighth in the Chase standings, 121 points from 13th. He moved up one spot to seventh, but more important, extended that advantage to 180 points.
Busch, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Aug. 4, had a car capable of winning the race. Five of the 10 cautions fell in the final 50 laps and the double-file restarts, instituted recently by NASCAR, proved to be treacherous. The last restart proved just that as Busch failed to get the kind of restart he had throughout the race. On one occasion, he picked up seven positions on the first lap following a restart in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.
“We had a great car and a nice solid run today, coming out with a top 10,” Busch said. “Nobody gained or lost any points. I just felt like we had a car to win the race with 40 to go and we just had some untimely yellows. We didn’t get any yellows last week to get the lucky dog, but got a bunch of yellows this week to take a possible win away. Our Miller Lite Dodge was fast.”
Like Kahne, Busch extended his advantage over 13th-place in the Chase standings. He extended a 247-point margin to 289.
AJ Allmendinger finished 17th in the No. 44 Valvoline Dodge. He managed to work his way up to 11th late in the race before getting shuffled in the restarts.
Driver, team, finish:
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 PPG Dodge, 4th
Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, 5th
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, 9th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 Valvoline Dodge, 17th
Elliott Sadler, No. 24 Stanley Dodge, 24th
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Dodge, 32nd
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Air Force Dodge, 35th
Driver standings after 21 races:
(Chase field set following race 26)
Pos., Driver, points, (lead over 13th)
1., Tony Stewart, 3,188 (726)
2., Jimmie Johnson, 2,991 (529)
3., Jeff Gordon, 2,989 (527)
4., Kurt Busch, 2,751 (289)
5., Denny Hamlin, 2,713 (251)
6., Carl Edwards, 2,665 (203)
7., Kasey Kahne, 2,642 (180)
8., Juan Montoya, 2,631 (169)
9., Ryan Newman, 2,627 (165)
10., Mark Martin, 2,622 (160)
11., Matt Kenseth, 2,564 (102)
12., Greg Biffle, 2,563 (101)
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