Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Under the Spotlight: Hornish has solid performance in first race since June


Sam Hornish Jr. prior to the Nationwide Series race at Texas
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. qualified 10th and finished 19th in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in what was his first race in the series since last June. 

Driving the No. 12 SKF Dodge Charger for Penske Racing, Hornish turned the fastest lap time (30.842 seconds) of any driver required to make the field based on time. The driver averaged a speed of 175.086 miles per hour around the one-and-a-half mile track, according to the website for Penske Racing. Teammate AJ Allmendinger took the top spot in Sunday’s STP 400, while Hornish’s lap time earned him a spot in the top 10. 
Despite some handling issues throughout the day including loose handling on corner entry, tight in the middle and loose on exit, Hornish’s crew was able to make several adjustments allowing the driver to maintain track position. 
Following lap 220, in an attempt to give Hornish a better car, crew chief Chad Walter advised the driver to remain on the track in case of a yellow flag as several of the leaders were pitting early on in the cycle. While the move did not pay off as they had hoped, it did allow Hornish to lead seven laps of the race.
For Walter, who is Hornish’s Nationwide Series crew chief, Sunday’s STP 400 was his first time as crew chief in the Cup Series, as Hornish explained following the race. “This was Chad’s first time as a Cup crew chief and he and the crew did a great job in the pits all day. While we would definitely liked to have done better, overall it was an alright day,” said Hornish. “At one point I looked up at the scoring pylon and wondering who was driving the 12,” Hornish added on having led laps.  
In his 110 starts in the Sprint Cup Series, Hornish has just two top five and eight top-10 finishes. The 2011 season was the only one in which Hornish did not run a full season. While many thought this would be a setback for the driver, it has allowed Hornish to compete full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driving the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts/WURTH Dodge and focus on winning races and competing for the championship. 
So far this season in the Nationwide Series, Hornish has two top 10s and is currently fourth in the point standings – the driver’s best finish was sixth at Phoenix. In 39 career starts in the Nationwide Series, Hornish has earned one win (in November 2011 at Phoenix), two top-five finishes and eight top-10s. 
Hornish will make another appearance in the Sprint Cup Series next month at Talladega. The driver will make his return to the Nationwide Series on Friday driving the No. 12 WURTH Dodge Challenger in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway. 
Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20
Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Joey Logano also had a successful day at Kansas, finishing 15th after starting from 43rd due to an engine change. Logano picked up seven spots in the first lap and by lap 10 the driver was in 28th. Despite having handling issues and dropping a lap on lap 118, Logano earned the Lucky Dog on lap 188 and maintained position all the way to a solid finish, helping him to gain a spot in the point standings which moved him up to 12th
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond next Saturday for the Richmond 400. Some underdogs to look out for include David Ragan who has three top five and three top-10 finishes at Richmond and Kurt Busch who has one win, four top five and seven top-10 finishes.

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