NEWTON, Iowa (August 6, 2011) – Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 22 Discount Tie Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished 24th Saturday evening in the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. The event marked the first NNS race of 2011 for Hornish in the Discount Tire Dodge. Hornish stepped in for Brad Keselowski, who usually pilots the No. 22 Dodge Challenger, after Keselowski injured his ankle during a test session earlier this week at Road Atlanta. Hornish led laps early at Iowa before brake issues haunted the Discount Tire team in the second half of the race.
Hornish started from the third position after posting a qualifying time of 23.903 seconds, or 131.783 miles per hour, during Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session. The result marked his fifth top-10 start of the 2011 season. The No. 22 Dodge Challenger started the race strong as Hornish quickly found himself gaining track position. By lap 13, Hornish had seized the lead of the race and began pulling away from the rest of the field.
When the first caution flag flew on lap 21, after the No. 31 car of Justin Allgaier brushed the wall and sent debris onto the track, crew chief Todd Gordon instructed Hornish to remain on track to maintain track position. Hornish told his team that the car was a little tight-handling but he was able to move the Discount Tire Dodge around the race track while making his way through race traffic. Hornish chose to stay in the outside lane when the race restarted again on lap 26.
As the race progressed, Hornish reported that the car was handling tighter in the middle of the turns and he asked Gordon to make an adjustment during the next caution. The Discount Tire crew got the chance to make changes when the yellow flag flew for the second time on lap 48. Gordon called for a four-tire stop with fuel and sent Hornish back out onto the track in the fourth position.
With 79 laps completed, Hornish continued to run at the front. He was able to quickly move through lapped traffic and found himself battling with the No. 18 car of Michael McDowell for the third position. As the caution flag flew for a third time, the Discount Tire Dodge Challenger again made its way down pit road for another four-tire stop. After he restarted in the fourth position on lap 105, Hornish again began to focus on reclaiming the race lead.
As the sun started to set over Iowa Speedway, Hornish mentioned to the Discount Tire team that the car was beginning to run tight again as the track surface began to cool down. While battling with the No. 33 machine of David Mayhew for the third position, Hornish radioed that the No. 22 car had a flat right front tire and he quickly made his way down pit road. The Discount Tire crew changed all four tires, filled the car with fuel and sent Hornish back on his way.
While coming out of the pits, Hornish noticed that his brakes were not working properly and in order to slow the car down he had to pump the brakes several times. Gordon called for Hornish to make a second trip down pit road so the crew could fix the broken flex line that was believed to be the cause of the issue. After realizing that the brake problem had not yet been resolved, Gordon advised Hornish to “nurse” the car around the track until he was able to return to pit lane during a caution to replace the brake line completely. Hornish fell out of the top-10 and he eventually restarted the race in the 23rd position, running three laps down to the leaders.
When fifth caution flag of the night came out on lap 184, Hornish brought the No. 22 Dodge Challenger down pit road again to address the brake problem. When the race restarted with only 55 laps remaining, only the rear brakes were working on the Discount Tire Dodge.
The No. 22 team made another attempt to fix the brake problems during the final caution period of the race, but ultimately, Hornish was not able to make up the lost ground. He fought to the end and finished the race in 24th place, five laps down to race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“It was just a disappointing night,” said Hornish. “We had a really good car for the first 150 laps. We ran over a piece of debris and cut down the right front (tire) and in getting back to the pits we broke a brake line. So we spent the rest of the race trying to get all four breaks back but we just never seemed to get there. It’s unfortunate that the night ended like it did but the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger was pretty fast and we were able to lead a few laps early on. I really need to get this monkey off of my back. It seems like no matter what happens, we always have some kind of issue. I’m very proud of the whole Discount Tire team and the car that they gave me was great. I just wish we could have gotten more out of it today.”
Keselowski will return to the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge next weekend at Watkins Glen International for the Zippo 200 at the Glen on Saturday, August 13. Live television coverage will begin at 2:00 pm ET on ESPN. The race will also be heard on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.