DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sam Hornish, Jr., driver of the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide series (NNS), finished 20th in the season-opening Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) on Saturday afternoon.
Hornish started the 120-lap race in the sixth position on the strength of Friday’s qualifying run, during which he turned a lap of 49.367 seconds at a speed of 182.308 miles per hour. The first 30 laps saw numerous lead changes as drivers partnered up to make to the front and then switched partners as opportunities to advance arose. The bright yellow Dodge Challenger ran as high as second and as low as 10th during the first quarter of the race.
The first caution flag of the day flew at lap 30, giving crew chief Chad Walter a chance to bring the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge to pit lane for the first time this season. Hornish had reported the car was handling great and therefore it was a quick couple cans of fuel and a four tire change. The action resumed on lap 35 and the race continued with Hornish running in the top-10 for much of the first half of the race.
The driver’s main concerns during the event revolved around finding a partner to push/draft with while simultaneously monitoring the cooling system temperature as the “push car” picked up speed with the benefit its leading partner at the expense of reduced air to the radiator. Hornish did a great job all afternoon running solidly in the top-10 and avoiding the numerous wrecks that occurred over the course of the race.
After a late race restart on lap 99 Hornish found himself shuffled back to the 30th position with no drafting partner, yet within two laps he had made his way through the field gaining 15 positions. The afternoon’s race appeared to be shaping up well for Hornish; however on lap 114, while running seventh, he was hit from behind and subsequently caught up in a crash.
The No. 12 Dodge was immediately brought into the pit box for repairs, but the damage was extensive and the duration of time to fix the car resulted in the Challenger losing a lap. It was a great drive by Hornish and a valiant effort by the crew as they salvaged a 20th-place finish and head into Phoenix sitting 10th in the series points standings.
Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski, finished second in the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge.
“The car was really good, said Hornish. “It felt like we went to the front of the field whenever we wanted. The Alliance Truck Parts Dodge felt good pushing and getting pushed. We were just trying to get to the end without getting collected and then (the wreck) happened. We got down to the end there and I was trying to push the 6 car up front. He wanted to run a little bit higher and that allowed the 33 and 2 to get underneath us. We headed into Turn 3 three-wide and were going to duck out a little bit to keep the engine cool. The 27 thought that he could make it four-wide. I don’t know if he got tight and just got into me off the corner. He was getting pushed. It was just one of those deals. This is the kind of racing that we’re involved with on superspeedways. It’s just unfortunate that we lost that lap when we had to pit and change four tires. That cost us 10 positions.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200. The race will air on ESPN2 at 4:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on MRN and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.