Fort Worth, Texas- Sam Hornish, Jr. driver of the No. 12 Wurth Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), finished 11th in Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The evening’s race marked the first of seven appearances for the No. 12 Wurth Dodge Challenger in Nationwide Series competition this season.
Hornish started the 200-lap event from the 14th position on the grid based on his time from Friday afternoon’s qualifying session when he lapped the 1.5 mile high-banked oval in 30.383 seconds at an average speed of 177.731 miles per hour.
Hornish went right to work at the drop of the green flag and in the first four laps he gained four positions. Early in the race, the former open-wheel standout informed the Penske Racing crew that his Dodge Challenger was too free in the corners, but as the run continued it began to tighten up in the middle of the turn yet it did not help him at corner entry.
By lap 30, the Ohio native began experimenting with different lines on the race track and, in doing so, he discovered speed. During the first quarter of the race he turned several of the fastest laps of that part of the race. On lap 43, the 32 year-old-driver reported that the car had picked up a front vibration. Crew chief Chad Walter called his driver into the pits for service and adjustments on lap 45 and, just as Hornish entered the pits, the caution was displayed for debris on the racing surface. This resulted in the No. 12 Dodge losing a lap, but he was the first car one lap down and therefore the recipient of the Lucky Dog award. When green flag racing resumed on lap 52, the Wurth Dodge was scored in the 19th position.
Over the next 39 laps Hornish drove smart, smooth and fast advancing up to the 10th position. On lap 89 the second caution flag of the evening was displayed and the former Indy 500 winner reported that his Penske Dodge was very loose at the end of this run, even more so than it was at the end of the previous run. When the pits were opened on lap 91 Hornish once again brought his Wurth Dodge to the Penske crew for tires, fuel and further tuning on the car.
At lap 94 the green flag restarted the action but the yellow flag was displayed prior to completion of the lap. In addition, a lighting malfunction in the Turn 3 area of the track prolonged the yellow-flag period. The race was once again started at lap 103 with Hornish shown in seventh position.
Hornish had an excellent restart and drove his Penske Dodge up to third-place where he ran for the majority of the long green flag run. Towards the end of this run, Hornish reported that he had once again picked up a vibration on the front of the car. At lap 148 Walter called his driver into the pits for tires, fuel and adjustments to address the vibration and the loose-handling condition that his driver reported.
Following the pit-stop Hornish reported that the car was now very tight in the corners. At lap 161 the lights in the Turn 3 area of the track once again ceased to function and NASCAR red flagged the race at lap 169 while the Texas Motor Speedway staff changed the circuit-breaker that fed those lights.
The racing resumed at lap 172 with the Wurth Dodge shown in the eighth position. Once again Hornish reported that his Dodge was too tight in the middle of the high-banked corners. Over the waning laps of the race Hornish gave it his all – attempting differing lines on the track – but he was not able to find the speed that the car had earlier in the event and he had to settle for an 11th-place finish.
“Our Wurth Dodge was really good during the first part of the race,” said Hornish. “Then towards the end of the race we went from being loose in and off to being really tight in the center and off. Our Wurth car just wasn’t where we needed it to be at the end of the race. The good part was that early on our car was fast, we were able to race back from going down a lap due to the ill-timed yellow flag and we drove from 19th to fourth which showed how good our car was for much of the race. We are making improvements, but we still aren’t quite where we need to be.”
With today’s result Sam Hornish. Jr. and the No. 12 Wurth Dodge Challenger improved to fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide point standings.
Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski finished 35th in the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge.
The next NASCAR Nationwide Series event will be on April 27 at Richmond International Raceway. The NASCAR Nationwide Series 250 will air at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and it will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.