Kansas City, Kan. – Sam Hornish, Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 SKF Dodge Charger, finished 19th in Sunday afternoon’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. The event marked the first NASCAR Cup Series start of 2012 for the SKF driver and crew.
Hornish started the 267-lap event from the outside of the fifth row in the 10th position on the strength of his effort during Saturday’s qualifying session when he turned a lap of 30.842 seconds around the one-and-a-half-mile track at an average speed of 175.086 miles per hour.
The race started under cloudy skies, cool temperatures and a steady breeze. During the opening stage of the race Hornish kept the SKF Dodge solidly in the top-15 while working with a Charger that was handling loose on corner entry, tight in the middle of the corner and loose on corner exit. At lap 43 crew chief Chad Walter called Hornish, who was running in the 13th position, to the pit lane and the attention of the Penske pit crew.
After the field cycled through the first round of green flag pit stops, the SKF Dodge was scored 13th in the running order. A caution on lap 51 allowed the No. 12 Dodge crew another opportunity to make adjustments to the SKF machine. When the race restarted at lap 56, Hornish had slipped back to 18th place as some of his competitors gained position by electing not to pit after just five laps of green flag racing.
Through the middle part of the race, the Defiance, OH native continued to work with an SKF Dodge that was running too free on corner entry, tight in the middle of the turns and then loose on corner exit. The Penske Racing crew made small air pressure and various chassis adjustments on each stop in an effort to give their driver a more manageable vehicle, and Hornish was able to maintain a top-20 spot in the running order.
Late in the race, just after lap 220, Walter instructed his driver and crew to prepare for a pit stop. As they readied to call Hornish in to the pits, Walter noticed that many of the leaders were pitting early in their window, so he advised Hornish to stay out on track in hopes of catching a yellow flag at the right time. While the gamble ultimately did not payoff, it did allow the No. 12 SKF Dodge Charger to sit atop the scoring pylon for seven laps. After the race Hornish said, “At one point I looked up at the scoring pylon and wondered who was driving the 12.”
After completing what proved to be the last pit stop of the day’s race, Hornish reported that the car was just about as good as it was at the start of the race and he was able to turn consistently fast lap times. Unfortunately Hornish didn’t have enough laps left to make up many positions on track and he had to settle for a hard-fought 19th-place finish.
“We had a decent day in our SKF Dodge. We were good in the beginning, lost it in the middle and then better again late in the race,” said Hornish. “We tried to play some pit strategy late in the race – staying out as long as we could during green flag stops; we led some laps and were hoping for a yellow. It didn’t happen, but we had nothing to lose. It was great to get back in a Cup car again. 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 like to have done better, overall it was an alright day.”
Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger finished 11th and 32nd, respectively, in Sunday’s race
Hornish returns to NASCAR Nationwide Series competition next Friday, April 27 when he will drive the No. 12 WURTH Dodge Challenger at Richmond International Raceway. Coverage of the Virginia 529 College Savings 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.