Darlington, S.C. (May 11, 2012) – Sam Hornish, Jr., driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Alliance Parts Dodge Challenger, finished fourth in Friday evening’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway. The result is Hornish’s first top-five finish of the 2012 season.
Hornish began the night on the outside of the fourth row, in the eighth position on the grid, based on the strength his qualifying effort earlier in the day when he turned a lap of 28.698 seconds around the 1.366 mile track at an average speed of 177.731 miles per hour.
The competition heated up quickly at the start of the race as the first yellow caution flag was displayed at lap 2 of the scheduled 147-lap event. The action resumed at lap 8 with the Penske Dodge shown running in the eighth position. As the field spread out and the race settled into the first long green-flag run, the Alliance Truck Parts car maintained a steady presence in the top-eight running as high as sixth before falling back to eighth over the duration of the run.
Hornish reported that his Alliance Truck Parts machine was too tight in Turn 2 and too loose everywhere else on the track. He also reported that he was losing brake pedal as the race progressed. On lap 34 the yellow flag was displayed giving the Penske pit crew their first opportunity of the night to service their Dodge Challenger. Crew chief Chad Walter called the No. 12 machine to the pit lane at lap 37 during which time the crew gave their driver four new tires, a tank of fuel and made adjustments to address the handling conditions of the car.
The green flag waved at lap 41 to restart the action, but it lasted only a few laps before another caution flag flew again at lap 45. Walter radioed to his driver to stay out during this caution period as the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge was running sixth and the leaders all stayed on the racing surface. The action picked-up once again at lap 50 and the field settled into the second long green flag run of the evening.
The 32-year-old driver informed the crew that while the car had improved, it was still too tight in Turn 2 and too free in the other corners. Despite not being completely pleased with the handling of his car Hornish was able to set a couple of fast laps over the course of the race. At lap 92 crew chief Walter called Hornish to the pit lane for a green flag pit stop during which time the Penske crew changed tires, filled the fuel tank and adjusted the chassis in an effort to improve the handling of the Dodge Challenger.
As the race entered its final phase Hornish radioed in that the car had improved yet it still was not quite ideal for track conditions as he continued to be too free overall while being too tight in Turn 2. A lap 126 caution gave the Penske crew yet another opportunity to work on their No. 12 car as the field made pit-stops. Hornish was scored in the fifth position when racing resumed at lap 132 but he lost a couple of positions on the restart falling to seventh before another yellow flag was displayed.
Over the last 15 laps of the race there were two more yellow flags which set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. Hornish was scored in fifth-place when the final green flag flew and he was able to battle his way forward as he crossed the finish-line in the fourth position right behind his Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski, who raced his Snap-on Dodge to a third-place finish.
“Well, I did a pretty good job of not scuffing the wall for most of the night and then I went and hit it on the last lap just to see if I could try to get a run on the outside of Brad and gave her a little too much,” said Hornish. “All in all I’m pretty happy with our night. We needed a little bit more track position there at the end is the big thing. The Alliance Truck Parts Dodge was good on the long runs and of course we got a bunch of little short ones there at the end but I was pretty happy with it. With about 15 to go I thought we were going to be able to run down the 3 (Austin Dillon) and the 22 for sure and get around them. It was one of those deals; we just got the yellow at the wrong time. But all in all real happy with the work that the guys did and the pit stops that they gave us.”
The result marked the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge team’s first top-five result of the season as they gained valuable ground in the championship standings.
With this result Sam Hornish, Jr. and the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger maintain the fourth position in the NASCAR Nationwide point standings.
The next NASCAR Nationwide Series event will be on May 20 at Iowa Speedway. The Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 will air at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and it will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 90.
Sam Hornish Jr. VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 Race Statistics
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: Fourth