DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 7, 2012) – Sam Hornish Jr. was in the SPEED television studios back in Charlotte preparing to shoot his weekly TV show when he got the call to drive the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. The Penske Racing driver made it to Daytona International Speedway with no time to spare in taking over for the “temporarily” suspended AJ Allmendinger.
“Right before I was about to do the last segment on my SPEED show I got a call from Mike Nelson while I was in the studio,” said Hornish, who drove the Penske Racing No. 12 Wurth Dodge to a 10th-place finish in Friday night’s Subway Jalapeno 250 Nationwide Series race here at Daytona. “All that I could think about was that he was calling to harass me about my tie. Obviously, that’s not the case. I called Walt Czarnecki and he said that they needed me to come down to Daytona for the race. I had to tell the producer of the show that I had to leave and off I went.”
With the driver change, Hornish had to drop from Allmendinger’s eighth starting spot all the way to the rear of the field for the green flag. Hornish was able to make up ground in a hurry. The fact that he and Allmendinger use the same spotter (Chris Osborne) helped tremendously in Hornish being able to hit his stride rapidly.
He had cracked the top 30 after only four laps and climbed steadily through the field. Hornish was up to 17th on Lap 32 and remained in that position when green flag stops were the order and he hit pit road on Lap 41. Fighting a tight condition, crew chief Todd Gordon called for an air pressure adjustment to accompany the four tires and fuel stop.
Hornish was running 19th when the stops cycled around on Lap 45. Still fighting a tight condition, he was hanging on and awaiting the call to pit road for a second round of green-flag stops. Unfortunately, a left-rear tire cut down and shredded on Lap 82. Hornish spun into the infield grass as the second caution flag of the race flew.
The damage to the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge was so severe that lengthy repairs were required, putting Hornish some 10 laps down and ending the team’s chances for a good finish. The team was able to get their car back in decent shape, but it was just a matter of logging laps and trying to get the best finish possible.
“Once the race started our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge was fast,” Hornish told Dodge PR representative Scott Sebastian after the race had concluded. “The first 15 laps or so I just rode around trying to get comfortable in the car. The car felt great and had a lot of speed in it. The Shell-Pennzoil Dodge was really good and I felt good in it. We just cut down a tire and it came apart and tore the car all up. I’m disappointed for the guys. We just needed to stay up there and you never know what can happen at these plate races.”
Two late-race multi-car crashes eliminated several competitors and the crashing continued down to the very end as cars were spinning everywhere behind winner Tony Stewart as he took the checkered flag. Jeff Burton came home as the runner-up, with Matt Kenseth third, Joey Logano fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.
Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski (finished eighth), Michael Waltrip and Bobby Labonte rounded out tonight’s top-10 finishers. Hornish was credited with a 33rd-place finish, completing 149 of the 160 laps.
Hornish was called by NASCAR officials back to pit road after the dust had settled due to a special request from the TV partners. He obliged and spent some 20 minutes after the race with the media. He was asked again by reporters about being called into action and the quick trip down here to race.
“For me it was a lot of waiting around,” Hornish said. “I’m sure for everyone else it was hectic. We sat there and had no idea what was going to happen from the time that I left Charlotte to when I got to Daytona. All the way up until the plane took off we didn’t know if we were going to make the race in time. I said that I would tell the pilot to fly faster but I’m pretty sure that he was going to have the throttle pinned the whole way down. I actually went and got a sandwich and tried to hydrate as much as I could; I think I drank 18 bottles of water knowing how hot it was down here. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a Shell-Pennzoil car….since 2003 in the Indy car days.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads up to the flat one-mile New Hampshire International Speedway for the next race on the schedule. The action gets under way on Friday with practice set from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & PRN Radio). Saturday’s schedule calls for practice from 9:00 a.m. till 9:55 a.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 11:20 a.m. till 12:20 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 (301 laps, 318.46 miles) is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 19 of 36 points-paying events on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio (also available on Sirius-XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).