INDIANAPOLIS– Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Sam Hornish Jr. started 24th in today’s Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 and had a solid run to a 16th-place finish. Hornish, winner of the 2006 Indianapolis 500 here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, certainly wanted more, but was pleased with the way his day went.
“I’m proud of the effort and run we had with the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge today,” Hornish told Dodge PR representative Scott Sebastian immediately after the race had concluded. “This is a tough place to pass for stock cars and I thought we did a good job working our way through the field to finish 16th. It looked like we were heading toward a top-10 on our last run when the car just loosened up and we couldn’t make the passes that we needed to late in the race. I felt like our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge was better than we ended up. At the end of the day, we brought the car back in one piece and raced hard all day.”
Hornish and crew fought a “loose in, tight in the center and loose off” handing condition for the majority of today’s race. Using air pressure and track bar adjustments during pit stops, they had their Dodge Charger running top-10 lap speeds during most of the 160-lap, 400-mile race. The “Double-Deuce” Dodge ran as high as 14th in the running order and as low as 26th during today’s battle at “The Brickyard.”
Jimmie Johnson got a “killer restart,” as ESPN racing analyst Rusty Wallace put it, with 20 laps remaining and came across the finish line 4.578 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch. It was Johnson’s fourth career win here and it was the largest margin of victory in all NASCAR Sprint Cup races held here to date.
Greg Biffle finished third, with new points-leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Jeff Gordon fifth. Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski (finishing ninth in the Miller Lite Dodge) and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Hornish, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose completed today’s top-20.
“We want to get top-10s,” Hornish said. “I want to get top-10 and top-five finishes and challenge for wins in the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge. We’re taking steps and heading in that direction. It’s going to take us a little bit of time to get there. Hopefully, I’ll get the time to be able to do that. The big thing for me is to keep bringing the car home clean, getting as much experience as I can out there and learn as much as I can.
“Todd Gordon is a rookie crew chief over here,” added Hornish. “I had the opportunity to work with him last year (in Nationwide) and I know that he has a lot of talent. As long as we can work together and have two guys that have that equal experience together, it should continue to move forward. I just want to get some continuity going and hopefully have the opportunity to run some more races. It’s nice to be in a Shell-Pennzoil-colored car again. I know that top 10s will come and then top fives after that.”
“I felt like we had decent speed in the race car and worked forward all day long,” Gordon said. “The nature of this place is that you make improvements at one or two spots at a time without being able to cycle yourself into sequence. I thought we were going to be able to use some strategy (short pit) but thought that we were getting a flat tire and didn’t get that opportunity. I thought Sam did an awesome job with the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge today. He drove forward all day. Restarts all day were hairy to get stuck on the outside line. He had to go three-wide a few times, guys just dive bombing the inside line which forces the outside line up. I thought it was a day that we can build off of and move forward.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads back to the “Tricky Triangle,” Pocono Raceway, for next weekend’s running of the Pennsylvania 400. This weekend’s action gets under way on Friday with practice set from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. and a final practice session (live on SPEED) from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. Saturday’s 10:40 a.m. single round of qualifying will award the Coors Light Pole Award and establish the 43-car starting field (live on ESPN2). Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 (160 laps, 400 miles) is set for a 1:00 p.m. EDT start with live coverage being provided by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.