Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Driver Quick To Point To The “Tricky Triangle” As His Personal Favorite Track

LONG POND, Pa.-  Sam Hornish Jr. is quick to point to the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped Pocono Raceway as his personal favorite race track along the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. Getting another shot behind the wheel of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in this weekend’s Pennsylvania 400, Hornish is eager to get back to the track.

“Pocono is my favorite track and I am really looking forward to getting the opportunity to race there this weekend,” said Hornish, who will be logging considerable air miles as he competes in both the Pocono Cup race and the Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway this weekend. “I like a lot of tracks and try not to dislike any of them, but I am quick to point out just how much I like racing at Pocono.”

The feelings between driver and track and track and driver seem to be mutual as Pocono Raceway has been the site for Hornish’s most successful Sprint Cup runs to date. His fourth-place tally in the August 3, 2009 Pennsylvania 500 rates as his best career Cup finish in 113 series starts entering this weekend’s return to the “Tricky Triangle.

“We’ve led laps and had some of our strongest runs at Pocono, that’s for sure,” offered Hornish. “We finished fourth there in one of the 2009 races, but really had our best shot at winning there in the races there during the 2010 season. We led pretty late in both of those races and if luck had been on our side, we could have won.”

Hornish led 16 laps in the June 2010 race and was leading with 13 laps remaining when eventual winner Denny Hamlin got around. He appeared to be headed to another top-five finish before a crash at the end of the race forced a green-white-checkered finish. He got shuffled back to 11th when the race was finally completed after 204 laps. Hornish led as late as with 21 laps remaining in the August 2010 Pocono battle. Eventual race winner Greg Biffle passed Hornish on Lap 180 and went on to win by 3.598 seconds over Tony Stewart. Hornish soldiered on to another 11th-place finish.

As for what it is about Pocono Raceway that connects so well with Hornish, he has several thoughts on that subject.

“Pocono is a track that’s all about compromise because all three turns are so different,” Hornish said. “You try to be as good as you can overall on the track, but so many times you have to compromise in giving up a little in one turn to be really strong in the other two.

“It’s about getting your car to handle well coming off the corners to get good runs down the straightaway; that’s what Pocono is all about. The straightaways are so long there that you have to be able to exit the corners well in order to pass people and to keep people behind you.

“I’ve raced there enough that I can go to that track with a lot of confidence,” said Hornish. “I think I can handle the compromising challenge pretty well. I think that there’s a lot of guys that don’t like going there, so they’ve already got this negative opinion about it. Their attitude is probably not in the right place.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I like the track and the challenge it presents. It’s unlike anything we run anywhere else on the Sprint Cup circuit. It’s just a unique and demanding track and I really enjoy racing there.”

In addition to his six career races at Pocono for Penske Racing between 2008-2010, Hornish started the June 2011 race there in the Front Row Motorsports Ford (started 26th and finished 35th). He has a 26.0 average start and 17.3 average finish at Pocono in Penske-prepared cars. His overall record in seven starts shows one top-five finish and two top-10s. His overall average start is 26.0 and average finish is 19.9. Hornish has completed 1,274 of 1,404 laps (90.7 percent lap completion average).

“We’re really looking forward to Pocono this weekend,” offered Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon. “I know how much Sam likes racing on that track and I think we can go there and have a solid weekend. Being able to run the entire race at New Hampshire and again last Sunday at Indy, we continue to learn each other better and improve in our communications.

“Sam has had some really strong races at Pocono and we’re hoping to add to those this weekend,” Gordon added. “He has led several of the races in the later stages with just a few laps remaining. All of his Pocono races have been in 500-mile events. We started running the 400-mile distance there this season. It may just turn out to be the right scenario to turn some heads there on Sunday afternoon.”

Hornish and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be racing their “PRS-827” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Pocono Raceway. This is a new chassis in the “Double-Deuce” team’s fleet of Dodge Chargers. The “PRS-819” chassis will serve as the backup Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for this weekend. This was the car that AJ Allmendinger drove to a second-place finish in the April Martinsville race.

This weekend’s Pocono Raceway 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.

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