WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Sam Hornish Jr. will be pulling double duty again this weekend at Watkins Glen International – competing in both Saturday’s Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race and Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k NASCAR Sprint Sup Series battle. Hornish posted his best career Cup road course finish in his last trip to the Glen and thinks the extra track time could help him better that mark.
“I think that running in both races this weekend should help us all the way around – in both Saturday’s Nationwide race and in Sunday’s Cup race,” said Hornish. “We did it there in 2008, so it’s not a new experience to run both races.
“Racing in both series’ races will be beneficial for sure. Sure, it’ll be another busy weekend bouncing back and forth between the Nationwide garage and the Cup garage. But, at least this weekend it won’t be a situation requiring planes and choppers to get back and forth like it was last weekend (in running the Pocono Cup race and the Iowa Nationwide race).
“The seat time on the track will be worth all the hustle there this weekend,” added Hornish. “Hopefully it will make us stronger in both the PPG Dodge in Saturday’s race and the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in Sunday’s race.”
Hornish competed in the three Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen during the 2008-2010 seasons, posting an average start of 27.3 and a like 27.3 average finish. Crashing out of the 2009 Watkins Glen race produced his only DNF in Cup road course racing to date.
Entering this weekend’s race at the Glen, Hornish has six overall Cup starts on road courses. He is still looking for his first top-10 finish and hoping to lead his first lap in Cup cars on road courses. Hornish has a 26.0 average start and 31.2 average finish in those six races. He has completed 91.240 percent (552 of 605) of all possible laps and has been running in five of the six races.
Hornish started 12th and finished 14th in his last trip to Watkins Glen in the August 2010 Sprint Cup race for his best Cup road course finish to date. It was also the last time Hornish was behind the wheel of a Cup car on a road course.
“I really like racing on the road courses, but we’ve just not had much good luck on those tracks,” said Hornish. “I really like Watkins Glen. We started fifth and finished second there in the 2007 IndyCar race. We are certainly looking for that level of success over here in NASCAR, too.
“My early background was pretty much all about racing on road courses. It was like 90 percent road courses and only 10 percent ovals,” Hornish added. “I really like Watkins Glen. The corners there are fast and lead into the straightaways, so it is all about momentum. We are really looking forward to being in a Cup car again there this weekend.”
Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is extremely enthusiastic entering this weekend’s return to Watkins Glen. Gordon visited Victory Lane during his last visit to the track in the 2011 Zippo 200 Nationwide Series race. Kurt Busch substituted for regular driver Brad Keselowski who broke his ankle during testing two weeks earlier. Gordon was calling the shots as Busch won the pole and drove to an impressive 0.974-second victory over Jimmie Johnson in the battle that featured a green-white-checkered finish.
“I am really looking forward to working with Sam this weekend at Watkins Glen,” said Gordon. “Sam had a really strong race weekend in his last visit to a road course. He started eighth, led laps and finished a solid fifth at Road America back in June. I think he can bring some of that momentum with him to Watkins Glen this weekend.
“All the track time he will get this weekend will be beneficial – I’m sold on that,” Gordon said on Monday night. “The key is keeping it all in the proper perspective. The cars are different and there are various nuances you have to keep in mind in going from one car to the other. We kind of experienced that with Kurt last year there. Sam and I discussed the situation at the shop today and I think we have a great checks-and-balance plan all laid out for him to bounce back and forth between the two garages this weekend.”
Hornish, Gordon and the Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be utilizing their “PRS-808” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Watkins Glen International. This is the same car that AJ Allmendinger raced in the June 24 Toyota/Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma, Calif. Starting 17th, the car was solid all day long and came home in the ninth finishing position. This chassis was first raced at Richmond in the April 28 Capital City 400. Allmendinger started fourth and finished 16th in that race. The car was lightning fast on short runs, but with only five cautions during the entire race there was little time to make adjustments. The “PRS-807” chassis will serve as the backup at the Glen this weekend. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix, Bristol and Martinsville, but has never seen any track time to date. “We converted the car over to be our road course car and it proved to be a strong piece out in Sonoma,” crew chief Gordon offered. “We don’t have a large car inventory and some of that is intentional because we will be racing the new cars next season. It was determined shortly after the Sonoma race that it would also be our primary car for Watkins Glen this weekend.”
This weekend’s action at Watkins Glen International gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:50 p.m. and from 4:10 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday’s 43-car starting field will be determined in Saturday’s 11:40 a.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2). Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k Sprint Cup race has a 1:00 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and MRN Radio presenting live coverage of the 90-lap, 220.5-mile battle.