LOUDON, N.H. – Sam Hornish Jr. says “looking forward to” this weekend’s return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway is an understatement. He “can’t wait” for this weekend’s Sylvania, 300 which will mark his 11th start behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge. For Hornish, it will be the first time he has revisited the same track to drive Penske Racing’s “Double-Deuce” Cup entry.
“It’ll be great to finally get to a track where we be racing on for the second time this season,” offered Hornish, who started 24th and finished 22nd in the July 15 LENOX Tools 301 at NHMS. “After getting called into duty at the very last moment for the race in Daytona, the race at Loudon was my very first race where I was able to practice, qualify and race the car.
“When I look back to that weekend, I realize just how far we’ve come. It was the real starting point for crew chief Todd Gordon and I to learn each other and get our communications going. When I think how well we have been able to mesh as a team, it’s pretty cool. And I mean not just the driver and crew chief, but with everyone who is part of our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team. We’ve made a lot of progress and I feel like the two Penske Cup teams are working as well together as any of the teams in the garage area.
“In the first Loudon race, we really didn’t know what we wanted or needed in the car going into the race,” Hornish offered. “It was really my first full-blown opportunity back in a Cup car in quite a while. The Nationwide cars and the Cup cars are different and I had not had the opportunity yet to get a good grasp on the transition. During that race, we struggled with the car being really free on entry and that plagued us the whole race.
“The biggest difference this time around will be the accumulation of what all we have learned since then. In that race, it just didn’t seem like we ever got the right adjustment to make it better. What we had at the beginning of the race was what we had at the end of the race. It’s totally different out there now. The communication we’ve developed since then is like night and day and continues to get even better every race we are together.
“Saying that I am really looking forward to our return visit to New Hampshire is really an understatement,” said Hornish. “I can’t wait to have another shot at it there in the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge.”
With Hornish enthralled in a “full court press effort” to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, he will be at the Kentucky Speedway through Saturday night’s race focusing solely on the Kentucky 300. He’ll make his way to New Hampshire after that race goes into the record book.
“We’ll have Dave Blaney helping us at Loudon from Friday on until Sam gets there,” said crew chief Todd Gordon. “Dave will be in the car from the first practice on Friday, through Friday afternoon’s qualifying and in both of Saturday’s practices, We are confident that Dave can help us get the car as prepared as possible for Sam to race on Sunday.
“It’ll be another ‘hop in the car and race’ situation for Sam,” said Gordon. “This is not anything new to us in that we called in Parker Kligerman to do the exact same thing for us at Michigan when Sam was up in Montreal concentrating on that Nationwide Series race. That weekend turned out really well as he finished second on the road course up there and finished 12th for us at MIS on Sunday.
“So, yes, it’s another race where Sam’s first time behind the wheel of the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge will be when he buckles in before the start of Sunday’s race,” offered Gordon. “We’re fine with it. We know he’ll have to start from the rear in the race and maybe Loudon is not the best place to be in that position, but we’re prepared for it.
“Sam has shown the knack to be as patient as any driver out there. He will definitely be called on to utilize those skills there on Sunday as he works his way up through the field. If we need to put a little pit road strategy into the equation in order to get up there, we’ll be prepared to execute in that manner, too.
“I am very optimistic heading back to Loudon,” Gordon added. “You have to remember that we came in there for the first race with Sam being a fill-in driver. We didn’t know what cards the future held. It’s not every trip to the table that you sit down with a winning hand. I’ll tell you this – I am certainly proud of the job Sam and our team have done with the cards we were dealt. I am proud of the progress we have made in such a short period of time.”
Hornish, Gordon and the Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be utilizing the “PRS-820” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at New Hampshire. This is the same car that Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski drove in the April 14 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. In that race, the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge started eighth and saw a strong top-five run end because of fuel system issues. Keselowski’s team also utilized this Dodge Charger during a July test session at Michigan. The chassis has been sent back through the Penske Racing shop and updated with the latest components and adorned with the popular and dynamic No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil color scheme prior to its return to action this weekend at New Hampshire. The “807” chassis will serve as the backup this weekend. It was in the 22 team transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix; both Bristol races Martinsville and the second Richmond race, but has never seen any track time to date.
This weekend’s action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. Sunday’s 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday’s 3:40 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on SPEED-TV). Saturday’s action includes practice sessions from 9:15 a.m. till 10:15 a.m. and from 11:00 a.m. till 11:50 a.m. (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday’s SYLVANIA 300 (300 Laps, 317.4 Miles) has a 2:00 p.m. EDT starting time. Live coverage of the race will be provided by ESPN-TV and PRN Radio.