FORT WORTH, Tex. (Oct. 30, 2011) – Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 will mark only the seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway for Sam Hornish Jr. But when he climbs behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Sunday’s Cup battle, it will be his 27th race overall on the 1.5-mile TMS quad-oval track. Hornish enters this weekend optimistic that his Todd Gordon-led “Double Deuce Dodge” team can have a strong performance there.
“I always love going to Texas and that’s certainly the case again this weekend,” said Hornish, who will also be competing in Saturday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge NASCAR Nationwide Series battle. “The track brings back a lot of special memories, especially for the success we had there during the IndyCar days. We won three races and were able to celebrate two championships there.
“We’re getting stronger over on the NASCAR side every time we visit the track and are optimistic that we can have a solid weekend there this time around,” Hornish added. “It’ll be a fun and challenging couple of days – running the Nationwide race on Saturday night and then the Sprint Cup race on Sunday afternoon. With AAA being one of Penske Racing’s great team sponsors and also having their name on Sunday’s Cup race, we definitely want to have the kind of performance that will make them proud there this weekend.”
While the Texas track was the site of Hornish’s last IndyCar victory (a dominant win in the June 9, 2007 Bombardier LearJet 550), it also holds the distinction of being the location of his best Cup start to date. Hornish qualified second for the April 19, 2010 Samsung Mobile 500. (Hornish ran a lap of 28.238 seconds/191.232 mph compared to pole-winner Tony Stewart’s 28.224 seconds/191.327 mph.)
“I’ve had Cup cars that were really fast there in the past and we’re hoping to have another fast Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger there again this weekend,” said Hornish. “We’re looking to have a strong run in Friday’s qualifying and follow it up with a really competitive race there on Sunday afternoon.”
Hornish’s Texas racing resume to date shows six NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, five starts in the Nationwide Series (Saturday’s race will be the sixth), 13 IndyCar starts and one start in IROC competition.
In Sprint Cup competition at TMS, Hornish has a 15.0 average start and 24.8 average finish. His 17th-place finish in the 2009 spring race is his best result to date. In Nationwide action, he has a 19.6 average start and a 16.8 average finish. His seventh-place finish in last November’s race is his best result. Hornish won three IndyCar races (2001, 2002 & 2007) and had five podium finishes at TMS. He started ninth and finished 12th in the April 7, 2006 IROC race there.
“Sam has probably logged more laps at Texas than on any track where the Cup cars race,” offered crew chief Gordon. “His open-wheel racing record there is impressive and he’s making great strides in stock cars there, too. Sam is improving every time he returns to a track to run the Nationwide cars and the Cup cars. We’re anxious to see how competitive we can be there with our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge this weekend.
“A lot of people want to lump Texas Motor Speedway in the same group of all the intermediate tracks, but that track certainly has a personality of its own,” said Gordon. “It’s its own animal, that’s for sure. The corners at Texas are odd compared to the other mile-and-a-half tracks. The surface is getting worn and you have the bumps down there over the tunnel. It’s a challenge to get your car handling well around the place, but I really enjoy racing there.
“With AAA sponsoring the race, there’s definitely additional incentive to do well in Texas this weekend,” Gordon added. “At the end of the day on Sunday, we hope that Shell-Pennzoil, AAA and all of our great sponsors are proud of our effort for the weekend.”
Hornish, Gordon and the Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be utilizing the “PRS-821” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in this weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Hornish and team last raced this chassis in the September 8 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond, where they started 11th and finished 11th. This is the same car that AJ Allmendinger raced in the April 14 Samsung 500 at Texas (started 12th and finished 15th). The car was also raced again in the June 17 Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan (started 20th and finished 19th). It has been completely updated since and will be making its fourth start this weekend at TMS. The “PRS-820” will serve as the backup Shell-Pennzoil Dodge. It was last raced in the Sept. 23 race at New Hampshire (Dave Blaney qualified 10th & Hornish finished 21st).
Friday’s practice from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. kicks off this weekend’s action at Texas Motor Speedway. Qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday’s battle is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. local (live on ESPN2). Saturday’s first practice is scheduled from 2:00 p.m. till 2:50 p.m. and the final “happy hour” practice session is scheduled from 4:45 p.m. till 5:45 p.m. (on SPEED). Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (334 laps, 501 miles) has a scheduled 2:00 p.m. local starting time (3:00 p.m. ET) on the 1.5-mile Dallas/Fort Worth Area speed plant. ESPN-TV and PRN Radio (also on Sirius-XM NASCAR Channel 90) will provide live coverage of all the action.