Hornish Looking to Lead "The Right Lap" This Time At Talladega
-SKF Dodge Charger Driver Looking Forward To Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500-
October 3, 2012
Photo Courtesy of Autostock
TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 2, 2012) - Sam Hornish Jr. ran his last NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2010. Two seasons later, Hornish contends that he can climb behind the wheel of the SKF Dodge Charger this weekend and pick up from where he left off. He will get that opportunity in Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500.
"Pack racing, tandem racing...we've seen a little of everything at Talladega over the last few seasons," said Hornish. "But no matter what brand of racing prevails there, the strategy is always the same. It's a survival situation. You have to be around at the finish.
"Talladega has always been a wildcard race and it always will be," said Hornish. "The Superspeedways remind me of IndyCar Series racing because the outcome depends mostly on aerodynamics. It's like a chess game where you are trying to figure out what to do as the race progresses to position yourself correctly.
"What it all comes down to is being in the front pack at the very end. You can lead laps all race long, but the most important thing is to lead the right lap. You have to be in the mix coming off Turn 4 and heading down through the tri-oval to the finish line.
"We want to lead the right lap there on Sunday - the final lap that pays the big winner's check and awards the huge trophy," said Hornish.
Hornish has certainly learned how to lead laps on the circuit's longest track. In his five career Sprint Cup Series starts on the massive 2.66-mile layout, he has led laps in three of those battles. Of all his career Cup laps led (71), 13 percent (9) have come at Talladega Superspeedway.
In the five career Cup races at Talladega, Hornish showed marked progress each time out. He led the spring race of 2010, completed all the laps and finished 24th. In his most recent Cup outing there, the Oct. 31, 2010 Amp Energy Juice 500, Hornish was impressive and had a legitimate chance at winning. He contends that his 10th-place start and 15th-place finish doesn't adequately represent just how strong he was in that race.
"It was definitely the strongest car I've had in a restrictor-plate race," recalled Hornish, who led the race three times for five laps and was at the point in the latter stages of the race. "It was strong enough that we got slapped with a speeding ticket with 40 laps to go and still came back to the front in no time at all.
"Our Dodge was really fast that day," said Hornish. "We could run up front, fall to the back and power our way back to the front again. There were times when the run I could get in front of guys and get a great push. And then there were times where I would run up on someone and give them a huge push to the front. It was like that all day. I was trying to make friends all day, hoping we could get some help there at the end.
"We lined up fourth on a restart with four laps to go and had a great feeling that our day could end up in Victory Lane. Unfortunately, a couple of guys that I had worked with all day weren't in position at the end to help us out. I remember wishing that we had one more lap because our car was that good. We had to settle for a 15th-place finish there that day with a car that could have won the race.
"That's the kind of car I'm hoping for again at Talladega this weekend," said Hornish. "Penske Racing has always had great cars and strong engines prepared for the races at Daytona and Talladega. I'm sure that'll be the case again this time around. After all, it was my teammate (Brad Keselowski) who brought the winner's trophy home from there in the first race back in May."
Crew chief Todd Gordon is certainly looking forward to this weekend's return to Talladega for the final restrictor-plate race of the 2012 season.
"We qualified second (with AJ Allmendinger driving) and looked to have a car capable of finishing up there with our teammates until after the restart with three laps to go," said Gordon. "Even with the skirmish we had - having to fix the sheet metal and all - we were able to finish 15th.
"The Nationwide Series is off this weekend and our Cup race is the sole focus for Sam. Unlike the other races where there is quite a bit to be done when you get to the track, you pretty much come to the plate races with your preparation done in advance. For Sam, it should make for a nice mental break as much as anything else. Since we weren't able to get Sam any practice time in Daytona (for the July 7 Coke Zero 400 when he was a last-minute fill-in driver), we'll likely have him do a 10-lap drafting run right off the bat there on Friday.
"I'm confident that we can be extremely competitive at Talladega this weekend and hopefully can help our teammates in their Chase effort," Gordon said. "Hey, what about a Penske Racing one-two finish? That's possible and wouldn't that be great?"
Hornish, Gordon and the Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be utilizing the "PRS-646" SKF Dodge Charger this weekend at Talladega. It is a new car that has never been raced. The "PRS-626" will serve as the backup car. It was the Dodge Charger that the "Double-Deuce" crew used as a backup for both Daytona races and the spring Talladega race this season.
This weekend's schedule at Talladega Superspeedway begins on Friday with practice sessions scheduled from 1:30 p.m. till 2:15 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV). Saturday's 11:15 a.m. single round of qualifying will establish Sunday's 43-car starting field (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 (188 laps, 500.08 miles) has a 1:00 p.m. CT (2:00 p.m. ET) starting time and features live coverage by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.
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