Sam Hornish Jr. will be behind the wheel of the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge again this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Filling in for AJ Allmendinger, Hornish is looking to make the best of the opportunity in Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, yet at the same time I wish it wasn’t under these circumstances,” said Hornish, who will be making his seventh career Sprint Cup start on the “Magic Mile” this weekend. “It is a difficult time for AJ and the entire organization.
“Sometimes it happens like this, though, and we will attempt to find the good in this situation and make the most of the opportunity,” added Hornish, who’ll be making his 112th overall Cup start in Sunday’s race. “I like this type of track as it requires that the driver make compromises – the car may be great at one end of the track and then not so good at the other – so you have to do your best and make it work.”
In his six career Sprint Cup starts at NHMS, Hornish is still looking for his first top-five finish, but he has come home with top-10s in a third of the races. He has a 21.5 average start and a 24.5 average finish. He has yet to lead a lap, but has completed 91.8 percent (1,613 of 1,758) of all possible laps and has been running at the finish in five of the six races.
“Our best result at Loudon to date was in the first race of 2009,” Hornish said of the June 28, 2009 edition of the LENOX Industrial Tools race. He started back in the 26th position, but charged to the front and was a fixture among the top 10 for most of the race. “We finished eighth, but we had been running third towards the end of the race. We pitted right before it started raining, while some people stayed out. So we lost five spots at the end. It was a good run, though. We had a good car and the crew did their part all day.”
After both Penske Racing Sprint Cup teams tested at the Milwaukee Mile for two days (July 2-3) in preparation for this weekend’s race, Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is hoping for the best at New Hampshire.
“I’m confident that we learned so many things at Milwaukee that we can apply at Loudon during the course of the weekend, even though AJ was in the car for the test and Sam will be driving for us,” said Gordon. “We’ll hit the ground looking for speed from the very start of practice on Friday.
“It’s unfortunate for everyone involved that the situation has unfolded like it has, but we’re committed to getting out there and doing the best job we possibly can,” said Gordon. “The 22 and the 2 Cup teams have worked extremely well together this season and we will definitely be leaning on each other closely this weekend at Loudon.
“Sam and Brad have enjoyed a great relationship working together over in the Nationwide Series this season and that should help our teams working together this weekend,” said Gordon. “Sam and I spent a good deal of time working together last season when I was crew chief for Brad’s Nationwide team. He spent some time out on the road with us and did some practices for us.
“Sam actually drove our No. 22 Nationwide car for our team at Iowa last August, so we have some history of racing together,” Gordon said of the August 6, 2011 U.S. Cellular 250, where Hornish started third and led 39 laps before getting relegated to a 24th-place finish. “The bottom line is that we’ve all had working relationships that are close enough to help make this weekend’s working together as seamless as possible.
“We would love to go and have a really positive weekend at Loudon this week,” said Gordon. “We want to do it for Shell-Pennzoil, Dodge and for all the great supporters we have at Penske Racing. We’ll be giving the effort everything we have, that’s for sure.
“The testing that the Penske teams did recently at Milwaukee will give us some good ideas on where to go if we are not happy with the car at Loudon,” added Hornish, currently fourth in the Nationwide Series points after 16 races have been put into the 2012 record book. “Our baseline setup will probably be a little closer to what the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge is running, but it is always good to have some depth and alternatives in your playbook.”