LOUDON, N.H. – Sam Hornish Jr. will start the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge from the 24th position in Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Hornish, the fill-in driver for AJ Allmendinger aboard Penske Racing’s No. 22 Dodge Charger, circled the 1.058-mile NHMS oval in 28.952 seconds (131.556 mph) in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session.
“Not quite as well as I would have liked for it to have been,” Hornish said of his qualifying effort. “We were a little bit too tight in the center of the corner, just couldn’t roll the center like we needed to for speed. All in all, I felt like we were really good our second run of practice and we just never quite got the car right again.”
“We’re just lacking speed,” said crew chief Todd Gordon. “Sam is doing a heck of a job, especially bouncing back and forth from one garage area to the other. It’s just that our teams are both behind in speed. We practiced within a couple of spots of each other and qualified that way, too.
“That would be okay if we were up in the top 10 in practice and qualifying, but that’s not the case,” Gordon added. “The great thing here is that we’re back to the way is should be schedule-wise. We have two more practice sessions here tomorrow to get it figured out. With our two Penske teams working together, we’ll do our best to find the speed we need.”
Hornish was 21st fastest in the 90-minute practice session leading up to qualifying with a fast lap of 28.908 seconds (131.756 mph). He was scheduled to go out 24th in this afternoon’s qualifying order, but due to getting bogged down in the “tech line,” he actually went out 27th.
Hornish will be starting directly behind Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski here on Sunday. Keselowski, 19th fastest in practice, qualified 22nd with a lap of 28.836 seconds (132.085 mph) in his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger.
Kyle Busch, fastest in practice, was the last driver to make his run against the clock. He clocked in with a fast lap of 28.548 seconds (133.417 mph) to claim the Coor’s Light Pole Award for Sunday’s race. That relegated Kasey Kahne (lap of 28.551 seconds/133.403 mph) to second. Denny Hamlin was third and only one-thousandth of a second back (28.552 seconds/133.399 mph). Martin Truex (28.565 seconds/133.338 mph) will start fourth and Clint Bowyer (28.569 seconds/133.319 mph) fifth.
Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Tony Stewart rounded out today’s top-10 qualifiers.
“I’m really proud of all the effort that everybody has put in to be able to make this work,” Hornish added. “It’s been a lot more work for everybody other than me but at the end of the day, just doing the best that we can right now to make sure that we’ve got an opportunity for Sunday. This is one of my favorite tracks. I’m glad that we’ve got some time to practice it this week versus just coming in and doing it on Sunday.”
Saturday’s schedule here at NHMS calls for practice from 9:00 a.m. till 9:55 a.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 11:20 a.m. till 12:20 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 (301 laps, 318.46 miles) is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 19 of 36 points-paying events on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio (also available on Sirius-XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).