LONG POND, Pa. – Sam Hornish Jr. was credited with a 19th-place finish in today’s weather-shortened Pennsylvania 400 here at Pocono Raceway. The start of the race was delayed by almost two hours due to a passing storm front and the event was cut to 98 of the scheduled 160 laps (245 of scheduled 400 miles) due to another severe front that moved through the area at 4:45 p.m.
Hornish was listed as finishing 16th on the original rundown, but after NASCAR officials reviewed the footage from a crash that ended the race under caution, three drivers were moved in front of him in the second rundown issued (posted as finishing 19th). The finish order will not be official until Monday.
“We would have liked for it to have been better,” Hornish told Dodge SRT PR rep Jimmy White after the race had been called at 4:55 p.m. EDT. “I feel like we would have been better too if we’d have got to run the rest of the race. We were steadily working our way forward, passing some people, just need to get to the end, that’s all. Guys made good adjustments on the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge. Felt like we got better throughout the race and we needed some track position. We should have probably stayed out and did what the 2 (Keselowski) did but at that point we didn’t feel like we were good enough. Hats off to those guys to get themselves up there where they could actually race those guys.”
“Yeah, I mean, as soon as it goes back green I feel like we’re going to start passing people,” Hornish said of what it would have meant if the race had returned to green. “I think if it goes green there’s no doubt we’re going to pass three more guys that have to come down pit road to fix their damage or tires and then we’ve got the opportunity to pass a bunch more guys because we’re on fresh tires Our Dodge got better that last long run. We were running the same lap times as what Brad was, I believe. We’re working at it. We’re getting better. We need to qualify better and then we’ll race better, too.”
Hornish started 25th here today and fought a “free in, tight in the center and free off” condition for much of the race. With only three cautions during the race, there was little time to make adjustments, but the changes made saw the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge running at its strongest just before weather cut the race short.
Jeff Gordon picked up his 86th career win and seventh victory here at Pocono in what would be a bizarre ending. Kurt Busch’s crash in the triangular-shaped “Tunnel Turn” brought out the second caution flag of the race on Lap 86. With the bad weather moving in fast, only nine of the 23 cars running on the lead lap chose to hit pit road for tires and fuel.
Jimmie Johnson was leading on the Lap 91 restart. He got loose entering Turn 1, resulting in Matt Kenseth hitting the outside wall and sliding back down directly in front of Denny Hamlin. The rush was on to try to steer clear of the melee and see where things stood when the caution flag fell and the field was “frozen.” Gordon had restarted six, but was the big winner when he had cleared the wreckage and was shown as the leader when the yellow came out.
After running several laps under yellow, sprinkles turned into a steady rain and NASCAR officials called for the field to come down pit road and stop after 98 laps. The weather worsened immediately as the area was under a severe storm warning. Unfortunately, one fan was killed and nine others injured from the heavy lightning that hit the track. The race was called as official at 4:55 p.m. local time.
Kasey Kahne was credited with a second-place finish, while Martin Truex Jr. was shown as third. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski was running on a different pitting strategy and brought the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge home in fourth, with Tony Stewart finishing fifth. Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith and Marcos Ambrose rounded out today’s top-10 finishers.
Today’s final rundown listed Paul Menard in 11th, with Mark Martin 12th, Joey Logano 13th, Johnson 14th and Greg Biffle 15th. It showed Kevin Harvick 16th, Jamie McMurray 17th, Aric Almirola 18th, Hornish 19th and Juan Pablo Montoya 20th
“We put ourselves in a hole there qualifying,” crew chief Todd Gordon offered just after the race was called. “You didn’t know when the weather was going to come and tried to stay somewhere in sequence so that we weren’t in a bad position. Kind of plugged our way forward all day, a spot or two on a run, and just kept working. I really felt like that caution that came on lap 86 or 87, thought we’d have 10 minutes to go run 12 or 13 laps. We put tires on and thought we could slug our way up through there but that wreck down in Turn 1 kind of put an end to the day. Sixteenth is another step and we‘ll continue to build off that.”
“It was a solid event for both of our cars,” said Penske Racing Director of Competition Travis Geisler. “We took kind of the standard approach with the 22 and ended up 16th which is another good day for those guys. And really solid considering everything that Sam did this weekend with running double-duty so proud of everybody on that Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. They keep digging in and making some good ground these last couple weeks on just having solid finishes.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Watkins Glen International for next weekend’s final road course race of the 2012 Cup season. This weekend’s action at WGI gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:50 p.m. and from 4:10 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday’s 43-car starting field will be determined in Saturday’s 11:40 a.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2). Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355K Sprint Cup race has a 1:00 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and MRN Radio presenting live coverage of the 90-lap, 220.5-mile battle.