HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Sam Hornish Jr. wanted much more than his 22nd-place finish in today’s Sprint Cup season-ending Ford 400 here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But when the dust had settled and his Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski, had claimed the 2012 Cup points title, Hornish continued to display his quality of being the ultimate team player.
“When I first came over to the stock car side, I said part of the reason that I want to do this is Roger puts in a lot of effort over here, a lot of time, a lot of money,” Hornish said as he sat by the back door of his team hauler in the garage when the race concluded. “He’s been doing it for two decades now and he hasn’t had the success that he has had in open wheel. I knew that I might not be the guy that wins the Daytona 500 or the championship, but I’d like to be there for it. We definitely had that opportunity. I’m really happy for Brad, I’m really happy for Roger and Dodge especially for letting me go out on a high note.”
Hornish fought a tight handling condition for most of today’s race, yet was running a solid top-10 with less than 20 laps remaining. He was forced to pit for a final time with only 17 laps remaining in today’s race.
“I wish we could have done a little bit better,” Hornish offered on how his day unfolded. “We ran good all day long and just didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end but that’s our own fault. We should have stopped if there was a chance with how many long, green flag runs there’s been this year, you know, we knew that we could make it to the end from that point we should have just stopped and had fuel to do it. We were running ninth or tenth and we had to stop the last time. It’s just unfortunate. All the guys that work on the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger do a great job. Just wish we had a little bit more for ‘em.”
Hornish started today’s race from the 17th position after posting a lap of 31.194 seconds (173.110 mph) in Friday night’s qualifying session. He climbed to 10th after the green flag fell to start the race. Hornish ran from 12th to 17th for much of the middle of today’s race.
When Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the outside wall on Lap 153, the third caution flag of the race was displayed. His Todd Gordon-led team opted to stay out and moved up to the sixth spot for the Lap 161 restart. However, all the cars that did hit pit road during that yellow could now go the distance by making only one additional stop.
Hornish hit pit road on Lap 202 for four tires and fuel and had to pit again on Lap 250 for right-side tires and fuel.
“I wanted to finish a lot better than 22nd but I didn’t have any false hopes that we were going to win today,” Hornish said. “Our car wasn’t good enough to do that and I was very happy that we were good enough to run in the top 10 for most of the day. It’s not my fault that we didn’t get the finish that we deserved. I don’t know why I’m emotional about it. It doesn’t matter but I’m just happy for Roger.
“I had a good feeling about after the first race of the Chase when Brad was able to win,” added Hornish. “Even when I was out there driving around there was times when I let him go in traffic just so that he didn’t have to worry about racing whoever was racing behind him and tried to take care of him at Martinsville and Kansas and a couple of other places where there was a mayhem out there. That’s what RP asked me to do.”
Keselowski entered today’s race with a 20-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson. Johnson led early in today’s race, but saw his chances for another title evaporate on Lap 227 when rear gear issues sent him to the garage. Keselowski finished 15th here today to claim the first top-tier NASCAR points title for motorsports icon Roger Penske. Johnson finished 36th and lost the runner-up points spot to Clint Bowyer by a single point (2.361 to 2,360).
Jeff Gordon came home the winner in today’s race by 1.028 seconds over Bowyer. Ryan Newman finished third, with Kyle Busch fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out today’s top-10 finishers.