[media-credit name=”Dan Sanger” align=”alignright” width=”248″][/media-credit]When it comes to being able to make something out of nothing and having to come from behind, Sam Hornish Jr. is making it a theme of his NASCAR career. Saturday’s event at Road America, the Sargento 200, was more of the same as Hornish had to overcome early problems for a top five finish.
While pitting on just lap three of the event, Hornish was penalized because he had left his pit stall with equipment. The gasman and fuel can were dragged out of the box when the gasman was unable to dislodge the can from the car. He had started eighth but would lose all of his track position serving his penalty. Yet it allowed the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts team to start putting together their race strategy that ended up playing out perfectly and saving the day.
“We had a pretty good day all-in-all, we were forced into a strategy where we wanted to make sure we had enough fuel to cover green-white-checkered so we stayed out a little bit longer and were able to lead a couple laps because of it,” said Hornish afterwards.
Thanks in part to pit strategy and the falling of cautions, Hornish was able to take the lead on lap 33 and held onto until he had to make his final pit stop. It was clean and clear on this stop but it dropped Hornish outside the top 10 and with the event only 50 laps long, the driver had to make the most of every passing opportunity.
He didn’t let anyone down. Making quick work of his competitors and moving back towards the leaders. It wasn’t long before Hornish was back in the picture racing amongst the best in the business. His fifth place finish made him the highest finishing NNS regular.
“We just tried to play it smart all day long, keep the car on the racetrack,” he said. “That was my goal for the weekend was just to make sure that we were never sitting in any sand traps. Really happy about that and to be able to pass some really good road racers there towards the end and to have a good day I feel like it was pretty good.
“We were trying to be really smart and as you can see there were some guys running into each other on the last lap and I did everything I could do to stay out of that because we got to run for points. So to be able to have the kind of day that we did I’m super happy about it and just looking forward to the next road course because I had such a great day today.”
It was one of Hornish’s best races of the still young 2012 season. According to him, the performance on the ovals hasn’t been what he’s expected and that they need to be better. The consistency hasn’t been there for him to believe that he could win every weekend but had some cautions and luck fallen their way, Hornish says they might already have a W this season.
They need another five percent of speed he said on Friday for them to make that happen. Heading into Kentucky next weekend, Hornish sits fourth in points and Saturday he closed to within 34 markers of the leader.
Saturday it was all about points for Hornish and his team. Thinking about the big picture, even if they couldn’t win the race. With his nearest competitors well behind him on track, being able to recover from early misfortune would go a long way. Especially since Hornish has completed all but two laps in 14 races.
“The yellows fell at just the wrong spot for us,” Hornish said “We hurt ourselves a little bit early in the race, leaving with the catch can still in the car, had to do a stop and go penalty. But that really didn’t have that much of an effect on us. We were stuck on a strategy, we knew we weren’t going to stop before lap 34, that’s where we had to go to be able to accommodate for everything.
“We’re racing for points so, I’m kind of glad it all worked out because you don’t know what might have happened if we would have played the strategy that the race winning cars and most of the guys in the top five did. We don’t have the luxury, we’re out here running every weekend, we’re running hard for a championship. We had a great points day because of it, we closed up on everybody that we’re racing for a championship. We haven’t performed as well as we anted to on the ovals so if we have to take to the road courses, that’s where we’ll try to do our best.”
Before Saturday, Hornish hadn’t been at Road America or Montreal, what will be the series third road course event, in 13 years. He sat at home and watched the last few years, seeing all the controversy and fun. It left him reflecting to the days he raced at those tracks in the Atlantic Series, and ready for the rest of the season and its potential.
“Just looking forward to getting some more of them [road courses] in,” he said. “And hopefully getting our oval program stepped up to the point where we feel like we can actually gain points on those days as well.”