Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Gwaltney team had a challenging 400-lap race at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday afternoon. Hornish battled with the No. 9 Ford for the entire race. Despite making improvements throughout the day, the team couldn’t completely diagnose the handling issues.In the end, Hornish finished in the 35th position.
Hornish started the race from the 29th position. He raced into the Top-25 within the first five laps but then began to lose ground. He radioed to Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer that the No. 9 Ford wouldn’t turn in the middle of the corner. Hornish fell a lap down to the leaders and was in the 33rd spot when NASCAR Officials brought out the Competition Caution on Lap 52. Additionally, Hornish reported the Gwaltney Ford was a four out of five tight and the biggest issue was that the car couldn’t roll through the center with any speed. He came to pit road for a four-tire stop and chassis adjustment to help get the right, front of the car off of the track. The No. 9 Ford restarted 32nd on Lap 57.
The changes to the No. 9 Ford didn’t seem to help, and Hornish tried different lines to see if it would improve the handling. Once again, Hornish reported the Gwaltney Ford would just not turn and fell two more laps down before debris on the backstretch brought out the caution on Lap 129.
Since the No. 9 Ford seemed unresponsive to the previous changes, Hornish tried to provide feedback that would help Blickensderfer and the Gwaltney crew, based on what he was feeling inside of the car. Already two laps down, the team was able to spend extra time on pit road, making adjustments and checking the toe of the car to make sure it was aligned correctly. Hornish restarted in the 40th spot on Lap 137.
A spin brought out the yellow flag just two laps later, and with nothing to lose, Hornish brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four fresh tires and restarted in the 39th position on Lap 144. Fluid on the track brought out another caution on Lap 164, giving the Gwaltney team the opportunity to take the wave around and get one lap back. The No. 9 Ford restarted 38th, two laps down.
During the next run, Hornish reported the No. 9 Ford was chattering through the corners. As the green-flag run continued, Blickensderfer and the Gwaltney team discussed big adjustments for the next stop. On Lap 239, B lickensderfer called Hornish to pit road for a green-flag pit stop. The crew made a big swing at the car during the four-tire stop and returned to the track in the 38th position, four laps down.
Debris brought out the caution on Lap 269, allowing Hornish to provide some feedback on the last changes. He reported that he felt some improvement but needed more of the same changes and that the car stuck with him longer than before. The Gwaltney crew made more of the same adjustments on the four-tire stop, and Hornish restarted 38th
on Lap 279
This time, the adjustments hurt the entry and exit of the turns. Hornish was running in the 35th spot when the yellow flag waved on Lap 352. He broughtthe No. 9 Ford to pit road for more adjustments and restarted 36t on Lap 359.
The field saw two more cautions in the final 41 laps, and each time, Hornish brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for a four-tire stop. The race stayed under green-flag conditions for the final 25 laps, and the No. 9 Gwaltney Ford took the checkered flag in the 35th position, six laps down. Hornish maintains the 31st spot in the Championship Point Standings.
“Our Gwaltney Ford wasn’t very good to start the race,” said Hornish. “We kept wearing out the right, front tire, and I’m not sure what we missed there. We just need to figure out how to be a little better and make some better changes throughout the race. It is a frustrating day for sure.