Once again bad luck fell onto Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford team at Martinsville Speedway. After qualifying 38th, the No. 9 team made great progress throughout the weekend to get the Medallion Bank Ford race ready. After racing into the Top-20 on more than one occasion during the 500-lpa race, Hornish was relegated to a 32nd-place finish after the crew was forced to fix an oil leak just over halfway through the race.
Hornish started the STP 500 race from the 38th position and immediately began to make his way through the field. He moved up eight spots in 12 laps to the 30thposition when the first caution fell. Hornish reported the No. 9 Ford was good on the brake but a tick free off the corner. To save tires for the end of the race, Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer made the call to stay on the track. Hornish restarted in the same position on Lap 17.
Just six laps later, a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution. The No. 9 Ford received minimal damage on the right front fender. After getting the “all good” from the No. 9 spotter, Hornish stayed on the track and restarted in the 21stposition.
Hornish raced up to the 18th position before the cars with four fresh tires caught up to the No. 9 Ford. Hornish reported his biggest issue was lack of forward drive. He brought the Medallion Bank Ford to pit road for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel and restarted in the 40th position on Lap 61.
Hornish was awarded the Lucky Dog when debris in Turn Three brought out the caution on Lap 74. He reported the handling of the No. 9 Ford was better during that run with good drive in but just a tick free off. Blickensderfer called for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel and Hornish restarted 38thon Lap 82.
With the No. 9 Ford starting out tighter over the last run, Hornish felt the car would be better during a long run. It was a four-tire stop for the No. 9 Ford before restarting in the 31st spot on Lap 101.
Hornish began to maneuver the Medallion Bank Ford through the field, getting up to the 23rd position. However, the No. 9 Ford became free on entry and Hornish slipped a few spots to 27th. The crew received another opportunity to work on the car when a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution on Lap 165. To help with the drive off, Blickensderfer called for a wedge adjustment, four tires and fuel. Hornish restarted 29th on Lap 171.
Debris brought out the caution on Lap 184, but as the field checked up the No. 9 Ford received damage to the front end of the car. Hornish came to pit road for a four-tire stop and to check the damage on the nose of the car. No repairs were needed and the team restarted in the 34th position on Lap 189.
The front of the No. 9 Ford suffered more damage as Hornish just barely scathed by a multi-car accident on Lap 229. After Hornish returned to the track from a four-tire stop, the Medallion Bank crew noticed a few drops of oil in the pit stall. Hornish watched the oil pressure as the field went back to green. He restarted in the 31st position on Lap 239.
Over the next 30 laps, Hornish checked his temps and oil pressure inside the car while Blickensderfer and the crew came up with a plan to fix the oil leak. They received the opportunity on Lap 270 when a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution. The Medallion Bank crew changed out the oil hoses in the No. 9 Ford on the four-tire spot, but unfortunately, lost five laps in the process. Hornish restarted in the 36th position on Lap 285.
Despite being several laps down, Hornish and the No. 9 Medallion Bank team did everything they could to gain back positions over the final 215 laps. They also used the remaining laps as a learning opportunity to make adjustments and get an understanding of how the adjustments affected the car. In the end the team crossed the finish line in the 32nd position.
“We just can’t seem to get this monkey off our back,” said Hornish. “It’s frustrating for sure, but this team stepped up this weekend. The guys worked hard all weekend to make adjustments and improve the No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford. I felt like we really had something to work with today. We’ll regroup on this off weekend.”——