Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford team scored their first Top-10 finish of the season on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. The No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford showed speed throughout the 500-mile race. Hornish avoided the “Big One” early and used the draft to his advantage throughout the race. He then put himself in a winning position in the closing laps. On the final lap, the field jockeyed for position, and Hornish earned a sixth-place finish, his career-best Cup finish at Talladega
Hornish started the 188-lap race from the 12th position but fell back through the field on the start after being shuffled to the outside line with no help. Hornish stayed in the back of the pack and was in the 26th position when an accident in Turn One brought out the caution. Hornish reported the No. 9 Ford was loose on entry and exit and tight in the center and came to pit road for a four-tire stop. Hornish restarted 28th on Lap 25.
Over the next green-flag run, the field went from three-wide racing to a single-file line and back to racing three-wide. As cars jockeyed back and forth for position, the No. 6 spun in front of the field, causing the “Big One” on Lap 48. Hornish maneuvered through the carnage and came out unscathed. NASCAR officials brought out the red flag as track workers cleaned up the debris on the backstretch. Once the red-flag conditions were lifted, Hornish brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires. He restarted 11th on Lap 52.
Just four laps later, debris brought out the caution once again. The No. 9 Ford pitted for fuel only, and the Medallion Bank crew switched the left-side mirror as requested by Hornish. The extended stop put the Medallion Bank Ford in the 28th position for the restart on Lap 59. As cars shuffled around over the next run, Hornish raced in and out of the Top-25. An accident in Turn Two brought out the caution, and Hornish informed Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer that he had picked up a slight vibration at the end of the run. The No. 9 Ford came to pit road for a four-tire stop, and Hornish restarted 22nd on Lap 96.
Over the next 69 laps, Hornish remained patient on the track and was able to work his way back through the field quickly after losing any ground in the draft. He brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road under caution on Lap 116 for a four-tire stop. Back under green-flag conditions, he was racing within the Top-20 when Blickensderfer called him to pit road for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 159. Just as Hornish was about to pull into his pit stall, the No. 3 blew an engine and brought out the caution. The Medallion Bank crew completed the four-tire stop, giving Hornish the fourth-place spot on the restart on Lap 163.
After the restart, the field was aggressive, racing two and three wide before settling into a single-file line. Hornish raced in the eighth spot for 22 of the final 23 laps. As the field took the white flag, the lead pack started to make their move. Hornish gained two spots in the final lap to take the checkered flag in the sixth position. This is the best finish and first Top-10 of the season for Hornish and the No. 9 Medallion Bank team. It’s also Hornish’s career-best Cup Series finish at Talladega. The Top-10 finish moves Hornish up three spots in the Championship Point Standings to 28th.
“It was a really good day,” said Hornish. “Just by the way the race was going and how good our car was, I felt like we were going to have more of an opportunity to get a Top-Five out of it or maybe to win, but some of the other guys up front made their move a little bit quicker than what I thought they were going to. All-in-all, our Medallion Bank Ford handled really well, and I’m just really proud of everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports. They gave us a fast race car. I don’t know what would have happened if we would have had another couple laps, but I know that it was exciting.”