Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Speed Perks Ford finished 22nd in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway. The series debuted a new rules package at the 1.5-mile track, but team’s had limited practice time with the new packages due to weather throughout the weekend. The Speed Perks crew worked on the No. 9 Ford throughout the night to accommodate the changing handling conditions. In the end, the Speed Perks Ford crossed the finish line in the 22nd position.
Hornish started the 267-lap race from the 18th position. After an early caution on Lap 20, Hornish reported the No. 9 Ford was loose on entry and tight in the center. Despite the caution falling before the Competition Caution, Crew Chief Kevin Manion called the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment. Hornish restarted 34th on Lap 24.
NASCAR Officials called a Competition Caution just eight laps later. Hornish reported the adjustments to the Speed Perks Ford helped the center turn better and was better on entry. Manion called for two right-side tires and fuel and Hornish restarted 13th on Lap 36.
This time, the adjustments made the No. 9 Ford too loose on entry and tight off, causing Hornish to lose six spots during the 46-lap, green-flag run. He brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. The Speed Perks Ford restarted 21st on Lap 87.
Hornish gained two spots before the next caution on Lap 100. Overall the No. 9 Ford was better, but the car was still a bit loose throughout the entire corner. Manion called for four tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. Hornish restarted 20th on Lap 105.
After the restart, the Speed Perks Ford was tight at the beginning of the run and Hornish made a trackbar adjustment that helped. However, the No. 9 Ford began to get freer later into the run and fell to the 23rd spot. An accident in Turn Four brought out the caution on Lap 123 and the Speed Perks crew made air pressure and chassis adjustments on the four -tire stop. Hornish restarted 23rd on Lap 129.
The race produced two more cautions within the next 24 Laps. To save tires for the end of the race, Manion kept the No. 9 Ford on the track. The Speed Perks Ford seemed to be handling better after the last adjustments but needed help on the drive off. Debris brought out the caution on Lap 153, giving the Speed Perks crew another chance to make an air pressure adjustment during a four-tire stop. Hornish restarted 24th on Lap 157.
Hornish quickly began to work his way through the field and was running in the 18th spot when he reported the No. 9 Ford was becoming too free again. Under caution on Lap 187, Hornish said he was pretty happy with the Speed Perks Ford at the beginning of the run but it was just too free at the end. Manion called for four tires, chassis and air pressure adjustments and fuel. The No. 9 Ford restarted 21st on Lap 192.
Once again, Hornish began working his way through the field. An accident in Turn Four on Lap 208 found Hornish in the 19th position. The No. 9 Ford, again, was too free later in the run and Manion reversed the adjustments from the last stop. Hornish restarted 18th on Lap 212.
Over the next nine laps, Hornish raced inside the Top-20. After an accident in Turn Two brought out the final caution, Hornish restarted 24th with 42 laps to go after making a four-tire stop. He gained four positions on the restart and raced into the 16th spot before the No. 9 Ford began to get freer over the long green-flag run. The closing laps proved to be the longest-green flag stretch of the night and as the Speed Perks Ford loosened up over the run, Hornish battled to keep positions. In the end, the No. 9 Speed Perks Ford crossed the finish line in the 22nd position. Hornish drops one spot to 27th in the Championship point standings.
“The Speed Perks crew did a good job all night,” said Hornish. “We made the car better from the beginning of the race but still fought with the handling for most of the night. It seemed like no matter what changes we made, the car would still get loose later in the run. We had set ourselves up to be in a good position to finish the race, but with the long green-flag run, it was hard to maintain those positions at the end.”