It was a hard fought 29th-place finish for Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Shaw’s team after the engine of the No. 9 Ford dropped a cylinder 50 laps into the race. Despite the handicap, Crew Chief Kevin Manion’s strategy kept Hornish racing for positions throughout the day. Running in the 22nd spot, with three laps to go, the team’s gamble on fuel strategy fell just shy of the checkered flag and Hornish was forced to pit, resulting in a 29th-place finish.
Hornish started the 301-lap race from the 27th spot but lost some ground battling for positions at the start of the race. He was running in the 29th position when he reported the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford was free going into the corner and tight in the middle. On Lap 19, Hornish reported he had scraped the wall, but the No. 9 Ford suffered minimal damage. A caution for debris on Lap 23 allowed the team to assess the damage on the four-tire stop. The team completed the stop, but Hornish was blocked in his pit stall, costing valuable time on pit road. He restarted 36th on Lap 27.
Hornish patiently began to gain positions and was running in the 31st spot when he reported a possible engine issue on Lap 50. He worked with Manion and the team to assess the problem. With the issue remaining the same and not getting worse, Hornish stayed on the track but fell to the 35th position and a lap down to the leaders. As green-flag pit stops cycled through, the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford stayed on the track. The team caught a break when the yellow flag waved on Lap 98, putting them back on the lead lap in the 24th spot.
The Shaw’s crew used the caution to check under the hood of the No. 9 Ford. Hornish pitted a total of three times during the caution so the crew could try to fix the engine issue. The team found that they had lost one cylinder in the engine and were forced to race without full power the remainder of the event.
Hornish was running 32nd when debris brought out the caution just 10 laps later. He reported the handling of the No. 9 Ford had gotten better but it was still a bit tight in the center. Hornish came down pit road for four tires, a chassis adjustment and fuel and restarted 30th on Lap 122.
After the restart, Hornish maintained the 32nd spot for the next 55 laps, but fell a lap down to the leaders on Lap 150. As the lead lap cars began to make their green-flag pit stops, Hornish stayed on the track. The yellow flag waved on Lap 189, just shy of Hornish getting his lap back. Knowing the No. 9 Ford could still race for position on the lead lap, Manion made a strategy call, and the No. 9 Ford stayed out to take the wave around. Hornish restarted on the lead lap in 24th on Lap 194.
The team got the break they needed when a car stopped in Turn Four brought out the caution just six laps later. Hornish brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four tires, a chassis adjustment and fuel. With one to go before the restart, Manion called Hornish to pit road to top off with fuel in an attempt to make it to the end of the race. The Shaw’s Ford restarted 25th on Lap 204.
Hornish raced into the Top-25, but couldn’t avoid falling a lap down to the leaders. He was in the 24th spot when fluid on the track brought out the caution on Lap 252. Once again, Manion gambled on fuel strategy and the Shaw’s Ford stayed on the track to take the wave around. Hornish restarted 24th on Lap 258.
Despite falling back a few positions on the restart, Hornish worked his way up to the 22nd spot with three laps to go when the Shaw’s Ford showed signs that it was running out of fuel. Hornish came to pit road for a splash-and-go and returned to the track 29th. Just as Hornish rejoined the field, an accident in Turn Two brought out the caution with one lap to go, ending the race. Hornish took the checkered flag in the 29th position. He drops one spot in the Championship Point Standings to 28th.
“I think our Shaw’s team did a great job making the most out of what we had today,” said Hornish. “It’s one thing to be down a cylinder with 50 laps to go and finish 29th, but we finished 29th and went down a cylinder 50 laps into the race. Kevin (Manion) and the crew did a good job on making the most out of our strategy, we just came up about three laps short there on fuel or we would’ve finished 22nd. I’m proud of the team and what we were able to accomplish today, even though it didn’t necessarily turn out like we would’ve liked.”