Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Lowes Foods Ford team finished 17th in Sunday afternoon’s race. The No. 9 crew worked on the handling of the car throughout the race but the car sustained damage a few times throughout the event, making the car’s handling tighter each time. Hornish led the race twice for a total of 22 laps, but didn’t catch a break on the timing of the cautions and ended up one lap down.
Hornish started the 334-lap race from the 18th position, but with the car set up for night-time race conditions, he fell to 21st before the team was able to make adjustments during the Competition Caution on Lap 27. The Lowes Foods crew made a big swing at the car on the four-tire stop and Hornish restarted 28th on Lap 31.
Now the No. 9 Ford was better suited to battle the day-time track conditions and Hornish quickly gained spots on the track. He was in the 21st spot when an accident in Turn Two brought out the caution on Lap 62. He reported the Lowes Ford was good to start the run but got tighter, and that once he moved to the high groove the car became loose. Crew Chief Kevin Manion called for an air pressure adjustment on the four-tire stop. Hornish restarted 22nd on Lap 66.
Hornish raced to the 18th spot over the next 10 laps before a slow car on the track brought out the caution on Lap 76. All-in-all, Hornish felt good about the handling of the No. 9 Ford but said it was a tick free. He stayed on the track under caution to restart sixth on Lap 81.
Various strategies came into play during the caution, with some teams staying out, some with two-tire stops and a few that took four tires. Early in the run, the fresher tires began to prevail but Hornish still maintained a spot in the Top-10. On Lap 93, the car in front of Hornish took air off of the nose of the No. 9 Ford and forced Hornish up the track, hitting the wall. With the damage to the right-side of the car, the No. 9 Ford got tighter and Hornish fell as far as 19th before green-flag stops started.
Manion called the No. 9 Ford to pit road for a green-flag stop on Lap 122. The Lowes Foods team made an air pressure adjustment on the four-tire stop. After green-flag stops cycled through, Hornish settled into the 22nd spot when the yellow-flag waved for debris on Lap 169. Hornish came to pit road for four tires, a chassis adjustment and fuel and restarted 23rd on Lap 174.
The field saw two more cautions over the next 16 laps and Hornish stayed on the track. He was running 24th and in the Lucky Dog spot when NASCAR Officials waved the yellow flag again on Lap 195. Hornish earned a spot back on the lead lap but reported to Manion that he had hit the wall after running through some oil on the track. He came to pit road under caution to survey the damage. Hornish restarted 23rd at the tail end of the field.
Hornish raced the Lowes Foods Ford up to the 21st spot. The leaders began to make green-flag stops once again on Lap 230 and Hornish stayed out to take the lead on Lap 235. The yellow flag waved on Lap 241 and Hornish gave up the lead to come to pit road for adjustments to loosen up the No. 9 Ford on the four-tire stop. He restarted 17th on Lap 247.
Hornish patiently gained spots over the long, green-flag run and was in the 15th spot when another round of green-flag stops began. Once again, Hornish stayed on the track to take the lead. Unfortunately, the No. 9 team didn’t get the caution they needed this time around and Hornish led 15 laps before coming to pit road for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 266. The No. 9 Ford got four fresh tires and fuel and returned to the track in the 19th spot, one lap down. In the closing laps, Hornish gained two spots to cross the finishline 17th in the No. 9 Lowes Foods Ford. With the finish, Hornish gained one spot in the Championship Point Standings to 26th.
“The No. 9 crew did a good job preparing the Lowes Foods Ford this weekend,” said Hornish. “All-in-all, we had a pretty good car all weekend. We knew it was going to be interesting at the start of the race with all of the cars set-up for a night race, but I knew once we made the adjustments for racing during the day that we would have a pretty good car. I was pretty happy with the car today but we got some damage to the right-side a couple times during the race and it made the car tighter. The car was better than the finish showed today.”