Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 SlimFast Ford team earned a 20th-place finish in Sunday afternoon’s NACAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway. With limited practice due to weather, many teams were unsure of what to expect during Sunday’s 400-mile event. Hornish battled with the handling of the No. 9 Ford at the beginning of the race, but the SlimFast crew made adjustments throughout the race and improved the handling at the end. Caught two laps down, Hornish was the first car to finish two laps down- only 18 cars finished on the lead lap.
After qualifying for the Cup Series was cancelled due to weather, NASCAR Officials set the line-up by the rulebook, and Hornish started the 400-lap race from the 26th position. After an early caution, Hornish raced the No. 9 SlimFast Ford into the Top-25. He was 23rd when officials brought out the yellow flag for a scheduled competition caution on Lap 42. Hornish reported the No. 9 Ford was tight in the center but free on exit. Crew Chief Kevin Manion called for an air pressure adjustment on the four-tire stop and Hornish restarted 24th on Lap 46.
Hornish didn’t like the adjustment from the last stop and continued to battle with tight conditions through the center of the corners over the next 67 laps. He fell a lap down to the leaders on Lap 94 over the long, green-flag run. Hornish still raced within the Top-25, and was 24th when debris brought out the caution on Lap 113, giving the No. 9 team an opportunity to make more adjustments. This time the crew made air pressure and a chassis adjustment on the four-tire stop. Hornish restarted 24th on Lap 118.
Up two spots to 21st, the handling of the No. 9 Ford seemed to improve and Hornish raced into the Top-20 before the next caution on Lap 193. Unfortunately, during the long, green-flag run, Hornish fell another lap down to the leaders after being one spot away from the Lucky Dog position early in the run. Still dealing with tight conditions, Manion called for four tires, more of the last chassis adjustment and an air pressure adjustment. The No. 9 Ford restarted 22nd on Lap 206.
After 18 laps into the run, Hornish reported he had debris on the grill of the No. 9 Ford. While engine temperatures were elevated, but still okay, Hornish stayed on the track while keeping an eye on his temps. Luckily, debris brought out the caution on Lap 232. Hornish pitted for four tires and more adjustments. With a clean grill, Hornish restarted 25th on Lap 237.
Manion and the team continued to make better adjustments and improve the handling of the No. 9 Ford. Over the next 75 laps, Hornish gained four positions to 21st when a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution. Manion called the No. 9 Ford to pit road for another four-tire stop with an air pressure adjustment. Hornish restarted 21st on Lap 317.
The field saw two more cautions over the next 59 laps. Unable to take the wavearound each time, Hornish came to pit road for four new tires and fuel. On the last restart of the race, the No. 9 Ford restarted 22nd with 23 laps to go. In the final laps, Hornish picked up two spots for a 20th-place finish, two laps down. With the Top-20 finish, Hornish maintains the 27th spot in the Championship Point Standings.
“Dover can be a tough track,” said Hornish. “We did a good job of keeping our nose clean and staying out of trouble today and that is half of the battle at Dover. I struggled with the handling of the car at the beginning of the race, but Kevin (Manion) and the team did a good job making adjustments throughout the day and at the end the car was much better. We need to keep having consistent days and hopefully the bad luck will fade away.”