Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford team had a solid day end just short at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sunday’s 300-lap race. Hornish started from the 29th position and raced into the Top-25 by Lap 200. Later in the race, the team had the opportunity to gamble on fuel strategy and was as high as fifth place, but older tires prevented them from keeping their spot in the Top-15. The Shaw’s team was just one lap short of making it to the end on fuel, and Hornish took the checkered flag in 20th.
Hornish started the race from the 29th spot and ran inside the Top-30 for the first 37 laps. Hornish reported the No. 9 Shaw’s Ford was loose on entry but his lap times improved later in the run. A caution on Lap 37 allowed Hornish to come to pit road for adjustments. Crew Chief Kevin Manion called for air pressure and chassis adjustments during the four-tire stop. Hornish restarted in 29th on Lap 44.
Hornish gained two spots on the restart before another quick caution, and he stayed on the track to restart in the same position. He was running 29th when an accident in Turn One brought out the caution for the third time of the race. Manion brought the Shaw’s Ford to pit road for two right-side tires and fuel. The Shaw’s Ford restarted 29th on Lap 65.
Hornish continued to race inside the Top-30 for the next 56 laps. A caution on Lap 121 gave the Shaw’s team another opportunity to work on the car’s handling. Manion called for four tires, a chassis adjustment and fuel. The Shaw’s Ford restarted 31st on Lap 125.
Hornish drove to 28th and just missed the Lucky Dog spot when an accident in Turn Four brought out the caution on Lap 165. To help the No. 9 Ford turn better through the center, the Shaw’s crew made an air pressure and chassis adjustment during the four-tire stop. Hornish restarted 27th on Lap 165.
Hornish maintained the 27th position when the yellow flag waved again 28 laps later. This time, Hornish was in the Lucky Dog spot. He brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four tires and adjustments before restating 27th, at the tail end of the field, on Lap 197.
In just eight laps, Hornish drove into the Top-25 before NASCAR Officials brought out the caution for a multi-car accident in Turn One. Manion gambled on fuel strategy and brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for a gas-and-go stop. Hornish restarted 20th on Lap 210.
After just two laps, Hornish raced his way into the 17th spot when an accident on the backstretch brought out the yellow flag again. Manion called for Hornish to stay out, and the Shaw’s Ford restated fifth on Lap 215.
Hornish maintained a spot in the Top-10 as NASCAR Officials brought out the caution for the final time on Lap 239. Again, gambling on fuel strategy, the No. 9 Ford stayed on the track and restarted sixth with 57 laps to go.
Hornish restarted with 42 laps on his tires, more than anyone else in the field. Eventually, the fresher tires prevailed, and he fell to the 21st spot. Like most of the field, Hornish worked to save as much fuel as possible in the closing laps so he could make it to the checkered flag, but the No. 9 Ford fell one lap short of fuel and finished in 20th place, the last car on the lead lap. With the Top-20 finish, Hornish remains 27th in the Championship Point Standings.
“The car wasn’t where we needed it to be at the start of the race,” said Hornish. “But, the team did a good job of making adjustments throughout the race. We gambled on fuel strategy, and it was a good strategy, but we had a lot more laps on our tires than the rest of the field and that hurt us a bit. At one point, we were about 30th place and a lap down, and we came back from that for a Top-20 finish. Not exactly where we want to be, but we improved throughout the day.”