Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Jacob Companies Ford team finished 17th after starting 21st inSunday’s race at the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Hornish went into Sunday’s race knowing that a big wreck was possible, especially with some teams trying to advance to the next round of The Chase, NASCAR’s playoffs. With this in mind, he knew the best place to race was up front or near the back to avoid any trouble.
Hornish started the No. 9 Jacob Companies Ford in the 21st position and after 20 laps, stayed 21st. He was in the lead pack, but the racing was three-wide and Hornish was playing defense and waiting for the pack to thin out.
On Lap 39, Hornish came down pit road for four tires and fuel. A good stop, Hornish was back with the lead pack and racing in the 17th position by Lap 70. The race hadn’t seen a caution yet as Hornish came to pit road again on Lap 79 for fuel. This time, however, the pit crew executed a two tire pit stop to keep Hornish with the lead pack. A good pit stop did just that.
Hornish was back on the track and running a cool, calm and collective race. He was running 19th with 100 laps left in the 188-lap race. Hornish also stayed on the bottom line, reporting that the two tires did not have as much grip as four. On Lap 120 Hornish came down pit road for four tires and fuel. It was another flawless stop by the Jacob Companies crew.
A caution on Lap 131 allowed the team to make a chassis adjustment to the No. 9 Fusion as Hornish was preparing to race to the front in the closing laps. After the restart, Hornish flexed his muscle. He raced into the Top-10 and could race comfortably in the fifth, sixth and seventh positions with the leaders.
On Lap 170, Hornish came to pit road with the leaders. In an effort to slow down on pit road, Hornish was forced to slide his tires. The team took two tires, but lost some track position as most others took fuel. Still, Hornish had a good car in good condition. Hornish got back to 22nd before a caution waved with five to go. On the restart, the first one that was called off for a wreck, Hornish did a masterful job of avoiding spinning cars in font of him. He moved up to 18th on the next restart.
The final restart was stopped almost immediately for another accident. This time, Hornish was caught up in it with no place to go. He limped car back to the finish in 17th.
“I felt like our Jacob Companies Ford was pretty good,” said Hornish. “We could never get all the way to the front, but the couple times that it started to even out a little bit I felt like we could get fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth – somewhere in there – and then when it got down to race for it at the end that we were able to move forward, but I just tried to protect the car all day. The last pit stop we had under green I couldn’t get to the bottom quick enough in the middle of three and four, so I had to drive it a little bit harder off of four than what I wanted to, and just like right at the last minute it locked up the right-front. I’m not sure if it would have made it or not, but I thought it was better to be safe than sorry and we took tires when a lot of the other guys didn’t. We lost eight spots probably because of it, and then on the restarts there it’s hard to make a decision on what to do because you can’t pass a guy and then if he’s got an issue you can kind of clog up the whole lane. I was trying to get turned down, but there were cars beside me and then the hole just kind of closed up right in front of me and we got wadded up. It’s unfortunate. The car was good. It didn’t have a scratch on it, and it probably cost us a few spots. If I would have just pulled out of line, we could have probably been 10th, but you don’t know if you’re gonna get black-flagged for pulling out too early. We knew the 4 wasn’t gonna get going, but it’s still a hard thing to do.”