Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Jacob Companies Ford team showed signs of a promising day early during the 500 lap race before getting caught up in a classic short track accident. Hornish cracked into the Top-15 early on before being pushed into the car in front of him after a restart, resulting in heavy damage to the front end. The crew used every opportunity to make repairs and continue to improve the handling. However, Hornish was marred several laps down and unable to make up many positions on the track. He finished 28th.
After heavy rains during the morning, the race began under a green/yellow flag to help finish with track drying efforts. The race finally went green on Lap 8 with Hornish in the 20th position. Hornish made steady progress racing into the 18th position before the competition caution came on Lap 50. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion called for an air pressure adjustment, four fresh tires, and fuel. The Jacobs Companies crew went to work with a smooth pit stop. The race restarted on Lap 56 with Hornish in 20th position.
Hornish took advantage of the fresh tires and progressed immediately after the restart. By Lap 65, Hornish raced into the 15th position. Hornish was caught in heavy traffic and got shuffled to the outside lane after contact. Hornish fell back to 20th but maintained the position until the second caution flag of the day on Lap 103. “Bono” Manion called Hornish to pit road on Lap 105 for four fresh tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment to help with drive-off. The race restarted on Lap 112 with Hornish in 23rd position.
Shortly after the restart, bad luck found the No. 9 team. On Lap 14 as the field entered Turn 4, a group of cars checked up. The next group of traffic couldn’t stop in time and caused a multi-car crash. Hornish was hit in the rear and pushed into the car ahead of him. The crash resulted in heavy damage to the front end of the No. 9 Jacob Companies Ford. Hornish brought his Ford Fusion to pit road. The crew was able to repair the damage enough to continue, but lost in lap in the process. Hornish restarted the race in 32nd position one lap down. The No. 9 team used the next caution on Lap 128 to adjust on the car and further repair the front end damage.
Bad luck continued for the No. 9 team as Hornish was spun on Lap 137. The incident brought out the yellow. Hornish brought the car to pit road. The spin heavily damaged the left rear fender of the Jacob Companies Ford and made it difficult for the crew to remove the tire. The repairs cost the team another lap. Hornish restarted the race in 32nd position two laps down.
Hornish was one of three cars two laps down. With the car badly damaged, the team focused on surviving the rest of the afternoon, hoping for opportunities to wave around and possibly make it back onto the lead lap. The leaders set a blistering pace and the tail end of the field, putting many cars one lap down. Hornish battled hard. However, as the leaders lapped the field, he was stuck racing two or three cars for position who were on the same lap for the rest of the afternoon. As the race progressed, the tone of the field grew increasingly aggressive. The lack of give and take resulted in 18 cautions throughout the afternoon.
Hornish was able to avoid the wrecks until Lap 494, when contact pushed a fender into a tire and caused it to go flat. Hornish crashed hard into the outside wall bringing out the 18th and final caution of the afternoon. Hornish brought the car to pit road to replace the tire and limped the No. 9 Ford to a 28th place finish as the checkered flag waved on Lap 500.
“I’m glad we survived that one.” Said Hornish. “That was a wild race. We couldn’t get the cautions to fall our way to get back into contention. We were fast before we got caught in the pile up. We lost a lap repairing our Jacob Companies Ford. Then we got wrecked again just a handful of laps later. It was typical short track racing. I got a first row seat for most of those cautions and was able to avoid them. We got a tire with about six laps to go. We fixed it enough to limp it home. The car is destroyed but somehow we made it to the end of the race. That just goes to show you how strong and resilient this team is.”