Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Ford team gained two positions in points after Texas and are now 29th. Hornish Jr. and the team showed improvement throughout the weekend, but know there is more ground to cover. They are eager for this weekends race at Bristol.
A recap of Saturday night's race at Texas follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Eckrich Ford Team
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich team did not have the qualifying effort they wanted and started 32nd in Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway. The team worked on the setup and improved the car's handling for the 334-lap race. Almirola quickly picked up spots and raced in the Top-20 for the majority of the race. He came home with a 19th-place finish and kept the ninth-place spot in the Championship Point Standings.
Almirola started the season's first night race from the 32nd spot. He quickly jumped up to the 29th position on the first lap. By the first caution on Lap 33, he had the No. 43 Eckrich Ford in the 26th spot. The "Petty Blue" Ford was loose in and off the corner but struggled the most with a tight condition in the middle of the corner. Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four-tire pit stop and rubber and air pressure adjustments.
The Eckrich Ford restarted 23rd, and again, Almirola picked up spots on the restart to break into the Top-20. The car was good on the restart, but the handling started to go away later in the run, so Almirola made a trackbar adjustment as he drove into the 18th spot. By Lap 79, the team made a green-flag pit stop for four tires and a wedge adjustment. Almirola raced in the Top-20 until NASCAR Officials called a caution on Lap 110 for debris.
This run, Almirola said the car struggled the most with loose off the corner, so Owens called for another wedge adjustment during their four-tire pit stop. The No. 43 Eckrich Ford restarted 19th but fell to 21st as the adjustment worsened the car's handling. Green-flag pit stops on Lap 156 allowed the team to go back on the last wedge adjustment and change four tires. Still loose in and off the corner, a caution on Lap 173 again allowed the team to work on the car.
The Eckrich team continued to work on the No. 43 car's handling while Almirola raced in the Top-20. By the caution on Lap 229, Almirola asked the team to make a big change during this pit stop. During the next run, the car was still really tight in the center and snappy loose off, so the team made another big adjustment during a Lap 251 caution.
Almirola restarted 21st and drove back into the Top-20. Just six laps after the restart, the field saw another caution. Almirola told the crew that the car was much better at the start of the run but still a little tight in the center. Owens called for a four-tire pit stop and air pressure adjustment. Despite a loose condition on the next run, Almirola posted some of his fastest laps of the night and raced from 21st to 16th.
Debris caused a caution on Lap 296, and the No. 43 Eckrich crew changed four tires. Almirola restarted in the 18th position on the outside line. The No. 43 Ford handled better on the inside, so it fell back to 21st before Almirola could get to the inside. The field saw the final caution on Lap 310. Owens called for another air pressure adjustment during the team's final four-tire pit stop.
Almirola restarted 19th and again picked up a spot on the restart. Posting fast lap times, he worked to pick up more spots. Unfortunately, on Lap 318, the No. 43 Eckrich Ford brushed the wall. Thankfully, there wasn't any damage, but the car lost a spot and a lot of ground on the track. The team crossed the finishline in the 19th spot. Almirola is still ninth in the Championship Point Standings.
"We were not very good in practice and qualifying on Friday, but Trent and the guys did a lot of work before our race to get the car to handle better," said Almirola. "Our car was better tonight, but we still struggled getting speed and grip in the car. We're still ninth in points, so we just need to keep doing what we are doing and work on improving on the consistency we have right now."
Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Medallion Bank/Lyon Financial team finished 26th in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Over the course of the 334-lap race, long green-flag runs and green-flag pit stops hindered the No. 9 Ford early, forcing the team as high as three laps down. However, Hornish and Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer fought hard the entire night to get back on the lead lap by the end of the race to finish 26th.
Hornish started the race from the 29th position but immediately began to work through traffic, advancing six spots in the first four laps. He reported early that the No. 9 Ford was tight on the drive off the corner, and Blickensderfer recommended a trackbar adjustment. Hornish was in the 20th position when a spin in Turn Four brought out the first caution of the night. He brought the No. 9 Ford to pit road for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel but was held up leaving pit road after getting blocked into his stall, causing him to restart in the 25th spot.
Hornish bounced in and out of the Top-25 as the No. 9 Ford was tight at the beginning of the run. A trackbar adjustment seemed to help the No. 9 Ford, and Hornish drove back into the Top-20 before making a green-flag pit stop on Lap 81. Blickensderfer called for an air pressure adjustment during the four-tire stop, and Hornish returned to the track in the 26th spot, one lap down. Debris in Turn Two brought out the caution on Lap 110, allowing Blickensderfer to go back on the last air pressure adjustment, which didn't seem to help the No. 9 Ford over the last run. Hornish restarted 25th on Lap 114.
Hornish gained one spot before another green-flag pit stop on Lap 157. This time, the team made a wedge adjustment to help the handling of the No. 9 Ford during the four-tire stop. Hornish returned to the track 27th, two laps down. He raced to the 25th position when the yellow flag displayed on Lap 173. This time, Hornish stayed out during the caution to take the wave around and gain back one lap. He restarted 24th on Lap 177.
Hornish gained one spot as he battled with what he described a "temperamental" car, before making his way to pit road for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 204 for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel. After the stop, Hornish raced into the 23rd position but fell another lap down to the leaders before a spin in Turn Four brought out the caution on Lap 229. The Medallion Bank/Lyon Financial Ford was too tight in the middle of the turn and on the drive off, and another wedge adjustment was made on the No. 9 Ford during the four-tire stop. Hornish restarted 24th on Lap 235.
A caution on Lap 251 gave Hornish another opportunity to take the wave around and gain a lap back. After the restart he raced into the Lucky Dog spot and got the break the team needed when an accident in Turn Three brought out the caution on Lap 261. After a four-tire stop, Hornish restarted 23rd at the tail end of the line.
Hornish didn't like the last adjustment to the No. 9 Ford and battled with a tight racecar. The team had two more cautions to make adjustments to the Medallion Bank/Lyon Financial Ford in the final 64 laps. Hornish battled for position in and out of the Top-25, but in the end crossed the finish line in the 26th spot. Hornish gained two spots to 29th in the Championship Point Standings.
"We improved on our race trim from the start of the weekend through final practice," said Hornish. "We started to gain some positions early in the race, but the long green-flag runs didn't play in our favor. I had some trouble leaving pit road on one of our green-flag stops which didn't help us either. For whatever reason, the adjustments that should've worked didn't help as much as we wanted, but we came back from being three laps down and finished on the lead lap. That put us back in the position to compete for spots on the track."