Richard Petty Motorsports picked up their 115th Top-10 finish over the weekend on the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course. Sam Hornish, Jr. and the No. 9 Medallion Bank team finished ninth to capture their third Top-10 of the season. Hornish was fast throughout the race and gained three positions in the closing laps for the finish.
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield team rebounded from an early race accident to finish 16th. Almirola gained valuable points as the team is racing for a "Chase" spot.
Joey Logano won the race while Kyle Busch entered the Top-30 in points and became "Chase" eligible.
A recap of Sunday's race follows:
Sam Hornish, No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford Team
Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 9 Medallion Bank Ford team earned their third Top-10 finish of the season on Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Crew Chief Kevin Manion and the Medallion Bank team made good strategy calls throughout the day to keep Hornish racing at the front of the field. As many teams struggled with fuel mileage at the end of the race, Hornish was able to make passes, earning a ninth-place finish.
Hornish started the 90-lap race from the 24th spot and raced his way to 18th by Lap Nine. He maintained that spot until Lap 24 when Manion called the No. 9 Ford to pit road. Hornish had reported early in the race that the car was tight back to throttle but then the rear of the car would break free. Manion called for an air pressure adjustment during the four-tire stop. Just as Hornish was returning to the track, NASCAR Officials displayed the yellow flag for debris. The timely caution allowed Hornish to restart in the fifth spot on Lap 29.
Shortly after the restart, debris in the esses brought out the caution again on Lap 33. Hornish stayed out and restarted sixth. He raced within the Top-10 for the next 11 laps when an accident on the backstretch brought out the caution on Lap 47. The caution wasn't within the team's fuel window, so Hornish stayed on the track and restarted ninth on Lap 50.
The restart brought another caution, but the team still wasn't within their window, so Hornish stayed out to restart fifth on Lap 55. Just one lap later, Manion called Hornish to pit road for a green-flag pit stop. The Medallion Bank team completed their stop, and Hornish returned to the track just as the yellow flag was displayed for a car stopped on the track. Again, the timely caution gave the No. 9 Medallion Bank team the chance to stay out and restart 12th with 29 laps to go.
As the race came down to fuel strategy, Hornish raced within the Top-15 and was good to the end on fuel, while others weren't so fortunate. In the end, Hornish crossed the finishline in the ninth position to earn his third Top-10 finish of the season, his second on a road course. The Top-10 result moved Hornish up one spot in the Championship point standings to 25th.
"I'm really proud of everybody that works on this Medallion Bank Ford Fusion and everyone at RPM," said Hornish. "We had a good car today, and Bono (Manion) made good strategy calls. Our car was good in areas that some of the other cars weren't, and that helped us pass people when we got to them. We needed to be a little bit better through the esses, but I felt like our car was better than where we finished. It's great coming to another road course and leaving with another Top-10 finish."
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team proved that not giving up pays off. An on-track incident early in the race caused damage to the right, front fender of the "Petty Blue" Ford, relegating the team to the 42nd position, one lap down. The team diligently worked on the damage, and Almirola drove back onto the lead lap. A multi-car pileup on a restart caused damage to the left-rear quarter panel of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford. The team again went to work to fix the damage. Almirola and team rallied back to finish 16th. The finish moved Almirola into the 16th spot in the Championship Point Standings and 50 points outside of a Chase transfer spot.
Almirola started the final road course race of the season from the 21st spot. He raced in the Top-25 for the first 10 laps. On Lap 10, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford spun and made contact with the No. 27 causing damage to the right, front fender. A tire rub from the damage forced the team to pit. The Smithfield crew changed four tires and fixed the tire rub on the right, front fender. Almirola returned to the track in 42nd, one lap down.
Debris brought out the first caution on Lap 26. The team elected to pit for four tires and to check the toe to see if it needed to be fixed. After measuring the car, the team decided the change in toe was minimal and didn't need to be fixed. They restarted 42nd, the first car one lap down. Debris brought out the yellow flag again on Lap 33, but unfortunately, the leader lapped another car just before the caution. Since they weren't in a fuel window, Almirola stayed out and restarted 40th.
Twelve laps later, an accident brought out the caution with the No. 43 Smithfield Ford in the Lucky Dog position. Almirola reported that he struggled with a tight condition in the esses and bus stop. Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four-tire pit stop and chassis adjustments.
Unfortunately, the Smithfield Ford received damage to the back, left fender when a pileup on the restart slowed the field. With the bumper falling off, Almirola was forced to pit. The field saw an extended caution and red flag to clean up the track. The No. 43 team pit three times to fix the damage to the left, rear quarter panel, change four tires and top off with fuel. Almirola restarted 34th, and Owens told him he was just three laps short of fuel.
Almirola quickly moved into the 26th position before a stopped car on the track brought out the caution just four laps after the restart. Now able to make it to the end of the race with a green-white-checkered finish, Owens called the "Petty Blue" Ford down pit road for a fuel-only pit stop. Some cars took four tires, so Almirola restarted 23rd with 30 laps to go.
The race went green for the final 30 laps, and Almirola methodically worked his way through the field. He drove up into the Top-20 by Lap 64. He raced in the 18th spot when the field saw the white flag. As they crossed the finishline, cars that didn't pit ran out of fuel. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford crossed the finishline in 16th. The finish was Almirola's best finish at Watkins Glen and the team's XX Top-20 finish this season. The 16th-place finish moved Almirola up one spot in the Championship Point Standings to the 16th spot. He is now 50 points outside of a Chase transfer spot with four races remaining.
"Today, we did what we need to do," said Almirola. "We faced adversity and fought back all day. Trent (Owens) and the guys worked really hard throughout the race to get back to competition. After the spin early, we picked up 26 spots and finished 16th. That's what we need to do. Control what we can control. We'll keep doing everything we can to get the most out of our cars and see where the points fall after Richmond."