LEXINGTON, Ohio– After being close for so many years, Sam Hornish Jr is finally a winner at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Mid-Ohio Challenge.
The Ohio native won the pole and a race high led 61 out of 75 laps to pick up his 5th career NXS victory and first of the season.
“It’s just super important in having my family here and a bunch of friends.” Hornish said. “It’s a place that I think I finished second in about three or four other series here so I’m finally able to get the win. With the luck that we had for our first two races with me being back at Team Penske this year, I was wondering how today was going to turn out. The car’s been good since we ever unloaded it off the truck and just had a pretty smart, almost flawless day for the most part.”
Hornish had to battle NXS regular and playoff bubble driver Brendan Gaughan on a restart with six laps left to go. As the pair exited turn one, Hornish pushed Gaughan wide and into the grass and took off from the rest of the field and never looked back.
“I feel bad for the 62 there, got cleared and moved up on him a little bit. Brendan’s always raced me good so I didn’t want to beat him that way. Just real happy with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang.”
Hornish led the field to the green flag and pulled away early. The race was slowed for the first time, as Cole Custer lost his engine and spilled oil on the racing surface.
A scary incident on lap sixteen as the No.90 of Matt Ball found himself on top of the tire barriers on turn one. Ball walked away from the incident unharmed.
Regan Smith who started in the back made his way up into the top-10 in the first stage, but it only lasted for a brief moment as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver wheel hopped entering turn five and found himself in the gravel pit.
With two laps left to go in the opening stage, Elliott Sadler and Brennan Poole entered the keyhole for the lead of the race, Poole spun Sadler into the grass and opened the door for Blake Koch to take over the lead and win in stage one.
In Stage two, Ryan Reed stayed out and led the field back to the green. The Rousch-Fenway Racing driver was looking to only do the race on a one stop strategy. That all came undone late into the stage, as Ben Kennedy got into the No.16’s door and sent the RFR driver for a spin.
While all the commotion in the back of the field took place, Hornish won the second stage.
In the third and final stage of racing, late into the run Justin Allgaier in the second position, spun out at the top of turn six and fell back in the order. A lap later, James Davison went off wide in turn five and opened the door for Gaughan to take the second position away.
With eight laps left to go, Poole found himself once again not making any friends. The No.48 tagged the No.11 of Blake Koch at the top of turn six, carnage ensued from there. Justin Allgaier, Jeremy Clements, Ryan Reed, Regan Smith suffered the most damage from the spin. Ending their day early. The race was red flagged for cleanup.
After the cleanup efforts, the race came down to a six lap shootout. Hornish the leader and Gaughan in second. Gaughan only 43 points ahead of the cutoff line to make the playoffs is desperate to lock himself in with a win.
Hornish pushed Gaughan wide on the exit of turn one and into the grass.
Daniel Hemric took over the second position at the expense of his Richard Childress Racing teammate and tried mightily to run down the Team Penske driver but in the end, Hornish’s pace proved to be too much for the young driver and he comes home with a second place effort.
Matt Tifft comes home in the third position with his Joe Gibbs racing teammate James Davison following suit in fourth. Andy Lally rounds out the top five with an impressive fifth place position for the Bobby Dotter entry.
Points leader Elliott Sadler rebounded after an up and down afternoon with a sixth place finish, Brendan Gaughan comes to the line in seventh after an impressive save late in the race. Brennan Poole finishes in eighth, with last year’s winner Justin Marks in ninth and Dakota Armstrong completing the rest of the top-ten.
With only five races remaining before the cutoff for the playoffs, the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to the Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 300 on Friday, August 18 at 7:30 pm ET (NBCSN, PRN SiriusXM).