LEXINGTON, Ohio – Sam Hornish Jr. timed his luck and his laps perfectly Friday afternoon during Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series, warding off the rain and resetting the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course track record en route to winning the pole for the Mid-Ohio Challenge.
Hornish broke Michael McDowell’s old record in the first round with a blistering time of 1:24.014 (96.755 mph), but won his eighth career series pole, fourth on a road course and first of the season with a slightly-slower clip of 1:24.346 in the final round.
With rain in the forecast for Saturday’s race at the 2.258-mile circuit, Hornish said he was prepared to race in the rain but didn’t necessarily want to see it based on how good his No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet was in dry conditions all day prior to qualifying.
“Tomorrow all depends on the weather … as far as if we can turn this starting spot into a win,” said Hornish, a native of nearby Defiance, Ohio. “The car was so good. The RCR guys brought us a great piece this weekend. I don’t know what’ll happen in the rain. I usually like racing in the rain, but with the car as good as it is right now I think I’d hate to see what would happen if it did come down.”
Hornish also paid a nod to late USAC champion Bryan Clauson, who passed away last weekend following injuries sustained in a crash at the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas.
“I was sitting, waiting to go out (in the final round) and looked over at the A-post of the car and saw the BC (decal) on there. I just want to send my prayers and well-wishes out to his family … it’s just one of those things where racing is a tough sport. There’s a lot of highs and a lot of lows, but we’re definitely thinking about him and everyone out there (affected by his passing) this weekend.”
Tasmanian Owen Kelly qualified second (1:24.784/95.877) in his first start across any division of auto racing in three years, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 18 Toyota.
“Our car was on rails, and when a car is that good, you feel like you left a little bit out there (on-track),” Kelly explained. “I do feel like I left a little bit on the table in that last run. I don’t know that it was four tenths, but we’re really happy with a front row start. I can’t complain for not having driven anything in as long as I have.”
“We made some changes to the car before qualifying that definitely made it turn better for us. The cloudcover definitely helped too, and made us better as the course got cooler. It made my job a lot easier, for sure.”
Ryan Blaney timed in third-quick for Team Penske, giving all three manufacturers representation on the qualifying podium. He was followed by XFINITY title contenders Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez.
Erik Jones, Ty Dillon, Ryan Reed, Nelson Piquet Jr., Darrell Wallace Jr., Justin Allgaier and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the 12 drivers who made the final round of knockout qualifying.
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