Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Team Penske Implements Cup Crew Chief Swap

Beginning with the newly titled NASCAR Cup Series and a complete schedule remodeling, the upcoming 2020 season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and divisive yet. Adding to the plethora of changes coming to NASCAR’s premier series, Team Penske just announced it will be implementing a full crew chief swap amongst it’s three drivers – just one month away from the Daytona 500.

This shakeup in the Penske stable does come as a surprise for series veterans, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, as both drivers have been with their crew chiefs since joining the famed team run by Roger Penske. The two drivers have produced much success over their tenure with their respected pairings of Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon (including championships), but looking more in-depth, the bombshell decision makes sense.

The swap doesn’t particularly target needed results in the No. 2 and No. 22 camps, but in the growth and development of Ryan Blaney. Since entering full-time competition in the Cup Series in 2016, the highly touted racing prodigy has yet to progress into the great potential he brings to the table.

Blaney – who had been paired with Jeremy Bullins in 2012 when he joined Team Penske in the NASCAR Xfinity Series  – has only found victory lane three times in the last three season. It’s not to say the driver of the No. 12 has not had moderate success; he just hasn’t produced as well as some of the other young talents in the Cup Series.

With all of this in mind, the swap should be a win for all drivers involved. Blaney will be inheriting an experienced, championship winning crew chief, as Keselowski and Logano will be gifted with a fresh change in scenery to build off of the successes they’ve had in their time at Team Penske.

Matthew T. Thacker

Brad Keselowski & Jeremy Bullins

Let’s begin with the pairing that makes the most sense – Keselowski and Bullins. Bullins makes the jump from the No. 12 team and will now sit atop the pit box of the 2012 Cup Series Champion. The new duo has a history together (and a successful one). From 2012-14, Bullins was at the helm for the Michigan-native for 47 races in the Xfinity Series and the two found victory 14 times.

Keselowski and Wolfe were one of the most dominant forces in the garage area in terms of wins, but one championship and only one additional title-bid over the last eight seasons is not the most desirable. While it couldn’t have hurt to keep the long-standing duo in-tact, the undeniable talents of the 35 year-old driver blended with the past experience of Bullins should add a little more competitive edge to the No. 2 team.

One driving factor for this new pairing is Keselowski’s inability to put together a full season, as of late. The driver of the No. 2 has yet to advance past the Round of 8 since the sport implemented it’s most recent Playoff format. Out of Bullins’ three wins with Blaney, two of them came during the post season.

While Bullins only has three Cup wins to his resume, since joining the Penske organization in 2012, he’s been the crew chief for 10 different drivers and produced 21 additional wins in that span.

Nigel Kinrade

Joey Logano & Paul Wolfe

This is the swap that should have every team on edge in the Cup Series. The 2018 Series Champion will now team up with 2012 Championship winning crew chief, Paul Wolfe. At age 29, Logano is about to enter his prime as an athlete and he already has 23 wins. Wolfe is the winningest crew chief amongst the three being moved around the  organization with 29 victories in the last nine years.

While the new tandem doesn’t have any experience working together, a champion entering his prime mixed with one of the greatest minds in the sport should bode well for the No. 22 team. Over the last three years, the Connecticut-native drove his way to six wins, one title and 64 top-10s (the most out of the three Penske drivers). In that same span, Wolfe guided Keselowski to nine wins and 40 top-fives (the most out of trio of athletes).

The most compelling argument for this pairing can be found in second half successes for both parties. Historically, Keselowski and Wolfe produced most of their success in the early stages of the season and once making it to the Playoffs, found difficulty in advancing past the Round of 8. Logano on the other hand, typically hits his stride mid-way through the season and is often a contender to make it to the Final 4.

It should also be noted that when Wolfe won the championship in 2012, his driver was 28 years old – just one year younger than the driver he is inheriting. This could be a deadly match in 2020 and beyond, all eyes will be on the No. 22 team to be a contender year-round.

Rusty Jarrett

Ryan Blaney & Todd Gordon

When dealing with the growth and development of any athlete, experience is key. With Gordon making the transition from the No.22 team to the No. 12 team, the 26 year-old will indeed be presented with tons of experience. Gordon has been a presence in NASCAR since 2005 when he began his stint as a crew chief in the Xfinity Series. He made the jump to Team Penske in 2011 when he worked alongside series veterans Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr.

Gordon was able to guide his drivers to 28 NASCAR sanctioned wins and one series title, all with Team Penske. When him and Logano first teamed up in 2013, they found success immediately. In fact, the pair did not have a winless season in their seven year history and in that time compiled the most top-fives and top-10s for Team Penske, in addition to the organization’s most recent championship.

Gordon now finds himself in an all too familiar position while leading the No. 12 team. Much like Logano in 2013, Blaney is a hot, young talent with all eyes on him every week. While he couldn’t do much in the No. 20 car at Joe Gibbs Racing, once Logano signed with Roger Penske and worked alongside Gordon, things started clicking for the driver of the No. 22; now he is consistently one of the best drivers in the field. Mr. Penske and Gordon could be seeking that same magic that came to fruition with Logano.

This crew chief swap should spell success for all teams involved at Team Penske. Whether it be fine-tuning production that has been in the organization, or cracking untapped potential for a young driver, this could be the team to watch for in 2020. Every year, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske are the strongest teams once the season begins at Daytona International Speedway. However, the Ford-led group typically trails off about halfway through the season. Could this be the shakeup that Team Penske needs to compete year-round with Joe Gibbs Racing?

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Hornish Jr. edges Hemric to claim first Mid-Ohio victory

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Sam Hornish Jr. dominated Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge, but his victory was anything but certain until the waning laps of a caution-filled race.

Hornish, driving Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang, earlier had eclipsed his own qualifying record at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and edged series rookie Daniel Hemric by 1.335 seconds when the event ultimately went green for the final time with five circuits remaining in the 75-lap distance.

The victory was the fifth in the series by Hornish, whose last win came in June of 2016 at Iowa Speedway.

Hornish, who led four times for 61 laps, traded the top spot with Hemric’s No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro four times over the race’s third and final stage. He took the point for the last time on Lap 62, on a restart following the seventh caution.

Veteran Brendan Gaughan advanced to the second after Justin Allgaier and James Davison slipped off the track in Turn 3 at Lap 63, setting up a final restart battle that ended prematurely when Gaughan’s No. 62 RCR Chevrolet Camaro was forced off the track by Hornish shortly after the green flag.

“I finally got the win (at Mid-Ohio),” said Hornish, who finished second here a year ago. “We had a smart, almost flawless day but I feel bad about the 62. I didn’t want to beat him that way.”

Rookie Matt Tifft finish third in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, improving his best NASCAR XFINITY Series finish from a fifth-place at Kentucky Speedway last September. Davison, an international racing star and Indianapolis 500 competitor, took fourth in the No. 20 JGR Toyota, followed by sports car veteran Andy Lally, whose No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro team posted their first top-10 finish in the series.

Twenty-four of the race’s 40 starters completed all 75 laps. Five drivers, Hornish, Hemric, Blake Koch, Ryan Reed and Elliott Sadler, traded the lead nine times.

NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Sadler spotted the field an early spin and a green flag pit stop to change a flat tire, but he ultimately took sixth, ahead of Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Justin Marks and Dakoda Armstrong.

Koch won the race’s first stage when Hornish elected to pit with three laps left and leader Sadler was spun in Turn 1 by Poole.

Hornish quickly went back to the front of the field after Stage 1 pit stops, claiming Stage 2 over Hemric and Davison.

Saturday’s race left the playoff picture unchanged with no bubble drivers able to bump their way into the standings. Sadler holds an 81-point lead over William Byron, who appeared headed for a top 10 until being caught up in a late accident relegating him to a 25th-place finish.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Silver Lining From Recent Pole Day Washouts

Although qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 was delayed due to rain and thunderstorms activity, one should not immediately view this as a doom and gloom situation.

In reality, some of the most unpredictable battles for the pole position at the Brickyard have occurred in years where rain has interrupted the proceedings.

The most recent wipeout scenario took place two years ago. After inclement weather shut down action after only two drivers had made attempts on Saturday, Scott Dixon took over late on Sunday afternoon to score his second Indianapolis 500 pole position. Despite the advantage in horsepower shown by Chevrolet in 2015, the stoppage benefited Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson as he surprised most by qualifying sixth, the best among the Japanese manufacturer’s entrants.

2006 qualifying action was pushed back an entire week as rain prevented on-track activity. The delay gave a chance for several one-off teams to qualify higher than they could have done otherwise. Up front, the biggest beneficiaries were Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. With Honda supplying engines for all 33 cars in the field, Roger Penske was able to find other ways to gain an edge. One route was introducing a more aerodynamic side mirror mount. Once time trials began, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Helio Castroneves were unchallenged, taking the top two spots on the front row. The former IndyCar and NASCAR veteran from Defiance, Ohio, qualified nearly a full mile per hour faster than the rest of the grid, posting a 228.9 MPH average. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon would take the next two positions.

2005 Pole Day was moved to Sunday of week one. Expectations soared in the morning as rookie Danica Patrick posted the fastest lap of the early preparation at 229.880 MPH. Unfortunately, Patrick could not back the effort up, as she got loose in turn one on her opening qualifying lap. The mistake relegated her to the fourth starting position on race day. With “Danica-Mania” temporarily on hiatus, another Brickyard fan favorite stepped forward. Going out early in the initial order, Tony Kanaan fired off four consistent at over 227 MPH to take his first and only Indy 500 pole award to date. Sam Hornish, Jr. rebounded from a poor first try to claim second, while Scott Sharp also took advantage of an early draw to complete the front row.

2003 was one of the messiest Pole Days ever. Adverse conditions engulfed the Indianapolis area following the morning practice, even causing the announcement of two Tornado Warnings from the National Weather Service. Although the rain exited the 2.5mile oval a day later, track conditions were still treacherous with gusty winds a common foe. Andretti Autosport teammates Tony Kanaan and Robby Gordon ran the best four-lap averages early in the qualifying period, only to be ousted late by an incredible performance from Helio Castroneves. Braving the below average weather, the Brazilian posted an amazing 231.725 MPH speed to snatch his first of four pole position earned at the Speedway. Only Rick Mears has more in the Indy 500 with six.

So, as you can see the saying, “The best things come to those who wait,” could very apply to the action in store this weekend.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Categories
XFINITY

THREE TAKEAWAYS: VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky

The Chase began in wild fashion for the XFINITY Series on Saturday Night. The VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway provided plenty of action, drama, and even a gamble by Elliott Sadler that allowed him to take home the win.

Here are three takeaways from the VistMyrtleBeach.com 300:

 

High Risk, High Reward

In the era of the Chase, bold strategies can be either very useful or, very detrimental to one’s hopes for a possible championship.

For Sadler, a bold strategy proved to be very effective.

During the last pit stops of the night, he and his team chose only to take fuel while others took tires. The risky call gained the 41-year-old track position, and he took it from there. Holding off the likes of Daniel Suarez, Sam Hornish Jr., and Ryan Blaney, Sadler captured his third win of the season and punched his ticket to the second round of the Chase.

 

Damaged Goods

Some nights everything can be going perfect and then in the blink of an eye, everything can go horribly wrong. That was the case for Chase contenders, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon.

The two could’ve been considered the class of the field, as between them they led 148 of 200 laps. But, with 13 laps to go the two made contact, hitting the wall, and suffering significant damage in the process. Neither one returned to the track and will now enter Dover next weekend with some ground to make up.

 

Bounce Back

On lap 129, it seemed as if Sam Hornish Jr and Justin Allgaier nights were set to be over.

Hornish’s No.2 John Manville Chevrolet made contact with Daniel Suarez, which sent Hornish sliding up the racetrack. With nowhere to go, Allgaier slammed into the No. 2 resulting in both of their cars suffering significant damage.

Remarkably, that wouldn’t be the end for either of the drivers.

Both would not only stay on the lead lap but also got the necessary repairs to continue being competitive in the event. Allgaier rebounded to finish ninth, as Hornish finished fourth and find himself even competing for the win at the end of the race.

 

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

Categories
XFINITY

Hornish Fights Back For Runner-Up Finish

Despite going off of the racing surface on four occasions, Sam Hornish Jr. fought back to battle for the lead at the end of the Mid-Ohio Challenge.

“We knew we had a really good car today,” he said. “Our Rheem Chevrolet was right where it needed to be in the dry, and when you have a car that good, you know it won’t be where you need it to be in the rain. But at the end of the day, we kept it on the track when it counted.”

Starting from the pole, Hornish Jr. slipped back to second till he was able to retake the top spot at Lap 10 from Owen Kelly, who spun out of the lead. Hornish then led all the way to the Lap 19 restart when he’d get sideways, with contact from Richard Childress Racing teammate Brendan Gaughan sending him around. He’d then go off two more times in the next couple of laps, putting him back in the running order.

“I got the lead on the first or second restart in the rain, got into there a little hard and slid off,” he said. “Got back on track and got to where I thought we’d be okay and then got into the side of (Ryan) Blaney into four, sliding in the rubber, and then I got forced off the next lap. It was a lap and a half where I thought this could be it, but we stuck with it.”

Following a restart on Lap 21, Hornish began working his way back to the front, working his way just outside of the top-five before coming down pit road under green at Lap 44 to switch from the wet Goodyears to the racing slicks. While some drivers are known to make the decision, Hornish said he left it up to the race team as typically any strategy he has, it goes the opposite of what he is thinking.

“A couple (of) laps before I was asking if anyone was on drys and then the 90 (Andy Lally) passed me, and I asked if he was,” he said. “They said he was so I said it was about time to come down, and we waited a little bit, and they were waiting to see if we got into our window. They had a good strategy. I got us off track there a little bit, but like I said, I know how good our car was good in the dry, and some will speculate whether this was a good race or not. But I feel with as good as our car was yesterday, it was probably more exciting how it turned out today.”

Knowing he was one of the quickest cars in dry conditions, Hornish worked his way up through the field – till he spun just above turn six with Brennan Poole with 21 laps to go, putting him back a couple more spots.

Restarting mid-pack, Hornish made his way by the spinning cars, as well as keeping himself on track to move into the runner-up spot in the closing laps. Back on rain tires for the final laps, he was able to close the gap to Justin Marks, though never caught him to challenge for the lead. As a result, Hornish picked up a second place finish on Saturday.

“In the dry, we had the car to beat, but I couldn’t believe how strong Justin was in the rain,” he said. “I’ve raced Justin before in Road America in the rain and knew he’d be strong, but what he was able to do today was just unbelievable.”

While he enjoys racing in the rain, Hornish said today wasn’t one of those days as he felt dry conditions could’ve produced a second victory for him this season.

“It’s a sick feeling when you go down into turn four, and you touch the brakes, and all four wheels are locked up, and I can turn, shift, do what I want, and it won’t do a whole lot right now,” he said. “You have to start letting off the brakes and getting it where you need to be.

“I generally like it. If your equipment isn’t there, it’s the great equalizer as you can make up a lot driving in the rain. Today, I got the flip side of it where I had the good car but got out driven today.”

Running a limited schedule this year, Hornish’s next opportunity behind the wheel will be at Kentucky Speedway. While he notes he’d like to run more than a couple events a season, the veteran doesn’t push himself to run more as he wants to put together the right schedule with the right opportunities.

“I have three young kids, so being frustrated and being like in a no-win situation, I’ll take my chances and sit and wait,” he said. “It’s proven when I’ve had the opportunity to sit and wait that it’s proven out well. I got in a car and won a race, got a second place finish, should’ve had a third at Iowa but corded the tires. I know in good equipment I can run well so I will continue to work hard, keep myself in shape so when I do get the opportunity, I don’t fall out of the seat of the car.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Questions Abound for RCR’s XFINITY Program in 2017

When it comes to this year’s Silly Season and Richard Childress Racing, it seems most of the questions focus on the Sprint Cup Series.

One of the biggest questions is whether Cup-bound Ty Dillon will race for his grandfather’s RCR team or Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing. So far this year, Dillon has made Cup starts for Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing, which has a technical alliance with RCR. The next biggest question for RCR is, if Ty does join brother Austin Dillon driving for RCR in Cup, what does that mean for Ryan Newman? Could RCR expand to four cars in 2017 or could Newman be the odd man out?

However, the question no one seems to be asking is what does RCR intend to do with its XFINITY program in 2017? With Ty Dillon heading to Cup next year, that takes away perhaps the strongest point of RCR’s XFINITY program. In each of the last three years, Dillon has been a strong contender for a championship.

A move for Ty Dillon to Cup, no matter which team he drives for, would create a gaping hole in RCR’s XFINITY program, one compounded by a possible retirement by Brendan Gaughan. A fixture with RCR since 2012, Gaughan is now 41, and many say his father, Michael, wants him to retire and could withdraw his South Point Casino sponsorship at the end of 2016.

There is a bit of a youth movement at RCR with the arrival of Brandon Jones. After sharing rides with Austin Dillon and Paul Menard in 2015, Jones was given a full-time ride in the #33 for RCR this year. This season, he has eight Top 10s. Jones is pretty much a lock to continue to drive for RCR next year.

RCR’s fourth entry, the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro, has featured a multitude of drivers in 2016 including the elder Dillon, Menard, Sam Hornish, Jr., AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell and Ben Kennedy. While such an “All-Star lineup” could continue in 2017 (not unlike JR Motorsports’ No. 88 entry), that could also open the door for RCR to bring someone like Kennedy up to the XFINITY Series full-time next year. Kennedy currently races full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, where he sits 9th in points while competing for GMS Racing, which has a technical alliance with RCR.

What may hurt RCR in its hunt to fill XFINITY seats in 2017 is their lack of a Truck program. Both of the Dillons spent time in the series before moving up, with Austin winning the series championship in 2011. Unfortunately, Richard Childress Racing eliminated their Camping World Truck Series program in 2013, which means they must go elsewhere to find XFINITY series talent.

With only one seat spoken for (Jones), another dependent on a postponed retirement (Gaughan) and a third being used for Cup regulars, there are as many questions for RCR regarding their XFINITY program as there are for their Cup program for 2017.

EMAIL: john.milner@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Part-Timers Find Success in Iowa

It was a good day at Iowa Speedway for part-time drivers campaigning to land full-time rides.

Sam Hornish Jr. received a call on Monday to drive the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, as Matt Tifft was sidelined with a medical issue.

Hornish Jr. dominated on Sunday afternoon, leading 183 of 250 laps, and was virtually flawless on every restart.

The win was an emotional one for Hornish Jr., whose journey back to a racecar hasn’t been easy.

“It’s so great to be here. Last year was frustrating on a lot of different accounts, but I just stayed positive through the off-season and continued to work out and keep myself ready for if I got an opportunity like this, and when you’ve got a car that drives this good, man, it was just a breeze today,” Hornish Jr. said. “Man, I just can’t believe it. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. I just feel so blessed and thankful to God for giving me the opportunity.”

Despite the uncertainty of his career, he remains grateful for the opportunities he has had.

“A lot of people told me, ‘Are you mad about where you’re at?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m getting to spend a whole lot of time with my wife and kids and do things with them that I hadn’t got to do.’ If I get the right opportunity, I’ll go out there and I’ll prove it was the right thing to do to wait. Just super appreciative for the opportunities that come along. First time that my kids have ever been here when I’ve won a race, so that just means everything to me,” he said.

Hornish Jr. will return to Iowa Speedway again in July, but will be driving for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 2.

Alex Bowman is also looking for a full-time ride, but is running a partial schedule for JR Motorsports in the meantime.

After qualifying well and starting in the ninth position, he ran inside the top five for much of the afternoon and finished fifth. Bowman said the car was an adjustment or two away from being able to contend for the win.

“Campaigning for a ride is tough, you don’t want to mess anything up, and we want to continually do the best job we can,” Bowman told POPULAR SPEED. “We just didn’t have short-run speed.”

Another notable part-timer in the field, Ben Kennedy, finished 10th in his first career XFINITY Series start.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com
TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Dominant Performance Leads Sam Hornish Jr. to Victory at Iowa Speedway

(NASCAR Wire Service) NEWTON, Iowa – Sam Hornish Jr., who hadn’t been in a car in 210 days, gave himself the perfect Father’s Day present on Sunday – a dominant victory in the sixth annual NASCAR XFINITY Series American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway.

Hornish, who last competed in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, received a call Monday from Joe Gibbs Racing to substitute for injured driver Matt Tifft. He made the most of the opportunity, picking up his fourth career XFINITY Series win and second at Iowa. Overall, it was JGR’s ninth triumph in 14 races this season.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said an emotional Hornish in Victory Lane. “Just gotta thank Toyota, everyone from Joe Gibbs Racing for getting me out here and giving me this opportunity. Got my wife and kids here, it’s the first time the kids got to be here for one of dad’s wins.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me. I worked so hard to try to get a win when I had my kids here. Gotta thank God. He makes things happen. I was so nervous on Friday getting into the car thinking I’m going to make a mistake, and man, to go out there and win the way that we did. Just can’t say anything more about it.”

Ty Dillon attempted to make a charge on Hornish on a Lap 224 restart, but settled for second, finishing ahead of Brad Keselowski.

“I don’t know, I guess we just needed to be a little bit better,” Dillon said. “The No. 18 (Hornish) was so dominant on the bottom (groove). I thought, obviously, we were the best car on the top (groove).

“Just needed a little bit more speed. I’m proud of my guys. We were kind of a mid-pack car and did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position – something we talked about all week – and we did a great job.”

Hornish took the lead from last week’s XFINITY Series winner Daniel Suarez on Lap 24, setting the tone that the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were going to be hard to beat.

The two drivers swapped the lead on pit road on two occasions before several competitors elected to use varying pit strategies following the event’s third caution on Lap 126. Hornish restarted sixth, but only took 13 laps to get back to the race lead, passing Suarez on Lap 139 and never relinquishing.

Championship contender Erik Jones, who scored his fifth pole of 2016, had to drop to the rear before the race for an unapproved body modification. Jones, however, was never a factor as he battled fuel pressure issues, finishing 27th.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series takes a week off before returning to Daytona International Speedway on July 1 for the running of the Subway Firecracker 250.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen

1. (3) Sam Hornish Jr., Toyota, 250.
2. (8) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 250.
3. (7) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 250.
4. (2) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 250.
5. (9) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 250.
6. (5) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 250.
7. (4) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 250.
8. (20) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 250.
9. (12) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 250.
10. (6) Ben Kennedy(i), Chevrolet, 250.
11. (11) Ryan Reed, Ford, 250.
12. (10) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 250.
13. (19) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 250.
14. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 250.
15. (23) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 250.
16. (16) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 250.
17. (21) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 249.
18. (22) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, 249.
19. (29) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 249.
20. (17) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 249.
21. (14) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 247.
22. (24) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 245.
23. (31) Travis Kvapil(i), Ford, 245.
24. (33) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 245.
25. (26) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 244.
26. (39) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 244.
27. (1) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 243.
28. (37) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 239.
29. (13) Drew Herring, Toyota, Accident, 221.
30. (30) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 215.
31. (40) Paige Decker, Chevrolet, 194.
32. (18) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, Accident, 169.
33. (32) Jeff Green, Toyota, Transmission, 138.
34. (38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Accident, 120.
35. (27) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, Engine, 91.
36. (25) Dexter Bean, Chevrolet, Vibration, 68.
37. (35) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 53.
38. (34) Carl Long, Toyota, Brakes, 43.
39. (28) Tyler Young(i), Toyota, Brakes, 6.
40. (36) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, Electrical, 4.

Categories
XFINITY

Hornish Could Be a Favorite as Substitute Driver at Iowa

Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, in place of Matt Tifft, for Sunday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway.

Tifft, under recommendation from his doctor, will sit out this weekend in order to treat a disc condition in his back.

The Ohio native has run six of 13 races so far this season in the No. 18 Toyota, the two most recent of which were back-to-back eighth-place finishes.

Hornish Jr. hasn’t been quite as busy.

At the conclusion of 2015, he was released from his Sprint Cup Series driving duties at Richard Petty Motorsports and had accepted early retirement.

“That just, to me, it’s part of my life but it’s not all of my life,” Hornish told the ASSOCIATED PRESS last month, “There’s a lot more things for me to do outside of (racing).”

If Hornish had to pick a track to make a return, Iowa Speedway would likely top the list.

In seven career XFINITY Series visits to the .875-mile track, Hornish had only one start and one finish outside of the top-10 and scored a victory for JGR in May of 2014.

The American Ethanol E15 250 will air at 1:30 PM ET on FS1.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
XFINITY

Sam Hornish Predicts Texas Turnaround

This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Sam Hornish Jr. will not only be behind the wheel of his regular Cup ride in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford but will also be doing double duty in the No. 98 Ford with Biagi-DenBeste in the XFINITY Series.

And when asked if he could gaze into his crystal ball for his predictions about the upcoming weekend, @SamHornish said he sees nothing but a Texas turnaround for himself and his team, which admittedly has been struggling so far this season.

“It’s not at all the start we wanted but we’ve got some good people around us,” Hornish said. “There have been a lot of things that have happened that we couldn’t do anything about. And we had one race where we got involved in an accident that was our fault because of a mistake made by somebody else.”

“It’s been tough. I feel like the days we’ve had good speed, something happens and the days we aren’t very good, we just haven’t figured out how to make it a little bit better. They always say that it can’t go on like this forever and I surely hope that is the case. But I also know that we need to keep working hard and do our best to be able to keep digging out of the hole that we’re in right now.

I’ve got a lot of faith in the people that are around me. I know that everybody is working hard. I feel like we’re all the doing the best we can, but we need a little bit more to get the results we deserve.”

Hornish definitely feels that doing double duty will be an advantage that can help him get that Texas turnaround.

“With the lack of testing this year and the fact that the Cup and XFINITY Series are on the same tires, sometimes having the opportunity to run the prior race gives you an advantage as far as what the tires are going to do, how the car is handling throughout the race, and what the tires like as far as air pressure and directions,” Hornish said. “A little bit of seat time is usually a really good thing. I feel like I’ve got a good opportunity on both sides, getting to run the 98 car and the 9 car.”

“The 98 car is a small team trying to figure out how to take the next steps. The owners want to go do this. They’re not looking to get rich. They’re just there because they love racing so that’s fun.

Having said that, we want to have good runs and make them feel like what they are doing is worthwhile and they are gaining something by doing it. I feel like we have had speed in the 98 car as well as on the Cup side. It’s just getting everything, including the race, put together to where we don’t have any issues or problems. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

“There are a lot of things to be gained by doing both races,” Hornish continued. “The Cup cars still have more power that the XFINITY cars, but the cars are more similar than what they have been for a very long time, that’s for sure.”

“I don’t know it’s one hundred percent translatable. That’s not quite there because there are enough differences as far as how the set ups are and what the rules are. But I feel that there are more similarities than not.

That’s why you see some of the good crew chiefs out on pit road during the XFINITY race looking at tires and talking to people to figure out what they can do to be better. Not only do you have the drivers doing it, but you also have the crew chiefs doing it as well.”

Hornish’s past history at Texas Motor Speedway also plays into his prediction of a Texas turnaround, especially since he has fifteen years of experience at that track between his NASCAR and IndyCar Series races.

“I’ve had a lot of good memories there in IndyCar, either winning races or celebrating championships, Hornish said. “That was also the last place that I won at on the IndyCar side. So, that was all really good. I also had some good runs there in the Nationwide Series.”

Yet while there are some great memories at Texas, there is one of Hornish’s worst memories as well, one from which he says he is continuing to use to learn and grow.

“My least favorite memory being there was getting hit in the left rear by David Reutimann in lap 3 which then pushed into Jimmie Johnson. I realized that even though it wasn’t my fault, I was part of it and took the bigger brunt of it. That was a frustrating day for me.”

But all in all, we don’t really learn a whole lot on the days you win races. You learn a whole lot about yourself, who you are and what you’re made of, by the days that things don’t work out well.

So, some of the worst days in your life are the times where there is the most to be learned. I take each one of those to see what I learned and what I can learn to move forward.”

And although Hornish is still learning his new team, crew chief Drew Blickensderfer and his RPM teammate Aric Almirola, he still feels confident that will all play into his ability to turn his season around at the upcoming double race weekend.

“I’ve had a really good time getting to know everybody on my team,” Hornish said. “I feel like Richard Petty Motorsports has taken a big step in the off-season, hanging our own bodies and the undertaking of the new shop. There are a lot of things taken into our own hands to do to go to the next level.

In a lot of ways, Aric (Almirola) has been able to maximize those things to his advantage so far and they’ve had a great start to the season. Even though we haven’t had the start that they have had, we know that there have been times where they have leaned on us as far as set-ups and certain days that they were able to take it and do even better than what we could.

That’s part of being teammates. You’re not always the guy that is leading the charge. You can work on having that relationship but at the end of the day, it’s about the team as a whole and figuring out how we can make everybody better.”

“I feel like Drew and I still have some things to get on the right page about,” Hornish continued. “It’s relatively early in our running together. We both understand we have work to do and we’re both willing to work hard for it. I feel like there is no reason that we won’t get there. We just have to keep digging.”

So just what does Sam Hornish Jr. predict if indeed he had his very own crystal ball for Texas?

“I feel like we have a great opportunity to go out there and have a real good run this week,” Hornish said. “I would say that I would be disappointed with anything worse than a 15th place finish.

For the mile and a halfs that we have run so far, we’ve had good qualifying. And for all the issues we had at Atlanta, to be able to come back and finish 21st after the adversity, those are the days that will make us better when we go to a place like Texas where we’re going to have a good solid weekend.”

“Obviously, I’d love to say we were going to go out there and win but I haven’t turned the first lap yet in practice. So, we’ll have to wait and see what that is and try to build from it.”