Category Archives: NASCAR

Hornish Jr Claims Victory at Mid-Ohio

(Courtesy: NASCAR Media)

LEXINGTON, OH – AUGUST 12: Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 12, 2017 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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. 

LEXINGTON, OH – AUGUST 12: Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, poses with the winners sticker after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 12, 2017 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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.” 

LEXINGTON, OH – AUGUST 12: Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, practices for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 12, 2017 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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.

Larson Captures Third Straight Michigan Victory on Final Restart

(Courtesy: NASCAR Media)

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Sitting in his racecar during a red flag delay near the end of the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Kyle Larson pondered the possible routes to an overtime victory. He was in fourth-place and would restart for the final two-lap shootout behind leader Martin Truex Jr. 

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Larson hadn’t had a fast racecar all day at Michigan International Speedway, but he thought with a gutsy move on the restart, he could steal a win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Ahead of him, Truex, the race leader, was in the opposite positon. He had had a fast racecar all day, and he figured he needed a strong restart to repel whatever move Larson or somebody else would throw at him. Like Larson, he was trying to figure out which scenario would be most likely to take him to Victory Lane.

As it turned out, Larson and Truex both drew up the same plan—they both wanted Larson to hit Truex on the restart. They just had different ideas about what would happen after that.

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Truex hoped the contact would push him forward and to the victory, and for a very brief second, that seemed possible. But Truex spun his tires, which played right into Larson’s strategy.

“I wanted to time it and get to his bumper and act like I was pushing him out to the lead and duck underneath him and get to his left-rear quarter and pull him back,” Larson said. “It’s crazy how when you get to someone’s left rear quarter how much it slows them down. It did just that.”

Larson bounced off of Truex as he passed him, and for a split second the race fanned out four wide. That never ends well—especially not on the penultimate lap when all four drivers are going for the win. But somehow they all stayed off each other, and afterward, rookie Erik Jones, one of those drivers, was at a loss to explain how. “I was pointed at the infield for half of (Turns) one and two,” said Jones, who finished third. 

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Erik Jones, driver of the #77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

After the pass, Larson’s car was loose for the rest of the restart lap and the white flag lap. But he put enough distance between him and Truex that Truex couldn’t catch him and had to settle for second. Those were the only two laps Larson led all day. The thrilling win in a car that had no business doing so looked like a career defining move for Larson, the young driver from California.

The win was an exclamation point on an already great week of racing for Larson. He finished second late Saturday night in the Knoxville Nationals, one of the biggest dirt races in the world. His contract forbids him from running on dirt the night before he has to be on track for NASCAR, be it practice, qualifying or a race. But on Thursday, he talked team owner Chip Ganassi into making an exception.

Ganassi harbored misgivings about the decision—he thought Larson, who didn’t get back to Michigan from Knoxville, Iowa until 2:30 a.m. Sunday might be too worn out for the 400 mile race, and those doubts grew bigger in the middle of the race as Larson languished in the middle of the pack. But after the win, Ganassi joyously shook team members on the pit box and planted a kiss on Larson. 

It was Larson’s third consecutive win at Michigan. The only other drivers to accomplish that are David Pearson and Bill Elliott, both of whom are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The race was slowed by five cautions for 28 laps.

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, races Daniel Suarez, driver of the #19 ARRIS Surfboard/McAfee Toyota, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Michigan native Brad Keselowski won the first stage. He dominated the first half of the race, leading five times for 105 laps. But he faded to 17th. Truex led three times for 57 laps and won the second stage. Truex kept his position atop the points race, but finished runner-up.

Truex Saves Fuel to Earn Watkins Glen Victory

WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 06: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love NY 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 6, 2017 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – At a track where his father raced, and a track where he was a “garage rat” as a child, Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s I Love New York 355 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race by slowing down over the closing laps. 

Truex let Brad Keselowski pass him for the lead on Lap 77 of 90. On instructions from crew chief Cole Pearn, Truex also let Ryan Blaney past his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota on Lap 83. 

All the while, Truex was saving fuel, with Pearn calculating that both Keselowski and Blaney would have to stop for a splash of gas. The strategy played out as expected, with Keselowski giving up the lead for a trip to pit road on Lap 87 and Blaney following a lap later. 

WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 06: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love NY 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 6, 2017 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

That left Truex to hold off a desperate charge from Matt Kenseth on the final lap, with Truex streaking across the finish line .414 seconds ahead of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry. Kenseth’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, rolled home in third to register a career-best result. 

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment, just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time – all weekend, all day,” said Truex, who won for the fourth time this season and the 11th time in his career. 

“Then, at the end there, just it’s so hard there to let guys pass you for the lead. You’ve just got to listen to your crew chief and, luckily for me, I’ve got the best one in the business, and I just believe in him so much, and I just do what he says and it seems to work out.” 

Kenseth, who remains on the playoff bubble with four races left before the 16-driver field is set, was disappointed at coming so close to the victory—one that would have guaranteed him a playoff spot. 

WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 06: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Ford, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love NY 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 6, 2017 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“I’m second happiest,” said Kenseth who was also saving fuel and gunned it on the last lap. “Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win. Honestly, I don’t even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it’s been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here. 

“I felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it’s that close and you see him saving and you’re saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6, I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to have a shot,’ and he was so fast I still couldn’t get to him getting into (Turn) 7.” 

WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 06: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota, poses for a photo after winning the pole award during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series I Love NY 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 6, 2017 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Polesitter Kyle Busch led all 20 laps of the race’s first stage, but a snafu on pit road left his left front wheel loose, and Busch had to return under caution during the stage break to correct the problem. That left him deep in the field for the subsequent restart on Lap 25. 

Busch worked his way back into the top 10, but after restarting ninth on Lap 45, his No. 18 Toyota and Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford collided in the bus stop chicane, sending both cars off course. Busch wasn’t a contender for the victory after that, though he did rally to finish seventh. 

Notes: Truex expanded his series lead to 116 points over Kyle Busch, who moved past 23rd-place finisher Kyle Larson for second place. … Truex also increased his playoff point total to 34. Three-time winner Jimmie Johnson is second with 16. … Busch collected his ninth stage win to raise his playoff point total to 14. … The three winless drivers currently in playoff-eligible positions (Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kenseth) are seventh, eighth and ninth in the standings, respectively, all within an 11-point range.