Sam Hornish Edges Hemric For The Victory At Mid-Ohio

Sam Hornish,Jr.
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.

Check out the unofficial results of the Mid-Ohio Challenge.


Kyle Busch Logs NXS Victory Number 90 At The Glen

Kyle Busch & Brad Keselowski
With a victory in Saturday’s Zippo 200, Kyle Busch continued to tick items off his bucket list.

Recovering from a wheel-hop and spin in Turn 1 on Lap 17 of 82 along with a penalty for driving through too many pit boxes, Busch claimed his first NASCAR XFINITY Series win at the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International road course, beating polesitter Joey Logano to the finish line by 1.049 seconds.

“The cars have really been working for me here and it just feels so good to finally win an XFINITY race here,” said Busch, who won last week at Pocono for the first time in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car.

“We’ve been so close so many times. One of my favorite runs here was in a Zippo car (in 2008) and being in the Zippo race today that’s kind of ironic – I guess they sponsor it every year — but being with (owner) Eddie D’Hondt and the Zippo car, I remember we were really, really fast and wish we would’ve got that one.”

In winning for the fourth time this season and the 90th time in his career, Busch grabbed the lead when Brad Keselowski and Logano came to pit road together on Lap 49.

Busch gained time by staying on the track for five more laps, and by the time he exited pit road on lap 55, he was 1.2 seconds ahead of Brad Keselowski and more than 10 seconds ahead of Joey Logano, who had a lengthy pit stop because of a stuck lug nut.

“Pit road was pretty good for us,” Busch said. “We stayed out long on that one run, and we were able to cycle back up to the lead. It worked two weeks in a row that way. I don’t know how much longer we can do that before they figure it out, but it’s been working for us, so we’ll take it.”

Busch held the top spot the rest of the way, surviving a restart with three laps left after Casey Mears ran out of fuel and stalled on the track to bring out the fifth and final caution of the afternoon. Busch chose the inside lane for the restart to control the preferred line into Turn 1.

The restart brought Logano back near the front of the field, and on the next-to-last lap, he passed Keselowski, his Team Penske teammate, for the runner-up spot.

“Dang, I wish it was for the win and not for second,” Logano said of the battle with Keselowski. “I had such a good short run car, just in the wrong position to start that last run. I feel like, if I was second, I could have won the race. I just had a really good short-run car.

“Our long-run speed was off a bit, and that’s when the 18 (Busch) and 22 (Keselowski) would drive by us, and we were a third-place car on the long run, but probably a winning car on the short run. By the time I cleared the 22, the 18 was gone. If we had another four or five laps, (he would have drove off again). I needed a caution.”

Check out the unofficial results of the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen.


Ryan Preece Wins The US Cellular 250 In Nail Biting Fashion

Ryan Preece
Ryan Preece’s short-lived, but ambitious 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule began three weeks ago at his de facto home track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It ended Saturday in the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway — as confetti swirled and soared to highlight his first career series triumph in Victory Lane, fulfilling a whirlwind dram!

Preece, held off a hard-charging Kyle Benjamin in a green-white checkered finish that came after the third restart in the race’s final 17 pulse-quickening laps.

“I thought this race would never end, that’s for sure,” an emotional Preece told the NBCSN after finally slowing his fast Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 car to a stop. “But man, nothing’s going to beat today.”

No one could beat Preece, who ran full-time in 2016, but chose to funnel his 2017 XFINITY Series resources into this two-race stint with JGR.

That high-stakes gamble clearly paid off — as Preece beamed and raised his arms, his season over, but his future visibly brighter!

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Preece, who owns 17 career NASCAR Whelan All-American Modified Tour wins, including two this season. “I’ve got to thank everybody.”

So he did.

Benjamin settled for second, which also is his best career finish. Veteran Brian Scott took third in his first start of the season.

“I was very nervous,” said Benjamin, who also runs part-time for JGR. “I wanted to make it happen right there.”

Preece did just that, from start to finish, with a slight hiccup in between.

He earned his first career Coors Light Pole Award earlier Saturday, powering to a lap of 24.072 seconds at a top speed of 130.857 mph. That dominance carried over into the first stage, which Preece led in its entirety.

He dropped to sixth off pit road, however, which allowed Justin Allgaier to surge to the front. Allgaier would narrowly hold off Preece to win the second stage and gain a coveted playoff point, but a later gamble would reap misfortune instead of reward.

Drivers faced a dilemma when Spencer Gallagher hit the wall, drawing the caution flag with 80 laps to go. Every top contender eventually dove onto pit road. Everyone except Allgaier, that is, whose team hoped another caution would help the decision pay off.

That didn’t happen, as Allgaier swiftly dropped from first to seventh, then to 15th — and finally,  to a green flag pit stop that came with 25 laps to go. That longed-for caution finally flew shortly after Allgaier returned to the track when Sam Hornish Jr.’s No. 22 Ford hit the wall.

Allgaier’s second bad break in as many weeks preceded that nerve-fraying — and caution-filled — finish.

Points leader Elliott Sadler raced near the front most of the day, but ended up 12th. He maintains a 54-point lead over William Byron, who finished ninth.

Preece clearly wasn’t racing for points. He was there only the win!

And he edged Benjamin by a mere .054 seconds — a fitting margin to conclude a sprint-sized season that ended in happy incredulity.

“I’m so at a loss of words right now,” Preece said. “I don’t know what to say. This is what emotion is, I can tell you that.”

Check out the unofficial results of the US Cellular 250 at the Iowa Speedway.


Ryan Preece Hopes To Ride Mometum To Victory Lane At Iowa

Ryan Preece
What can Ryan Preece possibly do for an encore?

Two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in his first NASCAR XFINITY Series start in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Preece finished second to teammate Kyle Busch, the all-time leader in XFINITY wins.

On Saturday at Iowa Speedway, Preece will get his second chance to drive the No. 20 Camry – with little room for improvement.

“It’s great – I get a second shot at this,” Preece said during a question-and-answer session at Iowa Speedway. “So it’s a great opportunity. But what I’m really looking forward to is going over notes with my crew chief, Chris (Gabehart), and the team.”

When teammate Christopher Bell made his second NASCAR XFINITY Series start at Iowa in June, he won the pole and led 152 laps before falling victim to a late wreck and finishing 16th.

“Christopher Bell had a really good race car here, so just kind of looking at the characteristics he fought from practice… and just looking for forward drive. That’s going to be huge. Just going to be looking for that grip, and hopefully we can back up what we did at Loudon.”

The bad news for Preece this week? He can only gain one position from his finish at New Hampshire. Everything else is downside.

The good news? Kyle Busch is otherwise occupied with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Pocono.


William Byron Hopes To Drive Into Victory Lane In Successive Weekends

Willaim Byron

There are no guarantees in life and there aren’t many constants in NASCAR, either. A driver can visit Victory Lane one week and go winless for another two years. A competitor can lead 99 percent of the laps in a race and not close the deal, losing the race.

There has been one constant the last couple years on the NASCAR national series circuit, however, it is William Byron piling up wins.

The 19-year-old Charlotte native, who amassed a Sunoco Rookie-record seven wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season, has taken the checkered flag in three of the last five NASCAR XFINITY Series events. He’s also been the highest-finishing full-time XFINITY Series driver in the last six races.

After visiting Victory Lane at Indy last Saturday, Byron will go for his second consecutive triumph in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250, the place where he kicked off his run of wins in June.

He’ll try to join Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011) as the only driver to sweep the season’s races in The Hawkeye State.

“Every time I go to Iowa Speedway, I feel like there are always guys that are better than me,” Byron said. “By the end of the race though, I feel like our team gets there. The last 50 laps we are really there and we have a pretty good shot at the win. This time around it is going to take more of the same and it is going to take an even-keeled mindset to win this race.”

Can Byron hoist the hardware again at the Iowa Speedway this season, we will all know by the time the Sun sets Saturday.


Wiliam Byron Prevails In The Lilly Diabetes 250 At Indy

William Byron

Nineteen year old William Byron had never even been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his life before he arrived Friday for the NASCAR race weekend.  But boy did he make the most of his first visit to Indy!

With a new competition package that produced a race-record 16 lead changes and the closest NASCAR XFINITY Series finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Byron threw more blocks than an NFL fullback in holding off charging Paul Menard to win Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250.

Byron made the decisive pass for the lead on Lap 85, surging past JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler into the top spot. Menard gained two spots, from fourth to second over a six-circuit stretch from Laps 90 to 96 but couldn’t overtake Byron, who blocked each of Menard’s attempts to make a winning pass.

“It’s so cool — this is awesome,” said Byron, who won in his first visit to the vaunted Brickyard. “I’d never been to a Brickyard 400 or an Indy 500, but I watched it as a kid. It takes a lot to win these races, and to win here is so special.”

Joey Logano followed Byron past Sadler on Lap 85 and finished third, after losing the second position to Menard on Lap 96.

The leader in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, Byron won for the third time this season. Fighting a vibration he thought might have been the result of a tire issue, he finished .108 seconds ahead of Menard.

“He’s done an awesome job,” team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’m excited for his future and the rest of the season.”

Menard thought he might have been able to get to Byron’s bumper in the closing laps but thought better of trying to move him.

“He was better than me through Turn 1,” Menard said. “I just had to lift too much and play catch-up through Turns 2, 3 and 4 back to the start/finish line. I made a pretty aggressive dive into (Turn) 1 that last lap, just to see if I could get him loose, but he made it stick…

“I maybe could have gotten to his bumper, but that would have definitely killed my momentum, too. All it probably would have done is chase both of us up the hill, and Joey might have won. I didn’t think that was in either of our best interest.”

Second in the standings, Byron now trails Sadler, the series leader, by 40 points. A disastrous pit stop cost JRM teammate Justin Allgaier dearly, dropping him to 35th at the finish and 133 points behind Sadler in the standings.

Allgaier pitted from the lead on Lap 57 of 100 and overshot his stall, starting a comedy of errors. The No. 7 crew began working on the car before pushing it back into the pit box. Allgaier took off early, snapping the air hose, which danced around the stall like a snake before coming to rest. The coup de grace was a right-front tire that hadn’t been secured.

The tire came off the hub and lodged at an angle inside the wheel well. With his car towed to the garage for repairs, Allgaier lost 13 laps.

That was the comic relief, however, in a race where the new rules package drew overwhelmingly positive reviews.

“Overall, we’re certainly pleased with what we saw on the race track,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “From an eye test, it definitely passed when you look at the metrics, right? Most leaders we’ve had (eight). Most lead changes. Closest finish. Certainly, on the quick recap, some really great metrics.

“But as we said before, there’s a lot for us to digest, go back, talk to the teams, drivers, crew chiefs, see where we’re at and go from there.”

Kyle Busch led six times for a race-high 44 laps, but dropped from contention with a pit stop on an alternate strategy with less than 20 laps left. He wound up 12th.

Check out the unofficial results of the Lilly Diabetes 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


Kyle Larson Has A Recommendation For Barney Visser

Christopher Bell
Does Kyle Larson have inside information on future plans for the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota?

With Erik Jones moving from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing next season, the No. 77 is currently without a driver. And team owner Barney Visser has said the fate of the No. 77 is still to be determined, pending funding.

When discussing up-and-coming drivers on Saturday, Larson had a strong recommendation for that empty ride.

“I definitely think you have to have Christopher Bell at the top of that list (of young, talented drivers),” Larson said. “I got to see his potential a couple years before he ever made it to truck (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series).

“Seeing how good he is, I don’t know what the Furniture Row situation is, but I hope Bell gets to go in the No. 77. There are so many kids in dirt racing that deserve an opportunity to make it…at least get a shot at a solid K&N Series ride and then see how they can progress from there. It just comes down to funding these days.”

Bell currently is in his second full season with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, after advancing to the championship race in 2016. He is also scheduled to run eight NASCAR XFINITY Series events this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Young Money’s” recommendation to Barney Visser may be a little premature, but sometimes you have to go out on a limb and take a chance!


William Byron Is Prepared To Continue His Breakout At Indy

William Byron
The Hendrick Motorsports young gun, William Byron, has proven why Rick Hendrick signed him to a development contract last season.

The 19-year-old Charlotte native has been the highest finishing NASCAR XFINITY Series regular over the last five races. Included in that stretch are two wins, a runner-up and a third-place showing last week in New Hampshire.

Byron will attempt to continue his breakout run in Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a track where he’s never made a start. The No. 9 Chevrolet driver has shot to second in the XFINITY Series standings, 45 points behind Elliott Sadler. Byron leads the XFINITY Series with 11 playoff points.

“I am really looking forward to getting to Indy this weekend,” Byron said. “We’ve had a great stretch of races and I think we can build on that and hopefully compete for a win this weekend.”

Now that the HMS No. 88 cockpit has has been filled for 2018 by Alex Bowman, that should give Byron and his supporters some relief that Byron will not be rushed up to Cup before he is ready.  Another year in the Xfinity Series to further hone his racing skills before jumping up the the Cup level competition will only make Byron a better and more confident driver.


Kyle Busch Shocks NASCAR Announcing Retirement From Xfinity!

Kyle Busch

After Busch won the Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, his series-record 89th-career Xfinity Series victory, Busch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio he would step away from competition after he wins his 100th race.

“Hopefully, next week is 90 and we can continue this on — and retirement is fast approaching,” Busch said. “So, I’m looking forward to that. When I get to 100 Xfinity Series wins, I’m done with Xfinity. So, my retirement with Xfinity is fast approaching.”

In six starts this season, Busch has won three races from the pole. His winning percentage in the Xfinity Series is 26.65%. On the truck tour, Busch has 48 wins in 137 starts for a 35.04% winning percentage.

At 32, Busch hopes to concentrate on his day job — winning in the Monster Energy Cup Series — and shepherding aspiring racers through Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“I keep having all these drivers in the feeder program from Kyle Busch Motorsports to the JGR Xfinity team up to the Cup team,” Busch said. “I had Daniel Suarez, he’s done it. Erik Jones is coming over, so he’s done it.

“Now, it’s Denny and I are the next two to go. We’re the oldest ones. So we better be careful and mindful and looking over our backs. I better slow the progression down of some of these guys at KBM and stop helping them as much to get them through.”

Busch has four additional races to run this season. He’s not sure what limits NASCAR might set for Cup drivers in the feeder series in 2018. But as of now, the only way he’ll reconsider is if Joe Gibbs asks him to come out of retirement to assess where the program is. Other than that, he’s done!

When KyBu racks up his 100th NXS victory, and hangs up his helmet, it will be a record that probably will not be approached and broken for many, many years!


Kyle Busch Wins The Overton’s 200 At Louden

Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch’s celebratory burnout produced a cloud of smoke over the frontstretch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but Ryan Preece’s first run in top-of-the-line equipment made an even bigger impression in Saturday’s Overton’s 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race.

After a major snafu on pit road took a potential win away from Brad Keselowski, who had arguably the fastest car at the Magic Mile, Busch cruised to a 10.425-second victory, collecting his third win in six starts this season, his sixth at NHMS and the 89th of his career, extending his series record.

Driving the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota first the first time, Preece finished second to his far more experienced teammate and left the track hoping his performance will open the eyes of someone looking for talent behind the wheel.

“This is something I dreamed about, to be honest with you,” said Preece, who won Friday’s All-Star modified race and finished second in Saturday’s 100-lap preliminary to the XFINITY event. “I work hard week-in and week-out at the modifieds, so to be able to have this opportunity means a lot to me.”

Preece, who will race at Iowa on July 29 in his only other scheduled event in the No. 20 car, ran the full NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule last year in Johnny Davis’ No. 01 Chevrolet.

“I don’t take back doing what I did last year,” Preece said. “It was great. People don’t even know that I ran full-time, but I got laps. That’s what you need sometimes. I’ve been doing this all my life, so all I needed was the right opportunity.

“Joe Gibbs gave it to me. Congratulations to Kyle, my teammate. That’s pretty cool to say. Right?”

The race, which ran without a caution from a restart on Lap 97 to the finish at Lap 200, turned on the final cycle of green-flag pit stops. Busch ducked onto pit road on Lap 169 for fuel and fresh tires.

Keselowski, who led a race-high 102 laps, brought his car to the pits on Lap 170 but had to angle his No. 22 Ford around Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet, which had started to leave its pit stall as Keselowski pulled in.

When the jack dropped and Keselowski accelerated, the gas can was still locked into its coupler, and the forward motion of the car pulled both the can and the fueler out of the No. 22’s pit stall.

Keselowski had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for dragging equipment outside the pit box. His winning chances gone, Keselowski finished fifth, more than 18 seconds in arrears, as one of six cars on the lead lap.

“I think we kind of coaxed those guys into having to rush themselves and hurry a little bit (by pitting first with a flawless stop), and maybe we put the pressure and that was the difference today,” Busch said. “So great day for us and excited to have the opportunity to be in Victory Lane again here in New Hampshire.”

Keselowski had a succinct summation of the afternoon.

“It’s always fun being fast and leading the most laps and all that, but we just didn’t put the whole race together today,” he said.

Sunoco rookie of the year frontrunner William Byron ran third, with Larson, Keselowski and Ben Kennedy behind him. Byron is second in the series standings, 45 points behind leader Elliott Sadler, who ran seventh, the first driver one lap down.

Check out the unofficial results of the Overton’s 200 at Louden.