TALLADEGA, Ala. – Sam Hornish Jr. may only be competing in a handful of races this year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, but that doesn’t mean he is resting on his laurels.
Hornish, making his first start of the year in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, scored the pole during qualifying Friday for the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway. The pole is Hornish’s sixth in his NASCAR Nationwide Series career and first with JGR.
His 51.268-second lap at 186.783 in the final portion of knockout qualifying led a JGR sweep of the top three positions. Elliott Sadler qualified second in the No. 11 Toyota, followed by Darrell Wallace Jr. in the No. 20 Toyota.
The three teammates ran in a pack during the final five-minute qualifying session, with Sadler leading Hornish and Wallace. With Sadler doing the pulling in the draft, Hornish was able to find enough speed to earn the pole.
“Right there at the end with that five minute session it is a game of chicken and it is (about) who has the most patience to sit there and wait,” said Hornish, who is only scheduled to make seven Nationwide starts this season in the No. 54. “I’m real happy that my debut in the Monster Energy Camry worked out well. It is great to be over here at Joe Gibbs Racing.
“It definitely takes three teammates to do it today. Elliott led the way and I just kind of sat there and tried to maintain the gap between myself and Bubba (Wallace) and him (Sadler).”
Saturday’s race will be Hornish’s 100th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Three Ford’s followed the three JGR Toyota’s, with the No. 16 of Ryan Reed, the No. 43 of Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 22 of Ryan Blaney filling the next three spots. The rest of the top 12 in qualifying were Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher, James Buescher, Brian Scott, Brendan Gaughan and Landon Cassill.
Chad Boat and Derrike Cope failed to qualify for the 40-car field.