LEXINGTON, Ohio – Sam Hornish Jr. survived several chaotic restarts en route to winning Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Hornish started from the pole in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang out of the Team Penske stable. He led 61 of 75 laps Saturday afternoon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but his victory didn’t come easily.
The Ohio native won stage two and lined up second for the start of the third and final stage. Daniel Hemric was the race leader after beating Hornish off pit road in the No. 21 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
Hemric held the lead for a lap before Hornish was able to slip by, getting alongside Hemric in turn four with 30 laps left before completing the pass a few corners later. The field was slowed with 27 laps left when Stephen Young’s car became stuck in a gravel trap, forcing officials to call for a caution flag.
The race resumed with 24 laps left and Hornish maintained the lead despite pressure from Hemric and third-place Justin Allgaier. He was still the leader when the caution flag waved again on the same lap for a pileup in turn five that saw Blake Koch spin after contact with Brennan Poole. The resulting incident also collected Ryan Reed, Spencer Gallagher and Jeremy Clements.
Hornish led Hemric and Allgaier back to the restart with 18 laps left. Hemric managed to stay alongside Hornish through turn one and into turn two, with Hemric clearing Hornish to take the lead at the exit of turn two.
Behind the battle for the lead mayhem struck again. Defending race winner Justin Marks spun just after turn two and came back on track in front of the field, leaving Reed nowhere to go as he slammed into the side of Marks’ Chevrolet. That brought the caution back out with Hemric leading Hornish.
Green flag racing continued with 14 laps left as Hemric tried to fend off Hornish, but Hornish was able to get a run on Hemric out of turn two down the long straightaway towards turn three and take the race lead back. Hemric would then run into issues, allowing Davison, Allgaier and a hard charging Brendan Gaughan to get by.
Hornish quickly stretched his lead, but behind him his closest pursuers had issues. First Allgaier went off track while in second, then Davison went off course between turns three and four. That moved Gaughan up to second before the caution flag waved yet again when Casey Mears came to a stop on the course after the engine expired in his No. 98 Ford.
Hornish brought the field back to the green flag with eight laps left, but the race didn’t stay green for very long. As Hornish was battling Gaughan for the lead, William Byron spun in the middle of the field just past turn one. The ensuing crash collected 10 cars and led to an 11 minute red flag period to clean up the debris field.
Once the crash was cleaned up, the race resumed with five laps left as Hornish led Gaughan, Hemric, Matt Tifft and Elliott Sadler. Gaughan tried to stay even with Hornish through turn one but ran off course, catching air in the grass and losing several positions.
Gaughan’s issue allowed Hemric to get back up to second, but he was no match for Hornish, who pulled away to a 1.335-second victory at his hometown track.
“This is super important having my family here and a bunch of friends,” Hornish said. “I think I finished second here in about three or four different series here. Finally to be able to get the win with the luck that we had in the first two races with me being back at Team Penske this year…I was wondering how today was going to turn out.
“The car has been good ever since we unloaded off the truck and I just had a pretty smart, almost flawless day.”
Hemric settled for second, a career best for the Kannapolis, N.C., native. The other top-five finishers, Tifft, Davison and road racing expert Andy Lally, also scored career-best XFINITY Series finishes.
For complete results, advance to the next page.