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Sam Hornish Jr. Dominates NASCAR Nationwide in Las Vegas
It Really Is Sam's Town!
Sitting in the driver's meeting the morning of the race, Sam Hornish Jr. realized the NASCAR Nationwide race shared his first name, the Sam's Town 300. Hornish would later survive two late race cautions to win at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This win, his second Nationwide win in 69 starts, is the first for the Penske Racing organization since their switch at the beginning of the 2013 season back to Ford Racing. Hornish led 114 of the 200 laps and held off Las Vegas native Kyle Busch to win by 1.100 seconds.
Qualifying and much of practice was rained out in Vegas, so the early laps of the race were a bit dicey as the drivers struggled until rubber built up on the racing groove. NASCAR threw a competition caution on Lap 37 to allow the teams to look at the tires and make much needed handling changes. Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 World Financial Group Ford Mustang, took the lead after a two tire stop. Bayne held the lead until Lap 56, when he pitted under caution while most of his competitors didn't. Hornish put his Wurth Mustang up front on the ensuing restart.
Hornish held the lead until the next caution on Lap 82. Bayne and his Crew Chief Mike Kelley decided to stop for gas only to gain valuable track position and contend for the lead on the restart. Bayne and second place Kyle Larson got together in Turn 4 after the restart and both cars glanced off the wall, sending both into the pits for repair. Trevor would go on to finish fourth by race end. "These guys never got down," said Trevor of his World Financial Group team. "This should have been a 12th place day after we wrecked, and we finished fourth. We had a chance to win it at the end and didn't get position on them. I am really proud."
After the Bayne accident, Hornish restarted fourth. It didn't take long for Sam's Wurth Ford Mustang to retake the lead. By Lap 94, Hornish set sail and appeared to be headed to a runaway victory until Lap 184 when caution came out for a single car spin. Caution again came out six laps later, but Hornish held off Kyle Busch to take the checkered flag.
"It feels great to win here. I didn't even realize it was the Sam's Town 300 until this morning at the drivers meeting. I said, That is a pretty good one for me to win. I already have my name on the trophy.' We had a great car all day long. From about the third lap of practice I knew we had a pretty good piece and made some small adjustments to it throughout practice and a little bit for the race and the car was real good," said Hornish. "You dream about having cars like this and when you get one to victory lane, because we had a couple last year that were pretty darn good that didn't get to victory lane, the fact that we did today means a lot to me."
Hornish and crew chief Greg Erwin were paired together at the beginning of this season, and it seems that similar backgrounds are leading to a bond that should prove successful for them both. Hornish took over the No. 22 Penske Sprint Cup ride last year after running only 13 races in 2011. At the beginning of the season, Joey Logano stepped into the No. 22 Pennzoil Fusion, relegating Hornish back to Nationwide. Greg Erwin, who paired with Greg Biffle for five victories when he was a crew chief for Roush Fenway, also found himself without a job for eight months in 2012 after things went sour at RFR. This combination of driver and crew chief has provided redemption for both men. The future looks bright for the No. 12 Penske team. "As soon as I found out Greg was going to be over here he sent me a text and we sat down and started talking. I haven't had anybody that has been as dedicated as what he has. It makes me feel like good things are going to come," said Hornish, who extends his NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead to 19 points over Justin Allgaier.
The Ford Racing team celebrates with Penske Racing after Penskes first win with Ford since Martinsville in 2001.