Hornish, Kelly take Nationwide practices
June 21, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Rain couldn’t keep NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers off the track at Road America, not with rain tires and a windshield wiper available for the 4.058-mile, 14-turn road course.
Lightning, however, can shut things down completely.
That’s what happened Friday afternoon in Wisconsin, with lightning delaying the first of two scheduled 90-minute and ultimately rearranging the day’s schedule.
One mega session lasting from 2-4:15 p.m. ET was planned, and then eventually broken up into two sessions during a caution flag at 3:27 p.m. ET that came when Kenny Habul did a full 180-degree spin in Turn 12 with his No. 75 Toyota.
That allowed NASCAR to reset the scoring on a rainy, blustery day.
Sam Hornish Jr. led the opening session in advance of Saturday’s Johnsonville Sausage 200 presented by Menards (5 p.m. ET, ESPN, MRN) by posting a best lap time of 2 minutes, 26.888 seconds, which equates to a speed of 99.210 mph on the winding course.
Hornish, who has one win this year, is second in the standings and 58 points behind points leader Regan Smith. The driver of the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford has one career start at Road America, a fifth-place showing last season.
Reed Sorenson, the 2011 race winner here, was second in the first session with a time of 2:27.042, followed by Cole Whitt (2:27.125, 99.050 mph). The runner-up in the 2012 race at Road America, Michael McDowell was fourth with a time of 2:28.654 (98.032 mph), and Justin Allgaier (2:28.770,97.955 mph) was fifth.
Also in the top 10 for the first session was AJ Allmendinger, driving in his first Nationwide Series event since 2008. His time of 2:29.281 was good for sixth place. Rounding out the top 10 was: Mike Wallace (2:29.939), Andrew Ranger (2:30.606), Billy Johnson (2:32.578) and Owen Kelly (2:32.772).
The impromptu second session began following a brief delay after Habul’s spin and was done on slicker tires as the track dried out.
A Chevrolet pace truck continually took laps around the track during caution periods, helping the water bead its way off as teams had the opportunity to test the course in both wet and dry conditions. Times got faster as the afternoon wore on, with the track settling as the temperature climbing out of the 60s.
Kelly was tops in the second session with a time of 2:14.038 (108.721 mph). Also in the top five were Johnson (2:14.583), Allmendinger (2:14.636), McDowell (2:14.798) and Hornish Jr. (2:15.080). The first three drivers were brought in specifically because of their excellence on road courses.
After drivers spent more than an hour waiting for the storm to pass, there was even a delay once things got going. The No. 24 Chevrolet of Derek White began spilling oil on the track, particularly in Turn 11 and Turn 12, bringing out a caution flag after just eight minutes on the track. Later in the session, the car was smoking out of its left side.
In addition to Habul’s spin, Dexter Stacey spun out in the first session on one of the track’s intricate curves. Stacey kept his No. 92 Ford in fine condition, and avoided the oncoming traffic by wheeling his way onto the grass before continuing down the road.
Qualifying for the Johnsonville Sausage 200 presented by Menards is scheduled for Saturday at 12:05 p.m. ET (ESPN2). The qualifying will consist of five groups with eight cars.