Sam Hornish Jr. survived a rough-and-tumble road race Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to notch his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory in more than a year.
Hornish, making just his third start of the season in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford, led a race-high 61 of the 75 laps in the Mid-Ohio Challenge. His emotional first XFINITY win on the 2.258-mile circuit in his home state was the fifth of his XFINITY career.
“It’s right up there,” Hornish told NBCSN when asked to rate the dominance of his victory. “For me a lot of times, it seems like that’s the only way we can get them. We very seldom, even back to when I was running IndyCars, squeaked through for one. It seemed like it had to be there and be there all day long trying to keep everything happening. I don’t back into them too often.
“To run here, to be at Mid-Ohio, a place I remember having so many memories as a kid, and I’ve ran so many different classes here, to not ever to have been able to win and to be able to check that off the list today, that’s a big one for me.”
The race was just Hornish’s third this season in a limited engagement with Team Penske. His other two starts this year — both at Iowa Speedway — ended early in crashes. The win was his first since June 19, 2016, when he piloted a Joe Gibbs Racing entry to Victory Lane, also at Iowa.
“As the calendar goes around another year, you start wondering how many opportunities you’re going to have like today,” Hornish told NBCSN. “I’m glad to be here, that’s for sure.”
Daniel Hemric led three times for eight laps and held on to match his career best in second place. His Richard Childress Racing No. 21 Chevrolet was 1.335 seconds behind Hornish’s car at the drop of the checkered flag.
Matt Tifft, James Davison and Andy Lally rounded out the top five — all three drivers posting career-best finishes in the series.
The race was slowed by a flurry of late-race caution periods and two red flags. Both stoppages stemmed from incidents in Turn 1 — a Lap 15 single-car hit by Matt Bell and a multicar stack-up further back in the pack with 67 laps complete.
Series points leader Elliott Sadler rallied from early adversity to finish sixth. Sadler took the lead on Lap 18, but his JR Motorsports No. 1 Chevrolet was bumped out of the top spot by Brennan Poole on the next lap. Sadler wound up 30th at the end of the first stage, then made an unscheduled pit stop for a flat tire on Lap 28.
Poole was involved in another incident on Lap 51, nudging Stage 1 winner Blake Koch into a Turn 5 spin. Ryan Reed, Jeremy Clements, Spencer Gallagher all piled in, with Ben Kennedy also scraping past in the multicar melee.
Reed, who turned 24 on Saturday, was done for the day after another crash, sustaining a hard hit into Justin Marks’ No. 42 Chevy that ended his race in 33rd place after just 57 laps.
Brendan Gaughan was in second place for the final restart with five laps to go, but his Richard Childress Racing No. 62 Chevrolet ran wide in Turn 1. He held on to finish seventh and expressed his displeasure with Hornish with a slight bump on the cool-down lap.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series’ next race is scheduled Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) at Bristol Motor Speedway.