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Sam Hornish Jr. wants a win for RCR
RELATED: Meet the XFINITY Chase field SPARTA, Ky. – Sam Hornish may not be a threat in the NASCAR XFINITY Series inaugural Chase, but that doesn't mean the Richard Childress Racing driver isn't a concern. Saturday night's VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) officially kicks off the series' seven-race Chase. Hornish is making just his fourth start of the season, therefore he was not eligible for the 12-team Chase field. That hasn't keep him out of the winner's circle, however as he wheeled the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing to the win at Iowa. And in two subsequent starts with the No. 2 team for RCR, Hornish has finished sixth and second. He's making start No. 3 in the No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR here at Kentucky. And the 37-year-old was once again fast here Friday, clocking the third-fastest lap in each of the day's two practice sessions. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was quickest in both practice sessions. "It was pretty good," Hornish said of the results at day's end. "The car started off a little bit free in the afternoon, but it was so hot. I felt like we got just a little bit behind there in the last practice but our car is good, it's got decent balance; we just need a little bit to be able to run with the JGR cars." Hornish has four top-10 finishes in five XFINITY Series starts at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track. His racing career, which includes three IndyCar championships, got a major boost here in 2000 when he finished ninth after running out of fuel late in the race. That effort opened eyes and doors, and soon his open-wheel career was off and running. His NASCAR career has included stints in Sprint Cup and the XFINITY Series; he also has one start in the Camping World Truck Series. "Right now this is the last (race) I have scheduled ... we've had a good run," he said of the RCR arrangement. "It's a good car, they've got some wins and they continue to build momentum. I'd like to go to Victory Lane for them for sure. "They're running for an owners' championship so we have to be smart about everything we do as well." JGR teammates Jones and Daniel Suarez are seeded first and third in the Chase, respectively, with veteran Elliott Sadler (JR Motorsports) wedged in between. Ty Dillon , teammate to Hornish, is seeded fourth while Justin Allgaier (JRM) is fifth. Darrell Wallace ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Brendan Gaughan (RCR), Brennan Poole ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Ryan Sieg (RSS Racing), Ryan Reed (RFR), Brandon Jones (RCR) and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) round out the 12-team Chase field. "We were able to make some good gains mostly in race conditions," said Jones, who will be seeking his fifth win of the season on Saturday. "It wasn't so much that we needed the speed, we needed to find some drivability in it and I think we (did). ... "It's going to change a lot once it cools all the way down and we get into race conditions but I feel pretty good about it." Except for the number of races, the XFINITY Series Chase mirrors that of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, with three-race segments leading up to a one-race finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Bruce: XFINITY Chase intensity ratchets up aggression
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SPARTA, Ky. -- Was Saturday night's opening Chase race for NASCAR’s XFINITY Series an example of good, hard racing or a case of folks driving over their heads? That depends on who one asked afterward. Race winner Elliott Sadler wasn’t pointing fingers, and race winners have rarely been heard to utter a discouraging word. But the JR Motorsports driver said he did notice an uptick in intensity during the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway . "About halfway through the race, it was 'note to self; you can tell it's the Chase because it was caution after caution after caution," Sadler said afterward. "People were tense, eager, frustrated, nervous. A lot of different things going on with drivers right now ... trying to make it to the second (round). "I think people are giving each other less room. Restarts are crazy in the back." They were crazy up front, too. The race, which kicked off a seven-race, two-round elimination playoff for the series, saw the caution flag fly a track record 12 times. More than one-fourth of the race (64 laps) was run under the yellow. Yes, there was even a brief (5 min., 34 sec.) red-flag period. Erik Jones , the top seed and regular-season leader in race wins, got crossed up while racing with Ty Dillon and both the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota and the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet ended up in the wall. RELATED: See the wreck the caught two title contenders Each is now outside eighth place in points with two races to try and improve their standing; only the top eight (with the exception of a Chase race winner that might be 9th-12th ) advance to the second round. Not surprisingly, Jones wasn't particularly pleased with the early ending to his night and said later that the aggressive driving does cause one to approach the race differently. "Yeah, it makes me try to stay out of trouble," he said. "I didn't want to have something like that happen. ... You try to play defense some. I was for sure." Of course, there was the matter of a reconfigured track that sports new asphalt and distinctly different turns. That, too, played a role in the difficulties for some. And that was to be expected, said Brendan Gaughan , driver of the No. 62 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing . "It didn't seem like it was any more aggressive than normal," Gaughan said after finishing sixth. "It's a very narrow race track here right now. That Turn 3 is treacherous, man. There's no grip on the entry, there's no width on the entry. It's a treacherous, treacherous place at the moment. ... "It's still Kentucky. I love it." The fight to advance into the next round began early, but it's not the only battle going on and Saturday night's race brought some of that to light. In addition to the driver's championship, there's an owners title at stake and a couple of teams didn’t forget about that. At the end of the regular season, the No. 2 team of RCR was atop the owners' standings, followed by the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing , the No. 1 of JRM with Sadler behind the wheel, and the No. 22 of Team Penske . Chevy, Toyota, Chevy and Ford. You think those folks aren't paying close attention? RCR brought in Sam Hornish Jr . to keep the No. 2 team in the hunt; Penske handed the reins to Sprint Cup driver Ryan Blaney . Sadler got the win, but a solid fifth-place run by Matt Tifft put the JGR No. 18 atop the owners' standings. JRM (No. 1) now sits second thanks to the victory while Hornish, who finished fourth, kept the RCR entry in the mix -- it's now third. Blaney did not fare badly but the way it all shook out left him third on the track and the team now fifth in the owners' battle. Dover, a fast, unforgiving mile of concrete, is up next. Some folks will be looking to rebound, some looking to continue to ride a hot start. If Kentucky was any indication, they better hope they can just hang on.
Old-school ways guide John Hunter Nemechek's rise
When the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rolls into Martinsville Speedway for this Saturday's Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), John Hunter Nemechek will arrive as the series’ most recent winner. It’s coming up on a five-week break for Nemechek and his fellow racers, more than a month since he pulled into the winner's circle at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his second career victory. The win sets up the 18-year-old to be in position to participate in this year's inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase. Similar to the Sprint Cup Series' Chase format, eight drivers will compete for the title, attempting to advance through two elimination rounds to reach the championship-determining event at Homestead-Miami Speedway where four will vie for the title. RELATED: Truck Series Chase 101 That Nemechek is already in position to begin considering Chase scenarios is nothing short of remarkable – the son of former Sprint Cup driver Joe Nemechek had only 30 career starts in the series heading into the 2016 season. That his NEMCO Motorsports team has been able to compete against larger, more established organizations in spite of its limited resources is no less amazing. There's no questioning Nemechek’s talent – he has finished in the top five in roughly one third of his starts and has 17 career top-10 results. His first win came last season at Chicagoland Speedway . The inability to test slows progress, but it's something each team must deal with today. Nemechek said it helps that he is surrounded by so much experience on his team. "I have two of the most veteran (people) here in Dad and (crew chief) Gere Kennon," he said. "They like to do stuff the old way, old school; all their experience and knowledge I've learned from. "Dad has taught me everything he's learned in a 20-year period in a 3-4 year period. That's sped up my learning curve. Then bringing Gere on board, he's taught me a lot about these trucks; he's been in the sport forever." The elder Nemechek won four times during a 20-plus year career at the premier series level. He also won 16 times in what is now the XFINITY Series, and was that division's champion in 1992. Kennon's racing resume includes title-winning runs with two-time series champion Sam Ard in what is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series, as well successful stints with Brett Bodine and Ron Hornaday in the that series. Kennon was also a chassis specialist for Roush Racing before moving into a crew chief role in the mid-‘90s for team owner Butch Mock and driver Morgan Shepherd in the premier series ranks. NEMCO Motorsports is a single-team, family-owned organization with roughly a dozen employees and limited funding. The group hired its first engineer this season. They might get out-spent, but they won't be out-worked. They might be out-engineered, but not out-smarted. "To be competitive in this series, it takes a few million dollars," Joe Nemechek said. " … It's hard to round that up on a weekly basis." Funding from Fone Fuel and Berry's Bullets has been a big help, he said, but added that his group is "making hundreds and hundreds of calls every week. "I know what we spend in this deal, and we're probably spending half of what the big teams are. But it's too hard; you just can't keep doing that and have success. At some point all your people get burned out; it's tough." Parker Kligerman has driven to the top of the points standings after teaming with the small Ricky Benton Racing organization. Nemechek sits third, behind Kligerman and Brad Keselowski Racing's Daniel Hemric . RELATED: Hemric finds perfect home " Dual roles lead to success for Kligerman He has five starts at Martinsville, more than at any other track hosting the series, and finished second there in last season's fall event. "It means a lot to be able to come back to the race track where I made my (series) debut," Nemechek said during the track's recent media day event. "I've improved a lot since then. "Also to finish second here (last fall), we've improved on our finishes every time we've been here over the past two and a half years so if we can keep doing that and just improve it by one (position) this year, we'll be good."
Sam Hornish Jr. sets track record, earns Coors Light Pole at Mid-Ohio
RELATED: Results Sam Hornish Jr . won the Coors Light Pole Award Friday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course , setting a track speed record as well. Hornish Jr. wheeled his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio, at a track record-setting 96.755 mph in the opening session of qualifying. In the second and final session, with a fast lap of 96.374 mph, he sealed the first starting spot in the Mid-Ohio Challenge (3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "The fact that we're here. We're as good as we have been really is hats off to RCR and all the people that work on the Rheem No. 2 car," the polesitter said post-qualifying. "Right off the bat, this morning I was kind of worried about it being a little bit rusty. It's been a little while since I've been on a road course." This marks Hornish's eighth career pole and first of 2016. Sharing the front row will be Owen Kelly , a road specialist who reached 95.877 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Ryan Blaney , (95.739 mph in No. 22 Team Penske Ford), Elliott Sadler (95.675 mph, No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) and Daniel Suarez (95.613 mph, No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) completed the top five, respectively.
Hornish spin collects Allgaier
Sam Hornish Jr. spins off Turn 2, collecting Chase driver Justin Allgaier, who had nowhere to go at Kentucky Speedway.
Press Pass: Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch comments on tying another Sam Ard record and discusses his facial hair.
Sadler wins first XFINITY Chase race at Kentucky
RELATED: Results " Standings " Chase Grid SPARTA, KY – A huge push from Daniel Suárez on a restart with four laps to go in Saturday night's eventful VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 sent Elliott Sadler ahead of Ryan Blaney to win the opening race of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase at Kentucky Speedway . Sadler's third win of the season and 13th of his XFINITY Series career was about more than just stamping his way into Round 2 of the Chase. The Emporia, Virginia, native fought for the win while thinking of his mother, Bell, who was released from the hospital Saturday, after a week of hospitalization and two surgeries. "We fought through a lot tonight," Sadler said in Victory Lane. "I'm going to get a little emotional on you, I've been in the hospital all week with my mom in ICU watching her fight and fight through a lot of pain and suffering. (She) made her way back home tonight to watch the race. Mom, I love you. She leads so much by example." Sadler also credited his team, who helped Sadler battle from outside the top 15 earlier in the race. "These guys are my heroes," Sadler said. "We had a 10th or 15th place car at best. Still had to come in and really take our time and work on it. Great pit calls by Kevin (Meendering, crew chief) and the guys to get us in position. Got a good push there at the end. I do want to say thanks to Josh Berry for helping me a ton tonight. That kid did some cool things on the restarts. This OneMain Financial team has no quit in them. We just fight till the end. This is a great way to start the Chase." Suárez, who finished second, said he struggled with a tight condition all night but was best at the end of the race. "Right at the end, we were pretty good, maybe just a little tight but we were strong," he said. "I feel like we were the fastest car out there at the end. I just needed one or two laps more to get the win." The inaugural XFINITY Series Chase race offered plenty of excitement and drama. With the "win and advance" format putting a greater premium on victories, drivers found themselves on the edge of control at a track where the racing groove was extremely tight since undergoing a repave in May. "At halfway, we were running 20th," Sadler said. "By my calculations, we were probably 10th or 11th in points, so to fight back that last 100 laps to gain that kind of momentum probably means a lot for us and these guys. I'm so proud of these guys. Dale (Earnhardt Jr., team owner) and Kelley (Earnhardt-Miller, team manager) and all of our partners for Hunt Bros., and Chevrolet and everyone that does so much for us at JR Motorsports. This is a great way to start off the Chase and keeps the momentum on our side, we can relax and go to Dover and have fun there and Charlotte and get ready for the second round." XFINITY Chase drivers Ty Dillon , Brandon Jones and Erik Jones all found themselves in a deep hole after being collected in accidents throughout a caution-filled race. Dillon and Erik Jones tangled while racing for second with 12 laps remaining. The event was red-flagged for five minutes, 34 seconds for cleanup of the Turn 3 incident. RELATED: See the wreck " Jones' take " Dillon's take Jones, the pole sitter who led a race-high 100 laps, took responsibility for the crash. "I just got sucked around," Jones said after the incident. "I tried to slow down but Ty was holding me down there pretty tight on the restart, slamming doors through (Turns) 1 and 2. It was my fault but it's a pretty tough aero situation to be in. "I just couldn't hang on to it. I tried to slow down but he kept slamming down on my door and I did all I could to hang on to it. It definitely looks like we're going to have to run really well at Dover and Charlotte or even win." Behind Sadler and Suárez, Sprint Cup rookie Ryan Blaney finished third while Sam Hornish Jr . and Matt Tifft completed the top five. Tifft, a NASCAR Next alumnus made his XFINITY Series return after undergoing brain surgery in July to remove a remove a benign, low-grade glioma. Sadler leaves Kentucky Speedway with an eight-point lead in the standings and guaranteed admission to the next round of the Chase at Kansas Speedway in three weeks. Suárez (+27 points above the cutoff line) is second in the Chase standings, followed by Brendan Gaughan (+21), Ryan Reed (+19), Darrell Wallace Jr . (+19), Justin Allgaier (+17), Brennan Poole (+16), Blake Koch (+15), Erik Jones (-3), Ryan Sieg (-5), Brandon Jones (-15) and Ty Dillon (-15). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
JGR's Chris Gayle to serve as Erik Jones' 2017 Sprint Cup crew chief
Furniture Row Racing announced Thursday it has hired Chris Gayle as crew chief for the team's 2017 rookie contender, driver Erik Jones . Gayle, 40, comes to the FRR from fellow Toyota team, Joe Gibbs Racing where he worked 14 years as an engineer and ultimately an XFINITY Series crew chief since 2013 -- collecting 17 wins with three different drivers. "We are thrilled to have Chris join our team and work with Erik (Jones) next season," Furniture Row Racing President Joe Garone said. "His crew chief record in the XFINITY Series has been impressive, but more importantly his record proves that he knows what it takes to win a race. It's a great fit with Chris coming from Joe Gibbs Racing with whom we have a technical alliance. This hire has all the makings of a seamless transition for Chris since he has already worked with Erik and has a thorough understanding of the Toyota affiliation." The timing of the promotion seems especially right as nine of Gayle's 17 wins in the XFINITY Series have come this season -- seven by Kyle Busch and one each by Denny Hamlin and Sam Hornish Jr . The new team will be paired up with veteran FRR driver Martin Truex Jr ., who has qualified for the Sprint Cup Series Chase with two wins this season -- including last week’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . "I watched Furniture Row Racing from afar and have been impressed with the success they have had with Martin (Truex Jr.) in the No. 78 Toyota," Gayle said. "This is a great opportunity to join a first-class team led by owner Barney Visser, who is deeply committed to provide the necessary resources to be successful in the Cup series." Jones, 20, who leads the XFINITY Series with three wins this year, was understandably enthusiastic about the news, having worked successfully with Gayle before. "I am not only excited to have Chris as my crew chief, but also excited for Chris in a career move that he deserves," Jones said. "I have worked with Chris and we have a mutual respect for each other. I feel we have an opportunity to have a good year together, and at the same time, build a team from the ground up. "Chris has had tremendous success in the XFINITY Series and has shown time after time how to win races. We can't wait to make our debut in Daytona with the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota."
Sam Hornish Jr. celebrates with his family in Victory Lane in Iowa
An emotional Sam Hornish Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane with his family and crew on Father's Day at Iowa Speedway.
Sadler makes history, wins and advances
Elliott Sadler makes the most of a late-race restart at Kentucky Speedway to win the first ever NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase race and advances to the Round of 8.