Hornish wins with family after road trip, teaching stint
RELATED: What rust? Hornish's Iowa win " Hornish returns to racing Sam Hornish Jr . didn't even have his official NASCAR license or "hard card" when he received a call from Joe Gibbs Racing last week asking if he'd like to drive the team's No. 18 Toyota in the Iowa Speedway XFINITY Series event on Father's Day Sunday. After the deal was formalized last Wednesday afternoon for the 36-year-old to make his first NASCAR start of the year -- five months into the 2016 season -- the former XFINITY Series championship runner-up hastily arranged to take the NASCAR mandated drug test. Fortunately, he had turned in all his other medical paperwork before the season started "just in case" he got the phone call as he did last week. Lastly came the job of quickly packing all his racing gear. Some of it was at the family home in Ohio where the Hornish family was last week, and other parts of it were in the family's North Carolina house. "I didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket, I knew I couldn't carry-on everything, but I did put some things in there in case my checked bag got lost," Hornish shared with NASCAR.com this week, his voice still exhilarated for what turned out to be a thrilling victory at Iowa -- with no preparation other than the event's scheduled time on the track. "It was huge especially after the year we had last year, just to get the opportunity was fun," Hornish said. "I knew with the strength of the 18 car there was opportunity. I was a little bit nervous just because you get into that kind of race car and having been out of the car as long as I was, you just kind of wonder if everything is going to work out the way you think it should. "I don't know how it could have been much better." The best part for the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner was that it was the first time his young family was all in attendance to see him hoist a trophy. "Ever since first Father's Day in 2008 and Addison was just a baby, I remember waking up at Michigan -- my first year in the Cup Series --and she was sitting there on the bed," Hornish recalled. "I remember thinking how cool it would be to take her to Victory Lane. The other races I won my family (wife Crystal and including his other two children Eliza and Sam Hornish III) they didn't happen to be there. Even my dad, who was there, was driving my bus for me so he'd leave the track when the race started. "It feels good you won, but you want to share it with somebody. I can't remember how many times in the XFINITY Series I finished second and the kids were there. I remember thinking, am I ever going to be able to make this happen?" Even thinking about it half a week later makes Hornish emotional. Many have wondered when the talented driver will give NASCAR another shot after he nearly won the XFINITY Series championship but struggled to post good results in four full Cup Series seasons with the Team Penske and Richard Petty Motorsports operations and several half-season efforts in between. Having had NASCAR success -- challenging for the 2013 XFINITY crown -- and won three IndyCar championships and an esteemed Indy 500 ring, Hornish said this week that he is most proud of having his children present with him in Victory Lane. The time out of the car Hornish has spent in a most unusual -- yet exceedingly gratifying way. He is a devoted member of a prayer group in Charlotte, North Carolina. And in May, he and his father made a long-awaited 11,000-mile road trip to Alaska. It was something the two had talked about doing for half a decade but always put on hold because of racing. Now he had the time. "A lot of other people were saying, 'Too bad you're not getting any wheel time,' and I told them, 'Man I'm getting some wheel time,' " Hornish shared with a laugh. "I did close to 11,000 miles of driving during the month of May." Perhaps the most surprising and interesting thing Hornish has done out of the race car is find a place in the classroom -- as a substitute teacher. He's taught physical education to first-graders and a music class -- yes music -- to students from kindergarten to eighth grade. "Most of the kids just know me as Addison's dad," Hornish said. And right now, that feels pretty good. Even before he drove to Victory Lane last weekend, Hornish had secured two XFINITY starts for Richard Childress Racing and he will be in the No. 2 Chevrolet at the next Iowa race and the series' second Kentucky stop. "That's what I know right now and in a lot of ways, I hope there will be more," Hornish said. "At this point in time, one of the hardest things is explaining to people, I could be out there racing right now, if I didn't want to run well. I'm fortunate that I can be choosy." And he added -- his voice unmistakably filled with emotion, "After everything that happened last week, it's like you got the ice cream sundae with whipped cream and the cherry on top. "I keep thinking how blessed I am all those things got to happen. Without getting too sentimental, I kept thinking to myself for the past six to seven months, if I could just win a race and have them there, that's all I need. "Then I can be happy about everything I've done, whatever the ups and downs were."
Could Sonoma produce first win for Larson?
SONOMA, Calif. -- Kyle Larson was all smiles and thumbs- ups at Sonoma Raceway prior to Friday's opening practice on the challenging 2.52-mile Northern California road course. The scenic course is a little more than an hour drive from Larson's hometown of Elk Grove, California, and the 23-year old driver has proven himself a talented road course racer in his young career with a win in the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona and a victory here in Sonoma in the 2014 NASCAR K&N West Series race. All that aside, however, Larson is quite simply, just ready to win in the Sprint Cup ranks. He has two top-five finishes in the last five races, including a runner-up at Dover and a third place finish in the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race at Michigan. "I don't know about pressure, but it would be nice to be the next new person to win a (Sprint) Cup Series race," said Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet. "It's been a long time since a new person has won. There are a crop of us young guys in our early 20s that would like to get a win. Chase (Elliott) is probably realistically got the best chance. He has been so close week after week now. Austin (Dillon) started the year out really strong. But I like road courses a lot. So, we will try and get it this week." Larson has proven himself at Sonoma , setting the Sprint Cup Series track record during early round qualifying last year. He's had a pair of top-four starts but never a top-10 finish. His best Sprint Cup Series finish on a road course is fourth place at Watkins Glen during his 2014 rookie season. He was fastest in opening practice at Sonoma on Friday. "I'm getting more experience, but still I probably ran a little over 10 road course races in my life," Larson said with a smile. "But I like them because you can feel the car kind of move around a lot more. You can feel the suspension, so it feels more similar to kind of a dirt track. I don't know if it's the dirt track, but just sprint cars and stuff the suspension moves around a lot and you can feel the balance of the car. On this stuff you can too. "Where on the ovals our cars are so stiff and rigid you can't really feel a whole lot with them. I think that is why I can feel the a little bit better and these tracks get really slick and you have to hit your marks every lap which is something I feel like I'm okay at." Larson is also finding his groove with new crew chief Chad Johnston. The veteran came to Larson's team this year from the Stewart-Haas organization and Larson thinks a large reason he is running better is because the two are getting into sync now. After four finishes of 30th or worse in the first 11 races, Larson hasn't finished worse than 13th in the last four races. He's ranked 21st in the standings, 38 points behind 16th place rookie Ryan Blaney in the final Chase spot. "I haven't had any experience with a new crew chief coming in before Chad," Larson explained. "I haven't been in the sport very long, so I think when somebody new like that comes in from an established or championship winning race team like that or any race team really. It's hard for them to come in and make all the changes that they want right away. "It's kind of a process. It took some time, a couple of months and now we are building race cars the way Chad wants them built, the bodies all that stuff. It has made our level or speed in the race cars get quicker. I think that has been the main thing is Chad's influence has been key the last couple of months and we have been building the cars how he wants them. "I think Chad and Phil (Surgen) my engineer they have probably learned me now and the way I communicate and how big of an adjustment I need or how small. I just think it takes a little bit of time to get working together right and now we seem to be clicking." Nine times Larson has finished in the top-three and he had eight top-five finishes in his rookie season. He's led laps in three of the last four races. "We all want to win so bad," Larson said."We are all working hard to keep our cars fast and keep up with an ever-changing garage area. So, I guess the pressure is there to get the win while we are running well. "You look at Chip Ganassi in the past, they are probably that team you describe where we get so close and then we lose it and have to spend a year or half a season regrouping and getting back to where we need to be. "We have made huge gains so far this season. We just have to stay on top of it and hope we get a win."
GarageCam lets loose in Loudon
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner walks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as drivers gear up for the New Hampshire 301 at 'The Magic Mile'.
Confident in team, Elliott eyes victory lane
Chase Elliott talks about the chemistry with his team and Crew Chief Alan Gustafson through the first half of the season, and how important a win would be for the No. 24 NSCS team.
High 5: Bowyer's Royals spirit, playoff stir-ups & Gordon's longtime fan
Presenting NASCAR content from around the web Editor's note: On Wednesday at noon ET, "High 5" will present some of the best NASCAR-related content from around the web. 1. World champs Jeff Gordon 's win at Martinsville wasn't the only big event happening in sports this weekend. The Kansas City Royals won their second World Series title on Sunday, defeating the New York Mets four games to one in the series. Royals manager Ned Yost's connection to Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR has been well-documented over the past year. Here is one example. WE’RE #CROWNED !!! Your Kansas City Royals are WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!! pic.twitter.com/Ic8oL4aWu5 — Royals (@Royals) November 2, 2015 Happy for Ned Yost and the @Royals today. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 2, 2015 But if anyone in NASCAR is SUPER excited about this, it's Kansas-native Clint Bowyer . So excited that he's questioning next-morning commitments. That poor dentist. Been really fun to root for these guys we call our own. All I've seen on my timeline is #takethecrown . How bout #TookTheCrown Let's all — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) November 2, 2015 Gonna go ahead and apologize in advance for my 9am dentist appointment. We took the damn crown for crying out loud. @Royals — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) November 2, 2015 2. Buckeyes, Tigers & the Tide -- oh my! As the Championship Round between the final four drivers at Homestead approaches, another sport is gearing up for its four-team playoff of its own -- College football. The College Football Playoff Committee announced its first rankings of the season on Tuesday night. Making the cut were the Clemson Tigers, LSU Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes and the Alabama Crimson Tide. 1. Clemson 2. LSU 3. Ohio State 4. Alabama pic.twitter.com/7FtqlrlmSl — CFBPlayoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 4, 2015 The first three teams hold unblemished records this season, while Alabama -- the unexpected pick of the lot -- has one loss against Ole Miss. But just as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has showed us, anything can happen when there are four coveted spots at the line. 3. 3-on-3 Several celebrities hit the court with Austin Dillon for his 3-on-3 Celebrity Baskeball Tournament on Tuesday night at High Point University. NASCAR’s Ty Dillon , Denny Hamlin and Brendan Gaughan , as well as country singer Colt Ford and MMA fighter Rashad Evans, were among the VIP guests who served as captains. He shoots...he scores!! @austindillon3 is king of the court today! -JW pic.twitter.com/HRLFZ3q6sT — Miss Sprint Cup (@MissSprintCup) November 3, 2015 Coach @dennyhamlin keeps an eye on his team...self-proclaimed the "Bad News Bears"! Ha! -JW pic.twitter.com/UjDVzZ4Km9 — Miss Sprint Cup (@MissSprintCup) November 3, 2015 The 16-team format resembled the bracket-style system that governs the NCAA basketball playoffs. Austin Dillon 's team, seeded 1 from the start, ultimately prevailed over Gaughan's squad. All proceeds from the night benefitted the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. 4. Gordon's longtime fan He's been with Jeff Gordon since the beginning, watched him grow from a young racer into a championship-winner Cup driver. It's not team owner Rick Hendrick and it's not former crew chief Ray Evernham. Rather, it's Gordon's stepfather John Bickford. "Jeff ran with the bigger kids and the very best that was out there. He had a lot of skills then and it was one of those things that I probably knew that he could keep advancing," Bickford told Popular Speed in a recent article. One thing is for certain: he's hoping for a fifth title for his stepson. "I certainly hope Jeff takes that checkered flag in first place!" Bickford said. "I've never done this. It's been 39 years of continuous focus on this racing. So, I don't know how I'll feel. I guess I'm hoping for a bit of a sense of completion." Click here to read the entire story from Popular Speed. 5. Chase take-aways Sunday's race at Martinsville was highlighted by Gordon's Chase-clinching win and Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano 's ongoing drama, which ultimately resulted in Kenseth's two-race suspension . But the race's wild finish held many other implications for other drivers, especially those contending for a title. FOX Sports 1 breaks down the top five takeaways from Sunday's showdown here.
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