Sam Hornish Junior made his return to NASCAR competition a memorable one Sunday afternoon with a dominating drive at Iowa Speedway to claim his fourth career victory.
On Tuesday of last week, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Hornish would sub for Matt Tifft, who was being treated for a disc condition in his back. Five days later, Hornish had the Number-18 Toyota in Victory Lane after leading 183 of the 250 laps contested. Before Sunday, the last time Hornish competed in one of NASCAR’s national series was last fall’s Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On Sunday, he started third, had his first lead twenty-four laps into the race and led the final 111 trips around the Newton oval – beating runner-up Ty Dillon to the checkered flag by a second-and-a-half. Brad Keselowski, points leader Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman completed the top five.
Erik Jones qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field after unapproved body modifications to his Number-20 J-G-R Toyota. Jones never led a lap and placed twenty-seventh in the forty-car field, seven laps down to Hornish at the finish.
How dominant was Hornish? There were just sixteen cars running on the lead lap at the end of the day … Sunday’s race kicked off the second half of the 2016 regular season, which is the first year for the X-FINITY Series post-season Chase.
Just one day before celebrating his 29th birthday, Ryan Sieg finished twenty-first and holds onto the final provisional “playoff” spot – by nine points over Ross Chastain with twelve races left before the Chase opens.