Sam Hornish Jr.’s Third XFINITY Series Race This Season Could Pose Another Opportunity for Victory

Photo by Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images

By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor

Sam Hornish Jr. is about as diverse as racecar drivers come. He has 19 wins across 116 Verizon IndyCar Series starts, including three championships and one Indianapolis 500, 12 IROC starts, a couple of starts in a major sports car series … this guy has done it all.

And that doesn’t even include all of his NASCAR starts. Hornish has 280 starts across NASCAR’s three national series. While he only earned 12 top 10 finishes in his tenure in NASCAR’s premier series, his numbers in the XFINITY Series look a lot better. Four victories, 33 top 10s, and 59 top 10s – including a couple of top five finishes in the end-of-year championship standings – showed Hornish’s versatility as a driver.

He’s not done yet, either. Hornish was unexpectedly called to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing at Iowa Speedway earlier this season to fill in for Matt Tifft who had just recently undergone surgery for a slow-growing brain tumor. Though Joe Gibbs Racing had already won eight races previously that season, it certainly wasn’t expected for Hornish to go out there and earn another one. After all, he hadn’t been in a NASCAR stock car at all since Homestead in November of last year and hadn’t driven in the XFINITY Series since the race at Texas Motor Speedway in April of 2015.

Yet he was able to make it to Victory Lane, and not by luck. Hornish dominated, leading 183 of 250 laps en route to the victory.

Hornish later returned to the XFINITY Series for the second race at Iowa this season, this time driving for Richard Childress Racing and finishing sixth.

Now, after showing no signs of slowing down, no cobwebs or dust to shrug off, Hornish is returning to a track that should really display his abilities: road racing.

Hornish will be competing this weekend in the XFINITY Series, this time driving the No. 2 car for RCR once again.

“I always enjoy coming back to Mid-Ohio, it’s the first track I ever got to run on that was longer than half of a mile,” Hornish said in a team release. “It seemed like 10 miles as a 14-year-old in a go-kart. Being that it’s so close to home, I remember going to watch races as a kid and now I get to be in them. It was an unexpected surprise to get this opportunity to race in my home state this year and while I have a pole and a third-place finish at the track, I’m still looking for a win here. It’s going to be great to be back in the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet again. We had a strong run at Iowa Speedway that was hampered by a tire coming apart and kept us from the top-three finish that we deserved.”

Even in the Cup Series where Hornish was a mid-level driver at best, the road courses were still viewed as a place where the Ohio native could break through for a strong finish. Hornish’s background is road racing and, though much of his success in the IndyCar Series actually occurred at oval tracks, Hornish is also a very capable road course racer and has plenty of experience to bring to the table.

With that said, all four of Hornish’s NASCAR victories came on ovals as well, but consider these XFINTIY Series statistics: Hornish started on the pole in the 2014 race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – the site of this weekend’s XFINITY Series race – and led 12 laps before an engine problem forced him to retire from the race early. He finished third at the track in 2013. He has an average finish of seventh at Road America, including two top-five finishes. He started on the pole the last two trips he made to Watkins Glen in the XFINITY Series (2012 & 2013) and finished in the top three in both of those races.

Looking at Hornish’s performance this season and the fact that he seems genuinely happy and appreciative for the opportunities he has this season, Hornish could absolutely mount a legitimate challenge against the XFINITY Series field during a weekend where this series will be in the spotlight. The Sprint Cup Series and the Truck Series are both off this weekend, leaving the XFINITY Series on its own stage. Interestingly enough, the Iowa weekend where Hornish went to Victory Lane was a Sprint Cup Series off weekend as well.

Now, that’s not to say that Hornish is going to run away with the checkered flag. XFINITY Series regulars Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler, and Justin Allgaier have good statistics at Mid-Ohio and road course ringers are becoming less of a necessity as more and more drivers and teams focus on improving their results and being competitive on road course configurations.

All the same, Hornish has already shown he is still capable of winning races and, with only one Sprint Cup Series regular in the race this weekend (Ryan Blaney), he should certainly be expected to be a frontrunner this weekend.

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