What rust? Sam Hornish Jr. looks sterling, dominates Xfinity win at Iowa

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Rust? What rust?

Despite not having been in a race car since last November, Sam Hornish Jr. proved Sunday he hasn’t forgotten how to win a race.

Filling in for the injured Matt Tifft (back) in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, Hornish responded after a 210-day racing layoff to win Sunday’s American Ethanol E15 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Hornish said on Fox Sports 1. “I just have to thank Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing for getting me out here and giving me this opportunity.

“I was so nervous on Friday, getting into the car, thinking I was going to make a mistake. And now, to go out there and win the way we did, I just can’t say anything more about it.”

MORE: Results from Sunday’s American Ethanol E15 at Iowa Speedway

MORE: Suarez remains No. 1 in Xfinity standings after Sunday’s race at Iowa

JGR reached out Monday to Hornish, asking if he’d be available to fill in for Tifft. Before he committed to JGR, Hornish asked his wife, Crystal, if it would be OK to forego already planned Father’s Day activities to go race, and she agreed to let him head to Iowa. Crystal attended the race along with their three young children.

“I’ve got my wife and kids here,” an emotional Hornish said. “This is the first time the kids got to be here for one of dad’s wins. I can’t tell you what this means to me. … This is one of the best Father’s Days I’ve ever had, I guarantee you that.”

Hornish’s last race in NASCAR was the Sprint Cup season finale last Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished 25th in his final start of a one-year deal for Richard Petty Motorsports. Since then, he’s spent a lot of time with his family and even has worked as a substitute teacher on occasion.

Hornish dominated Sunday’s event, leading 183 of 250 laps around the .875-mile track in Newton, Iowa. It was his fourth career win in NASCAR’s junior league.

Hornish is no stranger to success at Iowa Speedway. He won there in May 2014. It was Hornish’s eighth Xfinity start at Iowa. His record: two wins and six top-five. His other two finishes were 12th (2012) and 24th (2011).

Ty Dillon finished second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman.

HOW HORNISH WON: When you have Joe Gibbs Racing power, even with a seven-month layoff, you still have a very good chance to win. And JGR power is what did it for Hornish, who maintained a low line on the track throughout the race and motored to victory lane. It was the ninth win for JGR this season, and he became the fifth driver to win in the No. 18 Xfinity car this season.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Ty Dillon mounted a strong late charge, but Hornish was just too strong. Dillon finished second. … Brad Keselowski roared from starting at the back of the field (improper body modifications) to finish third. … Michigan winner Daniel Suarez was looking for his second straight triumph but just didn’t have enough to mount a late challenge to his winning teammate and finished fourth. Also, kudos to fifth-place finisher Alex Bowman.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After showing promise early in the race, Drew Herring was involved in a late wreck and finished 29th. … Pole sitter Erik Jones started at the back of the field due to improper body modifications, roared back to as high as eighth place, before a fuel pressure problem ruined his day, and he finished 27th.

NOTABLE: Ben Kennedy finished 10th in his Xfinity Series career debut. Kennedy is the grandson of late NASCAR CEO Bill France Jr., and the son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy. … Besides Jones, four other drivers also were forced to the back of the field prior to the start of the race for either improper body modifications or unapproved adjustments: Elliott Sadler (finished sixth), Ross Chastain (14th), Brad Keselowski (third) and Brendan Gaughan (15th). … Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang still hasn’t won in 2016, its longest win drought since an 18-race stretch before finally reaching victory lane in 2011.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is the first time the kids got to be here for one of Dad’s wins. I can’t tell you what this means to me. … This is one of the best Father’s Days I’ve ever had, I guarantee you that.” – race winner Sam Hornish Jr.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series will enjoy next weekend off. The schedule resumes July 1 at Daytona International Speedway for the Subway Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET start time).

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Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)