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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Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick have physical confrontation after Kansas race

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Xfinity Series championship contenders Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick got involved in a heated confrontation that quickly turned physical after Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

Custer, who was angry about Reddick making contact with him, approached his rival after they parked in the pits. Custer put a hand on the shoulder of Reddick, who responded by grabbed Custer with both hands.

The drivers both fell to the ground as they swarmed by members of both teams. Neither driver seemed to be hurt.

“I was just frustrated that he can’t keep his car on the bottom and then runs us up into the wall,” Custer told NBC Sports. “If he wants to wreck cars and put them in the wall, that’s fine, but when it affects me, I’m not going to be very happy with him.

“I don’t know. I just want over to talk to him and say that and put my hand on him, and he just went beserk. I thought we had a good car and a shot to win.”

As he approached Reddick, Custer addressed him with “You can be a dumb (expletive).”

“I understand Cole’s frustration 100 percent,” Reddick told NBC Sports. “We’re trying to lock ourselves into Homestead, and he came up to talk after the race. He put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back, and that’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way.

“I’m out of breath. Had a fight there with some people, and it was a little bit of fun. I think a lot of Cole and his driving ability.”

Reddick finished runner-up Saturday to Brandon Jones, who won but already had been eliminated from the playoffs and wasn’t eligible to advance to the championship round. Custer finished 10th.

With two races remaining in the Xfinity playoffs, Reddick and Custer both are comfortably in position to reach the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It was just heat of the moment,” Reddick said.  We’re pissed off. I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon, maybe today, tomorrow.

“I hate that it happened to him, but we’ll try and move forward. Both of us have a lot left to lose in this deal, and if we take each other out, neither one of us get to Homestead, and I feel we both deserve to be there.”

Brandon Jones rallies late to earn first career Xfinity race at Kansas

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After starting from the front row next to pole sitter Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones fell backwards only to roar back late to win his first career Xfinity Series race Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

With the win, the 22-year-old Jones, who was knocked out of the playoffs after the Dover elimination race, still had an impact on how the Round of 8 began.

Jones was in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of late-race misfortune to Chase Briscoe and Bell, who were involved in a wreck with Garrett Smithley with 16 laps to go in the 200-lap event.

Equally as important was the great restart Jones got with four laps to go following another late caution that resulted from a crash that involved Joey Gase and Noah Gragson.

“This is incredible,” Jones told NBCSN. “I knew this would happen, we were going to come here and have an amazing run at the end of the day. … I’m not going to lie, my foot was literally shaking on the accelerator on the last lap, I’m not even sure I was wide open when I was doing it.

“There was a lot of nerve flow and emotion going through my mind but I saw it coming and I got pretty pumped.”

Tyler Reddick finished second, followed by Briscoe, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier.

While Bell led 70 laps and Briscoe 33, their significant efforts were quickly derailed with 16 laps to go.

Briscoe was in the lead, with Bell right behind, when Briscoe tried to pass Garrett Smithley, who was five laps down at the time. But instead of yielding the high line on the track to Briscoe and Bell, Smithley washed up the track and Briscoe could not avoid contact, nor could Bell avoid contract with Briscoe.

Briscoe finished third, while Bell finished 12th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell (18th stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer (eighth stage win of season)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Briscoe overcame the late contact with Smithley and Bell to finish third. Also having a strong outing was Michael Annett, who potentially might have had a chance at a win if the race had gone a few more laps.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Making just his sixth start of the season, Ryan Truex had his car blow up on him after just four laps. “It sucks, that was my last race in this car (this season) and probably the best car we’ve had since Phoenix at the start of the year,” Truex told NBC. “We had a top five car for sure. That really sucks that we don’t even have a chance to show what we’ve got. … To not even have a chance is really hard to swallow.” … Harrison Burton, who on Thursday was announced that he would race full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020, made contact with Austin Cindric on Lap 70. “To me, it just felt like I flat out got wrecked,” Burton said of Cindric to NBC Sports. “It’s unfortunate and frustrating. … I guess he didn’t want to race, he just wanted to wreck.” Burton finished 34th, while Cindric was 25th.

NOTABLE: Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick were involved in a pushing and shoving match for about 20 seconds after the race, but were separated.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series has next weekend off. It returns to action for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 2 (8:30 p.m. ET start, on NBCSN).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Larson injured ribs in ‘probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had’

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kyle Larson says he plans to drive the full distance Sunday at Kansas Speedway despite injuring his ribs in “probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had.”

Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet ran into the No. 88 Chevy of Alex Bowman near the end of the second stage of Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway (video above).

Though the Chip Ganassi Racing driver hasn’t had an X-ray, Larson doesn’t think he broke his ribs, but they were hurting enough to require an icing after two Friday practices at Kansas. Larson posted a photo to his Instagram Story of his wrapped midsection with the caption, “Big fan of Super Speedways.”

Because everybody says there really is nothing you can do about ribs anyway,” Larson said when asked why he hadn’t gotten an X-ray. “It’s not broken. It definitely hurts to sneeze and cough, and when I’m in the seat, it’s tender. I’ve never broken a bone, but it’s definitely not broken.

Though he already has secured a spot in the third round of the Cup playoffs through his Oct. 6 victory at Dover International Speedway, Larson said he will run the 400 miles Sunday.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said after qualifying fifth Saturday, pausing to smile. “As long as I don’t hit the wall or anything. It should be fine.”

Larson also crashed in the April 28 race at Talladega, going airborne and rolling several times in a wreck that was reviewed by NASCAR.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

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Daniel Hemric will own prime real estate when the green flag drops for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Hemric, who it was announced Sept. 17 that he would not return to drive the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing next season, captured his first career Cup pole Saturday.

Cup veteran driver David Ragan, who announced August 14 that he will be retiring from full-time competition after this season, will start alongside Hemric on the front row.

The rest of the first five rows for Sunday’s race will be Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski in Row 2, Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell in Row 3, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez in Row 4 and Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace in Row 5.

Kevin Harvick failed pre-qualifying inspection and did not make a qualifying attempt. He will start Sunday’s race last in the 40-car field.

This will be the second elimination race of the 10-race playoffs. The playoff field will be reduced from 12 to eight drivers.

Click here for the starting lineup.