Sam Hornish Jr.: ‘There’s still some miles left on these tires of mine’

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Sam Hornish Jr. wants to make this very clear: his NASCAR career is far from over.

When he was released at the end of 2015 after just one season of racing in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty Motorsports, it appeared as if Hornish may have driven his last NASCAR race.

He looked for rides during the offseason, but none was forthcoming. As a result, he threw himself into doing more things with his family, yet kept his cell phone close in case a team that needed a fill-in driver came calling.

That call already has come three times thus far this year: once by Joe Gibbs Racing and twice by Richard Childress Racing, all in the Xfinity Series.

Hornish has not disappointed. He won his solo outing for JGR at Iowa (filling in for the injured Matt Tifft), came back for a second race at Iowa for RCR and finished sixth, and on Saturday at Mid-Ohio, in his second stint for RCR, finished a close second in a rain-plagued race.

As a result, Hornish has a combined average finish of 3.0 and an average start of 3.7 in those three races. The three-time IndyCar champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner definitely has proven he can get the job done. He just needs a good team with good equipment to get back into the mix.

“I’m really thankful that everybody at RCR and the people at Rheem (the sponsor of the No. 2 Chevy in Saturday’s race) gave me the opportunity to come out and do this,” Hornish said after Saturday’s race. “Hopefully, it will mean more racing in the future.”

Although he’d prefer a full-time ride in 2017, Hornish also would take a part-time ride.

“We’re really using this year to build for the next, kind of where my career is at right now,” he said. “I want to be in some good stuff, and I don’t care if there’s a couple races in-between. As much as I want to be out there full-time, I also want to do it the right way.”

Although he’s hoping for more still to come, Hornish has at least one more race on his 2016 schedule: a third start for RCR in the Xfinity Series at Kentucky on Sept. 24.

“Kentucky is one of my favorite racetracks and is where I got one of my first big breaks there,” Hornish said. “What it will all mean for next year, I don’t know, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity. It’s not fun to sit and to wait and hope you get opportunities.”

Hornish struggled several times during Saturday’s race at Mid-Ohio. He ran off-course a couple of times, spun a couple of others and fell way back in the pack.

But falling back on the extensive road course experience he’s amassed in his lengthy career, he methodically worked his way back up to the front.

But the combination of heavy rain in the closing laps and the domination by race winner Justin Marks kept Hornish from mounting one last surge, losing by 3.707 seconds in a race whose average speed was just 53.347 mph.

“It was awful, I don’t ever want to do it again,” Hornish joked about the rain, which was moderate in the opening laps, gave way to a dry period, and then the track was inundated with heavy rain that made seeing – let alone passing – all but impossible in the laps heading to the checkered flag.

“There were some ups and downs and some things that I wish we could do over again,” Hornish said. “I feel the 42 (Marks) did some things that allowed them to be better in the wet with the setup in their race car.

“My hat’s off to Justin Marks. I knew he was a good rain racer, and that he was probably going to be the guy I had to beat, and that’s the way it wound up.”

Still, there was a lot of good to be taken away from Saturday’s race for Hornish.

“This is my second pole in a row at Mid-Ohio, this is my best finish at Mid-Ohio, I feel I’m doing the things I need to do, so I’m just happy to keep working away at it,” he said. “I got a little down with less than 25 laps to go when it started raining again because I knew we were a second and a half faster than everybody else on the dry.

“We wound up second, and I came up just a little bit short, but for what it could have been today, it ended up pretty good.”

Hornish, 37, then proudly reiterated something about where his career stands after winning the Mid-Ohio pole a day earlier.

“When I set the new track record, I said, ‘Not bad for an old guy.’ There’s still some miles left on these tires of mine.”

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Tyler Reddick wins Charlotte Xfinity race

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Tyler Reddick won Saturday’s Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, earning his second Xfinity Series win of the season.

Reddick led the final 15 laps after he took advantage of Cole Custer spinning his tires on a restart.

Reddick beat Justin Allgaier, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Noah Gragson and Justin Haley.

Pole-sitter Christopher Bell finished 31st after he made contact with the wall and cut down his right front tire with two laps to go in Stage 2. He attempted to finish out the stage, but the tire shredded and caused significant damage to his car. It’s his second DNF of the season.

Bell’s teammate, Brandon Jones, also got into the wall and cut a tire within a lap of Bell. Jones opted to pit immediately and was able to continue and finished ninth.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell

STAGE 2 WINNER: Tyler Reddick

WHAT’S NEXT: Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway at 1 p.m. ET on June 1 on FS1

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Daniel Suarez fastest in final Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Suarez completed a sweep of Saturday’s two Cup practice sessions by posting the top speed in final practice for the Coca-Cola 600.

Suarez recorded a speed of 180.704 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway. He made 51 laps in the session.

“I will say one of the best (cars of his Cup career) for sure,” Suarez said. “I feel like this year I’ve had some good race cars with an opportunity to finish in the top five and top 10, but I feel like this car has been pretty solid.  It’s fast and it’s not comfortable to drive 100 percent, but I don’t feel like anyone out there is comfortable right now, so it’s been sunny and hot and slick and that makes things a little bit more difficult, but overall my team has been doing a very good job with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford Performance.  We have a good piece and hopefully we can take advantage of it tomorrow.”

The top five was completed by Daniel Hemric (180.686 mph), Denny Hamlin (180.553), Ryan Preece (180.469) and Kyle Busch (180.276).

“I felt pretty good with our practice there,” said Hamlin, who will start 20th Sunday. “It was one of our better practices of the year. We’re going to have to start from deep in the field, which is going to be a challenge with traffic, but we’ve got a long race to get it done. Pretty happy with where we’re at.”

Busch has the best 10-lap average at 179.485 mph

Chase Elliott recorded the most laps in the session with 62. He was 18th on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

Christopher Bell wins pole for Xfinity Charlotte race

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Christopher Bell will start first in today’s Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bell won his third pole of the season with a speed of 184.313 mph. His previous poles were at Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway.

The top five is completed by Cole Custer (183.187 mph), Tyler Reddick (182.192), Austin Dillon (181.659) and Brandon Jones (181.610).

Justin Haley will start 35th after an axle broke on his No. 11 Chevrolet in the middle of his qualifying run.

Ross Chastain did not finish his qualifying run after experiencing an electrical problem in the ignition on his No. 4 Chevrolet. He will start 37th out of 38 cars.

The Alsco 300 is scheduled to start at 1:16 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

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Today’s Xfinity race at Charlotte: Start time, lineup and more

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After a two-week break, the Xfinity Series returns to action today for the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: North Carolina Basketball Legend Phil Ford will give the command to start engines at 1:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 1:16 p.m.

PRERACE: Driver/crew chief meeting is at 10:45 a.m. Driver introductions begin at 12:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1 p.m. by Billy Mauldin, CEO and President of Motor Racing Outreach. U. S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Marc Wilka will perform the National Anthem at 1:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. The Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 12:30 p.m. and also can be heard at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: calls for a high of 90 degrees and a 20% percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Brad Keselowski won this race over Cole Custer and Christopher Bell.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.