Hornish seems to be driving like he has something to prove after losing his ride with Penske Racing at the end of last season. Hornish finished second in the series points standings in 2013, only to be looking for a job at the end of the season. The only quality opportunity that presented itself was a part-time ride in the No. 54 Monster Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hornish, making only his second start of the 2014 season, led a race high 166 laps, en route to victory. Today’s win was the third career win for Hornish.
Hornish commented on his day and his opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing in victory lane, “Man, we had a great car all day long, the Monster Energy (No.) 54 was just awesome. Adam Stevens guys made good calls, guys on the pit crew did an awesome job and it’s just wonderful.” He continued, “… I’m so blessed and thankful that this opportunity came around, I was really hoping and praying that I got something good to get into and man it’s pretty darn awesome.”
Ryan Blaney, who started from the pole, made the best of his turn behind the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford of Penske Racing, a ride he shares with several other drivers from the Penske stable. Blaney was the only real challenger to Hornish. He fought Hornish hard in early laps of the race, finally using lap traffic to set a pick and drive under the No. 54. Blaney fought hard all day but came up just short at the end finishing second to Hornish.
When asked what he needed to catch Hornish, Blaney replied, “Short run speed, you know it was like that all day. He was definitely better than us on new tires for about 30 laps and then he started coming back to us, but I was way too tight on the short run to go, but it helped us on the long run we could keep driving off the corner good, but just couldn’t stay with him there on that restart and just couldn’t really get to him and just kind of ran out of laps, so it’s unfortunate, but this 22 Discount Ford had a good run today. Just got to thank Nationwide Insurance for putting it on, and we almost got one at Iowa, so better luck next time.”
The Get to know Newton 250 was Blaney’s fifth start of the season. Coming in to Iowa, Blaney had three top-10 finishes, but had only led two laps. Blaney’s impressive run today included 81 laps at the front of the field, after only leading two in his four previous starts this season.
Rookie Chase Elliott, who graduated high school just 24 hours earlier, continued to impress with another strong performance. Elliott, who has two wins already this season, ran strong all day and ended up with a fourth place finish at the end of the day. Elliott’s biggest challenge this season has been his pit crew.
In almost every stop today, Elliott lost spots on pit road and had to fight his way back to the front. Elliott’s car seem to be better on long runs, therefore, it took several laps to gain back what he would lose on pit road. If the team can work out the problems in the pits, it may give Elliott the final piece of the puzzle he needs to find victory lane several more times this season. Elliott continues to lead the series points standings.
Other notables in the field: Regan Smith ended the day in third position. Talladega race winner, Elliott Sadler, finished fifth. Ty Dillon and Trevor Bayne finishing eighth and ninth respectively.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series now heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the History 300 on Saturday May 24, 2014.