Sam Hornish Jr. was finally able to secure the victory at his home track for the first time today. Hornish had to battle with Brendan Gaughan on a final restart but the No. 62 was forced into the grass by the No. 22 causing Gaughan to lose a several positions, ultimately ending Gaughan’s chance at a win.
Daniel Hemric, who ran a strong race all day, finished second followed by Matt Tifft, Australian driver James Davison and Andy Lally. Each driver finishing second through fifth earned their best career finishes in the XFINITY Series.
Hornish earned his ninth career pole prior to the race and led the field to green with points leader Elliott Sadler in second. After just one lap of green flag racing, the caution was thrown when NASCAR found oil on the track from the No. 00 of Cole Custer who was in a backup car. Following a lengthy clean-up period, NASCAR would restart the race and Hornish would lead the field back to green.
A hard crash by road course ringer Matt Bell would bring out the day’s second full course caution when the brakes gave way on the No. 90 and he went barreling hard into the tire barrier. Bell would walk away from the crash under his own power while track crews would work to replace the tire barriers and the wall where the impact happened. The red flag would be displayed.
When the red was lifted, many drivers had to make the decision on whether to pit or to stay out and finish the stage off with a good finish. Many drivers who were just going for the victory like Hornish and Davison came down pit road, while Sadler and Blake Koch stayed out. Sadler led the field to green, but it wouldn’t last long as Brennan Poole got into the No. 1 sending him around. Koch would be the beneficiary of the contact, and he’d take the lead from Poole, ultimately earning his second stage victory of the year.
Stage Results: 11-Koch, 48-Poole, 62-Gaughan, 16-Reed, 4-Chastain, 51-Clements, 39-Sieg, 21-Hemric, 22-Hornish Jr., and 8-Bilicki
The second stage started with Ryan Reed, who was aiming for a one stop race, and Hemric on the front row. Hemric took the lead with Hornish in tow. The two would break away from the field battling with each other for the lead with Hornish getting in front of the rookie.
Reed, who led the field to green under the restart, fell back and ended up spinning through the grass spoiling his one stop strategy. The lead Hornish earned on the restart wouldn’t change and he’d sail to victory in Stage 2 with Hemric coming home second.
Stage Results: 22-Hornish Jr., 21-Hemric, 20-Davison, 7-Allgaier, 07-Lally, 42-Marks, 18-Smith, 2-Kennedy, 48-Poole, and 11-Koch
Hemric was able to inch ahead of Hornish off pit road and restarted with the lead. He elected to start on the outside lane, rather than the preferred inside line. Hemric was able to make it work to where he’d move down in front of Hornish before the entrance of turn one and he would take the lead. He wouldn’t be able to hold onto it as Hornish, the dominant driver on the day, would quickly challenge and retake the top spot.
With 28 laps remaining, the No. 78 of British driver Stephen Young got stuck in the gravel trap putting out the caution.
Hornish would again lead the field on the restart but not far into the run Koch would get spun by Poole collecting Reed, Spencer Gallagher, Ben Kennedy, and Jeremy Clements, ending both Gallagher and Clements’ afternoon.
Hornish and Hemric would battle for the lead and would continue with side-by-side racing with Hemric taking the lead. The hard racing would be slowed after Justin Marks got pushed off the course spinning back into the field collecting Reed with a violent impact. Both drivers would be okay, but Reed’s race was over.
As the race restarted yet again, Allgaier fell back quickly after a spin while he was sitting in the third position. Davison would be the next victim to visit the gravel trap as he and Gaughan made contact, but he would be able to drive off and only lose a few positions. Both drivers would benefit from Casey Mears blowing an engine just a few laps later, causing the caution to be displayed.
Gaughan would battle for the lead with Hornish on the restart but wouldn’t be able to get out in front as chaos erupted behind them. William Byron spun in front of the field causing calamity. Byron’s spin blocked most of the track and several drivers either piled in or were forced to just stop on track. Byron along with Kennedy, Dylan Lupton, Smith, Bilicki, Garrett Smithley and Allgaier would see promising runs end in the garage.
A brief red flag to clean up the accident would be displayed allowing Hornish and Gaughan to get set for battle on the restart. Contact between the two forced Gaughan into the grass. The wile veteran made a miraculous save in the grass, but it wasn’t enough to save his chance to win. Without a challenge from the rest of his competitors, Hornish would go on to take his fifth career win in the XFINITY Series, and first at his home track.
“It’s right up there,” Hornish told NBCSN after the race in victory lane. “For me a lot of times, it seems like that’s the only way we can get them. We very seldom, even back to when I was running IndyCar, squeaked through for one. It seemed like it had to be there and be there all day long trying to keep everything happening. I don’t back into them too often. To run here, to be at Mid-Ohio, a place I remember having so many memories as a kid, and I’ve ran so many different classes here, to not ever to have been able to win and to be able to check that off the list today, that’s a big one for me.”
Noteworthy Nuggets from Today’s Race
Disappointing Finish for Custer
Custer has become a pretty good road course driver in his career, but Saturday’s race just didn’t go his way. The weekend started out alright for the team as he finished fifth in the sole practice the XFINITY Series had after Friday’s practice was cancelled due to rain.
He’d qualify the No. 00 in ninth but would have to go to the rear of the field when he ventured off course on his cool down lap, doing severe damage to the front end of the car. A first lap mechanical problem would put the No. 00 behind the wall early, but he’d come back out and run some laps just to earn as much points as possible. Custer left Mid-Ohio with a disappointing 35th-place finish after entering with high expectations.
Drivers Earn Best Career Finish
Daniel Hemric (p2), Matt Tifft (p3), James Davison (p4), Andy Lally (p5), Anthony Kumpen (p16), Enrique Baca (p18) and Stephen Young (p24) all earned their best career finish in the Mid-Ohio Challenge.