You would never have guessed this was the first time Sam Hornish Jr. had been in a car this season with his dominant performance and victory in America’s heartland.
The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led 183 of the 250 laps on the way to winning the American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa Speedway.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Hornish said of his win. “I’ve just got to thank Toyota and everybody from Joe Gibbs Racing for getting me out here and giving me this opportunity. Got my wife and kids here and it’s the first time the kids have got to be here for one of dads wins so — I can’t tell you what this means to me. You work so hard to try to get a win when I have my kids here and the fact of how all of this went on and I’ve just got to thank God. He makes things happen. I was so nervous on Friday getting into the car thinking I’m going to make a mistake and man, to go out there and win the way we did I just can’t say anything more about it. Thank you TRD (Toyota Racing Development). I hope Matt (Tifft) is doing well. I definitely want to thank the fans and happy Father’s Day to everybody. This is definitely one of the best ones I’ve ever had I can guarantee you that.”
It’s his fourth career win in the XFINITY Series in 111 starts, first of 2016, second at Iowa and first since May 2014.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to strap into a JGR car you know that you’ve got an opportunity and the car they told me as soon as I got here they’ve done a lot of work since we were here last time and man, this car was so good over the long run,” Hornish added. “I’d be remised if I didn’t thank Brad Keselowski because I picked both lanes that I could to get in front of him on those restarts because I knew that’s one guy that would give me a push. I was just happy about that – thanks to him. And, just man, I just can’t believe it. You always wait for when you have a car that’s this good for something to happen — run over a piece of debris or whatever. I love coming here to Iowa – the fans. I was worried it was going to be too hot and I was going to get all sweaty in the car, which I did, but man it was just put it on cruise once we got about 40 laps into a run. Car was good and I got a good idea of what it takes to be fast around here to keep the tires underneath it. Just fantastic day.”
Ty Dillon finished runner-up in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“I gave it just about everything I could there at the end,” Dillon said. “We had a heck of a battle for second place with Brad (Keslowski) and I felt I could have run down the 18 car if we hadn’t of had that late caution. Wow what a race. Second place is still a great finish and I know our guys worked hard. They earned it. On Friday in practice we were not where we wanted to be, but we made some great adjustments and moved forward. Today was an overall great day for us, and even better, we got American Ethanol and Kum & Go a solid finish in their home state.”
It’s his ninth top-10 finish of the season and fourth in five starts at Iowa.
Brad Keselowski rounded out the podium in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. It’s his sixth top-10 finish in six starts at Iowa.
Daniel Suárez led 62 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish in his No. 19 JGR Toyota.
“We just needed a little bit better long run right there,” Suárez said of his performance. “At the beginning of the race we were super strong for 10 or 15 laps and for the second part of the race we had to start making bigger changes and adjustments to try to help the long run but we ended here on the short run. That’s part of racing. We’ll keep working and come back in a couple weeks.”
Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five in his No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
Elliott Sadler finished sixth in his No. 1 JRM Chevrolet. Justin Allgaier finished seventh in his No. 7 JRM Chevrolet. Brennan Poole led one lap on his way to an eighth-place finish in his No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Darrell Wallace Jr. led four laps on his way to a ninth-place finish in his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. In his XFINITY Series debut, Ben Kennedy rounded out the top-10 in his No. 2 RCR Chevrolet.
“Man, this was a blast,” Kennedy said. “I had so much fun. We had a fast Ruud Chevrolet. My goal at the beginning of the weekend was to finish in the top 10 and we achieved that. We were just a little too tight there at the end. I learned a ton on those restarts, what to expect throughout the run and how the lines change during the race. We could really utilize that top line as the run went on. I think we were one of the first teams to make that work. Overall, it was a great learning experience and I’m happy to go home with a top 10 finish. I can’t thank everyone at Richard Childress Racing and Ruud enough for this opportunity. It’s been a great weekend.”
Drew Herring, Ryan Preece and Derrick Cope retired from the race due to accidents. Jeff Green retired from the race due to transmission issues. Timmy Hill retired from the race due to engine issues. Dexter Bean retired from the race due to vibration issues. Morgan Shepherd, Carl Long and Tyler Young retired from the race due to brake issues. Josh Reaume retired from the race due to electrical issues.
Thirty of the 40 cars finished the race and 16 finished on the lead lap.
The race lasted two hours, seven minutes and 51 seconds at an average speed of 102.659 mph. There were 10 lead changes among four different drivers and six cautions for 33 laps.
Suárez leaves Newton, Iowa still the points leader.