Ohioan Sam Hornish Jr. wins XFinity Mid-Ohio race
By CRAIG MERZ
LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) Sam Hornish Jr.'s experience at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course finally paid off.
Hornish Jr. dominated in his home state to win the XFinity Mid-Ohio Challenge on Saturday.
"I think I've been second or third here a few times in other series but could never win here," he said. "To finally punch that ticket means a lot to me."
Hornish, from Defiance, Ohio, took the lead from rookie Daniel Hemric on lap 62 of 75 after the seventh caution. He beat Hemric by 1.335 seconds for his fifth victory in 117 XFinity races.
Hemric acknowledged that Hornish had a home-course advantage, especially when it came to handling the 13 turns over the 2.258-mile track.
"Sam's been around here a lot," he said. "I'm proud of how we bounced back and had a chance to win at the end."
Hornish, who was second in the race last year, led for 61 laps and avoided a 10-car pileup on lap 69 that resulted in the second red flag. There were also nine cautions.
Rookie Matt Tifft, a Hinckley, Ohio, native was third, 2.373 seconds back of Hornish. James Davison and Andy Lally completed the top five.
"We played defense a little bit," Tifft said. "We kind of let the guys sort themselves out."
Blake Koch of Kaulig Racing from Akron, Ohio, won the first stage ahead of Brennan Poole. Hornish, who won the pole, easily took the second 20-lap stage by 4.645 seconds over Hemric.
After Hornish lost the lead on a pit stop, he regained it on lap 46 when he went side-by-side with Hemric through turns 5 through 9 before taking the inside position and pulling away.
"It was our race to lose today," Hornish said. "I had a good battle with Daniel."
Elliott Sadler, the series points leader, was sixth.
WHO'S HOT: Hemric continues to do well with his first 10-top finish at Mid-Ohio and his ninth top-10 finish this year.
WHO'S NOT: Sheldon Creed and Cole Custer, in the No. 01 and 00 cars respectively, went off for extensive repairs after the first lap. Custer dropped some oil on the course, necessitating a caution, and Creed went out with mechanical problems. Creed ran 56 laps and finished 34th, one spot ahead of Custer, who completed 54 laps.
QUOTABLE: Tifft qualified fifth but dropped to as low as 37th before his strong finish. "It wasn't the greatest start," he said. "I had to be patient. I had to be smart."
SPEAKING: William Byron on the radio to his JR Motorsports crew on lap 35: '"'I can't turn right now guys."
UP NEXT: Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, on Friday. Austin Dillon is the defending champion.
Updated August 12, 2017