Friday, Jan 21

Sam Hornish Jr. is back in victory lane. However, this time, it is with a new organization. After making the move to Joe Gibbs Racing from Team Penske over the off-season, Hornish is running a part-time schedule this season.

On Sunday afternoon, the 35-year-old Ohio native was able to capture his first victory with his new team. Hornish dominated the Get to Know Newton 250 at the Iowa Speedway, leading 167 of the 250 laps. In just his second start of the year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, last year’s championship runner-up held off Ryan Blaney throughout the day. Blaney and Hornish were the only two drivers to lead during green flag conditions, swapping the lead eight times amongst each other.

The victory marks the second straight for JGR after winning at Talladega with Elliott Sadler, and it is the organization’s fourth victory of 2014. The win is also JGR’s second victory at the Iowa Speedway with the lone other one coming in 2010 with Kyle Busch, who usually pilots the car Hornish drove to victory lane.

“We had a great car all day long. The Monster Energy No. 54 was just awesome. Adam Stevens made some great calls. I am so blessed that this opportunity came around. It is pretty darn awesome,” Hornish said in victory lane.

The JR Motorsports tandem of Regan Smith and Chase Elliott ended the day in the third and fourth positions. However, Smith ran outside of the top-five for the majority of the race, struggling to find the handle on his No. 7 Chevrolet. Meanwhile, Elliott had a competitive car on the long runs, but took approximately 20 laps to run lap times which were equivalent to the leaders.

Track position proved to be extremely important on Sunday afternoon.  Landon Cassill took two tires on a late pit stop, attempting to get some track position after running just outside of the top-10. However, the strategy proved to work as Cassill stayed inside of the top-10 for the duration of the race, earning his second consecutive top-10 finish.

Elliott stretched out his points lead to two markers over Elliott Sadler, who finished fifth after having a tangle with Brian Scott where both drivers simultaneously were loose off of turn four heading onto the frontstretch. Both drivers were able to save their cars, but were not able to advance their positions due to the ground they lost while battling side-by-side.

Michael McDowell finished seventh in his season debut for JGR. McDowell was racing with Hornish and Blaney for the lead throughout the day, and was the lone driver to take the lead besides those two. Chase Pistone finished 14th in his first career Nationwide Series start for Turner Scott Motorsports. Pistone was sent to the back of the pack to begin the race along with Ryan Reed, but was able to capture a solid finish. Austin Theriault also made his Nationwide Series debut at Iowa, and was able to run approximately 10th at certain points during the race. Theriault finished 15th in his first race for JR Motorsports. Cale Conley was running inside of the top-15 early in the race, but started to drop back as his No. 33 car evidently had a tire going down.

Standalone events provide an abundance of opportunities for Nationwide Series drivers. Men such as David Gilliland, Trevor Bayne, Jason Keller, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and other Nationwide Series regulars in the past and present, have been able to lock up race wins during standalone events.

This weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will hit the 7/8-mile track in Newton, Iowa – the Iowa Speedway. Since holding its first Nationwide Series event in 2009, the Iowa Speedway has had five different winners in eight events.  Stenhouse  Jr. dominated the speedway in 2011 and 2012, winning three straight races. However, there are only two drivers who have won a Nationwide Series race at Iowa that are entered in this weekend’s spectacle. Ryan Blaney and James Buescher also have won Camping World Truck Series events at Iowa, and Chase Elliott scored a K&N Pro Series East victory once at Iowa.

Elliott Sadler, coming off of his first win with Joe Gibbs Racing after joining the organization in 2013, is looking to use his momentum to the No. 11 team’s advantage. Sadler scored a victory at Iowa in 2012, and has been a contender for the win in all six events he has run at the track. He was inside of the top-five in the first two practice sessions to begin the weekend, but was eighth in the third practice and 16th in Saturday’s final practice. 

Chase Elliott currently leads the Nationwide Series points standings after nine events. Elliott, 18, participated in his high school graduation ceremony on Saturday morning, causing him to miss final practice. However, he ran a total of 144 laps in the first three practices, and paced two of those three sessions. Elliott’s time of 23.236 seconds during the third practice was the fastest lap recorded throughout the weekend, and might be poised to win his third event of the year.

Brian Scott is still looking for his first career win. With an opportunity weekend, Scott might be able to lock up the victory at Iowa. Scott was quickest in second practice, yet he has finished 6th or worse in seven Iowa starts without any laps led.

Dylan Kwasniewski swapped over to the No. 42 car for Turner Scott Motorsports as Kyle Larson is in Charlotte where he ran the Sprint Showdown on Friday evening. Kwasniewski will be in the car Larson usually pilots during each of the Nationwide Series standalone events. Moreover, Kwasniewski will be paired up with Larson’s crew chief, Scott Zipadelli, rather than his usual crew chief, Pat Tryson. The pair was able to pace final practice with a time of 23.320 seconds. Kwasniewski has just one top-10 finish to start his rookie year in NASCAR’s second-tier division, and a weekend without the Cup Series regulars could lead him to a solid finish.

Sam Hornish Jr. is looking to get his first win for JGR this weekend. Hornish made his debut for the No. 54 team at Talladega, scoring the pole award in his first Nationwide Series race since Homestead at the end of the 2013 season. Hornish has been consistently inside of the top-13 throughout the weekend, and had the fastest 10 consecutive laps average in final practice at 130.371 mph.

Here are some notables for the Get to Know Newton 250 at Iowa:  

-          Chad Boat returns in his family-owned No. 84 car. Boat was outside of the top-15 in each of the first three practices, but was fifth in final practice.

-          AustinTheriault is making his Nationwide Series debut this weekend driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. He was 18th or worse in each of the first three practices, but ended the final session in the third position.

-          Ryan Ellis is driving the No. 46 car for The Motorsports Group after running the Camping World Truck Series event for FDNY Racing on Friday evening.

-          Matt DiBenedetto, who usually drives the No. 46 car, has moved over to the No. 40 Chevrolet since Josh Wise is in Charlotte after making the Sprint All-Star Race due to winning the fan vote.

-          Hal Martin is making his season debut for TriStar Motorsports in the No. 44 car. Martin ran the first 10 races for the team last year, but sat out all but two races after that.

-          Caleb Roark is making his Nationwide Series debut for SS Green Light Racing in the No. 55 Chevrolet in conjunction with Viva Motorsports. Roark has five previous starts in the Camping World Truck Series with a best finish of 19th at Martinsville in 2011.

-          Ryan Gifford is making his first of two scheduled starts for Biagi-DenBeste Racing. He has been inside of the top-20 in each of the four practice sessions as he prepares to start his second Nationwide Series event.

-          Cale Conley returns to the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet for his fourth start of the season. Conley has two top-15 finishes this year, and has had a respectable weekend – running inside of the top-20 in each practice session.

The Get to Know Newton 250 can be seen on ESPN on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET. 

JOILET, ILLINOIS :: Kyle Busch took the checkers Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series after leading 195 laps of 200. Busch became the first driver to ever win from the pole at Chicagoland in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Joey Logano in Penske's No. 22 was able to finish runner up 1.616 seconds behind leader Kyle Busch.

This win marked Kyle's 10th win of 2013 and his 61st career NASCAR Nationwide Series win in his 264th career start. This is Kyle's 17th top ten of 2013 in the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs. Kyle won yesterday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and today's race allowing him to have a chance at sweeping Chicagoland. To complete the sweep he'd have to win the first race of the chase in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tomorrow. This was Kyle's third win at Chicagoland in 10 career races.

Joey Logano notched his 5th top ten in just six starts at Chicagoland. Logano also added his top ten amount to 9 on the season. Logano's Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr. was able to knock off another top five with a 3rd place finish. This was Hornish's 5th top ten in five races at Chicagoland. Hornish now holds a 17 point advantage in the standings over Austin Dillion who finished 4th. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. clocked in a 5th place finish in his No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. Earnhardt was working with his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Steve Letarte as they prepare for tomorrow's first chase race. Brian Vickers who drives the No. 55 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finished a solid 6th place for his Joe Gibbs Dollar General team.

Matt Kenseth who is the No. 1 seed heading into tomorrow's race finished 7th after a very quiet day. Parker Kligerman driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports ended up 8th after starting in the 5th position. Kligerman has had a very consistent season in that No. 77 Toyota. Kevin Harvick for Richard Childress finished 9th after a almost similar day to Matt Kenseth. Rounding out the top ten was Nelson Piquet Jr. in his Hooters No. 32 for Turner Scott Motorsports.

Regan Smith had a rough day finishing 13th after overcoming a sticky situation where he was one lap down, Justin Allgaier bounced off the wall and his Regan Smith sending his around down the backstretch. Luckily Smith had next to no damage and rebounded with less then 20 to go to finish his No. 7 inside the top fifteen. Elliott Sadler had a tough day as well after running in 11th he was trying to make a pit stop when the No. 24 of Brett Butler ran in the back of him as Sadler slowed to hit the pit road speed. Butler was 10 laps down at the time of the crash with Sadler. Elliott pushed to the end of the race with a lot of damage and finished 19th in his No. 11 Toyota. Sadler and Smith are now 20+ points behind points leader Sam Hornish.

With just 7 races left before we crown a champion in Homstead it looks as though it's a 2-man race between Hornish and Dillion. Next weekend the NASCAR Nationwide Seires heads back to Sparta, Kentucky for some more short track action.

For the past several years he has been in the NASCAR Nationwide series but no wins or championships to show for it, but that could all change this year. Michael Annett, driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, spoke with me briefly during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway to explain why 2013 is his year. Coming over struggles and riding an up and down rollercoaster is something that has become fashion to Annett, but he wants to make this coaster to keep on going upwards.

The 2012 season was the best on record for Annett who finished fifth in points, and whose highest finishing position was fifth as well. “Could look back last year and say yes for sure, but then there could be other years that we don’t,” Annett said when asked about the Nationwide series having a Chase format similar to the Cup series. This debate has been going on for a couple of years of whether the other two big National series, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks, should have a chase format. It looks like with NASCAR’s rule of choosing one series to run for the championship, it has helped solved the points battles in all of the series. “We were just missing that little bit” Annett says looking back on the 2012 season, “need to come off more competitive and put that into the other guys’ head.”

Looking towards this season, Annett could not come off more excited to get the season started and underway as he goes for wins and the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship. “It is going to be tough,” Annett mentioned about the competition this season, especially with Trevor Bayne in a full time ride with Roush Fenway, not to mention that team has won back to back titles in the Nationwide series. Annett is most looking forward to racing at Daytona because of the prestigious that goes into that event as well as getting to Phoenix to prove early that he is a contender this season. “Championship is our goal, as long as we are here we are battling, but we do need to win first” Annett continued on speaking about his shot at battling with drivers such as Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr, and Bayne.

The Richard Petty driver also spoke on how it is to drive for NASCAR’s King, Richard Petty, “It’s amazing, fun work off the track with charities, get to interact with lots of people. He has taught me how to treat people and that the fans are why we are here. I am just fortunate.” Annett moved to RPR at the beginning of the 2012 season after Rusty Wallace Racing closed down their Nationwide division at the end of 2011. Some of the charity events that Annett gets to be involved with include golf tournaments and go kart races. Being the King, Richard Petty has his own karting event called the King’s Cup which is about three hours in length and helps raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp; a camp founded in memory of Richard’s grandson Adam Petty. The King’s Cup is a race that is held at Victory Lane Karting (VLK) and Annett spoke highly of the facility saying, “Victory Lane Karting is where you can say you raced,” meaning if you want a feel as to how it feels to race in the Nationwide series check out VLK.

Is 2013 going to be Annett’s season? Is he going to finally win a Nationwide series race? Will he contend and possibly take the title from Roush, after winning it two years in a row? Only time will tell, but you can count on Annett to be at the front each time he takes to the track as he is determined more than ever to prove he belongs in the highest ranks of motorsports.

For photos from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway please click here.

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