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Nationwide: Hornish clinches first series win

Former IndyCar and Indy 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr. finally found his way to victory lane in a NASCAR race in the Nationwide Series Wypall 200 in Phoenix.
It seems a very long time ago that we saw Sam Hornish Jr. in unbeatable form in an IndyCar, on his way to two series championships and victory in the biggest motor race in the US, the Indianapolis 500. But at long last he was back in victory lane again on Saturday, and for the first time in a national-level NASCAR event.

"Every 10 years, I guess, I get to come to victory lane here for the first time in a different kind of car, so it's pretty special," he said. "I'm just so happy!"

It's taken Hornish 142 attempts to make it, but when it happened on Saturday on the one-mile oval Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. it evetually proved remarkably easy for Hornish, who led with ease for the entire last 60 laps of the 200-lap race. Most importantly, he kept himself clear of a number of accidents that beset the field on the newly repaved and reconfigured track that's been giving all the Cup and Nationwide Series drivers headaches trying to get on top of it throughout the weekend.

The wrecks started very early: eight cars were involved in an accident in turns 3 and 4 of the very first lap, with Danica Patrick spinning and Brian Scott, Ron Hornaday, Johnny Chapman, Reed Sorenson, Tim Andrews, Jeff Green and Matt Frahm all getting involved. Half of them were unable to continue, and the race also lost another four cars before lap 15 with a variety of issues including a problem with brakes for Scott Speed on lap 6.

Reed Sorenson was the next to exit the race on lap 34, when a tyre going down sent him into a hard smack against the wall at turn 2. That resulted in a major blaze under the hood of the car on the right front, and Sorenson made a swift exit from the #82.

Up to this point, polesitter Aric Almirola had been comfortably in the lead, but during the next green flag stint he was challenged by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who finally took over at the front on lap 67. He'd opened a comfortable lead over Almirola and third-placed Carl Edwards by the time the third caution came out on lap 83 for DJ Kennington slamming the wall, after a problem with his own front right tyre.

Stenhouse kept the lead at the restart and was still in front on lap 129 when a violent wreck involving Derrike Cope and Mike Bliss brought out the fourth yellow. Stenhouse won the battle off pit road ahead of Hornish, with Keselowski and Joey Logano now up in third and fourth positions while Elliott Sadler had made up eight positions into fifth with a two-tyre gamble in his bid to stay in touch with Stenhouse in the Nationwide title race.

Hornish was simply too good at the restart and powered around Stenhouse on the outside - an interesting indicator, given the Cup drivers' concerns about the reported lack of a second groove at the newly repaved raceway this weekend. Hornish would stay in the lead from then until the end of the race and the chequered flag, but it wasn't an end to the cautions.

First there was a fifth caution on lap 143, when contact from Steve Wallace's Toyota sent James Buescher's Chevrolet spinning into the frontstretch wall. Then on lap 161, Morgan Shepherd spun between turns 3 and 4 and collected Robert Richardson Jr.




Related Pictures

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Morgan Shepherd races away as Danica Patrick spins in front of Brian Scott and Ricky Carmichael during the first caution in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Wypall 200 on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images]
Elliott Sadler is towed back to the garage after the final caution of the day ended his run in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Wypall 200 on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Sam Hornish Jr. leads Brad Keselowski to a Penske Racing 1-2 finish on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship after the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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