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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.




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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]
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for thirteenth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick will be joined by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Truex, Jr. will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Sunday will be Gordon`s last race as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, advances to the Championship 4 with his fourteenth place finish Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Truex, Jr. is joined with Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS, advances to the Championship 4 with his sixth place finish Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway (renamed Jeff Gordon Raceway for the day to honor the four-time champion) in Avondale, Arizona. Gordon is joined with Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS  and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS advances to the Champion 4 with his second place finish. Harvick is joined with Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, and Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, serves a pass-through penalty for a restart violation during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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