Sam Hornish Jr. desperately wants to earn his fourth in Saturday’s Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and become the speedway’s first driver to win in both INDYCAR and any of NASCAR’s three top-tier series.
In addition to carving out a piece of history at Texas Motor Speedway, a victory would be paramount in Hornish Jr.’s pursuit of the Nationwide Series championship. He is locked in a tight championship battle with Austin Dillon, who owns an eight-point advantage with three races remaining. Hornish Jr. could regain the series lead with a victory in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (2:30 p.m. CT), coupled with Dillon finishing outside the top 10.
“We are looking forward to the race at Texas Motor Speedway as it is a place that has been remarkably good to us in the past,” Hornish Jr. said. “We’ve won there a few times in INDYCAR, and we’ve had some strong runs there in NASCAR, too. The track is fast, and the racing is always exciting.”
In 13 career INDYCAR starts at Texas, Hornish Jr. owns three wins (2001, ’02, and ’07), seven top-five finishes and led 446 laps. Despite not competing in INDYCAR since 2007, he still ranks second all-time to Helio Castroneves in wins and laps led.
Since making the jump to NASCAR, Hornish Jr. still is searching for his first top-five finish at Texas as he prepares for his eighth career Nationwide Series start at the venue on Saturday.
“For us, Texas is the perfect place to have a great finish and make up a few points towards the Nationwide Series title,” Hornish Jr. said. “Our Wurth Ford Mustang has been fast on the mile-and-a-half tracks and we feel good about the upcoming Texas race.”
So is Dillon, last year’s Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year who also is brimming with confidence heading to Texas. In three NNS starts at “The Great American Speedway!”, he has qualified fourth or better and finished no worse than sixth. He also is coming off his best effort at Texas when he established personal bests for his qualifying (3rd) and finish (3rd) in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
“I love the track itself,” Dillon said. “It’s such a fast place, but I love the grip levels there. I’m running both the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race so I’ll be staying plenty busy this weekend. I’m looking forward to it.”
On Friday, Roush Fenway Racing driver Trevor Bayne recorded the fastest lap during the final NASCAR Nationwide Series practice for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Then Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position for the AAA Texas 500 during Friday’s Pinnacle Propane Qualifying Days at Texas Motor Speedway.
Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford), is qualifying 40th out of 43 cars, knocked reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) off the pole by .002 of a second with a lap of 196.114 miles per hour. The lap was just shy of the track record of 196.299 mph established by Kyle Busch during April’s NRA 500.
For Edwards, it is his second pole of the season – the other came at Michigan – and his first career pole at Texas Motor Speedway. His previous-best start at Texas was second on two occasions, both of which came in the spring race (2008, ’11).
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) and Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot “Let’s Do This” Toyota), currently deadlocked for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, will start a row apart as Johnson qualified third (195.943 mph) for the inside of Row 2 and Kenseth sixth (195.518 mph) for the outside of Row 3.
During this championship run, Dillon and Hornish Jr. are well aware that the margin for error is minimal and even with that building pressure both continue to show respect for each other.
“Austin, in my opinion, is a good kid and he’s working hard to try to live up to a lot of expectations,” said Hornish Jr., following the recent NNS race at Charlotte. “He’s remembering to have fun at it, where sometimes I’m taking it a bit more seriously. I appreciate the way we race each other and I think that’s going to be one of the more memorable parts about this, if we can race each other the way that we have so far. Win, lose or draw, I think we’ll both be happy with the way we’ve performed because we’re doing it the right way." Dillon agrees. “The fans at Texas Motor Speedway are in for some great racing. This NASCAR Nationwide Series battle has been really competitive and I can’t say enough about the way this race is turning out between me and Sam Hornish, Jr. Texas will be a great race because we both have had some success there. I think it’s going to be a wild race.”
Tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
Cleaning Up Again?
Kyle Busch will be chasing his third Nationwide Series season sweep at Texas Motor Speedway as he eyes Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Busch, who won both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series races at Texas Motor Speedway in April, earned his previous NNS sweeps in 2008 and ’09 and owns a track-record six Nationwide Series wins at Texas.
He has a finishing average of 6.46 – which ranks second all-time to Jeff Burton’s 6.07 – and has led a track-record 1,343 laps. What makes that laps led total more eye popping is that it is more than double the career total of the next closest driver and translates into Busch leading nearly 45 percent of the laps in his 15 career starts.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie-of-the-year contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a two-time Nationwide Series champion, returns to the series for the first time this year with a start in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
Stenhouse Jr., who won Nationwide Series titles in 2011 and ’12 before moving up to Cup this season, will drive Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 16 Zest Ford Mustang and will be looking for his second Nationwide Series win at Texas.
“I’m really excited to be able to get back in a Nationwide car at Texas Motor Speedway,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I watch the Nationwide races each week and want to be out there racing, so to get this opportunity at Texas is going to be awesome.”
This will be his seventh career Nationwide Series start at Texas Motor Speedway and he has been solid on the 1.5-mile oval. He has qualified seventh or better in every start and has finished eighth or better in his last four visits, including a victory in last spring’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
“The Nationwide series has meant so much to me and my career,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I can’t wait to get in the No. 16 Zest Ford Mustang and hopefully can get this Ford into Victory Lane and earn another cowboy hat.”
With Brian Vickers out for the remainder of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg, Joe Gibbs Racing summoned Denny Hamlin to drive the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
It will be Hamlin’s first Nationwide Series appearance of the year and will extend his streak of at least one start in every NNS season since 2004. Drew Herring will complete the season for JGR by driving in the upcoming races at Phoenix and Homestead, respectively.
Hamlin earned a fifth-place finish in last year’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and has seven top-10 finishes, including five among the top five, in 10 career Nationwide Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway.
Press Release by: Texas Motor Speedway
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