Tag Archives: Sam Hornish Jr.

The King talks progress, race team, and NASCAR’s future

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 03:  NASCAR Hall of Famer and team owner Richard Petty looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL – JULY 03: NASCAR Hall of Famer and team owner Richard Petty looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Although the sun set on Richard Petty’s racing career 23 years ago, he is still The King.

It is a nickname he carries with pride. His thoughts hold weight in not only NASCAR but the entire racing community as well—and for good reason. In an ever-changing sport, the seven-time champion provides a steady voice flanked with wisdom.

“[NASCAR] wants to keep growing and keep the fans interested,” Petty told Up Top The Pit Box regarding the sport’s future. “We want to have them come to the races and watch it on TV. There is so much going on in the world for people to do and to watch. The younger generation is growing up on the X Games and other extreme sports. We want to keep their attention and have them watch us, too.”

The Hall of Fame driver competed during a vastly different era of racing, acquiring 200 overall wins, 712 top-10 finishes, and 123 poles. It’s so different that comparisons to modern day action fall mute.

Petty said, “You just can’t compare [the two eras of racing]. Today, there is so much technology and stuff like that. The cars are so different. We were racing strictly stock cars, and now we have specifically prepared race cars.”

“Everything is just different, but so is the world, too. Things just progress.”

Progress is a crucial part of sports, and it’s something the champion focused on during his career. His thought process was simple—be better than the time before.

“[I wanted] to be better each lap. If the guy in front of me was going faster, I wanted to be faster than him the next lap. And that’s really how I judged myself, how to be better than yesterday.”

When asked if any missed opportunities haunted him, Petty answered, “I’ve won races and come home and couldn’t sleep because I was thinking of something that didn’t go right or as we hoped and planned. There were other races where I finished fifth or sixth and slept like a baby…I knew I got the best out of the car that day and did the best I possibly could.”

The legend wants to instill that mindset into his team, Richard Petty Motorsports. The two-car operation is working to make The Chase, NASCAR’s playoff system that consists of ten races. Driver Aric Almirola made the cut after winning last year’s July event at Daytona International Speedway. Almirola is currently 15th in the point standings, but the team’s owner thinks a win is in the cards.

“I think Aric can win this year. [The No. 43 team] is more consistent this year, and we’re right near The Chase. We just need to give him good cars because he’s proved to be capable of running up front.”

RPM’s other driver, Sam Hornish Jr., is 24th in the rankings, searching for the winning spark. “[The No. 9 team] is getting their chemistry. We’ve made a crew chief change, and we just need to keep going. Sam did a great job at Sonoma [Raceway], and he was good [in the Daytona 500 earlier this season].”

While Almirola and Hornish compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Petty fields driver Dakoda Armstrong in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. When asked about moving Armstrong up anytime soon, the owner assured, “Dakoda does a good job for us in the XFINITY Series. Right now, we’re concentrating on being a two-car Cup team.”

The former championship-winning driver and current team owner is a trademark in the world of racing, and the sport is in his blood.

“When NASCAR started, my daddy [driver Lee Petty] was at the first race. I was going to races after that and have been ever since.”

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m just too old to start something new now.”

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Elliott, Nationwide Series carry the fire at Chicagoland

With a beauty only true race fans can understand, the NASCAR Nationwide Series group impressed on Saturday night. The event at Chicagoland Speedway was loud and proud, standing alone and carrying the fire. It was time to shine without Sprint Cup Series regulars filling the field; only two entered the race, and they were no match for the strategic, aggressive game these youngsters played.

Drama occurred early on when Sam Hornish Jr. blew an engine on lap 7, sending the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry to the garage. The machine is usually run by Kyle Busch, who tends to win when behind that wheel. It was more than disappointing for the driver, who won’t get back in the seat for a few more weeks. This was considered notable because of the weirdness of it; the car falls apart when Hornish is racing, but it ends up in victory lane once Busch takes the reigns. This seems odd, but it’s probably Hornish’s bad luck.

The race as a whole was thrilling. There was action, cautions, and true racing. Young guns running side-by-side for glory and money. Even the two Cup regulars blended in; Kyle Larson and Kasey Kahne tangled and fought with others, no special privileges.

Chase Elliott won the event, capturing his third win, the seventh for JR Motorsports this season. It shoved him into the points lead, but the margin isn’t something to flaunt; Regan Smith is seven points back, and Elliott Sadler is behind by eight.

If there’s anything to learn from the race at Chicagoland Speedway, it’s that, much like winner Chase Elliott, the NASCAR Nationwide Series is carrying the fire for the sake of the sport. It’s a crucial part of the advancement process, and it must be cherished for all its worth. Stand-alone races like this one make its beauty easy to see.

Point Standings after the EnjoyIllinois.com 300

1. Chase Elliott (–)
2. Regan Smith (-7)
3. Elliott Sadler (-8)
4. Ty Dillon (-30)
5. Brian Scott (-47)
6. Trevor Bayne (-50)
7. Brendan Gaughan (-120)
8. Chris Buescher (-123)
9. James Buescher (-154)
10. Ryan Reed (-161)
11. Landon Cassill (-181)
12. Dylan Kwasniewski (-201)

When the Cat’s Away: Hornish and other NNS drivers thrive in stand-alone Iowa

(Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The saying goes, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Well, these mice threw a wicked awesome party Sunday afternoon.

In Newton, Iowa, the NASCAR Nationwide Series ran in a stand-alone event. Series regulars filled the field as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stepped back and allowed them to take the reigns. The results were impressive performances, battles that were tough-as-nails, and a victorious man in a Monsters Energy firesuit.

That man was Sam Hornish Jr., who took the No. 54 to the edge and prevailed. His domination was only rivaled by Ryan Blaney, who finished second after a spirited run. The young Team Penske driver sat on the pole for the event and wasn’t backing down. The two tangled often on restarts, and the initial start handed the lead to Hornish. Blaney chased him down and attempted to pass him multiple times before securing the lead ninety laps later.

It was going to be a thrilling day.

As they continued to battle, other fights took place throughout the field. Already a two-time winner this season, Chase Elliott searched for a win to cap off his weekend, which centered around his high school graduation. His efforts were thwarted by unorganized pit stops. He powered after each setback and ended up fourth. Michael McDowell ran in the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing and managed seventh place. Other names that filled the top ten were Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler, Brian Scott, Ty Dillon, Trevor Bayne, and Landon Cassill.

Seizing the day, the Nationwide regulars put on a show. This is a official notice to Cup drivers: take a vacation more often.

Point Standings after the Get To Know Newton 250

1. Chase Elliott (–)
2. Elliott Sadler (-2)
2. Regan Smith (-2)
4. Ty Dillon (-35)
5. Trevor Bayne (-36)
6. Brian Scott (-64)
7. Brendan Gaughan (-97)
8. James Buescher (-110)
9. Chris Buescher (-119)
10. Landon Cassill (-121)

Elliott, Hornish find homes for 2014 season

The NASCAR Nationwide Series is heating up in preparation for testing at Daytona International Speedway later this week, with two announcements highlighting Monday’s happenings.

JR Motorsports revealed that Chase Elliott will be running the No. 9 car full-time this coming season. The car will be sponsored by NAPA Auto Parts, a company that threatened to leave NASCAR following the scandal at Richmond International Raceway last fall. Greg Ives will be the crew chief on the No. 9.

“[Chase Elliott] has been extremely successful, and I think the Nationwide Series is only a short step for him,” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the owner of JR Motorsports. “. . . we have every opportunity to continue [Elliott’s] development as a driver while contending for a championship. He’s that good.”

Elliott turned 18 in November, making him eligible to run in the second-tier series.

The team has also acquired Elliott’s father, NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, to test later this week at Daytona. He will join his son and returning JRM driver Regan Smith later this week in Florida.

This news follows reports that Sam Hornish, Jr. has found a part-time home at Joe Gibbs Racing. The gig sets Hornish to share the No. 54 with Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, running seven races this coming season. Those races are as follows: the May race at Talladega Superspeedway, both Iowa Speedway dates, Road America, Chicagoland Speedway, Mid-Ohio, and Kentucky Speedway.

“It’s the best possible situation for me to jump into great equipment and have the opportunity to go right out and win . . . To partner with [Kyle Busch], and all the teams provides, with the support of Joe and J.D. [Gibbs], it provides me with everything I need to succeed.”

The former Penske Racing driver was a championship threat at the end of last season.

Both Elliott and Hornish will compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this year, bringing even more talent to the pool. The exciting news begs the question: Is there really an off-season?

NASCAR doing NASCAR things: fans left flabbergasted as Dillon wins championship

Flabbergasted. That is the only way to describe how individuals in and around NASCAR feel after the finale NASCAR Nationwide Series event Saturday night.

Homestead-Miami Speedway is one-and-a-half miles in length, but its width makes it anything but boring. Three- and four-wide? Bumping and grinding? It’s the perfect place for excitement. However, the quality of racing isn’t what left people speechless. Great battles were seen, but something overtook all of that.

With nineteen laps to go, a crash occurred, collecting Regan Smith, Jeremy Clements, and Mike Wallace. There was enough damage and debris to call for a red flag. NASCAR kept it under cautions. As a result, the drivers drove TWELVE laps under yellow before they went racing again. Before this happened, Sam Hornish Jr. was in the perfect position to strike and grab the title of champion. With Dillon’s car being sub-par yet holding on to the tiny gap in points, that was his moment.

NASCAR’s carelessness led to that moment being crushed. This isn’t the first time the sport has been blatantly manipulated by its inside sector. The red flag needed to be thrown, and they failed to do so. NASCAR doing NASCAR things.

This all caused the championship to fall into Dillon’s lap, though he put his lap in the perfect position to catch the opportunity. He went winless this season but maintained consistency when it mattered. The 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion has now earned two titles for the No. 3 in his career, and he shows no intention of slowing down.

The most dominant car in NNS this year was the No. 22, who was driven by Joey Logano to help lock up the owner’s championship. Roger Penske had to feel torn on that championship stage, looking at the larger trophy that wasn’t in his driver’s possession. Yet, as always, The Captain was all class.

An honor went to Kyle Larson, also: Rookie of The Year. His talent is indescribable, and he’s moving up into Sprint Cup next year. The future is bright.

Unfortunately, the end of the race was dim. The race -won by Brad Keselowski- summed up the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season: a few high notes were drowned out by the obnoxious clangor of preventable discord. Story of the NNS life.

Final Point Standings

1. Austin Dillon (–)
2. Sam Hornish Jr. (-3)
3. Regan Smith (-72)
4. Elliott Sadler (-90)
4. Justin Allgaier (-90)
6. Trevor Bayne (-94)
7. Brian Scott (-127)
8. Kyle Larson (-179)
9. Parker Kligerman (-187)
10. Brian Vickers (-210)

Kentucky crowns Blaney king with first win

After leading 96 laps and owning Saturday night, Ryan Blaney won the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Kentucky Speedway. The nineteen-year-old placed the No. 22 Penske Ford in Victory Lane, marking his first win in NNS.

“I’m kind of speechless right now . . .” the driver stated in his post-race interview, the win not settled in.

Blaney, who’s currently competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Brad Keselowski Racing, never fell out of the top six all night. He is now the fifth first-time winner in the second-tier series, helping the No. 22 car garner its tenth win of 2013.

His Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., finished fourth. The points lead belonged to him coming into Kentucky with a seventeen-point cushion. Austin Dillon, his closest rival for the championship, brought his car home second. He only gained two points on Hornish, creeping a bit closer.

Other notable stories are abundant, due to the lack of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars in the field: Jeb Burton locked a top ten in his first NNS race . . . Johanna Long, a drive who usually gets stuck in the mid-twenties, finished sixteenth . . . Trevor Bayne earned the fifteenth spot after his motorcoach caught fire on the way to the track . . . Travis Pastrana started in the top ten yet spun twice, proving that his bad luck still lingers . . . Kyle Larson encountered brake issues and finished outside the top thirty.

Points after Kentucky

1. Sam Hornish Jr. (–)
2. Austin Dillon (-15)
3. Regan Smith (-45)
4. Elliott Sadler (-54)
5. Brian Vickers (-60)
6. Justin Allgaier (-75)
7. Brian Scott (-79)
8. Trevor Bayne (-94)
9. Kyle Larson (-140)
10. Parker Kligerman (-179)

Third-place finish leaves Hornish sitting pretty in points

Sam Hornish Jr. is leaving Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a points lead -but it isn’t something to gloat about just yet.

After finishing third, the driver of the No. 12 out-finished his championship competitors, the next one Brian Vickers in fifth. Then, Elliott Sadler finished sixth, Regan Smith fifteenth, and Austin Dillon came home in a dismal 21st.

Dillon, who came into Mid-Ohio with the points lead, is now fifteen back. That places him third in the standings, tied with Regan Smith. To put things simply, he never found a flow. Discovering one may be difficult when you abandon your NASCAR Nationwide car in favor of turning laps at Michigan as Tony Stewart’s substitute. But, to each his own.

Sadler and Smith both had eventful days, reviving their New Hampshire dispute when the No. 11 helped the No. 7 get around. I think it’s safe to say these two aren’t going to be friends anytime soon.

The surprise in this group would have to be Vickers, who flaunted his car’s strength in Friday’s practices. However, he didn’t gain any ground, still eighteen points back from the slot he wants to covet at the end of the year. Wouldn’t that close his first (and final) season with a bang?

It’s looking like a five-wide finish coming to the checkered, but you can bet there will be some shuffling on the final lap.

Top Five Point Standings after Mid-Ohio

1. Sam Hornish Jr. (-)
2. Elliott Sadler (-13)
3. Regan Smith (-15)
3. Austin Dillon (-15)
5. Brian Vickers (-18)