HORNISH, JR. WINS FIRST CAREER NASCAR EVENT
Sam Hornish, Jr., already a two-time winner at Phoenix International Raceway in the Indy Racing League, became the first-ever driver to win at PIR in both an Indy Car race and a major NASCAR event. He finished first in the NASCAR Nationwide Series WYPALL* 200 at the newly repave and reconfigured 1-mile oval.
Hornish left pit road in second place in his Alliance Truck Parts Dodge after a two-tire, yellow-flag stop on lap 133. On the following restart, he surged past leader Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., from the outside lane. He survived three more restarts to best second-place finisher and teammate Brad Keselowski to deliver the 10th career win at PIR to car owner Roger Penske. Penske has owned eight Indy car winners at Phoenix, including the last by Hornish in March 2005. Rusty Wallace contributed the other NASCAR win in the Sprint Cup Series in 1998.
Hornish was excited about PIR’s new banking and backstretch dogleg. From victory lane, he roared, “I love the new track I think it’s the greatest thing ever!” Later he said, "The way you could pass people in the dog leg and drive way down on the flat and do things like that was wild. I knew we had a good car and I knew we would run strong."
Stenhouse went on to finish fifth today and all but lock up the 2011 Nationwide Series title. He leads Elliott Sadler by 41 points with one race remaining. Stenhouse led 73 laps today, more than any other driver, in his Ford Drive One Ford but couldn't hold off Hornish in turn 1 when the most critical move of the race took place on a lap 140 green flag.
The championship hopes of Sadler all but died and those of pole sitter Aric Almirola officially ended in a three-car wreck on lap 177. Sadler, on the inside of the track coming off turn 2, drove quite low and came up in front of Almirola and Jason Leffler as the three battled for spots in the top 10. Leffler tapped Sadler, slid into Almirola, and all three hit the turn 3 wall. Veteran Morgan Shepherd also was collected in the crash that brought out a red flag for 11 minutes and 27 seconds.
Sadler, who finished 27th, blamed Leffler, saying, "The number 38 (Leffler) just run right into the back of us. Not much respect for guys running for the championship." Leffler took full responsibility, noting, "It’s tough back there because when a guy slides across there he clears you but it kills off (his) momentum. He’s (Sadler) a good driver, smart driver. So obviously he lifted early to keep from blowing the corner."
Almirola, who harbored a slim chance to stay in NASCAR Nationwide Series contention, started as if he wanted to run away with today's race. He led the first 66 laps until overtaken by series points leader Stenhouse.
Joey Logano, driving the No. 18 Game Stop Call of Duty MW3 Toyota, had his sights set on Carl Edwards in the World Financial Group Ford. While Kyle Busch mostly has piloted his car this year to within two owner points of Edwards' Fenway-Roush Racing machine, it was left to Logano to try to catch Edwards today. He couldn't quite make it, finishing in fourth place, one spot behind Edwards. However, the owner points remain an open question as the Teams head to Homestead-Miami for next week's 2011 finale.
Several drivers from today's race – Edwards, Logano, Clint Bowyer, and Joe Nemechek – will stick around for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at PIR, which will go a long way in determining the season's champion. Edwards leads Tony Stewart by three points.
Although grandstand seats for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are sold out, fans can still catch the action live from PIR’s hillside area. Hillside area tickets are $40 on race day and children 12 and under are admitted free. Hillside tickets do not allow access into the main PIR gates including the Fan Midway. For tickets and information, log on to www.PhoenixRaceway.com or call 866-408-RACE (7223).
Related PIR News
Denny Hamlin took advantage of some of that free time to hit the links in the Waste Management Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am on Wednesday. Hamlin, the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, was grouped with fellow FedEx spokesman and Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate Jerome Bettis and defending PGA TOUR FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel.
Phoenix International Raceway and NASCAR have announced that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500, scheduled for Sunday, March 15, will kick off at 12:30 p.m. MST, while the NASCAR XFINITY Series race is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST on Saturday, March 14. Both races will broadcast live on FOX. The Toyota 120 NASCAR Mexico Series Race on Friday, March 13, is set for 7 p.m. MST on NBC Universo.
In an effort to enrich communication with fans, Phoenix International Raceway launched a new design for its website, PhoenixRaceway.com, to kick off the 2015 season. Featuring a data-driven, more engaging user experience, the new site includes a crisp, vibrant design as well as streamlined navigation and enhanced fan content.
Kevin Harvick drove his No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet car to Gatorade Victory Lane in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, but the race itself was a winner for Phoenix International Raceway. The track sold out of grandstand seats a week before the race and sold out of reserved camping spots more than two months early.
Kevin Harvick dominated Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, leading 264 of the 312 laps in his No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet on the way to Gatorade Victory Lane to conclude Phoenix International Raceway’s 50th anniversary season. The win clinched a place for Harvick in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Round next Sunday in Miami.