Sam Hornish Jr. Finally Produces First NASCAR Victory - a Fan’s Reaction

It's been a long and at times halting trip for the multi-IndyCar champ but Sam Hornish Jr. finally attained a long sought-after victory with a strong win in the Nationwide race at Phoenix International Raceway this past Sunday (Nov 13).

Sam Hornish Jr.
Wikipedia.com

The production of Hornish during his career in stock cars has been less than stellar. But the win at Phoenix may have confirmed what Roger Penske saw in the 2006 Indy 500 winner.

Hornish started fifth in his Dodge, staying in the Top 10 all day and led most of the laps near the latter stages of the race, holding off his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski who finished second. Carl Edwards was competitive all day and ended up third with his Roush-Fenway Ford.

The Nationwide championship was a tight battle between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler - with the key word "was". Stenhouse, who entered the race with a 17 point lead, worked his way up through the Top 10 eventually grabbing first and leading the most laps, finishing fifth. Sadler struggled at times so his team used a late change-of-tires strategy that looked like it might help him get to the Top 10 but during a pass, he was booted by Jason Leffler, ending Sadler's day and his quest for the Nationwide championship.

Tough road

Hornish had an unremarkable stint in NASCAR Sprint Cup for Penske finishing for no better than 28th in points over three plus seasons. His best finish in Cup was a fourth in 2009 at Pocono although he did win the Sprint Showdown (non-points race) as part of the All-Star weekend at Charlotte.

His time in the Nationwide series has been brief insomuch as he's never had a full-time ride in the series. In fact, in a five year period between '06 and '10, he was in only 20 Nationwide events. This year he's had a little more seat-time with Phoenix being his 12th race in 2011.

I've seen Hornish go around the one-mile track in the desert with an IndyCar and it was the wildest thing I ever saw there. Ironically, Phoenix is where Hornish won his first IndyCar race over ten years ago. Where does this leave Hornish for the future? It seems uncertain although there's talk he may get another shot at Cup next year.

In the meantime, Hornish is happy, as you could see tears and he seemed to be choked up in the winner's circle. Hornish said afterwards (source - ESPN): "I won so much over at Indy that I didn't know how much to appreciate it at the time."

It's always great to see a new winner and although he's seen many winner circles before, maybe this is the beginning of a new beginning for Hornish in NASCAR. We'll be watching.

Sources - CBS Sports, NASCAR, Yahoo! Sports

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Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.

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Updated Monday, Nov 14, 2011