Without a NASCAR start since Nov. 2015, Sam Hornish, Jr. received a call to take the seat of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for Sunday’s XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway, filling in for an injured Matt Tifft.
On Sunday, Hornish gave the calls, leading 183 of 250 laps en route to winning the American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa. The win is his second at Iowa and fourth of his XFINITY Series career.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Hornish said. “I have to thank Joe Gibbs Racing for getting me out here and giving me this opportunity.”
Racing and winning on Father’s Day Sunday, Hornish was grateful to have his children there in Victory Lane for the first time.
“I have my wife kids here,” he said. “This is the first time the kids have gotten to be here for one of dad’s wins. I can’t tell you what this means to me. I worked so hard to try and get a win when my kids were here.
“I was so nervous on Friday getting into the car thinking I was going to make a mistake. To go out there and win the way we did, I can’t say anything more about it.”
Finishing second was Ty Dillon, who tied his season-best finish in the runner-up spot.
“The [No.] 18 was just so dominant on the bottom,” Dillon said. “I felt like we were the best car up top.”
Despite winning the pole, Erik Jones was deep in traffic throughout the day, as the No. 20 car was sent to the rear of the field due to unapproved body adjustments. Suffering fuel pickup issues, Jones took it to the garage before finishing 27th, seven laps down.
On the good side of starting in the rear was Brad Keselowski, who, like Jones, started in the back due to body modifications. Driving his No. 22 Ford to as high as second, the three-time Iowa winner settled for the third spot.
“I left it all out there,” Keselowski said. “I think the [Nos.] 18 and 20 had a lot of speed and they were the two best cars. I kept losing the battle off pit road and that wasn’t helping. Who knows what could have happened if I could’ve gotten by the [No.] 3.”
Rounding out the top 5 is last week’s winner Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman, who secured his second top-5 finish of 2016 with a fifth-place effort. Suarez was Hornish’s main competitor on Sunday, leading 62 laps on the day.
Blake Koch, Ross Chastain and B.J. McLeod came home with top-20 finishes, while Paige Decker finished 31st in her series debut for Obaika Racing.