Nov 6, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT
With three wins at Phoenix International Raceway in his racing career – two in his previous life as an IndyCar driver and one in his current role as a stock car racer – Sam Hornish Jr. (pictured, No. 12) is feeling glad that his battle versus Austin Dillon (pictured, No. 3) for the Nationwide Series championship is coming to PIR this weekend.
“It is always great to comeback to a place that has been good to you,” Hornish said in a statement. “Phoenix definitely has a lot of great memories for me. We’ve won a few races here and they have been the kind of races that have meant more than just a great day at the race track.
“We are engaged in a pretty tight battle for this championship and there really isn’t a place that I would rather race this weekend than at Phoenix.”
But any optimism on Hornish’s part may have to be at least a little tempered, too. He sits second in the NNS standings (down six points to Dillon) with two races to go, and in the last couple of seasons, the penultimate race of the year has had a detrimental impact on the guy that’s been P2 in the table.
In 2011, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (now driving Sprint Cup for Roush Fenway Racing) held a 17-point edge over Elliott Sadler going into Phoenix. Sadler wound up in a multi-car incident in the final stages of the race and finished 27th while Stenhouse logged a sixth-place result to boost his lead to 41 points; Stenhouse would win the title one week later at Homestead-Miami Speedway by a margin of 45 points over Sadler.
Then, in 2012, Stenhouse and Sadler were fighting again for the championship but were tied atop the standings as Phoenix loomed. But with two laps to go in the race, Sadler made contact with Cole Whitt and went rear-first into the wall before getting hit by Brendan Gaughan.
Stenhouse finished third and opened up a lead of 20 points on Sadler, who finished 22nd. At Homestead, Stenhouse would wrap up his second consecutive NNS title with a sixth-place finish.
With one win and three Top-10s in his NNS career at Phoenix, Hornish has had more success there than Dillon. But Dillon has been no slouch, either, with finishes of fourth, sixth and sixth in his last three Phoenix starts.
“It’s a handling race track where it’s very important to work on your car and make sure it’s right for the race,” Dillon said in his own statement. “Phoenix International Raceway is a place where getting off of each corner is very big. Entry is important. You need to be stable but you need to be the first one to the gas.”
Also important for both men will be starting up front. In 18 of the last 23 NNS races at Phoenix, the winner has come from the first two rows.
May 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT
AJ Foyt’s No. 48 Honda-powered Dallara will have history written all over it in this year’s Indianapolis 500.
May 5, 2015, 2:03 PM EDT
At a time when many people would be embracing retirement, legendary NHRA drag racer John Force just keeps motoring along.
May 4, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
Road America invests millions into some track upgrades for 2015.
May 4, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT
Nastia Liukin named grand marshal for this year’s Indianapolis 500.
May 4, 2015, 1:33 PM EDT
Videos from the debut of the new Ligier JS P2 Hondas for Tequila Patron ESM at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
May 4, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT
Mann gets back to work behind the wheel and has a very good first day of running at IMS.
May 4, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT
Early days yet, but seems as though Andretti Autosport is starting the month of May out on the right foot.
May 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT
The No. 90 Corvette DP pairing ends on top in Monterey.
May 3, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT
Day one of the month of May is in the books at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
May 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Could we see the Iranian Grand Prix join the F1 calendar in years to come?
May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Lotus technical director Nick Chester expresses his confidence in the upcoming upgrade package for the E23 Hybrid car.
May 3, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT
A run through of new driver firesuits and liveries thus far on the first day of practice for the Indianapolis 500.
May 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Ex-Force India driver di Resta picks up his first podium finish since returning to DTM in 2014.
May 3, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Indianapolis 500 practice is officially underway.
May 3, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Spanish rider wins on home soil as Valentino Rossi scores his 200th podium finish.
May 3, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT
Conor Daly’s “Fueled by Bacon” No. 43 Smithfield Foods Honda is revealed.
May 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
The no. 19 crew fights back at Spa to finish sixth overall after six hours of racing.
May 3, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Venezuelan driver returns to the site of his only grand prix victory next weekend.
May 2, 2015, 8:57 PM EDT
Last-lap pass by co-driver Andrew Carbonell allows Sgt. Liam Dwyer to celebrate win with Sgt. Aaron Denning, the man who saved his life.
May 2, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
Franzoni makes the leap into Pro Mazda.
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