Hornish now atop NNS standings after Chicago runner-up

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Sam Hornish Jr. finally made his move to the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship today at Chicagoland Speedway thanks to an undeniably stout race car that helped him overcome an early problem on pit road.

Hornish, who finished second in the race to Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano, led the first 49 laps of the race but was penalized for speeding in the pits and was sent to 20th place for the Lap 54 restart. After the race, he said a miscommunication between himself and his No. 12 Penske team caused the penalty.

“I knew exactly when I went across the line I was going to be speeding and there were no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Hornish said according to the Associated Press. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I think we’re good.’ I’m like, ‘We’re not good. We’re going to go to the back.’

“We had 150 laps to get it done, we knew we had a good race car. The biggest thing was just maintaining the composure getting back up in the field.”

Hornish quickly made up the ground in the second stint, charging 15 spots to fifth before he made his next stop just after the halfway point of the race. He stayed within the lead pack for the remainder of the day but with 15 laps to go – one lap after the final restart of the day – he was unable to keep Logano from the lead.

“By the time that his car started falling off, it was too late for me to do enough,” Hornish said. “Ran him down, only finished a couple car lengths behind him – but really good day for the Penske organization.”

Indeed, it was. Hornish now holds a seven-point advantage over Regan Smith, who finished 13th after a Lap 129 incident that saw him lose control coming off of Turn 4 and slide into the infield grass.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”