NNS: Hornish overcomes early spin, finishes 2nd at Michigan

2 Comments

Sam Hornish Jr. found himself in an early hole during today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

On Lap 2, the former Indianapolis 500 winner spun out after trying to set up a passing attempt on Dale Earnhardt Jr., knocking him to the back of the field.

“It was way too early in the race,” Hornish recalled to ESPN. “I had a big run on the 88 [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] going down the straightaway and instead of dive-bombing him on Lap 1, I thought, ‘I’ll just go up there and try to get a run on him coming off of [Turn] 4.’

“As soon as my nose got in clear air, it pinned the nose and the car came around. I had to throttle it up to keep it from backing up the hill, and I got really lucky that no one hit me – and I started over.”

But there was still plenty of time to climb out of that hole, and Hornish did just that by surging all the way to second place behind Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 winner Paul Menard.

“We had a bunch of ups-and-downs today, and I felt like we had the car really good and that we were going to come to the front,” he said. “And then we had some short runs where the car just wouldn’t go…But the long runs is where were able to shine and be able to make up time.

“Maybe another 10-15 laps, and I would have maybe had something for Paul.”

Hornish quickly charged toward the front after his spin on Lap 2. Taking the subsequent restart in 35th, he pushed himself back into the Top 10 before the first round of pit stops.

In mid-race, Hornish slid to the 15th-20th range as a string of cautions broke out. But when it counted, he went forward again and was in the Top 5 for the final restart of the day with 37 laps to go.

Then with 15 laps left, Hornish followed Menard past Earnhardt to take third position. That appeared to be where he’d stay until leader Joey Logano suffered a flat tire with five laps to go, effectively giving Menard the win and Hornish the runner-up.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.