Sam Hornish Jr. took home the victory at the NASCAR Nationwide Get To Know Newton 250 at Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa on Sunday after leading for a race-high 167 laps.
The race for the checkered flag was not all that competitive, as Hornish seized his opportunity and blew away the field for the majority of the proceedings.
After the fact, Hornish spoke about what it meant to make the most of what have been somewhat limited opportunities this season, via NASCAR on ESPN:
Sam: "We had a great car all day long. ... It's just wonderful. ... I'm so blessed and thankful that this opportunity came along." #NASCAR— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) May 18, 2014
The only contender in the way of Hornish's third NASCAR Nationwide Series victory was Ryan Blaney, who started things off on Sunday from the pole position. Both exchanged the lead a few times, with the rest of the field doing little to keep up.
Have a look at the top 20 from this race, with full results available at ESPN.com:
|1||Sam Hornish Jr.||Toyota||250||2||166||48|
Rookie Chase Elliott entered the day as perhaps the biggest story of all, so his fourth-place finish was a bit of a disappointment to cap off what was a very impressive weekend overall.
Elliott had quite the task on Sunday to hold onto the top spot in the standings, one day after his high school graduation. The 18-year-old seemed up to task before the race, per Nate Ryan of USA Today:
I don't expect it to be too terribly bad. I've done two races in the same weekend in different places before. I assume it'll be kind of similar to that. ... This year was busier than most, but I've been racing Late Models since sixth grade so I've missed a lot of Thursdays and Fridays at school. It's kind of been a normal routine.
Here's how the standings shake out after the spectacle in Iowa:
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
Note: Full standings can be found on ESPN.com.
The rivalry between Hornish and Blaney heated up somewhat in the early goings of the race, as Blaney could be heard colorfully accusing his counterpart of blocking:
Ryan Blaney is not a fan of Sam Hornish's driving, accusing him of blocking. We'll see if this heats up as the race goes on. #NASCAR— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) May 18, 2014
With 108 laps and two sets of tires left, the third caution flag of the day went up thanks to Carlos Contreras, who was running 30th at the time.
This actually provided the most drama of any point in the race, as Contreras' pit crew just barely got his car out of the way as the rest of the field entered pit row:
Thankfully, all the cars pitting safely avoided Carlos Contreras' crew pushing the No. 23 to his pit stall. Could have been scary situation.— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) May 18, 2014
This was the turning point of the race from a strategy standpoint, as Hornish took the lead on the Lap 150 restart and never really looked back, save for Blaney being in control for a few laps.
Hornish took the lead back with 21 laps to go and finished things out in a rather uneventful manner. He completed Lap 8 the fastest of any competitor, which did much to distance himself from Blaney and Co. and to solidify his victory.
Hornish might be able to get back into the Sprint Cup Series sooner rather than later after making the most of his opportunities with Joe Gibbs Racing. His triumph Sunday marked his first win at Iowa and first of this season.
Elliott was unable to notch his third win, but he'll be an early favorite at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, along with the likes of Hornish and Blaney. He holds a two-point advantage in the standings and, barring another semi-collapse from his pit crew, will surely be in contention.