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Sam Hornish Jr. wins Nationwide race at Phoenix

Former Indy 500 winner picks up his first NASCAR victory in a crash-filled event.

November 12, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Sam Hornish Jr. celebrates after winning at Phoenix International Raceway.
Sam Hornish Jr. celebrates after winning at Phoenix International Raceway. (Jennifer Hilderbrand /…)

Reporting from Avondale, Ariz.

Former IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. finally captured his first NASCAR stock car race Saturday by winning the Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hornish switched to NASCAR after winning the IndyCar title three times and the Indianapolis 500 in 2006. He has mostly struggled since then, first in NASCAR's top-tier Sprint Cup Series and then in its second-level Nationwide Series.

But the Ohioan qualified his Penske Racing Dodge fifth in the Wypall 200 on Saturday, took the lead with about 60 laps remaining and stayed in front on several restarts following crashes behind him.

"I can't hardly believe it," Hornish said as he briefly choked up with emotion. "I'm so happy about it. I'm glad I stuck it out" in stock cars.

His teammate Brad Keselowski, the reigning Nationwide champion, finished second. Carl Edwards finished third, Joey Logano fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fifth.

"Huge, huge day for Sam," Keselowski said. "Sam has paid a lot of dues in this sport, and it's good to see him have some success. It might be in the Nationwide Series, but you've got to start somewhere."

Stenhouse holds a 41-point lead in the Nationwide championship standings over Elliott Sadler, who finished 27th after being collected in wreck that also included Jason Leffler and Aric Almirola.

Leffler started the wreck when he tapped Sadler from behind, and "I take full responsibility," Leffler told a television audience. "It wasn't on purpose, it was a mistake on my part."

The race featured several multi-car crashes on the newly paved track, including an eight-car pileup on the opening lap that included the Chevrolet driven by Danica Patrick.

Patrick, who had started 25th in the 43-car field,

managed to get the car to the pits for repairs. She finished 21st, four laps behind the leaders.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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