It’s been a long road for Sam Hornish Jr. since he came over to NASCAR from open-wheel racecars. Now, Hornish Jr. is starting to show his full potential with Penske Racing as he continues to rebuild his career.
Hornish Jr. will lead the NASCAR Nationwide Series field to the green flag at the Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon. He was able to just edge out reigning winner of the STP 300, Elliott Sadler, for the pole. Hornish Jr. won the pole with a lap time of 30. 279 seconds at 178. 341 mph. It’s the first time Hornish Jr. has been on the pole in any NASCAR sanctioned race at an oval track. His lone pole before this came at Watkins Glen last year in his first full Nationwide Series season.
Sadler will start on the outside pole after just getting out-beat by Hornish Jr. It’s an important weekend for Sadler as he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team are attempting to stop the bleeding. The team hasn’t won a race at all this year and got wrecked last weekend while racing for a top-five finish by championship points-leader Regan Smith. As known by the entire NASCAR fan base, the two exchanged words after the race, which has motivated Sadler to do even better than he has all year. Remember, Sadler didn’t even run any qualifying runs in practice, as all he worked on was race runs. Expect Sadler to run upfront throughout the STP 300.
Austin Dillon, who’s astonishingly won six poles this year, will start third for the STP 300. It’s arguably one of Dillon’s best opportunities to prove that he deserves a ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and has to start winning races if he wants to race at the top level. His teammate for the weekend, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points-leader Matt Crafton, will start on the outside of Dillon in the fourth position. Travis Pastrana rounds out the top-five as he finally has some decals on his car with Valvoline stepping up to sponsor the No. 60 Ford Mustang.
The Nationwide Series’ Dash for Cash continues this weekend for the third consecutive race. Sadler won the first Dash for Cash at Daytona. Dillon won it last weekend at New Hampshire. This weekend, Dillon, Brian Vickers, Brian Scott and Michael Annett are each up for the $100,000 bonus. Vickers was the highest qualifying driver within those four as he will start sixth. He also has momentum on his side coming off of a second-place finish along with his incredibly stunning win at New Hampshire in the Sprint Cup Series driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Parker Kligerman will be going to the rear of the field to start the race. Kligerman qualified 10th, but changed an engine during practice for the STP 300. Joey Coulter, replacing Kyle Busch for the weekend, will take the No. 54 Toyota to the green flag in the 15th position and definitely has some giant shoes to fill. Dakoda Armstrong is also in the field this weekend, driving a fourth Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, and will start 17th. The lone driver to miss the race was Tim Schendel, who was going to start-and-park anyway.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.