Justin Marks got the best of his thirty-nine X-FINITY Series rivals on Saturday by mastering a soggy circuit and driving to victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Marks, widely known as a road racing specialist but making just his twenty-fifth career series start, led a race-high forty-three laps in his Number-42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – including the final ten, beating pole sitter Sam Hornish Junior to the checkered flag by more than three-and-a-half seconds. Ryan Blaney took third place with Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier completing the top five. It was a banner day for Chevrolet as the manufacturer grabbed four of the five top finishing positions. Marks started sixteenth in the forty-car field but charged forward at the drop of the green flag. He took his first lead just eleven laps into the race as rain soaked the two-point-two-mile natural road course. It did subside and the track began to dry at the mid-point of the race. But the skies opened up again in the second half, which opened the door for Marks to claim his first career win. Darrell Wallace Junior had the lead on the day’s final restart fourteen laps from the finish but went off the course in the wet conditions, surrendering the top spot to Dillon with Marks in hot pursuit. Dillon slid off the track himself a short time later, giving Marks the opening he needed to reclaim the lead and drive on to victory … Series leader Elliott Sadler started fourth and finished ninth, which was enough for him to stretch his advantage to twenty-five points over second-place Daniel Suarez, who labored to a twenty-third-place finish … Erik Jones was the highest-finishing rookie, coming home in sixth place.
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Forty drivers started Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, but it was just a two-horse race with rookie Erik Jones and Ty Dillon combining to lead all but thirteen of the laps run. When the dust settled, it was Jones parked in Victory Lane with his Number-20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He passed Dillon for his final lead of the night sixteen laps from the finish and stayed there the rest of the way, notching his third victory of the season and giving J-G-R a sweep of the two 2016 races run on the Newton oval. Sam Hornish Junior won the front half of the Midwestern twin bill last month. Jones’ margin of victory over Dillon was three-and-a-half seconds with Elliott Sadler, rookie Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong completing the top five. Jones started second, jumped past pole sitter Daniel Suarez at the drop of the green flag and led a race-high 154 laps. Suarez failed to lead a lap and retired with engine failure in the second half of the race, finishing thirtieth. As a result, he slipped to second in the regular-season standings and is now fourteen points behind Sadler.
NASCAR X-Finity Series will run its second “stand-alone” race of the season, Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. Sam Hornish Junior won the first one on June 19th – also at Iowa, driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. This weekend, he’s entered in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet … Ryan Blaney won last year’s race but is not entered this weekend. Brad Keselowski will drive the Number-22 Team Penske Ford.
John Hunter Nemechek and his Number-8 NEMCO Motorsports team have been penalized with the loss of ten driver and owner points after failing post-race inspection last Saturday night at Iowa Speedway.
Nemechek finished twelfth in the Speediatrics 200. Crew chief Farris Kennon Junior was fined six thousand dollars and placed on NASCAR probation through December 31st … In the X-FINITY Series, six crew chiefs – including Chris Gayle on Sam Hornish Junior’s winning entry at Iowa – were placed on probation through December 31st for body modifications that were done after pre-race inspection.
Sam Hornish Junior made his return to NASCAR competition a memorable one Sunday afternoon with a dominating drive at Iowa Speedway to claim his fourth career victory.
On Tuesday of last week, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Hornish would sub for Matt Tifft, who was being treated for a disc condition in his back. Five days later, Hornish had the Number-18 Toyota in Victory Lane after leading 183 of the 250 laps contested. Before Sunday, the last time Hornish competed in one of NASCAR’s national series was last fall’s Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On Sunday, he started third, had his first lead twenty-four laps into the race and led the final 111 trips around the Newton oval – beating runner-up Ty Dillon to the checkered flag by a second-and-a-half. Brad Keselowski, points leader Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman completed the top five.
Erik Jones qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field after unapproved body modifications to his Number-20 J-G-R Toyota. Jones never led a lap and placed twenty-seventh in the forty-car field, seven laps down to Hornish at the finish.
How dominant was Hornish? There were just sixteen cars running on the lead lap at the end of the day … Sunday’s race kicked off the second half of the 2016 regular season, which is the first year for the X-FINITY Series post-season Chase.
Just one day before celebrating his 29th birthday, Ryan Sieg finished twenty-first and holds onto the final provisional “playoff” spot – by nine points over Ross Chastain with twelve races left before the Chase opens.
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