Reinhold Matay / AP Enlarge
BROOKLYN, Mich. - Sam Hornish, Jr., led for 16 laps in last weekend's Sprint Cup race at Pocono, and finished a season-best 11th in the event. That's good.
He comes to Michigan International Speedway this weekend, well aware that he won the pole and finished second in his first stock car race at MIS - an ARCA Racing Series affair in 2007. That's good too.
In the Cup race at MIS last August, Hornish was fifth, which marks the second-best finish in his brief NASCAR career. That's also good.
Factor in his five top-10 finishes at MIS in the IndyCar Series, and the indicators would seem to point toward a successful run around the two-mile oval for the Defiance native. But the ever stoic and cautious off-track Hornish says all those positives won't necessarily add up to more good news in tomorrow's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400.
"I don't really believe in momentum," Hornish said yesterday before qualifying 18th for tomorrow's race.
"It is hard to say that just because you were good last week, it carries over, or because you ran well here, you always will. Last year, in the June race here we were terrible, and we couldn't get the car right all week. Then in August we ran pretty decent and finished fifth. There's no rhythm to that."
But Hornish, the three-time champion in the IndyCar Series who is midway through his third year in Cup, acknowledged that he comes back to MIS with at least guarded optimism.
"Anytime you go to a place where you have had success, you feel like there is a great opportunity for you to come back and have that happen again," he said. "It puts you in a better mood, and hopefully, as the weekend progresses, things stay that way."
So the driver of the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge for Penske Racing is at a minimum hopeful, since he has been close a number of times at MIS.
"Michigan has always been pretty good to me. We haven't been able to win here yet, but in the last year of IndyCar we came real close to winning, and then we did the same thing in the only ARCA race I ever ran. So, I feel like there are opportunities for us, for sure, but still knowing that, anything can happen."
Hornish, who last year won a Sprint Showdown qualifying event that put him in the field for the All-Star Race at what was then known as Lowe's Motor Speedway in North Carolina, said running at the front of the field for a portion of last week's race had plenty of positive ramifications.
"It's a good feeling to be able to go out there and lead some laps, and it's also important because it gets the Mobil 1 car on TV, and gets myself some more recognition," he said. "That's all good, but those are things we need to continue to do."
Hornish, who is 27th in the Sprint Cup points standings, said he is anxious to race again at MIS, but not just because his team is coming off a solid showing the previous weekend.
"I want to get back to the track in a hurry no matter what happens each week," he said. "That's the good thing about NASCAR racing - it's that you run so many times. If you have a good run, you only have to wait a couple of days to get back to the track, and if you have a bad run, you only have to wait a couple of days to get back to the track to make up for it."
Hornish, who has taken part in 86 Cup races and won more than $10 million in the series, said that sometimes he still feels like a novice when it comes to figuring out all the subtle nuances of stock cars.
"Some days you feel better about it, and some days you don't," he said.
"It's always a learning process. Sometimes you don't feel like you're going in the right direction, and sometimes you do. But how much have I learned - a lot - but you always feel like it's not enough."
KURT BUSCH ON POLE: Penske Racing's Kurt Busch, who has won twice in Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway, was the fastest in yesterday's qualifying for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400. Busch's average speed of 189.984 MPH on the two-mile oval bested the first qualifier of the day Jamie McMurray (189.788 mph), who will start second, and third-place qualifier Jimmie Johnson (189.668 mph).
Busch, who drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske, won at MIS in 2003 and 2007. He enters tomorrow's race fifth in the Sprint Cup points standings.
A timely caution period allowed ARCA driver Mikey Kile to grab some much-needed fuel and protect his lead, earning the Louisiana native his first win in the series.
Kile pulled away from the field over the final laps of yesterday's Racing for Wildlife 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
Kile took the lead on lap 75 when pole-sitter Craig Goess went to the pits for fuel.
Goess led throughout the first three-quarters of the race and had built a lead of more than four seconds.
He was positioned to reassume control of the race because Kile would also be forced to pit during a green flag run, but a caution prompted by Chase Mattioli's spin on lap 77 allowed Kile to slip in for fuel under the yellow flag.
The ARCA Racing Series Presented by RE/MAX and Menards race restarted on lap 83, with Kile pulling away and eventually winning by a margin of 4.637 seconds. Joey Coulter surged late to finish second, while ARCA points leader Patrick Sheltra was third, Justin Marks fourth, Frank Kimmel fifth, and Goess dropped to sixth.
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