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Hornish takes Phoenix, Stenhouse Jr. widens points lead

Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - Former IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. won a NASCAR national touring series race for the first time by prevailing in Saturday's crash-filled Wypall 200 Nationwide Series event at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hornish, who is running a partial Nationwide schedule for Penske Racing this season, took the lead from points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after a restart with 61 laps remaining. Stenhouse gave up the top spot when he spun his tires on the restart.

Hornish then held off his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in three more late- race restarts before beating Keselowski to the finish line by 0.55 seconds for his first win in his 32nd start in NASCAR's second-tier series.

"We had a good car all day," Hornish said. "We were just trying to take our time. [Crew chief] Chad Walter made a great call going for two tires towards the end. It felt great to race Brad and Carl [Edwards] at the end."

Stenhouse wound up finishing fifth but significantly increased his championship lead to 41 points over Elliott Sadler with only one race to go -- next Saturday at Homestead, FL. Sadler was involved in a five-car accident with 24 laps left and ended up finishing 27th. He entered the penultimate race 17 points out of the lead.

"I feel good about that part," said Stenhouse, who collected two bonus points for leading a race-high 73 laps. "I'm looking forward to Homestead. It's going to be a relief off of my shoulders this week. I'm just disappointed I didn't capitalize on a great race car. It was really good after I got going. I was pretty cautious on the restarts, and I didn't want to get in trouble there. We did what we had to do, and we'll go to Homestead."

After Sadler dove underneath Leffler and passed him for position, Leffler bumped into the back of Sadler and spun him into the outside wall. Aric Almirola, the pole sitter, Morgan Shepherd and Jeremy Clements were also involved in the incident. NASCAR briefly halted the race for track cleanup.

"It's not much respect for guys running for the championship," Sadler said. "There was nothing I could do. He just hit me square in the rear, and I just lost it. I don't understand. He's not running for anything...It's very frustrating not being able to go to Homestead and having a chance to win the championship."

Almirola, who led the first 66 laps, finished 25th.

"It looked like Leffler just ran into the back of 2 [Sadler], and I'm not quite sure why he did that, Almirola said. "He just flat out crashed the 2, and I didn't have anywhere to go."

Leffler took blame for the incident.

"[Sadler] stopped sooner than I expected, but ultimately, it's my responsibility," said Leffler, who finished 26th. "He slid across the racetrack. I think he got in there early not to overshoot the corner. I was racing Aric. I take full responsibility."

All seven cautions in the 200-lap race were caused by accidents on the newly repaved and reconfigured one-mile track.

Edwards finished third, while Joey Logano took the fourth spot.

Trevor Bayne, who won his first Nationwide race last week at Texas, took the sixth spot, followed by Clint Bowyer, Ryan Truex, Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett.

Danica Patrick was involved in an eight-car accident that occurred on the opening lap. Patrick, a resident of Phoenix, fell four laps behind and finished 21st.

Hornish claimed three championships and 19 race wins during his IndyCar career. Among his IndyCar victories were the 2006 Indianapolis 500 and the 2001 season-opener at Phoenix.

"I guess I get to come to victory lane here every ten years, but it's the first time in a different kind of car. It brings back a lot of memories," he said.

Hornish is hoping to run a full-time Nationwide schedule in 2012. His Phoenix win might help his chances.

11/12 20:23:50 ET


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