Nationwide Milestone: 1,000 Races

S.Hornish Jr.

Sam Hornish Jr. holds the points lead entering Friday's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 in Richmond, the 1,000th race in Nationwide Series history. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sam Hornish Jr. was two years old when NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt won the first race in Nationwide Series history in 1982.

Today … 31 years and 999 races later … Hornish takes a 10-point championship lead into Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway.  The 25th race of the 2013 season will be the 1,000th in series history dating back to Earnhardt’s Daytona win on Feb. 13, 1982.

Hornish has been a model of consistency this season with a series-leading 18 top-10 finishes including four of his last five starts.

"We’re in a decent place right now," said Hornish, who finished seventh in this year’s first stop at RIR back in April.  "This team has had its ups and downs, yet we’ve come back better than ever.  That says a lot about who we are as an organization and the commitment we have to finishing what we’ve started."

Indeed, Hornish’s consistency this season has been matched by the Penske Racing team’s resiliency.  He’s finished outside the top 10 only six times this season.  Hornish’s average finish in the six races following those results of 11th or worse has been fifth place.

"Richmond is a fun place to race," he said.  "It’s one of those tracks that are easy to like.  It challenges drivers, pit crews and crew chiefs."

Greg Erwin, crew chief of the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Ford, figures Hornish & Co. will be up to the challenge on Richmond’s .75-mile oval come Friday night.

"I feel great right now," Erwin said.  "In the first race there, we had a fast car but had difficulty in the pits.  Since then, we’ve improved our short-track program and our pit crew has been rock-steady.  Looking at the spring race and knowing where we are as a team, I could not be any more optimistic."

Brad Keselowski, Hornish’s Penske teammate, won the spring race at RIR and is looking to become the first driver to record a Nationwide Series season sweep on the Fairgrounds oval since Kevin Harvick in 2006.

"Richmond has definitely been a good track for us," Keselowski said.  "I enjoy the challenge of racing there.  You can charge the corners and be aggressive.  The goal is winning races and picking up the owners title for Roger (Penske).  That’s our mindset heading into the weekend."

Keselowski’s No. 22 Ford is 11 points ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Toyota, which will be driven by Kyle Busch in Richmond.  The "22" has eight wins this season – four by Keselowski, and two each for AJ Allmendinger and Joey Logano.

The "54" has nine wins, all by Busch – who returns to Richmond hungry for victory No. 10.

"In the spring, we came with a good car then couldn’t get the handling right in the end," said Busch, who finished third behind Keselowski and Harvick.  "Richmond is still a good track for me.  We’ve had success there and I’m sure it will come together again."

Busch is a four-time winner at RIR, with his most recent victory coming in September 2011.  He’s among 43 drivers on the preliminary entry list that includes fellow Sprint Cup Series competitors Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray.

NASCAR Nationwide Series teams will practice at Richmond International Raceway on Friday at 9 a.m. (ET) and qualify at 4:05 p.m. to set the field for that night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250.  Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of the 25th race of the season at 7 p.m. Friday, with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

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