Marks scores first ca­reer XFIN­ITY Se­ries vic­tory

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By CHRIS KNIGHT

NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

— Not even a cau­tion with four laps re­main­ing in Satur­day’s Mid-Ohio Chal­lenge could de­tour road course ex­pert Justin Marks from scor­ing his first ca­reer NASCAR XFIN­ITY Se­ries vic­tory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Marks, driver of the No. 42 Katerra Chevro­let Ca­maro, with­stood a rain-soaked chal­lenge from Sam Hor­nish Jr on the fi­nal restart, but Marks show­cased his road rac­ing skills when it counted most and stretched his lead to 3.7 sec­onds when the check­ered flag flew.

“These are as tough con­di­tions as you can put drivers in,” said Marks from a makeshift Vic­tory Lane. “It’s just re­ally hard on ev­ery­body when it’s dry and wet and you don’t re­ally know what to do, so strat­egy plays a big role in it. You know, my spe­cialty is road rac­ing in the rain in these stock cars and I don’t get much of an op­por­tu­nity to do it so when that op­por­tu­nity presents it­self, you have to re­ally take ad­van­tage of it and I about threw it away today.

“I knew if the race ended in the rain that we would have a real shot at win­ning it. I wish my fam­ily was here. I’m just re­ally happy.”

Marks ded­i­cated the win to for­mer Chip Ganassi Rac­ing driver Bryan Clau­son who passed away last Sun­day night from in­juries in a sprint car ac­ci­dent dur­ing the Belleville Midget Na­tion­als in Kansas.

LEXINGTON, OHIO

“Bryan’s short ca­reer in stock car rac­ing came with Chip Ganassi Rac­ing, so it’s great to be able to put this thing in Vic­tory Lane to honor him and think about him,” added Marks. “He’s a real Amer­i­can hero race car driver. Bryan was. They don’t make them like that any­more.”

Hor­nish in a lim­ited sched­ule driv­ing the No. 2 Rheem Chevro­let Ca­maro for Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing set­tled for sec­ond.

“All in all, a good day for the Rheem Chevro­let,” he said. “My hats off to Justin Marks. I gen­er­ally held my­self as a pretty de­cent rain racer and even given the op­por­tu­nity there at the end, I couldn’t do any­thing with him. I would have had to take mas­sive chances with our car to be able to do any­thing and you still gotta pass him to keep up with him.

“I’m proud of what the guys gave me on the No. 2 car today. I wish we would have got­ten a lit­tle more out of it. In the dry, I feel like we could win, but Justin just went out there and was just a mon­ster in the wet.”

Hor­nish won the pole on Fri­day in dry con­di­tions, but as the field took the green at the 2.25-mile, 13 turn road course, Mother Na­ture moved in and sent the team to pit road for an op­tional change of tires from slicks to wets on Lap 3.

Joe Gibbs Rac­ing’s Owen Kelly, in his XFIN­ITY Se­ries re­turn, took the lead on the restart, but spun shortly there­after in Turn 6 send­ing Hor­nish back to the top spot. Hor­nish, how­ever, would get his first glimpse of Marks on Lap 12 when the Chip Ganassi Rac­ing driver took the lead for the first time.

The Rock­lin, Cal­i­for­nia, na­tive would main­tain the lead through the half­way point where he pit­ted from the lead, cy­cling the top spot through a va­ri­ety of drivers dur­ing green flag pit stops, as the race track be­gan to tran­si­tion back to dry.

A Lap 50 cau­tion for de­bris, how­ever, would be the start­ing point where the race would set the tone for the clos­ing laps. While un­der the yel­low, the skies opened up soak­ing the road course and send­ing al­most all the com­peti­tors back to pit road for wet tires and fuel for the end.

When the race restarted with 14 laps to go, Dar­rell Wal­lace Jr. found him­self at the top, but with 12 laps to go, he went off course, giv­ing the lead to Ty Dil­lon with a stalk­ing Marks be­hind.

With rain con­tin­u­ing to fall, Marks used his ex­pe­ri­ence to close the dis­tance be­tween Dil­lon and took ad­van­tage as Dil­lon him­self went off course on Lap 65 giv­ing the lead back to Marks on Lap 66 and never re­lin­quish­ing.

Next up for the XFIN­ITY Se­ries is their an­nual sum­mer trip to Bris­tol (Tenn.) Mo­tor Speed­way for the run­ning of the Food City 300 on Fri­day night, Aug. 19. Kyle Busch is the de­fend­ing cham­pion.

Note: NASCAR Next driver Alon Day made his NASCAR XFIN­ITY Se­ries de­but on Satur­day, fin­ish­ing 13th. With the start, Day – who ran as high as third — be­came the first driver from Is­rael to make a NASCAR na­tional se­ries start.

GETTY IMAGES FOR NASCAR

Justin Marks cel­e­brates in Vic­tory Lane af­ter tak­ing first place in the 4th an­nual NASCAR XFIN­ITY Se­ries Mid-Ohio Chal­lenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Satur­day in Lexington, Ohio.

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