LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Sam Hornish Jr. thinks he has a home-track advantage. "While Mid-Ohio is so close to my home and my heart, at the same time its a place where Ive got almost as many races here as a fan as I do as a driver," the Defiance, Ohio, native said Friday during practice a day before the NASCAR Nationwide series race. Hornish, who has raced several times in competition at the track, believes he has some insider knowledge. "I feel like Ive got a good idea of what the car needs to do and what I need to do as the driver to go out and be successful here," he said. "Yeah, we want to go out and be fast. But the biggest thing about this form of racing -- running on a road course -- is taking care of the equipment." Hornish, one of the series top drivers on tracks that require more than right turns, finished with a rush a year ago at Mid-Ohio. He made a run at the lead on the final lap before ending up behind AJ Allmendinger, winner of the inaugural Nationwide event, and pole-winner Michael McDowell. He could have applied even more pressure, he said, if Allmendinger hadnt been one of his Penske teammates. "I had to play a little bit nicer than I probably would have," he said with a laugh. "All that being said, I feel pretty good about the car that I have." Hornish, with no fulltime sponsor but driving this week for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy Toyota, has dreamed of winning at the twisting track located in picturesque farmland midway between Columbus and Cleveland. His odds improved when Allmendinger elected to focus on the Sprint Cup race in Michigan this weekend. Hornish was third during Fridays practice behind Justin Marks and Chris Buescher. Qualifying is Saturday morning, with the race later in the day. One of Hornishs chief adversaries figures to be series points leader Chase Elliott, who has never driven at Mid-Ohio. He watched videos and memorized notes from last years race provided by driver Ron Fellows, with whom he has studied the nuances of road courses. Even though he finished fourth at Road America and sixth last week at Watkins Glen on road courses, Elliott hasnt been pleased with his efforts. But he is hoping that hes getting the hang of the quick braking, rapid acceleration and sharp turns that are required on such a layout. "Im just putting all that stuff together and making sure I do a good job," he said. "Ill get all the practice that is offered. Ill try to learn and hopefully itll be good enough." Elliott, at the wheel of owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.s Chevrolet, was ninth after Fridays practice runs but is looking for improvement. Brendan Gaughan, fifth in practice, won at scenic Road America and has his own theory on what it takes to win on a road course. "If you dont get in rhythm out there, you can really screw yourself up," he said, calling Mid-Ohio an "extremely technical road course." Alex Tagliani, who was second at Road America, had the seventh-best practice time. "Its a track that changes quite a bit from practice to qualifying," he said about Mid-Ohio. "The level of grip is going to go high. And the speed is going to increase tremendously." David West Jersey
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. -- Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, is expected to practice on Wednesday.CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mallory Blackwelder won the Symetra Classic on Saturday for her first Symetra Tour title, closing with a 5-under 67 for a two-stroke victory. The 26-year-old former Kentucky player had a 10-under 206 total at Raintree Country Club. "It feels amazing," said Blackwelder, the daughter of former Kentucky coach and LPGA Tour player and Myra Blackwelder and tour caddie Worth Blackwelder. "I have been thinking about this moment for a long, long time and its really surreal. "I didnt look at the leaderboard on the back nine, so I wasnt really sure what kind of position I was in. I knew obviously that I was playing great, so walking up to the 18th I saw that I had a three-shot lead and I was on the green, so I knew that I was on cruise control and that just felt amazing." She earned $15,000 to jump from 24th to sixth on the money with $24,721. The final top 10 will earn 2015 LPGA Tour cards. "I just played really solid all week," said Blackweldeer, who opened with rounds of 69 and 70.dddddddddddd "Last week, my mom, whos pretty much my swing coach and teacher, came on Sunday to Asheville and we worked on my short game a lot. "I had a lot of easy up-and-downs last week, but I wasnt converting, so we just made a few tweaks. I changed my putting setup a little bit. "My posture had just gotten a little slumped, so I just stood taller to it this week. I putted great and I hit the ball great." Her mother watched her win Sunday, "It just couldnt be better," Blackwelder said. "She hasnt gotten to watch me play a whole lot the last couple of years, so its just amazing that she could be here." Emily Talley was second after a 68. Min Seo Kwak was third at 7 under after a 69, and Kendall Dye was another stroke back after a 72. Cindy Feng, Demi Runas, Krista Puisite and Olivia Jordan-Higgins tied for fifth at 5 under. Feng and Runas shot 70, Puisite had a 73, and Jordan-Higgins a 74. ' ' '