Championship Points Race Continues To Get Close
Two weeks ago, Regan Smith was enjoying a 58-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr. heading into the 14th race of the season at Road America. However, after a 32nd-place finish at the Wisconsin road course and a 30th-place finish in last Friday’s race at Kentucky, Smith’s comfortable advantage has all but evaporated.
Heading into Daytona for Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250, Smith’s lead now stands at only eight points. What’s more is that his past two performances have allowed other drivers to enter into the championship conversation. Currently, seven drivers are within 50 points of Smith. At this point last season, only three drivers were within 50 points of the leader, Austin Dillon.
What’s even more telling about Smith’s recent fade back into the pack are the performances of the seven drivers trailing him. Over the past two races only two of those drivers, Justin Allgaier, who is currently third in points (-11), and Parker Kligerman, who is seventh in points (-46), have had finishes outside of the top 10, finishing 13th and 16th, respectively.
Hornish finished fifth and ninth in the last two races, while Allgaier finished second at Road America to go along with his 13th at Kentucky. Elliott Sadler, who is fourth in the standings 19 points back, finished ninth and second at Road America and Kentucky, respectively. Dillon finished 10th and sixth in those races and sits fifth in the standings (-20). Kyle Larson has a pair of seventh-place finishes and is 44 markers off the lead in sixth place. Kligerman finished third at Road America before his 16th-place performance at Kentucky. Former series champion Brian Vickers is 48 points behind Smith in eighth and his two most recent finishes were sixth and fourth.
Smith and Hornish are the only drivers of the eight with victories thus far this season; Smith has two while Hornish has one. If Smith is to hold on to his lead, he’ll need to put the last two races in the past and start running again like he did earlier in the season when he had 11 consecutive top-10 finishes.