With only four points separating NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. and runner-up Austin Dillon, a solid showing in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway could propel the 23-year-old driver into the lead for the first time since the Watkins Glen race in early August.
If Dillon is able to improve upon his finishing position in his only series start at the 1.5-mile track, which came last season, the North Carolina native should find his way into Victory Lane for the first time in 2013 and back atop the standings. In 2012, he led five laps after starting on the outside of the front row and went on to finish second, 0.288 seconds behind race winner and eventual back-to-back series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Dillon has gradually crawled back up the standings and into the title conversation since a 21st-place finish in the inaugural series event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in mid-August dropped him from the points lead all the way back to fourth. After Chicagoland, he was 17 points in arrears, but has whittled 13 points off the lead in the two races since.
On the season, the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion has compiled 10 top fives, 18 top 10s and six poles, including a record-streak of four in a row. He’s already set a personal season high of 526 laps led with five races still remaining on the schedule. Dillon has been running at the finish of 27 of the 28 races; an accident in the April Richmond race left him 35th.
In order to take over the top spot at Kansas he’ll need to earn five more points than Hornish, who has put together a solid season. Hornish visited Victory Lane at Las Vegas in March and has collected 13 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes with three poles, including five runner-up performances and nine races in which he was the top-finishing, points-eligible NNS driver. His 488 laps led in 2013 are more than triple his previous best (134 in 2012). His average finishing position of 9.3 is also a personal best for the Ohio driver.