With only 12 races remaining before a new NASCAR Nationwide Series champion is crowned, forecasting the outcome is becoming harder with every passing weekend. After Saturday’s race at Watkins Glen only 74 points separate the top-10 drivers in the standings – a difference that the 10th-place driver (Parker Kligerman) could conceivably make up in only two races, although not likely.
Adding to the uncertainty surrounding predicting a champion is the venue of the next race. The series makes its inaugural trip to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on Saturday for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200. The 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course is the second road course in as many weeks and the third and final one of the season.
Of the 42 drivers currently vying for a spot in the race, none are looking forward to the green flag more than Sam Hornish Jr., who grew up about 2-1/2 hours west of the track in Defiance, Ohio.
A win for Hornish, who is currently second in points three markers behind Austin Dillon, at Mid-Ohio in front of a hometown crowd would mean more to the 34-year-old driver than winning at any other track and would most likely return him to the points lead. In addition to having a home-field advantage, Hornish is also the only driver in the top 10 that has competed in a major national series motorsports event at the track. He finished 14th in the IndyCar Series race in 2007, a year prior to joining NASCAR fulltime.
In seven road-course races in the NNS, he has five consecutive top-five finishes and two poles, including a fifth-place finish at Road America in June and a runner-up performance last weekend at The Glen. This season, Hornish has one victory and five second-place showings in which he was the highest-finishing points-eligible series regular.
Dillon holds the points lead for the third week in a row, but his lead has shrunk to only three over Hornish. Two markers back is Regan Smith (-5) followed by Elliott Sadler (-12) and Brian Vickers (-18).