In the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ last visit to Chicagoland Speedway in July, Sam Hornish Jr. finished runner-up to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Joey Logano. Austin Dillon crossed the finish line third.
As they return to the 1.5-mile track located west of Chicago for Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Powered by Coca-Cola, Hornish and Dillon are embroiled in a tight points battle. After a sixth-place performance at Richmond last Friday night, Hornish extended his points lead over Dillon by six to 16. Regan Smith finished third in the race and sits third in the standings 10 points further back.
In the July race, Hornish led 56 laps, including the first 48 laps. He was leading on lap 180 when the sixth and final caution flag appeared. As the race returned to green-flag racing on lap 185, Logano jumped ahead of him and led the final 15 circuits around the oval. Dillon paced the field twice for a total of 24 laps. Elliott Sadler, who is currently fourth in the standings (-28), led a race-high 81 laps before finishing fourth.
A second victory of the year for Hornish would put more separation in the standings between him and his closest rivals – mainly Dillon, Smith and Sadler – and could provide the breathing room the former IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner needs to reel in his first NASCAR title come November. His first win of 2013 came in March at Las Vegas. Hornish’s record at Chicagoland in four races is enough to convince even the most novice fans that a victory this weekend is a definite possibility. In addition to his runner-up finish, he’s notched finishes of fifth, sixth and eighth for an average finish of 5.25.
If there is one driver whose record at Chicagoland most resembles Hornish’s, it would have to be Dillon. Although Dillon is without a victory at the track, his average finish position in three starts is 4.0. He has two third-place performances to go along with a sixth. Dillon is winless in 2013, but has six poles, including a record four straight. A win this weekend for Dillon would close the gap on Hornish and make the championship bout hotter with seven races left.