With only three races remaining on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule and eight points separating leader Austin Dillon and second-place Sam Hornish Jr., it’s time for the two drivers and their teams to buckle down and take full advantage of every opportunity.
After having the past two weekends off following a 21-week stretch that saw on-track competition every weekend the teams should be re-energized for the final three-week push to the championship, finishing with the season finale on Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Before the teams head to South Florida they both need strong finishes at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, the site of Saturday afternoon’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, and the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway.
Both Dillon and Hornish are running for their first NASCAR Nationwide title and know that they’ve got to perform well at all three venues in order to top the other. Based on past series history at Texas, Dillon holds a slight edge over Hornish.
Dillon has top 10 finishes in all three starts at the Lone Star track, including a third-place performance in this past April’s event. In two events last season, he posted respectable fifth- and sixth-place finishes. In four starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he collected two top-five finishes, including a runner-up showing in his final truck race at the track in Nov. 2011. He finished 33rd earlier this season in his only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Texas.
Hornish’s best finish at Texas in seven starts is a pair of seventh-place finishes, his only two top-10 performances. After starting on the outside of the second row in April’s event, he led 39 laps and got caught up in a couple of accidents to finish a disappointing 34th. In seven NASCAR Sprint Cup events, his best finish is 17th, twice.
Although Hornish hasn’t visited Victory Lane in any of NASCAR’s three national series, he’s celebrated three wins there in the IndyCar Series, last winning in 2007.