Championship implications, high speeds, close quarters and an Asphalt Circus can’t waiver the focus of the top three contenders in the NASCAR Nationwide Series title hunt. Standings leader Elliott Sadler holds court with three races remaining, leading by just six points ahead of second-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and 26 up on Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Dillon.
Heading to Texas this weekend, both Sadler and Stenhouse want to get their second Cowboy Hat in Victory Lane and cement this race as a two-horse battle – but don’t count Dillon out just yet.
Since retaking the standings lead following the race at Kentucky, Sadler has averaged an eight-point lead over second-place Stenhouse, but two of the final three races remaining are 1.5-mile speedways and the stats are showing that those type of tracks cater to his competitor’s strengths.
Of the 10 races held on 1.5-mile tracks so far this season, Dillon has the best average starting position (2.8) and average finishing position (4.8) of the three contenders. On those same tracks, Stenhouse has led by far the most laps. He has led 20 percent (388) followed by Dillon (16 percent) then Sadler (9 percent). Stenhouse also has the most wins (five) on those 1.5-mile tracks, Dillon has two and Sadler one.
At Texas, all three drivers have been successful. Stenhouse won at TMS earlier this season in April to earn his fourth of eight career NNS victories. In 2004, Sadler won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and in 2010 Dillon won a Keystone Light pole in the NCWTS.
Texas could be a springboard for Dillon to close his point deficit on Sadler and Stenhouse. Dillon has the best pre-race Driver Rating (110.4) of the three contenders at Texas and spent 100 percent of the April race in the top 15 with an Average Running Position of 5.286 (series-best).