Having won the Indianapolis 500 in 2006 in the IndyCar Series, Sam Hornish Jr. feels pressure to perform whenever he returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track that opened in the early 20th Century as a testing ground for the budding American automobile industry. He hopes to relieve some of that pressure this Saturday by taking the checkers in the Indiana 250 at the 2.5-mile track.
Two years after his 2006 triumph, Hornish switched gears and began racing fulltime in NASCAR. After four seasons in NASCAR’s premier series, he joined the NASCAR Nationwide Series fulltime in 2012. In his first full season, he finished with 10 top fives and 22 top 10s, finishing fourth in the standings.
This year, Hornish is faring a little better with 14 top 10s in the first 18 races and led the points after each of the first seven races of the season before losing the top spot to Regan Smith. With a runner-up finish in last Sunday’s race at Chicagoland, Hornish regained control of the points lead from Smith. In the 10-race span between his two reigns atop the standings, Hornish sat second after nine of them. He fell to third for one week after a fifth-place finish in the road-course event at Road America.
With 15 races remaining on the schedule – two of them on road courses – the championship battle remains wide open. Hornish currently leads Smith by seven points with Austin Dillon one marker back in third. In fact, the top-10 drivers are separated by only 69 points which is surmountable, given that Smith forfeited a 58-point lead over just five races.
Thrice As Nice: Dillon On Quest To Land Third Consecutive Bonus
Although Austin Dillon has not been able to notch a victory this season, he has become adept at claiming $100,000 bonuses in Nationwide’s four-week, Dash 4 Cash program, which has created an intense race-within-a-race.
As the program heads into its fourth and final leg within Saturday’s Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dillon will be gunning for his third straight bonus after placing third at New Hampshire and Chicagoland. The third-place finishes were the highest finishes by one of four points-eligible drivers qualified to compete for the bonuses.
Elliott Sadler won the first $100,000 bonus after placing third at Daytona earlier this month. Since then it has been all Dillon, who is the only driver to qualify for all four Dash 4 Cash events.
Sam Hornish Jr. and Brian Vickers will join Dillon and Sadler in competing for the final payout. In addition to the driver bonus, four lucky fans who received all-expense paid trips to Indy will be randomly paired with the four drivers. The fan paired with the driver who wins the D4C bonus will also win $100,000.
Dillon, who is third in the standings eight points behind leader Hornish, has a full slate this week with four races in eight days. In addition to competing in the NNS races last Sunday at Chicagoland and this Saturday in Indianapolis, he will compete Wednesday night in the NCWTS event at Eldora Speedway and the Brickyard 400 at Indy on Sunday.
Owner Championship Still Up For Grabs
For the sixth time in seven seasons, it’s possible that the car that wins the owners’ championship might not be the same car driven to the drivers’ title.
With 15 races left in the NASCAR Nationwide Series season, the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota primarily piloted by Kyle Busch leads the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford by 34 points. Joey Logano, who will be driving the No. 22 this Saturday at Indy, splits seat time with teammate Brad Keselowski.
The split driver/owner championship has happened six times in the series history: 2003 – Brian Vickers (No. 5)/Richard Childress (No. 21); 2007 – Carl Edwards (No. 60)/Childress (No. 29); 2008 – Clint Bowyer (No. 2)/Joe Gibbs (No. 20); 2010 – Keselowski (No. 22)/Gibbs (No. 18); 2011 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 6)/Jack Roush (No. 60); 2012 – Stenhouse (No. 6)/Gibbs (No. 18).
NASCAR Nationwide Series Etc.
Six drivers in the top 12 in the standings will be among 19 drivers making their first series visit to Indy. The six are Regan Smith (second), Brian Vickers (sixth), Kyle Larson (seventh), Trevor Bayne (ninth), Parker Kligerman (10th), Alex Bowman (11th) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (12th). … The No. 70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Johanna Long is based in Warsaw, Indiana. … Country music performer and Broadway, television and film actress Laura Bell Bundy will sing the National Anthem.