Seven races remain on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule and the owner points championship looks to be a two-horse race as the season unwinds.
Currently, the No. 22 Team Penske Ford occupies the top of the standings with a 15-point lead over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. With their typical drivers focused on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in New Hampshire or points titles in other NASCAR series, each car has an open seat for Saturday’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNEWS).
Sam Hornish Jr. will take the reins of the No. 54 JGR car, primarily driven by Kyle Busch, while NNS veteran Michael McDowell will make his Team Penske season debut in the No. 22.
Back in action for his first race since Mid-Ohio on Aug. 16, Hornish claims one win (Iowa Speedway), four top fives and two poles in seven starts this season. He has never won in his four starts at Kentucky, but has experienced success there with one Coors Light Pole Award, two top fives (including a runner-up showing) and an average finish of 5.2.
McDowell, often the driver of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has made two Nationwide appearances this season, both in the No. 20 JGR Toyota. Both races were at Iowa, and in another twist, he tied his career-best with a runner-up finish behind No. 22 Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski in last month’s U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland. Playing to McDowell’s favor, the No. 22 swept Kentucky last year and finished second in the series’ first visit to the 1.5-mile tri-oval this season.
“Driving for Roger Penske is something I have dreamed about since I was a kid racing Go-Karts,” McDowell said. “I have lived in Charlotte for 10 years and I haven’t changed my phone number during that time. When people ask why, my joke is; when Roger Penske dials my number, I want to make sure he has the same number I gave Walter Czarnecki 14 years ago.
“I told him I wanted to drive for Team Penske someday and I stayed in contact with him as I climbed up the open wheel ladder. It turned out to be a good thing I never changed my number.”
NASCAR Wire Service