Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Nationwide points standings a “push” after Dollar General 300

The points differential between leader Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr coming into the Dollar General 300 was eight points. As the teams pack up and head out of Charlotte Motor Speedway the interval is the same. What happened in between, however, was a fantastic battle amongst two great competitors.

Early on it looked as if Sam Hornish Jr. was going to check out on the field. Hornish started third but 22 laps later found his way to the front. Making the move even more impressive was the fact that he had to pass the two dominate cars in the series this season – the No. 54 of Kyle Busch and the No. 22 of Joey Logano. These two cars have combined for an unprecedented 21 wins on the season out of 29 races coming into this weekend. They are also locked in a battle for the owner’s championship.

Hornish pulled away and appeared to be untouchable leading the next 27 laps. A yellow flew on lap 54 and afterwards Hornish was back to the front for another 36 laps. It looked as if Hornish would close the gap in the standings as Dillon was close but couldn’t seem to catch the No. 12 Penske Ford.

As the race entered the halfway point, there were several lead changes among several cars. Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith, and rookie standout, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch all took their turn on the point. Larson looked to have the strongest car at this point of the race until contact with the outside wall damaged the car and relegated him to a 13th place finish.

As the race neared the final laps Hornish’s car started to fade. While it looked as if the Nationwide Series regulars had the dominate Busch beat. Busch would not have it. He took the lead from Hornish on lap 193 and drove to his eleventh win of the season.

Dillon who had ran behind Hornish for the majority of the night, now looked strong and he too passed Hornish in the closing laps but just did not have enough to catch Busch. Dillon would finish second. The solid effort allowed him to maintain his eight point lead over Hornish.

When asked about running this well and not gaining points, Hornish said, “I’ve got to not worry about that a lot of times because last week – anytime I’ve quit focusing on myself and started worrying about the people around me, it has not turned out the way that we wanted it to. Austin and I have run around each other, it seems like 70 percent of the race for the last 15 races. I’ll gain a point or two on him one week and he’ll gain a point or two.  When we leave it up to the racing and we both finish where we should, there’s not a whole lot of points to be gained one way or the other.”

Dillon commented on his night saying, “It was a good one, they asked us early in the week what it would be like to be the points champion without a win, that right there should show you how great the racing is and how tough it is. Had three guys fighting it out there until the end for everything we had and that was a heck of a race and like I told Sam, it was the best race I felt like I was a part of all year, slicing and dicing out there…”

The never say die attitude of the Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing team permitted them to come out of Charlotte with a draw, after leading only three laps compared to Hornish’s 76. Efforts such as this are what wins championships.

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