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Stenhouse takes Nationwide points lead to Kentucky

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back on top of the Nationwide Series point standings.

Stenhouse, the defending series champion, jumped nine points ahead of Elliott Sadler after winning his fifth race of the season last Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Sadler, who had been the points leader for the past 14 races, finished eighth there.

In the last four events, Stenhouse has accumulated 31 points more than Sadler. He trailed Sadler by 22 markers after the Aug. 18 race in Montreal.

The series now heads to Kentucky Speedway, as seven races remain on the 2012 schedule. This will be the first time Nationwide teams compete at Kentucky twice in one season. The series has visited this 1.5-mile racetrack each year since 2001.

The first race at Kentucky this season took place on June 29. Stenhouse finished eighth, one spot ahead of Sadler.

"We're coming off a big win, so we will carry that momentum into this weekend, Stenhouse said. "Earlier this year (at Kentucky), we didn't make the right adjustments, but we've learned from that, so I feel we'll be a strong contender this weekend."

Four of Stenhouse's five wins in 2012 have come on the 1.5-mile tracks. He claimed victories at Las Vegas (March), Texas (April) and Atlanta (earlier this month) prior to his win at Chicagoland.

Stenhouse has finished either eighth or ninth in his three Nationwide races at Kentucky. Sadler placed fifth there one year ago.

"Last year, we sat on the pole and ran well there," Sadler said. "We missed it a little bit here in the spring, but we have worked on our set up, and I think we have an awesome package for this weekend. I think that any 1.5-mile track that we go to, we have a great shot at victory lane. We are taking the car I drove at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was really fast. We will feed off our (Richard Childress Racing) teammate, Austin Dillon, who won there last time, and our team feels really, really good about this weekend."

Dillon, the 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion, became a first-time race winner in Nationwide earlier this year at Kentucky. He started on the pole and led all but eight of the 200 laps. Dillon crossed the finish line a whopping 9.8 seconds ahead of Sprint Cup Series regular Kurt Busch. His maiden win in the series came in his 26th start.

"I think we definitely have a shot at having another dominating performance," said Dillon, who is currently 34 points behind Stenhouse. "Our car was really good at Kentucky Speedway in June, and I think it's going to be even better this weekend. RCR has a really strong 1.5-mile program, and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to gain some points this weekend."

Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kentucky 300.

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, September 22. Race: Kentucky 300. Site: Kentucky Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 3:30 p.m.(ET). Laps: 200. Miles: 300. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN) /SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.