Nationwide teams facing the unknown at Kansas

Saturday's race at Kansas Speedway begins the final four for the Nationwide Series.

Elliott Sadler comes to Kansas with a 13-point lead over defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Sadler's third-place finish in last Friday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway allowed him to gain four points on Stenhouse, who placed seventh.

Nationwide teams will arrive at Kansas one day earlier than normal to get familiar with the track's new pavement and configuration. NASCAR has scheduled a four-hour practice session for teams on Thursday afternoon, shortly after Sprint Cup Series practice has concluded.

The 1.5-mile racetrack underwent a repaving project following the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races there in April.

"This is definitely the wild card left on our schedule," Sadler said. "No one really knows what to expect after Kansas Speedway was repaved, so the practice sessions on Thursday and Friday are very important."

Sadler finished third, while Stenhouse placed fifth in last year's Nationwide race at Kansas. Stenhouse posted a sixth-place finish there in 2010.

"We need to have a strong top-five run this weekend," Stenhouse said. "I'm confident in my team going into the final four races. We are only 13 points out of the championship lead. We will keep chipping away at that deficit each week to regain the points lead."

Rookie Austin Dillon enters this race 29 points behind Sadler, who is his teammate at Richard Childress Racing. Dillon will compete in a Nationwide event at Kansas for the first time. The 22-year-old driver has been impressive on the mile and a halfs this season, recording an average finish of 5.1 on them, which is better than any other driver currently ranked in the top-five in points. He won both races at Kentucky this year.

"The No. 3 team has performed very well on 1.5-mile tracks in the past, and I expect this weekend will be no different," Dillon said. "Our goal is to gain maximum points, and the way you do that is by winning races. I'm excited to go to Kansas Speedway, and I definitely have high expectations."

Sam Hornish Jr. is presently fourth in the point standings (-93) and Michael Annett is fifth (-146).

Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Paul Menard are those Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in this race. Logano claimed his eighth Nationwide win of the season at Charlotte. He won the Nationwide event at Kansas in 2009 and '10.

Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kansas Lottery 300.

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, Oct. 20. Race: Kansas Lottery 300. Site: Kansas Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 3:30 p.m.(ET). Laps: 200. Miles: 300. 2011 Winner: Brad Keselowski. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.