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NASCAR

Allmendinger wins at Mid-Ohio, Hornish Jr. takes points lead

A.J. Allmendinger made it two-for-two on the road courses in the Nationwide Series this season by winning Saturday's inaugural race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Allmendinger, who won the first road-course event of the season in Nationwide two months ago at Road America, put on a dominating performance at this 2.258- mile, 13-turn road course by leading 73 of 94 laps. But Allmendinger had to hold off pole sitter Michael McDowell during a green-white-checkered finish. Kenny Habul spun off course and into the gravel just before the white flag was displayed to start the last lap. It forced the seventh caution.

Allmendinger beat McDowell to the finish line by 1.2 seconds. He made his second start in Penske Racing's No. 22 Ford this season.

"This car was just awesome on long runs like it was at Road America," Allmendinger said. "It was slick on the short runs. This is a place where you can easily get moved out of the way. I was nervous because I saw for a whole lap coming that this is too easy and something is going to happen."

One week ago, Brad Keselowski drove the No. 22 car to victory at the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Keselowski also won the Aug. 3 Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway, a 7/8-mile oval.

"For Penske to sweep all three road courses just shows how good these cars are," Allmendinger noted. "I just feel so fortunate to get this opportunity."

McDowell, who drove the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, grabbed the pole for this race with a qualifying lap at 96.256 mph earlier in the day. He led the first eight laps before Allmendinger took the top spot away from him.

"I wanted that win bad," McDowell said. "I was pushing hard to catch A.J. We weren't sure if we were good on fuel, so we really didn't want to see that last caution. But it gave me another shot at him."

Sam Hornish Jr., who hails from nearby Defiance, Ohio and is Allmendinger's teammate, finished third and took over the points lead. Hornish has finished either second or third in the last three races.

"My car was really good over the long run, but we had a whole bunch of short runs today," Hornish said. "We were hoping to be set up a little bit more for the short run, but it just didn't pan out that way. I'm really happy with the results as far as the points go."

Hornish holds a 13-point advantage over Elliott Sadler, who moved from third in the standings to second following his sixth-place run.

Austin Dillon entered this race with a three-point lead, but Dillon finished 21st after he spun out on the final lap. He now trails Hornish by 15 points. Regan Smith also is 15 behind following his 15th-place run.

Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Marcos Ambrose, a Sprint Cup Series regular, had to start from the rear of the field since they did not participate in qualifying. All three drivers were at Michigan International Speedway in the morning to practice for Sunday's 400-mile Sprint Cup race there. Ambrose finished seventh and Bayne was ninth.

Vickers' top-five finish has him 18 points behind Hornish.

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