Homestead, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The battle for the championship in the Nationwide Series heading into the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is the closest among the three national series in NASCAR.
Austin Dillon holds just an eight-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr. They are the only drivers who remain eligible for the title.
Dillon, the 23-year-old grandson of NASCAR multi-team owner Richard Childress, is attempting to become the third driver to win a championship in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Greg Biffle and Johnny Benson have accomplished the feat. Dillon won the truck title in 2011. Last year, he finish third in points in his Nationwide rookie season.
"It would mean a lot," Dillon said of winning the Nationwide championship. "I'm glad this is the last race of the year. Feel like we need to approach it with a win. We don't have any wins this year. To finish off the year with a win in the championship would be great."
Regardless of what Hornish does at Homestead, Dillon will clinch the Nationwide title if he finishes third or better, fourth or higher with at least one lap led or fifth or better with the most laps led.
"I feel like you want as big of a points lead as you can have coming into this race," Dillon said. "We've been dealt a good points lead. The thing about it not being super huge, you don't have to be as conservative. (Hornish) has got to race hard. I've got to race hard to stay up front. You can't lay back and try to give any, because there's not much there. We got to go for it.
"Calculated risks are what you got to take most of the time. If we're there at the end with a shot to win, we're going to try to take it."
Hornish has one win this season, which came in March at Las Vegas, a 1.5-mile racetrack similar to Homestead. He's also finished third in the last two Nationwide races held on mile and a halfs -- Charlotte and Texas.
"One of the things that gives me confidence going into this weekend is our performance on the mile-and-a-half's this year and the fact that we got to come here and test," Hornish said. "It's a big gamble to look at (Homestead) and say that we need to be the best that we can possibly be when we get there, but we had a feeling that we were going to need to be strong here. Saving that test day for here hopefully will be a real good thing for us."
Hornish is hoping to win the Nationwide championship after claiming three titles in the IndyCar Series (2001, '02 and '06). He competed in that series for eight years.
"I want to win the championship really bad," he said. "I feel like we're going to go out there and we're going to race hard for it. But we also know that doing it the right way and trying to do it the way a champion would do it is necessary. That's part of winning it.
"It's not about doing something that you feel like you're going to have to think about every time you look at a ring or a trophy or anything like that."
Hornish has finished seventh and fourth in his last two Nationwide races at Homestead, while Dillon placed fifth in his first series start here one year ago.
The owners' championship in Nationwide will also be decided at Homestead. The No. 22 Penske Racing team currently leads the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team by just four points. The 22 can only be guaranteed a clinch of the owners' title by winning the race here. Joey Logano is scheduled to drive the car here, and Kyle Busch is entered in the No. 54.
Forty-one teams are on the entry list for Ford EcoBoost 300.
Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, Nov. 16. Race: Ford EcoBoost 300. Site: Homestead-Miami Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 4:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 200. Miles: 300. 2012 Winner: Regan Smith. Television: ESPN2. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.