Hornish Jr., Dillon take Nationwide title fight to Kansas

The battle for the Nationwide Series championship is heating up between Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon.

A sixth-place run for Dillon coupled with a 17th-place finish for Hornish last Saturday at Dover allowed Dillon to trim Hornish's lead to just four points.

Five races remain. Four of them will be contested on 1.5-mile racetracks, beginning with this weekend's event at Kansas Speedway. After Kansas, the series will head to Charlotte (Oct. 11), Texas (Nov. 2) and Phoenix (Nov. 9) before the season wraps up at Homestead (Nov. 16). Phoenix is one-mile in length.

Hornish has only one win this season, which came in March at Las Vegas (a mile-and-a-half track). Dillon has yet to score a Nationwide victory in 2013.

"I think it's going to take top-five finishes, and by top-five finishes, I don't mean you can finish fifth every weekend for the rest of the year and win the championship," Dillon said. "I think you need to finish in the top-three consistently.

"Sam Hornish, Jr. and I are both really competitive, and in order to win the championship, the No. 3 (Richard Childress Racing) team is going to have to finish ahead of him every weekend. Kansas Speedway is a mile-and-a-half track where we have performed well at in the past. I'm really comfortable there and looking forward to this weekend's race."

Dillon has gradually crawled back up the Nationwide standings since his 21st- place finish at Mid-Ohio in mid-August. He dropped from first to fourth in the rankings at that time. After the Sept. 14 event at Chicagoland, Dillon was 17 points behind Hornish but has trimmed 13 points from his lead in the two races since.

Both drivers competed in a Nationwide race at Kansas for the first time last year. Dillon finished second, while Hornish placed ninth.

"Kansas is one of the tracks that we have run better than we have finished," Hornish said. "It has changed a lot over the years, and with the resurfacing they did there last year, it is fast. This weekend is going to be a good one for us, as our intermediate track program has been solid this year. We know what we have to work on, and we plan on making the most of it come Saturday. We are coming down the stretch for the championship, and every position counts."

Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard are those Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in this event.

Keselowski is driving the No. 22 car for Penske Racing. That car has been to victory lane in 11 Nationwide races this season, including the last two events. Ryan Blaney won at Kentucky, and Joey Logano scored the victory at Dover.

Busch (2007) and Keselowski (2011) have won a Nationwide race at Kansas in the past.

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

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, Oct. 5. Race: Kansas Lottery 300. Site: Kansas Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 3:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 200. Miles: 300. 2012 Winner: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Television: ESPN2. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.