On to Atlanta for Nationwide Contenders

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Penske Racing's Sam Hornish Jr. (R) carries a six-point lead over Austin Dillon (L) to Atlanta in a tight Nationwide Series championship battle. (Photo: Getty Images)

Only 11 points separate the top three drivers as the Nationwide Series gets ready for Saturday night’s Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Sam Hornish Jr. is up six points on Austin Dillon with Elliott Sadler 11 back in third place as one of the tightest championship races in series history hits Labor Day Weekend.

If history is any indication, Atlanta could play a pivotal role in deciding this year’s champion.  After winning at AMS last year, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went on to claim his second straight series title.

Hornish is looking to improve on last year’s ninth-place run at Atlanta in what will be his third career start on the 1.54-mile superspeedway.

"I love Atlanta because the surface of the track is old.  It has bumps and lots of places to pass," Hornish said.  "As a driver, you have to manage your tires in order to maintain any kind of consistency over a long run.  I think most of the drivers will tell you that they like racing at Atlanta for the reasons I mentioned.  The track has a lot of personality and that makes it one of the most fun and challenging places we race."

Dillon concurs.  The Richard Childress Racing driver equates AMS to Homestead-Miami Speedway, another mile-and-a-half he enjoys and where the series will end the season in November.

"I think Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the raciest mile-and-a-half tracks on the circuit, for sure," said Dillon.  "I love Homestead, too.  Both tracks remind me of each other, but Atlanta Motor Speedway is definitely slicker.  It's one of those places that can be very frustrating and very fun at the same time.  I really enjoy it at night."

Then there’s the veteran Sadler, who - unlike the two drivers ahead of him in the standings - has much more experience racing at Atlanta in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

Sadler has seven Nationwide Series starts at AMS with one top five and four top-10 finishes, including a career-best fourth in 2012.  He’s also made 24 Cup starts with three top-10 finishes and 18 laps led.

"The racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway is always great," said the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.  "This track has a lot of character because of its slick nature and there are so many bumps on the surface.

"It's a driver’s track.  There are a lot of options because you can run the bottom, middle or top line.  I like to think that we can send the summer out in style with a night race at Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Nationwide Series

Race Center

Dover

@ Dover Int'l Speedway
Saturday, September 27, 2014 3:00 PM
Radio Start:
MRN, 3 p.m. (ET)
TV Start:
ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

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