Two Drivers, One Nationwide Title
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on November 15, 2013 | 7:00 A.M. EST
Dillon leads Hornish Jr. by eight points heading into Saturday’s season finale Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dillon leads Hornish Jr. by eight points heading into Saturday’s season finale Ford Eco-Boost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Richard Childress Racing driver can clinch the trophy, regardless of how Hornish does, if he finishes third or better, or fourth or better with at least one lap led, or fifth or better with the most laps led.
But Dillon said in Thursday’s Championship Contenders press conference he won’t worry how Hornish is running Saturday but rather simply focus on his own performance.
“It doesn't help anybody on the team to worry about that, me bringing it up, keeping my pit crew stressed out,” said Dillon. “It's more about staying even keeled the whole time. Can't worry about pit stops. You're given the hand you're dealt and you have to go play with it.
“We're going to stay focused and keep that in our mind. If I run top five, we'll bring home the championship title.”
Hornish can’t help but wonder what might have been had just a few things gone his way during the regular season, which so far unlike Dillon did include a trip to Victory Lane. But as the season comes to a close he finds himself facing an eight-point deficit in the title race.
“It's not the way we would have liked to come into the race,” said Hornish. “We feel like we've had a good year at Penske Racing. We've been strong a lot of races this year. Capitalizing on the days we were strong is one of the things we need to continue to work on.”
One area where Hornish has shown strength this year is on 1.5-mile tracks like Homestead-Miami Speedway. That past success plus a recent test session the team had at Homestead has Hornish feeling good about his chance to perform well Saturday.
“One of the things that gives me confidence going into this weekend is our performance on the mile and a half's this weekend and the fact we got to come here and test,” he said. “It's a big gamble to look at Miami 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.”
But Dillon hasn’t been too shabby on intermediate tracks himself. With runs such as a second place in Charlotte, third at Chicagoland Speedway and sixth at Kentucky earlier this season, signs point to Dillon being a formidable challenge for a win.
“Love coming to the mile and a half's,” said Dillon. “We were strong there all year long. Homestead was a place where we led a lot of laps last year.
“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.”
However should Dillon win the title without putting a notch in the win column, there could be backlash from some fans that feel more of an emphasis should be put on winning in the championship picture.
Dillon isn’t concerned if his crown comes without a trip to Victory Lane. Goal number one of the season was winning a title by any cost.
“If we can do that by winning the race that would be great, but if we don’t win a race this season, I will not look at this year as incomplete or unsuccessful by any means,” said Dillon. “Our goal is to win a championship and to head into the last race of the year with an opportunity to win a championship. If we can accomplish that it would be a huge honor.
“I can guarantee you that I am going into the last race trying my hardest and giving everything I have to accomplish our team’s goals, and that’s all you can ask for in a season.”
Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 from Homestead-Miami Speedway at 4 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.