Nationwide Championship Battle Offers Contrasting Contenders

Austin Dillon at TMS

While Jimmie Johnson all but appears to have wrapped up his sixth NSCS championship, the season finale weekend at Homestead- Miami is not devoid of drama. Just eight points separate Nationwide Series points leader Austin Dillon and runner-up Sam Hornish Jr. Lest you think today’s driver is a corporate robot, these two contenders here couldn’t possibly be any more different.

One is a former Indy Car champion, the other, the grandson of a legendary car owner. One is a silent stoic from a town called Defiance, the other, a fast talking product of a place call Welcome. One is certain of what his future holds in store as a ride awaits him in the Sprint Cup series, for the other, the road ahead is less sure. One driver has enjoyed a measure of success, but has ruffled feathers along the way, the other, while not disliked, has endured taunts (“Sideways Sam”) as result of a few on-track stumbles along the way.

While Dillon will move on to a Sprint Cup ride next season, nothing would cap off his apprenticeship in a more fitting fashion than a Nationwide Series title. No one wants to win a championship with zero wins to his credit. There will be no shortage of motivation on the part of the grandson of Richard Childress.

Hornish has a win to his credit in 2013. He’s also enjoyed seven top tens in his last ten races. If nothing else, the three-time Indy Car champion has established he can compete in NASCAR. Finishing second place is respectable. A win and an NNS title? That speaks powerfully to potential sponsors and opens doors.

This Saturday’s race will be more than your basic dash for cash. Dillon has already shown no fear of muscling his way through the crowd. Hornish- though generally more reserved- will not be lacking the drive to go flat out.

While all Matt Crafton really has to do is log laps to win the truck championship, and Matt Kenseth has a hell of a hill to climb to even take aim at Jimmie Johnson in Cup, this Nationwide Series race featuring two very different drivers promises the kind of drama fans desire.