Austin Dillon is fully involved in a fight at the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers’ standings, starting the weekend just 19 points out of first place. If he can keep things going the way they were on Sept. 28 in the first and only practice session for the Sept. 29 “OneMain Financial 200” at Dover International Speedway, he may be in excellent position to delete that deficit.
Dillon turned the fastest lap in Friday’s Happy Hour, circling the Monster Mile in 23.485 seconds for an average speed of 153.289 mph. He was 1.5 mph faster than series leader Elliott Sadler, who was fifth-fastest, and nearly 3 mph faster than Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is second in the points and 10th-quickest in the practice session.
Stenhouse has been a factor lately at Dover, picking up top-5 finishes in both races in 2011. But Dillon has had a tremendous rookie season in NASCAR Nationwide Series racing, earning two wins and finishing in the top-10 in 21 of his 27 starts. He finished sixth in the spring at Dover in his first crack at the Monster Mile in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car.
Sam Hornish, Jr. is also poised to perhaps make some noise at Dover. He starts the weekend in fourth place in the standings, 46 points back of Sadler, and was second-fastest in the final practice session. Paul Menard was third and Kyle Busch fourth, followed by Sadler, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Truex, Cole Whitt, and Stenhouse in the top-10.
Danica Patrick, one of several drivers pulling double-duty this weekend with cars in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, was 20th in the practice.