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XFINITY

Keselowski Wins as Dillon Celebrates Championship

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) HOMESTEAD, Fla. — It was all in the restarts in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as both race winner Brad Keselowski and NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Austin Dillon accomplished their respective goals thanks to late-race charges.

After a restart with five laps left, Keselowski surged from 10th to the lead by Lap 198 of 200, passing both Kyle Busch and race runner-up Kyle Larson to take over the top spot.

“That late-race restart was key,” Keselowski said in Victory Lane. “We came in and put tires on with 20 to go, and that yellow (for a four-car crash on Lap 183) was out for [12 laps], and I didn’t think we were going to have a shot at it.

“But we got the right restart and made our way through. I’m going to have to watch the in-car camera, because that was one hell of a ride. Be glad there wasn’t a passenger with me, because they would have been screaming the whole way. I know I was.”

Dillon was simply screaming with joy after holding off Sam Hornish Jr. for the championship. Fighting a balky No. 3 Chevrolet for most of the night, Dillon finished 12th but kept Sam Hornish Jr. in his sights after two late restarts.

Hornish ran eighth, with 37 laps led, but lost the title to Dillon by three points. Dillon became the first driver to win the series championship without winning a race, thanks to season-long consistency.

“I was just glad to see the 12’s back bumper [after the final restart],” Dillon said. “I knew if I could see him and know where he was that I wasn’t going to give up till the end. I had a great start and tried to get the jump on him. It worked out.

“That’s all I can say. He was a great competitor, and he brought his stuff tonight, and we were able to capitalize at the end. Man, it was a hell of a race”

Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate, Joey Logano, gained six spots after the final restart to secure the owners’ championship for his No. 22 Penske Ford. The margin over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch? A single point.

With his fourth second-place finish of the season, Larson locked up Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. His No. 32 Chevrolet, however, failed post-race inspection for being too low, the team’s second offense. Keselowski’s victory also secured the NNS manufacturers’ championship for Ford.

“It means a lot to me to win rookie of the year in the Nationwide Series,” Larson said. “A lot of veterans in the past and in the current Sprint Cup Series have won the rookie of the year. To add my name to that list hopefully means I’m doing something good.”

Larson will move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next season in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

For Keselowski, the victory capped a remarkable NASCAR Nationwide Series effort in 2013. The win was his seventh of the season but his first in the No. 48. Keselowski won his first six races in the No. 22 Logano drove on Saturday. The 2010 NNS champion, Keselowski notched his 27th victory in the series.

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XFINITY

Sam Hornish Jr. Stacks the Deck for Nationwide Series Championship Finale

By Matt Weaver — Sam Hornish Jr. is hoping that his team’s late season test at Homestead Miami Speedway will make the difference in erasing his eight point Nationwide Series championship gap to Austin Dillon entering the final weekend of the season.

Hornish was initially hesitant to “place all of his eggs in one basket,” testing at a track that doesn’t really compare to any other stop on the schedule. He would have preferred to test at Chicagoland. But now that Hornish has made it to the final race with a fair shot at the championship, he believes he has at least one advantage over Dillon.

He’s going to need that advantage too because Dillon is competing in the Truck Series race on Friday night and will get the extra seat time and experience on the Goodyear tire.

“I think it’s going to be a big thing because this is a little bit different tire,” Hornish said during the Championship Media Day on Thursday. “Obviously, the track configuration is different than a lot of the ones we run at.

“So for what this track does to tires and how quickly it wears them, and knowing the line, I think Austin is right — having the opportunity to get out there and to run the Trucks race and have a good feeling about how fast the tires are falling off, how quickly you need to move up and how much you need to save them to be good on the end of a long run are all important things.”

Read More: Hornish is racing for Nationwide Championship, NASCAR career

Win or lose the Nationwide Championship on Saturday, Hornish believes he’s earned a second shot at going Sprint Cup racing. In 2007, Hornish was plucked from the IndyCar ranks by team owner Roger Penske and immediately placed in the Sprint Cup Series.

Hornish struggled for the better part of three seasons in Sprint Cup but eventually found a home in the Nationwide Series. Over the past three seasons, he’s picked up two victories, is contending for the championship and shined when he filled in for the No. 22 Sprint Cup team last season, following AJ Allmendinger’s substance abuse suspension.

“I definitely feel like I belong in the Cup Series and I feel like even taking the step back was to prove what I’ve known for a long time, that given the right equipment and the right people around me, this is what I would be capable of,” Hornish said. “But each one of those experiences was a learning experience.”

Hornish cited his team’s accomplishments last weekend at Phoenix, turning a ill-handling car and frustrating afternoon into a top-5 finish as a sign that he does belongs in the Cup Series. The result was a confirmation that he now knows how to better manage a frustrating situation — and in the case of Phoenix, it may win him the championship.

“I think that even a couple of years ago I would have taken what we had last weekend and probably would have ended up either 15th or wrecked,” Hornish said. “But by the things that I’ve learned — and forced myself to do — and by saying that I can’t pick it up and carry (everything on my back), I can try to get the best finish out of it.”

That’s exactly what Hornish hopes to do on Saturday in erasing the gap to Dillon and winning his first NASCAR championship.

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XFINITY

Bayne Diagnosed with MS but Cleared to Continue Racing

By Kelly Crandall – Former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne made public Monday that he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS.

Bayne said when he missed parts of the 2011 season from fatigue, numbness and double vision, it led him to continue to research and visit the Mayo Clinic. It finally led to his diagnosis for MS, which his younger sister also has. Bayne though, has been cleared to continue racing.

“The art of today to make this announcement comes because we didn’t want to keep everybody in the dark about things once we got information and got a diagnosis,” Bayne said. “I wanted to let everybody know what’s going on.

“More than anything, I appreciate the support of my team and our sponsors here. They’ve been unbelievable. Obviously, at first, when I found out, I didn’t know how it would be taken, and the more I talked to them, the more support I got. I feel great. I’ve had no symptoms and everything’s going really well. But the biggest thing we want to figure out is how to keep winning races and championships and keep this thing going.”

Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 with the Wood Brothers, whom he competes on a limited basis with. He currently drives full-time in the Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway, sitting sixth in points with one race remaining.

At Iowa in June, Bayne earned his second career NNS win, right before he received the diagnosis. He’ll be back in the No. 6 car in 2014 with AdvoCare as a sponsor as he competes for the NNS championship. As well as running a limited NSCS schedule with the Wood Brothers again.

“I think that the diagnosis is a refreshing one for Trevor to understand the situation. But it absolutely has no impact on the support and the way that we view Trevor going forward,” said Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing. “He is one of our premier racecar drivers and we fully expect him to be competing for wins and championships well into the future.”

After winning the Daytona 500 in early 2011, Bayne then missed five weeks with an illness that he believed to have developed from a bug bite. He was later diagnosed with Lyme disease. Bayne said Monday that he has yet to suffer any symptoms of MS which is a disease of the central nervous system. It can lead to loss of mobility, numbness and blindness.

“Just keep treating it the way I have before. I want to have all the information possible, so I continue to be checked out at the Mayo Clinic and appreciate their doctor support and their knowledge,” Bayne said about moving forward, noting that he plans on having a normal life.

“They’ve cleared me to race, and so had NASCAR, so I just continue to trust them to give me the best information as possible, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. In those symptoms, it’s definitely a good thing, and we’ll continue going strong and I’ll continue to go check back there to get their advice and information.”

Bayne said that with no symptoms of MS he is not taking medication. Nor does he plan to have a backup driver going forward.

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

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XFINITY

Wide Open Championship Battle Heading Into Homestead

By Summer Bedgood – Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race. You may not have even watched the race and you probably already knew that. It’s almost a guarantee that if Busch is entered in a Nationwide Series race, that he’s the one who is going to win the pole and, more than likely, the race. In fact, he’s won from the pole nine times this season, and there is only one race left!

Oh yeah … one race left. That means someone is going to win a championship!

And it won’t be Busch. Though Busch very well might lead the team to an owner’s championship next week—there are only four points separating the No. 54 team from Penske Racing’s No. 22 team with Penske currently holding the advantage—Busch is not eligible for a driver’s championship because of his tenure in the Sprint Cup Series.

In fact, the Nationwide Series driver title is very close in and of itself and is equally important to those who are running for it. At the end of the Phoenix race on Saturday afternoon, as Busch was running away with the race, two drivers were already setting themselves up for potential championship runs next week.

Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. are first and second in the points, respectively, and are separated by only eight points.   A third-place finish by Dillon and a fifth place finish by Hornish was reason enough to show how closely contested these two already are, and why they are the two that will be gunning for a championship in Homestead next weekend.

Interestingly enough, it is Hornish that has a victory and Dillon who has yet to make it to Victory Lane, yet Dillon is leading the points. The potential for a winless Nationwide Series champion is widely apparent and could very well come to fruition, but in no way would a championship be undeserved for either driver.

Dillon, for instance, despite his lack of trips to Victory Lane, has 13 top fives and 22 top 10s this season and an average finish of 8.7. Even more amazing is that Dillon only has three finishes outside of the top 20 all season. In a points system that rewards consistency as aggressively as it punishes poor finishes, Dillon’s ability to follow through and finish races—did I mention he only has one DNF?—is reason enough for Dillon to be worthy of a championship this season.

That’s not to say that Hornish isn’t equally deserving. As mentioned before, Hornish’s trip to victory lane is more than Dillon’s win total this year and he is one of only three Nationwide Series regulars to make it to Victory Lane this season.

Hornish also has better statistics when it comes to his finishes. He has 16 top fives and 24 top 10s and an average finish of 9th (slightly less than Dillon’s average). Looking at those statistics, it is difficult to tell why Hornish isn’t the one leading the points.

As we take a look at his finishes outside of the top 10, though, we begin to see a bigger picture painted. Though Hornish has only had two DNFs all season, he has four finishes of 25th or worse. Where Hornish actually lost the lead, after having lead it for seven consecutive season, was with two consecutive finishes of 17th earlier this fall, whereas Dillon finished sixth.

As you can see, both have been equally matched most of the season, but especially so as of late. So what are their chances heading into Homestead?

For Dillon, he only has one Nationwide Series start in Homestead and he finished fifth. Hornish, on the other hand, has five previous starts with one top five and two top 10s. So both now how to drive at Homestead in Nationwide Series cars.

However, if you extend that experience level to the other series both drivers have raced in, the picture gets a little fuzzier. Hornish has four starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series without one finish in the top 10 and a dismal average finish of 26th. Perhaps that is not surprising to some considering that Hornish’s Sprint Cup Series career was rather lackluster, but does it leave room for concern for Hornish for the race this weekend?

Dillon, too, has some experience at Homestead outside of the Nationwide Series, but his previous starts came in the Camping World Truck Series. Dillon has two starts at Homestead in NCWTS competition. He finished 31st in one race and 10th in 2011 when he won the championship.

Though the Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup Series titles are both wrapped up, the Nationwide Series leaves plenty of room for excitement and not just between the Cup Series regulars for the owner’s points. Hornish has never won a championship at the NASCAR level and Dillon is looking to win a Nationwide Series title before moving up to the Cup Series. As it stands, it will be the most exciting championship battle all weekend.

EMAIL SUMMER AT summer.bedgood@popularspeed.com

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XFINITY

Pastrana’s Decision to Leave NASCAR Took Guts and Honesty

By Jerry Bonkowski – Having covered professional sports for over 30 years, I’ve seen more than my share of athletes that hung around too long in their careers.

I’ve also seen athletes that came and went and probably should never have come in the first place.

But it’s rare that an athlete comes into a sport, gives it his best shot and then says, “Thanks, but I realize this just isn’t for me.”

What Travis Pastrana did on Monday, announcing that he will not be returning to NASCAR due to lack of sponsorship for 2014 and overall lack of success and performance took guts.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

The king of the extreme sports world realized that this whole NASCAR thing, while exciting and extreme in its own way, just was something he couldn’t do any more.

I have to give credit to Pastrana for knowing it was time to leave while he could, rather than try to fake it and pretend to be something he’s not: he may be one of the greatest extreme sports athletes the world has ever seen, but plain and simple, he’s just not and likely never will be a great NASCAR driver, the kind of driver so many people expected him to become.

He even said so himself:

“I hate to quit and I hate to fail, but sometimes things work out as they should,” Pastrana said in the statement released on his Facebook page. “I’ve never been able to figure out the finesse required in pavement racing and that is disappointing, but I’m looking forward to driving more rally and racing more off-road trucks and there will be some announcements on those fronts shortly!”

There’s no shame in not succeeding in a four-wheel sport that, for all intents and purposes, was a bit foreign to a guy who made much of his previous athletic living on two wheels and other varieties of four-wheel racing.

I commend Pastrana for taking the leap of faith that he could do for NASCAR what he did in extreme sports. He brought a well-known name, a quirky yet refreshing personality and fans into the sport who otherwise wouldn’t have done so had it not been for his surname and past rep in other forms of racing.

Other drivers who likely will never cut it in NASCAR could take a cue from Pastrana’s decision to get out while the getting’s good. He came to realize that four top-10 finishes in 32 races (one ninth-place finish and three 10th-place showings) just wasn’t good enough to continue on.

Pastrana qualified and started each of the first 32 races this season, completing 5,408 of 5,812 laps (93 percent). He led five laps and wound up with an average start of 16.8 and average finish of 21.4. He also failed to finish six times, all due to crashes.

I have to guess that Pastrana spent the last few weeks looking at his track record and came to the conclusion he wasn’t fooling anyone else, and most certainly wasn’t fooling himself, with that kind of performance.

Still, Pastrana deserves a lot of applause for actually going through the process. He came into the sport making no guarantees, other than he’d work hard to learn and do his best whenever he was behind the wheel.

That, my friends, is a man who lived up to his word. Unfortunately, his talent wasn’t able to transcend from off-road or rally or motocross racing to pavement racing.

I also have to give Pastrana credit for deciding it was time to let his wife, Lyn-Z, pursue her own athletic dreams, which she abruptly put on hold to support her husband’s chasing of his NASCAR dream.

While he won’t be back in a NASCAR race car anytime soon, if ever again, I hope Pastrana does not become a stranger and leave the sport completely. He brought in an excitement and curiosity factor that the sport, particularly the Nationwide Series, needed.

I’d hate to see him walk away and totally put stock car racing completely in his rearview mirror. Even if he stops by a few tracks periodically just to hang out and say “hi” to friends and fans he’s made, that would be outstanding.

After reading the statement he made Monday that revealed his decision to end his NASCAR career, I started thinking about whether we’ve seen or heard the last from Pastrana when it comes to competitive racing.

Maybe he couldn’t cut it in NASCAR, but I have to wonder if perhaps Pastrana might one day wind up in the new united sports car series that debuts in 2014 or perhaps even IndyCar.

I mean, he’s only 30 years old. And it’s not an embarrassment not having been able to cut it in NASCAR. Look at guys like Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve, Kimi Raikkonen, Patrick Carpentier and soon, Juan Pablo Montoya. They all gave NASCAR a shot, fell short and either moved back to what they did best in their former racing series or ventured off in other directions.

I admit, I’m going to miss Travis. He was a breath of fresh air, most notably when it came to interviewing him in-person.

The biggest thing that always impressed me was in several interviews I had with him, both one-on-one or in group settings, was his honesty. At times, he was so raw in that honesty that I’m sure it probably made some folks at Roush Fenway Racing or some sponsors cringe.

But that’s what made Travis, Travis. He was honest to the media, honest to the fans and, when it came time to make one of the most difficult decisions of his life, he was honest with himself that NASCAR just wasn’t for him.

How can you not admire and like someone like that?

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XFINITY

Travis Pastrana Leaving NASCAR After Season

By Matt Weaver — Due to the lack of required sponsorship, Travis Pastrana will step away from NASCAR at the end of the season.

“I would like to thank (everyone at Roush-Fenway Racing) and all of the other people who stuck behind me during the last two years as I tried to learn how to make a successful career in NASCAR,” Pastrana announced on his Facebook page. “It’s tough to step back now and prove the critics were right but unfortunately my results were not good enough to get the sponsors I needed to appropriately fund next season.”

Pastrana, who is an accomplished Rally driver and X-Games star, says that any potential funding was dependent on his on-track results and that he wasn’t able to adjust to the style of NASCAR racing as quick as he had hoped.

“I hate to quit and I hate to fail, but sometimes things work out as they should,” Pastrana added. “I’ve never been able to figure out the finesse required in pavement racing and that is disappointing, but I’m looking forward to driving more Rally and racing more off-road trucks and there will be some announcements on those fronts shortly.”

Pastrana had hinted that his time in NASCAR may be limited during an exclusive interview with Popular Speed in September at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Pastrana said that if he didn’t start scoring better results in the final third of the season, it may be a sign that he didn’t belong in the sport in the first place.

“Yeah, I figure if I’m not good enough to get the financing, this probably isn’t the sport for me — but I think it is,” Pastrana said in September.

Pastrana added at the time that he enjoyed the physical nature of NASCAR and that he really felt he was starting to make progress in the sport, especially on the high-banked intermediate tracks that make up the bulk of the schedule.

The 29-year-old made his debut last season, making select starts in Nationwide and the Camping World Truck Series.

His first full-time season has been met with mixed results. In 32 races, he has only four top-10s but none since Indianapolis in July, with an average finish of 21.4. He is currently 14th in the Nationwide championship standings.

With his NASCAR career soon coming to an end, Pastrana says he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, and supporting his wife, Lyn-z as she resumes her career as a professional skater.

“My wife, Lyn-z has been more than supportive if my foray into NASCAR, often times being my buggest source of encouragement and support,” Pastrana added on his Facebook page. “But as my wife had to take a step back from being a professional skater to let me chase my goals in racing, I too need to take a step back and look at my situation as a father and husband.”

Pastrana was sponsored this season by Red Bull and the DC Shoe Company, despite both organizations not wanting to appear on his No. 60 Ford.

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Editorial XFINITY

Hornish Racing for Nationwide Championship, NASCAR Career

By Matt Weaver — Sam Hornish Jr. is fighting for much more than a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship over the next two weekends. He’s fighting for the chance to stay in NASCAR.

During the ESPN prerace show for Saturday’s Nationwide race at Phoenix International Raceway, former Penske Racing driver Rusty Wallace reported that Roger Penske is hoping to retain Hornish for next season but a continuation is dependent on securing sponsorship money.

Hornish has been advised to shop his services elsewhere just in case Team Penske is unable to seal the deal.

It’s remarkable that the driver that has led the standings for much of the season — and enters the penultimate race in second — doesn’t have a deal finalized but that’s the hand he’s been dealt. All that remains for Hornish to do over the next two weekends at Phoenix and Homestead is for the three-time IndyCar Series champion to go out and perform.

Hornish has one win this season — at Las Vegas but finds himself six points behind Austin Dillon in the closing stages. Not that Hornish ever made excuses but the domination of Sprint Cup Series regulars and his own teammates in the Nationwide Series doesn’t mean a thing anymore.

Two races and six points separate Hornish from being recognized as a solid driver in a competitive Series or a NASCAR Champion, a difference that may keep him from marketability in the eyes of prospective sponsors at the end of the year.

To his credit, Hornish has time to close the gap and he seems to know it too.

“The biggest thing is knowing we don’t have to have it all this weekend,” Hornish told ESPN on Friday. “A lot of mistakes can be made and things like that. We’re just going to go out there and try to run the 12 car’s race to the best of our ability and worry about ourselves and figure out where it shakes out for Homestead.

“It’s two tracks where I really loving racing at, especially Phoenix.”

Hornish is battle tested and knows how it to get it done. And he must because absolutely everything rides on this championship battle.

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XFINITY

NNS Owners Battle Hits Phoenix with Busch, Keselowski

By Summer Bedgood – When you think of Kyle Busch vs. Brad Keselowski, you don’t necessarily think first of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Despite the fact that both are incredibly successful in the NNS, both are still full-time championship caliber Sprint Cup drivers. And they have had their run-ins with one another.

Despite that, their respective teams have utilized their talents to help bolster their NNS programs, and to great success. The two of them have combined for a total of 17 victories in 31 races this season, and there are only two races remaining. As one can imagine, this would have quite an impact on the points.

Even though both Busch and Keselowski are ineligible for driver points, their wins and respective finishes can be used for owner points in their respective rides. For instance, the 54 car in the NNS has been driven by four different drivers this season: Busch, Joey Coulter, Drew Herring, and Owen Kelly. Though Busch is the only driver to have won any races, the total points accumulated from all of the drivers all go towards the No. 54 JGR car.

The same can be said for the No. 22 Penske Racing team. Four drivers have also shared time in that car, and three of them have gone to Victory Lane. Though none of them were eligible for driver points, owners receive points no matter who is in their car.

Enter Texas Motor Speedway, the third race from the end of the season. The No. 54 team entered the race with a four point advantage over the No. 22 team, and the teams’ main stars were both entered in the race. Keselowski and Busch both knew the stakes were high and had their sights set firmly on Victory Lane, something that shouldn’t have been too difficult on either of them.

Unfortunately for Busch and JGR, the spread between the No. 22 and the No. 54 would be much bigger at race’s end. Busch blew a right rear tire on lap 110 and would finish 26th with a four lap deficit. Meanwhile, Keselowski would go on to win the race, leading 106 of the 200 laps.

Those two opposite ends of the spectrum saw the four point advantage the No. 54 had over the 22 switch to a 26 point margin between the 22 and the 54 with the 22 back on top. With two races left in the season, it will take the same sort of bad luck from Keselowski for Busch to be able to make up the difference this weekend in Phoenix.

And, yes, both drivers are racing at Phoenix this weekend and both drivers know how to win. Busch has one win there in the NSCS and an astounding five in the NNS, including the spring race earlier this season. Keselowski has two top fives and three top 10s in eight starts in the NSCS and seven top fives and eight top 10s in the NASCAR NNS.

With those statistics, it appears Busch has the advantage. However, as last weekend in Texas proved, all it takes is an ill-timed error or a smidgen of bad luck for championship hopes to take a nosedive. Keselowski and Penske Racing might have the advantage heading into Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to keep Busch and JGR at bay.

EMAIL SUMMER AT summer.bedgood@popularspeed.com

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XFINITY

Hornish Could Have Title but No Ride at Season’s End

By Kelly Crandall – Sam Hornish Jr. can still win the 2013 Nationwide Series championship but what happens after that is anyone’s guess.

Hornish chopped two points off Austin Dillon’s lead with two races remaining in the season following his third place finish Saturday afternoon at Texas. Heading to Phoenix, where he won in November of 2011 for his first career win, he’s now six markers behind Dillon.

“We did what we could do. We took care of ourselves. We had a decent run. We came back when it didn’t look like we would gain points for quite a bit of the race,” Hornish said.

A pit road penalty on lap 50 stemming from hitting the commitment cone put the Wurth team in the familiar role of battling back. They lost a lap under green flag conditions, which left Hornish having to later take the wave around to rejoin the leaders.

Once back on the lead lap he was as fast as teammate and eventual winner Brad Keselowski. His late race run helping salvage his championship hopes.

“I was thinking that we would gain three (points) today. But then I didn’t realize that he (Dillon) had led a lap,” said Hornish.

“I thought that we were going to chunk three off at a time. I am really looking forward to going to Phoenix. I love that track and have a lot of good memories there. We will see what happens. We didn’t lose any and that is the key thing. If we can take one or two off the following weekend that plus the pressure on him. He doesn’t just have to finish within a couple of spots of us then, he will have to beat us.”

Winning the championship for Hornish is far more likely than him having a full-time ride in the NNS next season. Two months ago in Kentucky he revealed that sponsorship, not performance, might take him out of the Penske Racing No. 12 and Saturday he reaffirmed the point, saying he still hasn’t nailed down his 2014 plans.

“As far as next year goes, I have talked to just about anybody that will talk to me and the unfortunate thing is that there are still a lot of people that by the time I knew what was going on it was late for a lot of things and then the people that still have stuff open are looking for money to be able to fill it,” he said.

Hornish made the bold move in 2007 to leave the IndyCar Series where he won the Indianapolis 500 as well three championships, for the NASCAR world. Like many of his counter-parts, some of whom did an about face and left as quickly as the came to stock cars, Hornish was determined to stick it out and make it work, even after initially failing.

He ran Sprint Cup for Penske but struggled so badly that performance and sponsorship sent him to the NNS on a part-time basis. Now full-time he’s won again and has become a consistent top 10 driver.

Which is why he’s not ready to give it all up and find something else to do, adamant that he came to NASCAR to stay. Now unfortunately, he’s once again left trying to find out where he’s going to fit in.

“I came over here because I wanted to be successful at this and this is what I wanted to do. I don’t have any interest in going back to IndyCar at this point in time,” said Hornish. “For me it is really about how to try to make this work. I have tried to sit down and justify a lot of things in my mind and the one thing that keeps coming up to me is what is going to further my career.

“Maybe I don’t find something full-time for next year but I would rather be in something that at least I could run a couple races here and there and be competitive and work hard to figure out how to be back full-time in 2015 as opposed to get in something that I don’t have any chance of winning and a good day would be 15th.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

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XFINITY

Keselowski Outduels Hamlin to Win at Texas

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) FORT WORTH, Tex. — Brad Keselowski dominated early and retook the lead late to win Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.

Keselowski led 106 of 200 laps in the 31st NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season, propelling his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford to a decisive advantage in the owners’ standings.

Passing runner-up Denny Hamlin with 14 laps left, Keselowski pulled away to win by .980 seconds. The victory was Keselowski’s sixth of the season, his first at Texas and the 26th of his career. Four different drivers have combined to win 12 times in the No. 22 Ford.

Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. recovered from a commitment violation (hitting the commitment cone on Lap 53) to finish third. Hornish trimmed two points off series leader and fifth-place finisher Austin Dillon’s advantage and trails by six points with two races left in the season.

Matt Kenseth came home fourth, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch blew a right rear tire and crashed off Turn 4 on Lap 110. Busch finished 26th and saw the four-point advantage of his No. 54 Toyota entering the race turned to a 26-point deficit to the No. 22 in the battle for the owners’ championship.

Keselowski will drive the car next week, and Joey Logano in the NASCAR Nationwide season finale at Homestead. To Keselowski, the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide driver champion, securing the owners’ title for team owner Roger Penske is a piece of unfinished business.

The victory also was redemption of sorts for Keselowski’s last NASCAR Nationwide start, at Kansas, where he wrecked off Busch’s front bumper during intense racing between the two drivers.

“I dug us a hole there at Kansas, obviously, with getting tangled up there, and we lost some points,” Keselowski said. “So it’s great to recover from that hole and grow a little bit of a lead, but two races is a long ways left, and (26) points is better than nothing, but it’s certainly not a guarantee of anything as well…

“But it’s about Roger. It’s about getting him something he hasn’t done, and I take a lot of pride in that.”

Hamlin grabbed the lead during a cycle of green-flag pit stops before the third caution of the afternoon, caused by Joe Nemechek’s spin off Turn 2 after a tap from Trevor Bayne, slowed the race on Lap 171.

In tight racing after the subsequent Lap 177 restart, Hamlin held off Keselowski for the top spot, but one lap later, Travis Pastrana spun at the exit of Turn 2 and nosed into the inside backstretch wall, necessitating the fourth yellow flag.

Keselowski and Hamlin battled side by side for three laps before Keselowski ducked to the inside of the No. 20 Toyota and completed the decisive pass.

Hornish lost a lap serving a drive-through penalty for the commitment violation, but astute strategy put him in position to take a wave-around under caution for a restart on Lap 76. The caution for Busch’s accident on Lap 110 allowed Hornish to pit without losing a lap, and subsequently he charged to his third-place finishing spot.

“It’s one of those things,” Hornish said of the early mishap. “You wear the tires here, and the track doesn’t have a whole lot of grip. Pit road comes up pretty quick, and I got a little locked up as soon as I got on the brakes and did everything I could do to try to get it whoaed up and had a choice of hitting the cone or the back of the 54 car. I figured the cone would hurt the front of my car a lot less.

“It was a great recovery by everyone that works on the Wurth Ford Mustang, and we did what we needed to do today. We got ourselves back up there in position to run for the win and over-tightened the car by the time we got to that point. Hats off to everyone at Penske Racing, and it is good to see our teammate go to Victory Lane.”