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Hornish Jr., Dillon look to heat up Richmond

September 05, 2013, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Hornish Jr. and Dillon plan to use Nationwide's 1,000th race to get ahead

NASCAR's No. 2 series has played host to some of the most exciting on-track action in motorsports with its unique blend of veteran drivers and those trying to earn a seat in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The first 999 races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series has seen many epic battles occur and records fall, but its 1,000th race, Friday night's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), at Richmond International Raceway should provide a showdown that's worthy of its predecessors.

Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon have temporarily separated themselves from the rest of the contenders, but the competition for the title is still close with nine races remaining and there could be plenty of points shakeups between now and Homestead in November.

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In six series starts at Richmond, Hornish's best finish is a fifth in April 2012. He also has a pair of seventh-place performances, including one in April 2013.

“In the last race, we had a fast Ford Mustang but had difficulty in the pits,” Hornish said. “Since then we've improved our short-track program, and our pit crew has been rock steady. Looking at the spring race here and knowing where we are as a team, I could not be any more optimistic.”

The former IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner has led 83 laps at the .75-mile track, his third-highest total among all tracks in the series. He's led 114 at Las Vegas and 91 at Iowa. With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series he only visited Richmond seven times, finishing a personal-best sixth in May 2009.

Dillon has competed at Richmond four times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with a best finish of sixth in September 2012. His other finishes are ninth, 26th and 35th. An accident in April's race ended his day early and relegated him to a 35th-place finish. His driver rating of 87.5 is slightly better than Hornish's 86.3.

Hornish leads Dillon by 10 points with Elliott Sadler 16 points further back. Regan Smith (-29) and Justin Allgaier (-47) round out the top five.

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