Sam Hornish Jr.’s championship hopes might have increased just a bit early Saturday afternoon. Hornish has won the pole for the Ford EcoBoost 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, giving him his fourth pole award of the 2013 season.
Hornish’s lap time of 32.561 seconds at 165.843 mph was good enough to set the pace for the race weekend. The pole could mean a ton towards Hornish’s battle for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Coming into Homestead, Hornish is eight points behind Austin Dillon for the points lead.
Throughout the year he’s been running upfront more than Dillon has, leading more than 20 laps in nine races this year, including his ever so important win at Las Vegas in March. However, Hornish has had more mishaps than Dillon which is the key reason why he’s trailing Dillon entering this weekend.
Dillon will start 11th in his No. 3 Chevrolet, hoping to bring another championship to Richard Childress Racing. He’s looking to become the second driver to win both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title and the NASCAR Nationwide Series title. The only other to driver to accomplish that feat was Greg Biffle (2000 and 2002).
Starting second will be Blake Koch in the No. 99 Toyota for RAB Racing. Koch was originally slated to be in a second car for the team as a teammate to rookie of the year contende, Alex Bowman. However, due to contractual issues, the team opted to put Koch in their primary car. Koch usually drives for the underfunded team of SR2 Motorsports and has driven for MacDonald Motorsports in the past.
Brad Keselowski will start third in a third Penske Racing Ford, trying to give Hornish an extra spot over Dillon. The other Penske car of Joey Logano will start fourth, taking three of the top four spots which could be vital for the championship battle.
The other championship battle going on, the owners title, is also extremely tight. Penske’s No. 22 car, driven by Logano this weekend, leads the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team which has been piloted by Kyle Busch for the majority of the year. Busch will start sixth with a shot to tie his own personal record for the most Nationwide Series wins in a season.
Kyle Larson will start eighth in his final start as a Nationwide Series regular as he prepares to move over to Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014. Trevor Bayne will start ninth after announcing earlier this week that he was diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis over the summer months. Corey LaJoie makes his Nationwide Series debut in the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, possibly taking over the No. 43 car for Michael Annett in 2014 as Annett goes to the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series.
Other notable drivers making their (presumed) final starts with their current teams include Parker Kligerman, Johanna Long, Travis Pastrana, Nelson Piquet Jr., Justin Allgaier as well as Hornish.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.