NASCAR Vegas Power Rankings Week 23: Top 5 Drivers to Win the Nationwide Series Championship: The summer stretch of the 2012 season is coming to an end, and it is now or never for any driver hoping to make a push for the Nationwide Series title. With just 11 races remaining, one bad race finish can bring an end up a driver’s championship dreams, especially with the way the title fight has been shaping up. Four drivers have legitimate shot at winning the championship, and during the course of the year, all four have spent time as the dominant driver in the series. It will be interesting to see who ultimately comes out on top in what has been a back-and-forth affair, but for now, here is a look at how the top five drivers stack up in this installment of Power Rankings.
NASCAR Power Rankings Week 23: Top 5 Drivers to Win the Nationwide Series Championship
1. Sam Hornish Jr.: It has been one heck of a run for Hornish. He has ripped off 10 straight top-10 finishes and is now just one shy of the series lead for the season. During the stretch, he has compiled an impressive 4.9 average finish, and Hornish has been even better recently. He has compiled a 3.6 average finish in the last five races and has finished third or better in four straight starts, including a second-place run at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve when he rallied from a pair of spins. For the year, he has yet to finish outside the top 20, and his only finish outside the top 15 came in the season opener. Hornish has surged all the way to second in the standings, and at his current scorching pace, he should continue to close the gap on the leader.
2. Elliott Sadler: He is 22 points clear of second place, and Sadler’s consistency and his ability to avoid mistakes going to make him to track down for top spot. His 16 top-10s and 7.5 average finish are both tops in the series for full-time drivers. Sadler also leads all series regulars with four wins, and his ability to blend consistency with victories has been the difference between this season and last year. Since finishing second for last year’s championship, he has been focused solely on winning the title in 2012. If he can continue to stay out of trouble and mix in an occasional win, he might just realize his goal. Sadler is definitely in a good spot.
3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: A three-race run of bad luck from the end of May through the middle of June has put the defending champ in a hole, but he has the ability to dig his way out. Among the series regulars, Stenhouse is the best at reeling off a bunch of elite finishes. In fact, he leads all full-time drivers with 12 top-five finishes in 2012 and ranks second with three victories. Stenhouse is currently tied for second in the standings, but even if the point leader finishes in the top 10 every race, his ability to win and finish in the top five will still make it possible for him to gain ground. Back-to-back titles are still within reach for Stenhouse, but he has no margin for error.
4. Austin Dillon: He is having a rookie season that any driver would beg for, but after being within a few points of the top spot a month ago, Dillon is starting to slip. A tire problem at Iowa when he had the best car at the track didn’t help, but his inexperience at road courses could ultimately doom him his title hopes. Dillon has finished outside the top 15 in two of the three road courses, sliding to fourth in the standings. He is still tied for the series lead with 16 top-10s and ranks second with 11 top-five finishes, but he will have to find a way to be even better if he wants to close the 35-point gap between himself and the point leader. It might be too much to ask from a rookie.
5. Justin Allgaier: Although he probably won’t recover from a shaky start, you can’t say Allgaier is giving up. He has reeled off eight top-10s in his last 10 starts and has a 5.4 average finish in the last four races. Allgaier is fresh off his first win of 2012, he created a huge gap between himself and the sixth-place driver in the standings. His 15 top-10s put him one shy of the series lead, and he has established himself as the fifth-best driver in the series at the very least. All he can do is take care of business and hope that the guys ahead of him all mess up. While that probably won’t happen, Allgaier is more than capable of continuing to keep pace and even pick up another spot or two.
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