Out of nowhere, just 17 points separate NASCAR Nationwide top 5

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After his win at Michigan International Speedway three races ago, Regan Smith (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) increased his lead over Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 12 Penske Racing Ford) in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings from 23 to 58 markers.

But consecutive finishes of 30th or worse at Road America and Kentucky before an eighth place this Friday at Daytona has seen Smith’s lead shrink to just six points to Hornish. Hornish has finished fifth, ninth and seventh and clawed back 52 points.

The actual championship battle in Nationwide has been largely overshadowed by the frequency of Sprint Cup regulars scoring Nationwide race wins. In 16 races, only Smith (twice), Hornish (once) and Trevor Bayne (once) have taken home wins ahead of the Cup regulars.

So with the season nearly at its halfway point, with 17 races remaining, just 17 points separates the top five in the series standings.

Smith leads Hornish by six, Elliott Sadler by 14, Justin Allgaier by 15 and Austin Dillon by 17 points.Those three have yet to win a race this season. Their quest to get on the scoreboard continues at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon this Saturday.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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