Down eight points to Austin Dillon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, Sam Hornish Jr. will have at least the early edge in today’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the pole for the Ford Ecoboost 300.
Hornish, a three-time IndyCar Series champion that’s gunning for his first stock car title this afternoon, was one of the last drivers to qualify but was able to out-hustle Blake Koch for the top spot on the grid with a lap at 165.843 mph in the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford.
The former Indy 500 winner was particularly enthused about being able to claim the No. 1 stall coming out of pit road, which could prove big for him in terms of track position throughout today’s race.
“We don’t have to worry about somebody blocking us in,” Hornish told Fox Sports. “Usually, being able to be the pole sitter means you get that great stall and you just can get that launch out [of pit road] and gain yourself a couple of positions if you need it – or hopefully, as our case will be tonight, keep our lead under pit stops.”
Meanwhile, Dillon will have to make up a bit of ground after qualifying 11th, squeezing a lap at 163.825 mph out of his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Dillon can clinch the title with a finish of third or better (or fourth with one lap led, or fifth with the most laps led).
Hornish will have some backup toward the front of the grid, as Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will start third and fourth in today’s NNS event.
But Logano also has his own championship priority today, as he’ll be driving the No. 22 Penske Ford that’s battling the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch for the NNS owner’s title. The No. 22 holds a slim, four-point edge on the No. 54, and the No. 22 can only guarantee a clinch of that title with a victory today.
Busch will start on the outside of Row 3 alongside JGR teammate and Sprint Cup title contender Matt Kenseth. Young guns Brad Sweet and Kyle Larson make up Row 4, while Trevor Bayne and Dillon’s RCR teammate, Brian Scott, go off from Row 5.
The Ford Ecoboost 300 is set to take the green flag around 4:30 p.m. ET.