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

Jul 8, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT

Aaron's 312 Getty Images

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.

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