NASCAR Bristol 2013: Sam Hornish Jr. thinking championship after fast start in Nationwide

Jerry Markland

BRISTOL, Tenn. - After the last few season championships have come down to the last race, Hornish is already thinking about the big picture and trying to get the most points possible even if he doesn't have a car capable of winning the race.

That was the case on Saturday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Hornish developed a power steering issue early in the race but was still able to muscle the car to a top-five finish. Hornish doesn't think he was able to do that last year and that's why he's become a legitimate title contender in his second-consecutive full season in the Nationwide Series.

"We have to just go out there and take it one day at a time," Hornish told SB Nation following Saturday's race. "Last year, we had several real good races but we just didn't do what we needed to do to get up there, where we needed to be, to contend for the championship."

While some would argue that it's way too early to be considering championships after the fourth race of the season, Hornish recalled that he was already behind this time last year and was never able to recover. In fact, after Bristol last season, Hornish was in sixth place and 49 points out of the lead.

Hornish is already thinking about what he has to do from here on out and admits to employing a more conservative approach in lap traffic -- and he was awarded with a top-five finish after other contenders, including Brad Keselowski and Regan Smith were involved in tussles that dropped them in the running order.

"I don't think it's ever too early to start paying attention to where you are in the standings," Hornish said. "So we were trying to give people plenty of room out there today and think about how we're going to race people from here on out.

"So I think that's one of the things that are really helping us out at this point of the season. We're taking our time. We know when to be aggressive and we know when to lay back."

So far, for Hornish, so good. Below are the Nationwide Series standings following Saturday's race at Bristol Motor Speedway:

  1. Sam Hornish, Jr. Ldr
  2. Justin Allgaier -22
  3. Brian Scott -25
  4. Regan Smith -26
  5. Brian Vickers -30
  6. Austin Dillon -34
  7. Trevor Bayne -39
  8. Alex Bowman -47
  9. Kyle Larson -49
  10. Elliott Sadler -51
  11. Parker Kligerman -53
  12. Travis Pastrana -55
  13. Mike Bliss -57
  14. Nelson Piquet, Jr. -64
  15. Reed Sorenson -73
  16. Eric McClure -88
  17. Jeffrey Earnhardt -89
  18. Blake Koch -91
  19. Joe Nemechek -96
  20. Hal Martin -97

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