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Nationwide on course for the first time at Mid-Ohio

<p>This will be the third and final road-course race for the series this season. Nationwide competed at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal from 2007-12 before coming to Mid-Ohio.</p>

This will be the third and final road-course race for the series this season. Nationwide competed at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal from 2007-12 before coming to Mid-Ohio.

Penske Racing's No. 22 team is 2-0 on the road courses in Nationwide this year. When the series competed at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis two months ago., A.J. Allmendinger scored his first win in a NASCAR national touring series race, driving the No. 22 Ford for Penske. Brad Keselowski drove that car to victory in last Saturday's event at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger is scheduled to drive the No. 22 at Mid-Ohio.

"Clearly, the last time I drove the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang was pretty memorable," Allmendinger said. "Getting your first NASCAR Series win is always special, but to accomplish it with Mr. Penske meant the world to me. He has done so much for my career, and I'm glad that I could give him something in return. I hope we can have the same success this weekend in Mid-Ohio and bring him closer to the Nationwide owner's championship."

Allmendinger posted the quickest lap overall at 95.550 mph during Thursday's practice at Mid-Ohio. He has competed in numerous open-wheel events here in the past.

"It's been a few years since I've been to Mid-Ohio, and I think I'm one of the few drivers to have experience here," he said. "I was able to clinch the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship here. To me, Mid-Ohio is one of the best natural road courses, but it's also a very tight and technical track."

Marcos Ambrose and Austin Dillon are those drivers who are attempting the Michigan/Mid-Ohio combo this weekend. Ambrose, a Sprint Cup Series regular and road-course expert, is driving the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.

"The track is a lot of fun to drive," Ambrose said. "We're having fun out there. It's going to be a close race. A tough race because it's going to be hard to pass. There's a lot of tight corners."

Dillon is current points leader in Nationwide. He also is substituting for the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Michigan.

"It's going to be a busy weekend," Dillon said. "I'm going to get a lot of experience and have some fun. I've been looking forward to it all week. We had a really good first practice. We're making some good progress that we need for our road-course program."

Just 18 points separate Dillon from fifth-place Brian Vickers, who recently was named the full-time driver of the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in Sprint Cup next year. Sam Hornish Jr., who hails from nearby Defiance, Ohio, is only three points behind Dillon, while Regan Smith is five markers behind the leader. Elliott Sadler is fourth in the standings (-12).

Forty-one teams are on the entry list for the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200.

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, Aug. 17. Race: Nationwide Children's Hospital 200. Site: Michigan International Speedway. Track: 2.258- mile, 13-turn road course. Start time: 2:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 90. Miles: 203.22. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

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