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No. 22 wins third straight, takes owner lead

NASCAR.com

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- What is it about Penske Racing's No. 22 Ford Mustang?

AJ Allmendinger drove it to victory in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, making it three straight races the car has ended the day parked in Victory Lane.

With Owen Kelly's last-lap spin and 23rd-place finish, the No. 22 team took the owner championship lead by 22 points over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing entry.

Brad Keselowski has won four times, including the last two races, and Joey Logano has won twice in it, including a July 21 victory at Chicago. Add Allmendinger's two victories in the car and that's eight this season.

Allmendinger also made it a clean sweep of the series' road races for Penske. Keselowski drove the No. 22 car to victory last weekend at Watkins Glen.

Teammate Sam Hornish Jr., who finished third Saturday and assumed the NASCAR Nationwide points lead, said the men driving the car make a big difference.

"Those guys are good," he said. "Brad is good in either car in this division and Joey always has run good in this series. And AJ is great on road courses."

The win had another meaning for No. 22 crew chief Jeremy Bullins. Penske logged the first-ever NASCAR Nationwide Series win here.

"It was cool to get that for him," he said of owner Roger Penske, one of the most successful owners in the history of motorsports. "It's another page in the history book."

Hornish said he feels his No. 12 Mustang has worked well with the No. 22 car no matter who's driving it. He's got a 13-point lead in the standings with 11 races left in the series.

WELCOME TO OHIO

Saturday's race was the first ever for the series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and NASCAR fans in the Buckeye State were ready.

Track management does not release attendance figures but a Mid-Ohio spokesman said Saturday's turnout was the best for the track's season.

Allmendinger said the track here is much different from the other road circuits on the schedule.

"It's definitely more narrow than the other places," he said. "Here, there's a lot of twists and turns to it and in a way it's a little more frustrating at times but it's a little more fun, too.

"It's a thinking place. It's not going to be easy to make a pass and that's what makes it fun."

Saturday was the third and final road course on the NASCAR Nationwide schedule. It replaced last season's road race at Montreal and NASCAR has not announced if the series will return in 2014.

The Trans-Am Series was the under card for Saturday's race.

RACING FOR KIDS

Saturday's race was a homecoming of sorts for series sponsor Nationwide Insurance, which is headquartered about 30 miles from Mid-Ohio. Ohio's capital city also is home to the race sponsor and children who have undergone treatment for cancer were the guests of honor.

Thirteen children were paired with drivers who hail from or live near their current hometowns and those drivers carried the kids' names on their cars. Hoods or pieces of sheet metal from those cars were scheduled to be auctioned after the race with all proceeds benefitting The NASCAR Foundation.

Nine of the children attended the race and Nationwide Chief Marketing Officer Matt Jachius thanked drivers and teams during the afternoon meeting for donating a combined $650,000 in sponsor space on their cars.

AROUND THE TRACK

The Ohio State University marching band entertained fans before the race with performances of the school's fight songs and the McCoys' "Hang on Sloopy," the state of Ohio's official rock 'n' roll song. ? Grant Reed of Mansfield, Ohio, made news when the 13-year-old Ohio State fan nicknamed the brain tumor he successfully battled "Michigan," after his favorite school's bitter rival. He was treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital and was on hand at Mid-Ohio on Saturday to serve as the grand marshal during pre-race festivities.

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