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NASCAR Nationwide Series

Johnson looking forward to competing in Nationwide race again

Avondale, AZ (Sports Network) - Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson will have a busier than usual weekend at Phoenix International Raceway this time.

In addition to his Sprint Cup Series duties, Johnson is scheduled to compete in Saturday's Nationwide Series race here. He will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Johnson has not competed in a Nationwide event since Aug. 13, 2011 at Watkins Glen, N.Y., where he finished second in a JRM entry.

"I appreciate Junior letting me run one of his cars," Johnson said. "My goal is to make my team owner so proud that, perhaps, he'll invite me back more often than once every two years."

Johnson has only one victory in 92 career Nationwide starts. The win came in 2001 at Chicagoland. He competed in the series full-time that year.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski will join Johnson as those Sprint Cup regulars entered in this race.

Even though one event on this year's 33-race Nationwide schedule is complete, Sam Hornish Jr. is atop the series point standings for the first time in his career. Hornish finished second to Tony Stewart in last weekend's season- opener at Daytona.

"We had a good run in Daytona, which we feel good about, and now we are going to a track where we feel that we are capable of running well, so I feel great," Hornish said.

Hornish scored his first career Nationwide victory in the 2011 fall race at Phoenix. He also made his series debut at this track in 2006.

Rookie contender Alex Bowman is a single point behind Hornish after his impressive third-place finish at Daytona. Bowman, who hails from nearby Tucson, Ariz., is driving the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota full-time this season. The 19-year-old won rookie of the year honors in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2011 and the ARCA Racing Series this past year.

"I'm really excited to head to Phoenix and be close to home," Bowman said. "We were pretty good there last year, and I think we've made even more improvements."

Elliott Sadler won the Nationwide race at Phoenix one year ago, scoring his first victory in the series since October 1998 at Rockingham, N.C. Sadler drove the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing last season. He is now behind the wheel of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Forty teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Dollar General 200.

Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, March 2. Race: Dollar General 200. Site: Phoenix International Raceway. Track: one-mile oval. Start time: 4:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 200. Miles: 200. 2012 Winner: Elliott Sadler. Television: ESPN2. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

02/28 14:52:25 ET

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