Smith Chasing Nationwide’s Dash 4 Cash Million Dollars
Jackpot! JR Motorsport’s driver Regan Smith won the first round of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash program at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, banking $100,000 – and qualifying himself for the chance to win $1 million. If Smith can win the first three legs of the Dash 4 Cash and the Iowa race outright, Nationwide Insurance will award him an extra $600,000 – totaling one million dollars.
Smith and the top-three finishing NASCAR Nationwide Series championship contenders in last weekend’s race at NHMS – Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott – qualify to compete in the second round of Nationwide’s Dash 4 Cash program at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday night with an opportunity to win $100,000.
Smith is the only one of the four drivers who qualified for the first round to make it to the second round. Chicago could be an obstacle for Smith though; in his five starts at the 1.5-mile speedway he has posted an average finish of 24.0 with a pre-race Driver Rating of 64.7 (23rd-best).
Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Buescher will be making his series début at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, but don’t count him out; he has finished in the top-ten twice this season on 1.5-mile speedways.
Among this round’s qualifiers, Sadler and Scott have enjoyed the most success at Chicago. Sadler has made nine starts there, posting one win (2012), four top-tens and an average finish of 15.6. While Scott has made seven series starts at Chicago posting three top-tens, his first career Coors Light pole, and an average finish of 9.8 – the second best average finish among active drivers.
The highest finisher of the four eligible drivers at Chicago will win the money and automatically qualify for the Dash 4 Cash at Indianapolis the following weekend. The next three highest finishing NNS regulars at Chicago not already qualified will also get to compete for the $100,000 bonus at Indianapolis. The last event at Iowa will carry the same qualifying requirements.
As part of the program, four fans will win an all-expense paid trip to Iowa Speedway where they will be randomly paired with the four eligible drivers. The fan paired with the driver who wins the Dash 4 Cash at Iowa will also walk away with $100,000.
Hot Hands Want The Wheel In Chi-Town
Just outside the city known for making sport superstars sits Chicagoland Speedway, at the ready for the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and a stout list of entrants hungry for Chi-Town’s bright lights.
After becoming the youngest NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner in series history last November at Phoenix International Raceway, Erik Jones won his second career NCWTS race last weekend at Iowa Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This weekend, the 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series début for Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 20 Toyota. Joining Jones is JGR teammate Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 54 car. Hornish looks to continue to capitalize on his limited schedule this season; he has made four series starts posting one win (Iowa) and three top-fives. He leads the series in average finish at Chicago with a 4.8; in five starts at Chicago Hornish has posted three top-fives.
While many from NASCAR’s premier series enjoy a rare open weekend on the schedule, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson will be racing in Saturday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event. Kahne will return to the series behind the wheel of the No. 5 JRM Chevrolet for the first time since his win at Daytona two weeks ago. Larson will pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports. Kahne has made seven series starts at Chicago, posting one top-five finish. Larson has two starts at the 1.5-mile track posting an average finish 22.0.
Ryan Blaney is also appearing this weekend in the car that won last season, Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford. This will be Blaney’s series début at Chicago.
Standings Lead At This Point, Doesn’t Always Mean Championship
Being out front and having the points lead is a good place when competing for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, right?
Not so fast. The series points leader after the summer New Hampshire race hasn’t gone on to win the championship the last three seasons. At this same time in 2011, eventual champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was in third and Elliott Sadler held the points lead. In 2012, Sadler was the standings leader and eventual champion Stenhouse was third. In 2013 after the NHMS July race, Austin Dillon was third and Regan Smith held the point. All three years the driver in third at this point of the season has won the championship.
Three consecutive years could be viewed as a trend; one that current series standings leader Regan Smith, hopes doesn’t continue. Smith is eight points ahead of second-place Elliott Sadler and 13 points ahead of his JRM teammate Chase Elliott in third.
Chicago might be a hurdle for Smith this weekend. He has an average finish of 24.0 at the 1.5-mile speedway, his third worst average finish among active series tracks. His best finish at Chicago has been 13th (twice – most recently last fall).
This will be Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings leader Chase Elliott’s series début at Chicagoland Speedway. Elliott won on a 1.5-mile speedway (Texas) earlier this season.
Sadler has the best stats at Chicago of the top three championship contenders, in nine starts he has one win (‘12) and a pre-race Driver Rating of 94.3.