Last updated: July 26. 2014 9:12AM - 191 Views

Brian Scott, driver of the #2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series enjoyillnois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 18 in Joliet, Ill.
Brian Scott, driver of the #2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series enjoyillnois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 18 in Joliet, Ill.
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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 debut at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, but don’t count him out; he has finished in the top-10 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 10s and an average finish of 15.6. While Scott has made seven series starts at Chicago posting three top 10s, 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 final event at Iowa will carry the same qualifying requirements.

Four fans will be selected to 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.

Standings lead at this point, doesn’t always mean championship

Being out front and having the points lead is right where you want to be when competing for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, right?

Not so fast. The series points leader following 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 following 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 debut 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.

Get The Dirt On Eldora

From asphalt to dirt, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series makes a transition to the high-banked clay oval of Eldora Speedway on July 23 for the second consecutive season. The only dirt track on the schedule, Eldora will challenge even the most seasoned of veterans as it remains unique to the truck series among national series schedules.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and NCWTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Tyler Reddick will use their dirt racing backgrounds to their advantage as both drivers have experience in navigating the turns of Eldora.

In 2012, Reddick became the youngest driver to start in the World 100 at Eldora. At 16 years old, he was one of 123 entries in the annual dirt Late Model event and started on the outside pole, leading the first three laps. Although Reddick now focuses primarily on trucks, he recently made his first 2014 dirt Late Model start on July 4, and then won his second start the follow day at Highland Speedway in Illinois.

Larson is also a household name at Eldora as the driver has frequented the track on numerous occasions. In his first visit in September 2011, he became the second driver to sweep all three USAC features in the 4-Crown Nationals, finding Victory Lane in the National Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown Series’ events. Since then, Larson created his own sprint car team, Larson Marks Racing in 2014 and experienced his first win as an owner when driver Shane Stewart won the World of Outlaws STP Series at Eldora earlier this year.

Eldora has been good to Larson and Reddick in the past and with many drivers having limited experience on dirt, familiarity of the track may prove to be the key to success.

Summer heats up championship battle

Seven points is all that separates the top three drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings. Defending champion Matt Crafton overtook teammate Johnny Sauter to regain the points lead following a third-place showing at Iowa Speedway. Sauter fell to third as a runner-up finish by Ryan Blaney put the driver in second, just two points behind Crafton. Comparing the three…..

Crafton is the only driver to visit Victory Lane, earning wins at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year. He owns the highest average driver rating (106.7) and has led almost two times the number of laps Sauter and Blaney have led combined. With an average finish of 9.8 in the next three-race stretch, experience is on his side.

Blaney has been the biggest mover, earning 84 points in the last three races to jump from fifth to second. He also owns the highest average finish (8.1), reinforced by five top-five and seven top-10 finishes this season. Although he has yet to win a race, Blaney is the only driver to have earned a victory in one of the next three races (Pocono – 2013).

Sauter is one of two drivers to have remained in the top five in points standings all season (Ron Hornaday Jr.). Prior to an 18th-place finish at Iowa Speedway, he was the most consistent of the three with five consecutive top-10 finishes. Look for Sauter to rebound and continue to build his championship run.

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