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XFINITY

Trevor Bayne & James Dennis Each Win $100,000 In The Dash 4 Cash Finale

By Unique Hiram (NEWTON, Iowa.) – @TBayne21 (Trevor Bayne) won the final round of the NASCAR Nationwide Dash 4 Cash competition, taking home an extra $100,000. He also helped Henry, IL resident James Dennis increase his income by that same amount at the conclusion of the U.S. Cellular 250 Presented By New Holland at Iowa Speedway.

“I really appreciate Nationwide Insurance giving us this chance to battle for something else. When you are running third or fourth, if a Cup guy is leading then it creates that extra little bit of adrenaline when you got all the blue spoilers all around you on that last green, white, checkered. Great weekend for our team and hopefully we can build on this.”

The 2011 Daytona 500 champion was asked his thoughts about the new title sponsor, in 2015, offering a similar type of program in the future.

“I think it was really innovative for them to come up with this program. Fans want to see a battle between Nationwide drivers week-to-week and any kind of incentives like that I think are really cool. Obviously, we have the championship to battle for but I think that week-to-week battles are awesome. We don’t mind it a bit because it’s extra money that you have the chance to win,” said Bayne.

“I think it would be important to try to come up with some kind of incentive program like this for fans. So I’m definitely a supporter of it and fortunately we won the last one ever I guess for now unless we can talk them in to come back for Dash4Cash – at least next year,” he added.

Asked what he was going to do with his earnings, Dash 4 Cash Fan Winner James Dennis quickly responded, “it’s all going in the bank.”

“I’ve got to wait for the check to clear so that way I know it’s real,” he laughed. “I will maybe invest some of it and just sit on it. I don’t really have any extravagant plans to go out and purchase any expense thing or anything. I’m going to play it conservative.”

EMAIL UNIQUE AT unique.hiram@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER @UniqueHiram

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XFINITY

Keselowski’s Pit Strategy Equates To A Win in Iowa

By NASCAR Wire Service (NEWTON, Ia.) — The well-worn script read something like this: Brad Keselowski swoops in from the sky.

 

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion snares a second straight win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series US Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, then hops a jet back to Pocono Raceway and competes in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Long Pond, Pa.

 

Simple. Neat. Expected — except part-timer Michael McDowell nearly spoiled the big-timer’s happy, if nerve-wracking Saturday night ending.

 

“I had my shot at it,” said McDowell, who led briefly on lap 248 before the always-fast Keselowski swept high and surged to his third win in four U.S. Cellular 250 starts.

 

That he did — thanks to another driver’s misfortune.

 

James Buescher’s crash on lap 241 set up a madcap three-lap dash to the finish that allowed McDowell to challenge for the upset.

 

“A really good battle,” said Keselowski, who led 146 laps and has finished no worse than third in seven Nationwide starts this season. “He had me there for a minute. Somehow I slid back by him. I’m not really sure how it worked out. These wins aren’t easy to come by and I’m really proud of the effort everyone put into it.”

 

Keselowski’s stated goal entering the Nationwide portion of his weekend was to aid Team Penske in a tight race at the top of the owner point standings.

 

He accomplished that, narrowing Joe Gibbs Racing’s lead from eight points to one (804 to 803).

 

“This isn’t a race that Penske circles and says we want to send a Cup driver to,” Keselowski said. “It’s just the way it works right now, (with) development drivers running in the (Camping World) Trucks series. The race is a conflict and it just kind of schedules out the way it does for me to be here. But I’ve enjoyed the success I’ve had here and it’s important for me personally to see those (developmental) drivers get opportunities in races like that.”

 

JGR drivers Sam Hornish and Elliott Sadler finished fourth and 10th, respectively.

 

Hornish — one of a handful to choose four tires on the last pit stop — led 65 laps and notched his fourth straight top-four finish at Iowa.

 

Trevor Bayne led the first 31 laps and settled for third with a $100,000 silver lining.

 

Bayne locked up the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash prize, earning another $100,000 for fan James Dennis of Henry, Ill.

 

“It hasn’t sunk in entirely yet,” Dennis said.

 

It has for Bayne.

 

“Hopefully we can build on this,” said Bayne, who moved up to fifth in points with 673. “I feel like we did everything but go to Victory Lane this weekend.”

 

Chase Elliott finished eighth and maintains a narrow lead of 714 points to 712 over Regan Smith, who placed sixth.

 

McDowell matched his career-best finish in just his second start of the season.

 

“This is a great finish,” McDowell said. “When you’re that close to getting the victory, it’s definitely a tough one. Brad definitely had the best car tonight, but on those restarts everybody’s got a shot.”

 

Especially at Iowa, where grooves abound.

 

“The cool thing about Iowa is the top and the bottom is about even on the restarts,” said Keselowski’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins. “So Michael was able to get a good run and get the lead and Brad was able to get it back. I think a lot of places you go, there’s a definitive — there’s no question you’re taking the top or there’s no question you’re taking the bottom. Here, I think you look back, it’s probably closer to 50-50 as far as who gets the lead.”

 

His driver, as usual, held it here at the end.

 

“Thankful that it came together,” Keselowski said.

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XFINITY

JR Motorsports Short Tracker Josh Berry Set for NNS Debut at Iowa

By Matt Weaver — The upcoming Nationwide Series standalone event at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night is just one of 33 races for Chase Elliott, Regan Smith and the weekly competitors of NASCAR’s second tier tour but it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for JR Motorsports development driver Josh Berry.

The 23-year-old short track driver from Central Tennessee has driven Late Model Stocks for JR Motorsports since 2010 but has been tabbed to make his NNS debut on Saturday in the No. 5 entry typically driven by Kevin Harvick.

Berry has an interesting background to say the least.

He first met Earnhardt in an online racing simulator in 2007 while racing Legend Cars back home in Tennessee. The two quickly established a fast friendship that continued into iRacing over the next three seasons.

That friendship ultimately led to Earnhardt looking into Berry’s Legend results at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and offering him an opportunity in the JRM Late Model Stock at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia.

“I’ve always said that iRacing was the bridge of friendship between Dale and me,” Berry told Popular Speed on Wednesday. “We developed a friendship in some of the higher divisions online and we were talking about my career one day.

“He looked into my Legends stuff on the quarter-mile at Nashville and told me that he was looking to be more involved with the Late Model program. We met up and tested at Motor Mile and one race led to two and eventually into four seasons.”

It’s been a successful run for JRM and Berry. He earned the operation’s first track championship at Motor Mile in 2012 and is the current championship leader at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He has also scored victories at Greenville Pickens and Southern National Motor Speedway.

Berry said that a Nationwide Series start was never proposed to him until late last season and that he never asked, not wanting to seem ungrateful for the opportunities that he had been provided with Earnhardt.

“Maybe it was to my fault but I never asked for a Nationwide ride because I didn’t want to rock the boat,” Berry said. “I have a full-time Late Model deal where I wasn’t bringing any money and was more than satisfied about it.

“But they came to me last fall and said that they had an opening for the race at Richmond but NASCAR wouldn’t approve me. So we took a step back and readdressed our plans and made a point to get me in car this season.”

Berry made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut this season with a pair of starts at Greenville and Richmond, earning his Nationwide Series license in the process. The deal was inked last month for Berry to make his debut at Iowa and the driver has set humble goals for Saturday night.

“Realistically, if we can run top-15 and bring the car home in one piece, I feel like we would have had a successful go,” Berry said. “I want the team to leave the track with a good feeling and tell me that they would want to do it again. And if we can somehow get a top-10, that would be a major success.”

To prepare for the race, Berry has spent time at the track, seeking advice from JR Motorsports affiliated drivers like Harvick and Elliott while also logging hours in the video room, watching in-car footage from the Iowa race in May with Smith, the third-place finisher behind Sam Hornish and Ryan Blaney.

“I feel like I am prepared as I can be,” Berry said. “Regan has been a huge help. Harvick’s feedback has been mind-blowing. It’s incredible how thorough he is and it’s totally clear to me why he is one of the best in the business. I know what I need to do now and it’s just a matter of getting it done.”

Lastly, Berry is the personification of the American dream in North American motorsports. He doesn’t come from a wealthy family and is a pure grassroots racer with lofty dreams of going NASCAR racing. It is one of the reasons he believes Earnhardt gave him the opportunity of a lifetime in the first place.

“He’s doing driver development completely different than how everyone else is,” Berry said. “I’m just a common racer. I work on my own cars and have come up the hard way. It’s your only option in the Late Model world. I think it’s just cool that he would reward a guy like that.

“He just has a different outlook on racing than most.”

The U.S. Cellular 250 from Iowa Speedway will start at 8 p.m. with ESPN providing the television coverage of the event.

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XFINITY

The Fourth Won Is For Family

By Kelly Crandall (INDIANAPOLIS) – Thirty-one starts into his Nationwide Series career @TyDillon is a winner and a winner at Indianapolis to boot.

Dillon took the lead from @KyleBusch on Lap 77 following the Lilly Diabetes 250’s final restart. He then drove away from the defending Indianapolis winner to become the first Nationwide Series regular to win at the speedway. High above with steely eyes was his team owner, or more importantly on this day his grandfather, Richard Childress. Watching as another one of his drivers crossed the yard of bricks first.

For him, it’s the fourth time he’s been to victory lane at the famed speedway.

“We did a press conference in here on Friday and I was just thinking about sitting up here, especially with one of my grandsons. We won it with Dale and Kevin and Paul, and for him to win. I told Austin a while ago, he will win Indy one day, and it was just special,” Childress said.

“I mean, the family was here … having Johnny Morris (of Bass Pro Shops) here, special having the whole family: Austin, Tina, Mike. My wife didn’t make it here, but I’m sure she’s home watching.”

Ty Dillon leads Kyle Busch late in the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis (Photo credit: Chris Owens/Popular Speed)
Ty Dillon leads Kyle Busch late in the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis (Photo credit: Chris Owens/Popular Speed)

From Dale Earnhardt and @KevinHarvick, to Paul Menard, Childress has enjoyed many Indianapolis moments. When Earnhardt won in 1995 it was the second time NASCAR had even visited the speedway. The 2003 win with Harvick was still in the rebuilding period after losing their hero. And Childress watched just three years ago when Menard was able to win for his racing family.

Saturday the Childress and the Dillon’s finally had their moment. Climbing out on the frontstretch following his burnout, Ty was immediately swallowed by the masses and revealed he doesn’t know what anyone said to him. There was older brother @AustinDillon3 not only with congratulations but also in aid. Dillon ran all 100 laps without air conditioning and greatly felt the effects afterward.

“He’s been my No. 1 doctor since the race has been over,” Ty said on Austin. “He’s been kicking everybody out of the way making sure I’m all right. I have the best family in the world, man. It’s a blessing to come to the racetrack and hang out with your family and know that you have the support every weekend.”

Mom (Tina) and dad (Mike) were there too. While on the radio cheering, Dillon could hear the nervousness in his father’s voice. Pop-Pop Childress also came over the radio and he too sounded nervous. Dillon knew because he told everyone else to shut up. There was also the weird moment of a billboard freezing with Austin’s face on it, a sign to Ty that he was watching.

“I have the best support system there is,” Ty said. “When you get in victory lane with your family, it just means so much.”

The brothers have come up racing together and are each other’s fiercest competition. Father Mike plays a role in the Richard Childress Racing company. Everyone is close and through more than just a racing bond. They all experience the successes and the failures together. Winning on a grand stage like Saturday doesn’t happen often. Some will never feel it at all.

But while Indianapolis is sweet and Childress certainly knows of its history, the feeling of adding another kiss to the yard of bricks with family is something that will never be topped.

“This is such a historical place, and to win, we won with Dale in 95, and then won with Paul. Paul’s win was great because his father and the emotion that I seen in that family, and then for us to win it,” Childress said. “John Menard was with me up there today, and I don’t know who was more nervous, he or I. He kept telling me it was going to be okay. I said, man, I don’t know about the gas.

“It’s really cool, this is a family sport. To have all of us there, this is definitely a special win right along with the other ones. It’s just great. And to see Ty tough it out under some tough conditions and still be able to win, that’s pretty amazing.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

The Elliott’s Looking For Another Indianapolis Triumph

By Kelly Crandall (INDIANAPOLIS) – @ChaseElliott can look at the pictures of himself in Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2002, but he doesn’t remember details the day.

Elliott was just six years old when his NASCAR Hall of Fame father, Bill Elliott, won the Brickyard 400. Both are together again at the infamous speedway this weekend as the youngest Elliott, now 18, makes his first start in Saturday’s Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250. Not surprising, he’s entertaining the notion of possibly accomplishing the same feat to join his father as an Indianapolis winner.

“It would mean a lot to me. Obviously, I would much rather win the race on Sunday here than the one on Saturday. But we’ll definitely give it our best shot,” Chase said on Friday afternoon. “To go along lines with his win, that would be great to have won the Sunday race for both of us. But the Saturday race would mean a lot to us.

“Just to have a win at Indy I think would be very huge. This is a place that has a lot of history and I think it’s cool Nationwide gets to race here now and have the opportunity to kiss the bricks.”

Where his son lacks in memories, Bill Elliott on the other hand very much recalls his Indianapolis triumph. From how well the team gelled that season, the battle between himself and @RustyWallace as he led a race high 93 laps and took the lead for the final time with 12 to go. Or he’ll tell you about how it seemed to cap off the end of his career. The 2002 win was the first and only Brickyard that Elliott earned.

“It was a fun deal. It was a unique experience,” Bill said of having Chase in victory lane 12 years ago. “There’s a picture of us kissing the bricks and he’s standing behind us watching us. He’s a little kid and it’s fun to watch him grow up and be what he is today.”

With Chase in his first full Nationwide Series season for JR Motorsports, Bill is again visible on the NASCAR circuit. There’s not much, according to the 44-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner, that he can help Chase with as so much has changed. But halfway through the 2014 season, Chase leads the series not only in the point standings but also with three wins and with eight top-five finishes.

Bill tries to help him more with things occurring outside the racecar. Friday they both appeared together for scheduled media availability, talking about their Indianapolis moment of the past and the protégée’s future. Chase will also be competing for the extra $100,000 Nationwide Insurance “Dash 4 Cash” program, setting the weekend up to be even bigger.

“I always thought it would be great to have him do well. It’s all in time. Whatever happens this weekend, there’s another race, another race, and you’ve just got to kind of put things in perspective,” Bill said. “The thing about this business, it’s a roller coaster and you’ve got to learn to ride that roller coaster, both the ups and the downs.”

It’s up to Chase to lean on his peers in the garage and learns to balance those days as the season and his career rolls on. But Bill will be there, like Saturday, to keep everyone focused on more than just the race in front of them.

“You’ll come in and do the best you can, have the best attitude you can, run as competitively as you can,” he said, “and hopefully at the end of the day you end up where you need to be.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

Awesome Elliott In Prime Position for Nationwide Championship

By Stephanie Adair – Last Saturday, Rookie of the Year contender @ChaseElliott won his third race of the season at Chicagoland Speedway.

The young talent out dueled the likes of Sprint Cup Series drivers @KyleLarsonRacin and @KaseyKahne, leading a total of 85 of 200 laps. As a result of his incredibly competitive first half of the season, Elliott now leads the point standings over teammate @ReganSmith by seven points.

“A really solid effort,” Elliott said afterwards. “We talked about it with the team this afternoon. We all needed to do our job, we all have a job on a race team and I felt like if we all completed our tasks to the best of our ability, I felt like we could have a good night. Fortunately everybody did that. I am very proud of our effort this evening and hopefully we can do this again in the future.”

With 15 races to go in the NASCAR Nationwide Series season, the 19-year-old looks to be a threat for the title. The kind of rookie success Elliott has experienced is something the series has not seen since 2005.

Carl Edwards had a stellar rookie season capturing five wins, 15 top-fives and 21 top-10s. Early that year he took the point lead for 10 consecutive races before being knocked back to fourth place after suffering a blown engine at Dover. The driver would not rebound in the second-half of the season and ultimately finished third in the standings that year.

The year before Edwards, (2004), rookie @KyleBusch had a very similar season. He garnered five victories, 16 top-fives and 22 top-10s. Busch also led the point standings for a short period in the summer but hung in second to @MartinTruex_Jr. for the remainder of the season.

To date, no rookie has ever won the Nationwide Series championship. Elliott has a shot to be the first.

Along with his three victories, Elliott has collected eight top-fives, 13 top-10s and carries a current average finish of 9.1 thus far. While he grabbed the point lead for five races earlier this year, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Team has wrestled with adversity.

Earlier this month at Daytona International Speedway, the driver finished 20th after running out of fuel on the final restart with three laps to go. In New Hampshire the fuel woes continued, running out in Turn 3 while coming to pit road. Elliott lost several positions and went one lap down, rallying back to an eighth place finish by the end of the Sta-Green 200.

“There is times that I have made the wrong call, ran him out of gas, or put him in situations where he has to be on the offence the rest of the time,” Elliott’s crew chief Greg Ives said. “We can’t have those mistakes if we want to run with the top guys in this industry. It might be ok occasionally but to pull off what we are trying to accomplish, winning races and point championships, we have to be nearly perfect.”

Ives has been in a championship-contending position in the Nationwide Series before as a crew chief for Smith’s No. 7 Team last year. The duo collected two wins and held the point lead majority of the season before slumping in the summer. The JR Motorsports team couldn’t find consistency and finished third in the standings.

Ives will use that for a potential title run with Elliott.

“I take my Nationwide experience of having a 59 point lead (in the standings) and losing it,” Ives said. “I think I learned more from losing something and realizing how important it was to have it – how hard we had to work to get back to where we wanted it to be and how easy it was to lose.”

That lesson will benefit the No. 9 team as a whole during the second half of the 2014 season. They will have stiff competition racing against veterans like their teammate Smith and @Elliott_Sadler, who sit less than 10 points away from the top spot.

However, with a boost of momentum and a positive mindset, Elliott believes his team is moving in the right direction entering the upcoming race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“You got to believe that you can get the job done, not only yourself, but your whole race team,” he said. “You got to have that belief in your mind or you’re wasting your time I think more or less. My mindset doesn’t change a bit.

“We still want to go out and achieve the best races we can and obviously the most wins as possible. We are capable in doing so we just got to … minimize our mistakes and all complete our jobs to the best of our ability and if we can do that hopefully we can get back in (a winning) position soon.”

EMAIL STEPHANIE AT stephanie.adair@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @S_Adair98

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XFINITY

A $100K Richer, Brian Scott Eyes Victory at Indy

By Kelly Crandall – Sitting on the pole for the second time this season, @bscottracing (Brian Scott) entered Saturday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway confident the Richard Childress Racing team could nab their first career win.

But settling for a sixth place finish following what the driver called giving the track too much respect in terms of the continual changes, Scott does leave with $100,000 bonus. By outrunning his competition (@Chris_Buescher, @Elliott_Sadler, @ReganSmith) in the Nationwide Insurance “Dash 4 Cash” program. It was the first time that Scott has won the prize.

“I’d trade this check in a heartbeat for the trophy and the win. I really thought we had a shot at it tonight, we just needed a couple big adjustments during our pit stops and at the end we were close,” Scott said afterwards. “We had a good night, we led some laps, little disappointed with how we finished but it’s a great program that Nationwide Insurance does, this $100,000 bonus.

“It comes at a really good time I feel like our team’s got momentum, we’re going to Indianapolis where we finished second last year, almost won that race. Maybe we can go to victory lane and get $100,000 there.”

Scott automatically advances to the next “Dash 4 Cash” round at Indianapolis Motor Speedway thanks to his Chicago accomplishment. After leading 20 laps early, Scott found the No. 2 Shore Lodge machine tight most of the night but loose while in dirty air. Expectations of when the track would change also worked against the team and their race strategy.

Scott and crew chief Phil Gould would have liked to see more cautions and opportunities on pit road for more adjustments. Instead, Scott watched championship rival @ChaseElliott run away with the win and retake the point lead.

Winless this year, Scott sits with three top-five finishes and 78 laps led in 18 starts. It places him fifth in points, 47 markers out of the lead.

“I feel like we’re chipping away at it. I think we’re definitely in this championship hunt. I feel like out of all the cars that we’re racing with each week we’re the most consistent if you take out the superspeedway’s and the one road course so far,” Scott stated Saturday. “And we really performed well in those races but we were either on the wrong strategy or just got a lousy finish out of it despite having good performance.”

Last year Scott snuck past @KyleBusch and @JoeyLogano for the lead with five laps to go. But he was unable to hang on and watched Busch go back by with three laps to go and grab the win. The finish marked a career best for Scott, who feels more the same will set him up for a championship run later this year.

“I think we’re in it,” he said. “I think we can go to Indy, have a good finish. We can go to Watkins Glen, have a good finish. I think we can keep chipping away at this and with our consistency I think we can get right back in the hunt.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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XFINITY

Erik Jones To Lean Heavily on Teammates for Nationwide Debut

By Matt Weaver — Erik Jones says his short track background and age has not completely prepared him for his debut drive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. With that said, he expects that his teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing should put him in position to contend on Saturday night in the standalone event at Chicagoland Speedway.

Jones will make his tour debut this weekend in the No. 20 JGR Toyota and hopes to log all the laps above everything else, especially given his overall lack of experience in a Nationwide car. Prior to his practice laps on Friday, Jones had only tested a Nationwide car once — on the short track at Memphis, Tenn.

“At first I’m just going to be looking to make laps and get to the end of the race and hopefully be running up in the top-10,” Jones said. “At the end of the day we’re all race car drivers and we all want to go for the win. I think we’ll be challenging hard to do all we can to run up front and contend and at the end of the day I hope we’ll be up there.”

Jones will make two other starts in the Nationwide Series this year in addition to his slate of Truck Series rides. He will also race at Bristol and Phoenix in the No. 20 Nationwide Series entry with teammates like Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr. during that span.

He believes that will give him an edge that few other prospects have when rising up the NASCAR ladder system.

“My background is short track racing,” Jones said. “I haven’t had a lot of experience with racing on a mile-and-a-half with how the air works and all of that. But definitely my mindset is to just take advice from my teammates. I’ve got two great teammates there in Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish, so definitely going to lean on them a lot and hopefully get a lot of information out of them as to what they do on these tracks and how they race.

“They’ve obviously done it a lot longer than I have and just hopefully I can learn a lot from them and go into the race and learn a lot and come out a better driver than I was.”

In fact, Jones said that outside of his parents, Busch has been the most instrumental person in his career starting with the moment that they went head-to-head in the 2012 Snowball Derby — a race that launched his career to where it is today.

“I think he’s been the biggest person in my career, especially since I’ve been up at the Late Model level and above,” Jones said. (He) has been able to really show me the right way to go and what is definitely his opinion on what he thinks I should do next.”

So far, so good with that direction launching Jones of the verge of making his first career start in the Nationwide Series.

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XFINITY

Smith Grabs First “Dash 4 Cash” Prize, Moves On to Chicago

By Stephanie Adair – The battle for $100,000 in the first “Dash 4 Cash” event went down-to-the wire between two NASCAR Nationwide Series competitors.

As the race came to a close, @ReganSmith and Rookie of the Year candidate @driverRyanReed battled each other for 10th place and a chance to bring home 100-grand. In the end Smith edged out Reed for the highest position among the four qualified D4C drivers.

Reed finished 11th just behind the JR Motorsports driver while fellow competitors @RyanSiegRacing and @JClements51 finished 18th and 20th respectively, several laps down. This was a new experience for all four participants as it was the first time they competed in a “Dash 4 Cash” event.

When interviewed after the race, Smith revealed that he was more concerned with how his car was running than where his D4C rival was on-track.

“I wasn’t so much worried about where (Reed) was, but just why my car wouldn’t go as good as I wanted it to,” said Smith who is the current Nationwide Series point standings leader. “We struggled a lot with the Tax Slayer car today and the only point where I was happy with it was when we had a little bit of clean air towards the front.

“We have run good in a lot of these Dash 4 Cash races and have never been a part of them so I am happy to be a part of this one and happy to win it. I really appreciate Nationwide Insurance’s involvement in the series and stepping up for the Nationwide teams. This means a lot to our team and to all the teams to have an opportunity to race for that, get a little extra spotlight in the middle of the season on our cars and our sponsors.”

The 30-year-old not only received a check for $100,000, but is also automatically qualified for the upcoming D4C race next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Three other drivers (@Chris_Buescher, @Elliott_Sadler, and @bscottracing), who were the highest placing Nationwide Series regulars in this race, qualified for the next event as well.

This will be Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Buescher’s first D4C event. Veterans Scott and Sadler have qualified for several of these events, but only Sadler has brought home the prize.

“It is definitely a cool opportunity,” Buescher said. “I got to thank Nationwide Insurance for doing it and stepping up every year. It is something I have never been able to participate in and it should be a lot of fun. It should just be a matter of going out there and being consistent and making sure we can get some speed in our cars for Chicagoland.”

The EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland will take place on Saturday, July 19th at 8:30 PM ET. Live TV coverage will be provided by ESPN2.

EMAIL STEPHANIE AT stephanie.adair@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @S_Adair98

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XFINITY

NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie Charge, Mid-Season Snapshot

By Unique Hiram – With 17 of 33 races completed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, we are just over halfway through the current season. The rookie class has been comprised of a number of talented, young drivers and they’ve been making their presence known throughout 2014.

These drivers have combined for a total of two poles, two wins, 11 top-fives, 33 top-10s with 175 laps led in the mid-level series. Currently there are only 17 points separating the top two running rookies who are sitting third and fourth in the driver’s standings, @chaseelliott (-15) and @tydillon (-32) respectively.

In an interview featured on the NAPA Know How Blog website Elliott talked about his performance this season. ““Everybody has been working hard this year, and it’s crazy to think we’re already halfway through the season.  We’re all going to keep pushing and try to improve on where we currently are to be in prime condition to make a championship run.  We’ll be seeing a lot of tracks we’ve already been to this year, so that will certainly help us achieve our goals.”

Second-place highest running rookie Ty Dillon feels extremely optimistic about capturing his first season win soon. “We’ve definitely had our ups and downs this season and we’re working really hard at getting to where we need to be. I think in the past couple of weeks we’ve proved that we’re headed in the right direction. At the end of the day, we’re in contention for a championship, which is our main goal. I think we’re on track to get a win soon.” 

How has each rookie driver fared thus far?

Chase Elliott (3rd) – Two wins, seven top-fives and 12 top-10s with 120 laps led

Ty Dillon (4th) – One pole, 11 top-10s with 19 laps led

@Chris_Buescher (9th) – Two top-fives, six top-10s with four laps led

@driverRyanReed (10th) – One top five, one top 10 with 29 laps led

@dylankracing (Dylan Kwasniewski 12th) – One pole and one top-10

@DakodaArmstrong (13th) – One pole and one lap led

@RyanSieg (18th) – One top-five and two top-10s with two laps led

@tannerberryhill (24th) – Seven DNFs and one DNQ in Daytona

With this ensemble of talented young drivers, they are proving their competitiveness racing against some very seasoned veterans. Although some of them may deal with challenges (i.e. crashes or equipment failure) from week to week, the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookies are making fans and teams pay attention to their progression and performance.

For a complete listing of the driver’s standings, click here: http://www.nascar.com/en_us/nationwide-series/standings.html

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be heading to Chicagoland Speedway for the ENJOYILLINOIS.COM 300. The July 19th race will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 8:30 pm ET.

EMAIL UNIQUE AT unique.hiram@popularspeed.com

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