Nationwide Dash 4 Cash Preview: Chicagoland

by July 17, 2014

Photo by Hunter Thomas

JOLIET, Ill. — On paper, the second round of the 2014 Nationwide Dash 4 Cash may be one of the most competitive rounds in the history of the competition.

Regan Smith (JR Motorsports), the winner of the first round of this year’s competition in Loudon, will be joined this week by Brian Scott (Richard Childress Racing), Elliott Sadler (Joe Gibbs Racing), and Chris Buescher (Roush-Fenway Racing) in his fight at the Chicagoland Speedway for $100,000. All four drivers are currently in the top-eight in the drivers’ standings with Smith leading the way.

Smith’s quest for $1,000,000 is alive and well after taking the top spot among the Dash 4 Cash competitors at Loudon last week and earning the first cash prize of $100,000. The driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet may have a rough time doubling up in the competition, however, as he now heads to a track that has never provided him with a top-10 finish in 10 starts. Smith’s full-time return to the Nationwide Series last year yielded the current points leader two 13th-place finishes at the 1.5-mile in Joliet, Illinois. Smith believes that his season since June (outside of Daytona, where he finished second) has been on rocky ground and he’ll be looking to get back on the right track in Chicagoland.

“We’re still focused on the big picture,” Smith said. “This summer stretch can be ruthless, and we didn’t have the start we were looking for back in June. Aside from Daytona, it’s been a challenge. So we have our work cut out for us over the next couple months. There is always room for improvement and Chicago will be the place to start.”

The driver with the greatest chance of knocking Smith off as the leader in not just the Dash 4 Cash competition, but the points lead as well is Sadler. Sadler is the only driver entered for the 300 who has previously won at Chicagoland – Sadler won this race in 2012 for Richard Childress Racing. The driver of the No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota also has a fourth-place finish in this race last year.

Statistically, in the Nationwide Series – Chicagoland has always been one of Scott’s most successful tracks. The current fifth-place driver in the drivers’ standings has an average finish of 9.9 at the track, making Chicagoland his second-best track in terms of the statistic. Scott has also had a knack for keeping his car clean and quick at the oval, completing all but one lap in his seven starts at the track. Scott is feeling confident heading into the 18th race of the season and feels ready to put in a strong performance on Saturday night.

“Chicago has been a good track for me in the Nationwide Series,” Scott said. “I’m always excited when we go there. I’m disappointed with how we performed in Chicago last year. Chicago is one of my better 1.5-mile tracks and we have a package now at RCR when I feel like when we go back, I think we’ll be really strong and really stout. It’s one of my favorite race tracks. Being a stand-alone event, it will definitely be an opportunity to go out there and get a win for our Shore Lodge team.”

Rounding out the competitors for this weekend’s round of the Dash 4 Cash is the only rookie in the running for the prize of one-hundred-grand this week, Buescher. The driver of the No. 60 Ford Ecoboost Ford has never started at Chicagoland in the Nationwide Series before, but he has found success at the track in the ARCA Racing Series. Buescher has started at Chicagoland in an ARCA car twice – in 2011 and in 2012. The 21-year-old from Prosper, Texas turned in impressive finishes of second and fourth, respectively, in those two starts and is prepared to better his finish of fifth last week in Loudon in his series debut in Joliet.

“Chicago should be pretty good for us,” Buescher said. “It is really cool being a part of the Dash 4 Cash program and having the opportunity to put on a show. We had an awesome run at New Hampshire, finishing fifth and had some really good pit strategy. Everything worked out in our favor and I am really proud of all of our guys. I am hoping that we can keep the momentum rolling in our Ford Ecoboost Mustang and not only get the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash, but capture another top-five or possibly a win at Chicagoland.”