Pressure mounts on Smith as NASCAR Nationwide races in Chicago Sunday

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An off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series means the NASCAR Nationwide Series will have its day in the spotlight.

The Nationwide Series’ STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday may see the championship lead change hands.

Just five points separates Regan Smith from Sam Hornish Jr. (594-589), and the top five are covered by just 24 points. Austin Dillon (582), Justin Allgaier (574) and Elliott Sadler (570) are all in striking range, as they all seek their first wins of the season.

Sadler dropped the hammer on Smith after Loudon last weekend, when he told Smith directly after a post-race confrontation, point blank, “You will not win this championship, mark my word.” More on that kerfuffle is here from NASCAR.com.

Brian Vickers, who’s sixth in points, looks to ride the momentum of his Cup win at Loudon last weekend and translate it to the Nationwide side. Despite driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, he too is yet to visit victory lane in his full-time ride this year.

Dillon, Vickers, Brian Scott and Michael Annett have some extra incentive this weekend as the four qualifiers for Nationwide’s $100,000 “Dash 4 Cash” bonus. It’s the third of four races in the summer stretch, where the highest-finishing eligible driver wins a $100,000 bonus above and beyond the race purse. In addition, fans can also enter to win $100,000 and a trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway through the NASCAR Nationwide Series $100k Sweepstakes.

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool