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NNS: Smith, Sadler, Scott, Chris Buescher in Dash4Cash this weekend

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After claiming the first Nationwide Dash4Cash bonus last weekend at New Hampshire, Regan Smith is now in line to eventually earn up to $1 million through the contest.

But getting that big payday is going to take a lot of work.

He’ll need to win the next two D4C bonuses and then win the event next month at Iowa Speedway in order to secure a $600,000 prize from Nationwide Insurance – which would bring the total bonus sum to that million dollar mark.

Meanwhile, he still has to worry about maintaining the Nationwide Series points lead this weekend in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

And while Smith wouldn’t mind earning some more extra cash, the championship comes first.

“We’re still focused on the big picture,” he said heading into the weekend. “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.”

However, Smith has not usually had great performance at Chicagoland. He has only been able to earn an average finish of 24th-place over five NNS starts on the 1.5-mile oval in Joliet.

Two of Smith’s D4C rivals this weekend, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott, have had more success. At Chicagoland, Sadler’s earned one win and four Top-10s in nine series starts, while Scott has an average finish at 9.8, good for second-best among active drivers.

“The way that the track is laid out, the way you can ride the high line…My strong suit seems to be typically, when the race gets going and the tires fall off, I’m able to work the high groove really well and make up a lot of time there,” Scott said of the track.

“It’s a fun place, I like going to Chicago. It’s just a track I feel comfortable at and I have a lot of confidence when I go in. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.”

Then there’s Chris Buescher (pictured, right), the Nationwide Series rookie that put himself in contention for the Chicagoland D4C bonus by finishing fifth last weekend.

Buescher will tackle Chicagoland for the first time in a Nationwide car, but has picked up two Top-10s on 1.5-mile ovals this year (a pair of ninth-place finishes, Las Vegas and Charlotte). He also finished in the Top 5 in both of Chicagoland’s 2011 and 2012 ARCA races.

If he can replicate such form, he could drive away with the loot on Saturday night.

“We had an awesome run at New Hampshire, finished fifth and had some really good pit strategy – everything worked out in our favor and I am really proud of all of our guys,” he said.

“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-5 or possibly a win at Chicagoland.”

Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
© GP3 Series
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
© GP2 Series
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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© Romain Grosjean
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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.