(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

After winning $100,000, Brian Scott now wants to cash in on Nationwide wins and championship

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Brian Scott came away with mixed feelings after Saturday’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

On the one hand, Scott was disappointed that he and his car could manage nothing more than a sixth-place finish.

“I’m a little disappointed with sixth,” Scott told MotorSportsTalk. “I thought we had a better car than that. We had to make some pretty big adjustments on our pit stops.

“We had it pretty close at the end, we needed a couple of cautions and opportunities to fine tune it and have a shot at the victory. This is one of those times where I wish the race was a little longer, maybe 400 miles than 300.”

But on the other hand, Scott’s wallet was made a lot fatter by virtue of winning the $100,000 Nationwide Insurance Dash-4-Cash race within a race. He was the highest finishing driver of the four that were in contention for Saturday’s race.

“I’m really happy to be $100,000 richer,” Scott said. “This is such a cool promotion that Nationwide Insurance gives us to let us race for some big money.

“I told myself coming in here if we won the Dash-4-Cash it was going to be a good night, so it was a good night.”

Although he’s currently fifth in the NNS points standings, 47 points behind series leader – and Saturday night’s race winner, Chase Elliott – Scott has had a strong season through the first 18 races on the Nationwide slate.

He’s been particularly strong in the last nine races since his wreck at Talladega in April, with two top-five and five other top-10 finishes.

“We have another year of experience, we have track notes everywhere we go and Phil (crew chief Phil Gould) and I continue to work better,” Scott said. “We got stronger with some personnel changes in the off-season and our pit crew’s gotten better, we’ve gotten our engines and bodies a lot better.

“So, we continue to make improvements and we have knowledge and experience together. It’s coming together nicely.”

With 15 races remaining this season, including this Saturday’s Indiana 250 at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott is taking it one race at a time.

He’s still looking for his first career Nationwide Series win, but the most important thing is just to remain – and continue – the consistency he’s shown thus far in the No. 2 Shore Lodge-sponsored Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

“I just take each race as it comes,” Scott said. “Now that we’ve finished this one (Chicagoland), my focus is entirely on Indy. I’m going to go 100 percent on Indy, dig my heels in, focus on what I can to do to give my team the best performance behind the wheel. Hopefully we have a fast car, qualify well and run up front and have a good finish.

“We’ve been performing well and I’m excited about the upcoming tracks because I think we can continue to click off some top-five finishes and challenge for wins.”

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.