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

0 Comments

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.”

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

0 Comments

Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.