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.”