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updated: 7/18/2014 2:07 PM

High stakes at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend

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  • Ryan Reed (16) and Kyle Busch slide under Elliott Sadler during the NASCAR Nationwide Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12. Sadler qualified for the $100,000 Dash4Cash at Chicagoland Speedway, which hosts the EnjoyIllinois300.com race on Saturday.

      Ryan Reed (16) and Kyle Busch slide under Elliott Sadler during the NASCAR Nationwide Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12. Sadler qualified for the $100,000 Dash4Cash at Chicagoland Speedway, which hosts the EnjoyIllinois300.com race on Saturday.
    Associated Press

 
By NASCAR Wire Service

This is no joke.

Listen to NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers talk about the intense desire to win the Dash 4 Cash. It's not lip service. There's some serious green on the line.

Consider this: Regan Smith took home $100,000 Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the first of four rounds in the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash. The race winner has won more than $100,000 in just one race this season -- the season-opener at Daytona (which, coincidentally, was won by Smith).

So this is a big deal. On the final lap on Saturday night's EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway (7:30 p.m. on ESPN2) there could be fireworks. You don't get a chance at 100 grand every race.

Smith and the top-three finishing NASCAR Nationwide Series championship contenders in last weekend's race -- Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott -- qualified for the second round of the Dash 4 Cash program at Chicagoland. The top finisher among that group will win the $100,000.

"Chicago should be pretty good for us," said Buescher, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender. "It is really cool being a part of the Dash 4 Cash program and having the opportunity to put on a show. 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. 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 five or possibly a win at Chicagoland."

Among this round's qualifiers, Sadler and Scott have enjoyed the most success at Chicago. Sadler, who calls Chicagoland one of his favorite tracks, has made nine starts in Joliet, posting one win (2012), four top 10s and an average finish of 15.6.

"Not only do I enjoy racing at Chicago, I also strongly enjoy the city entertainment too," Sadler said. "For the past couple years, I've traveled out to Chicago early with family and friends to enjoy the festivities the city has to offer. After the fun is over with the family and friends, the goal will be to lock down a great qualifying position, secure a strong finish, capture the points lead and win the Dash 4 Cash."

Scott has made seven series starts at Chicago, posting three top 10s, his first career Coors Light pole, and an average finish of 9.8 -- the second-best average finish among active drivers. "Chicago has been a good racetrack for me in the Nationwide Series," Scott said. "I'm disappointed with how we performed in Chicago last year (he finished 11th and 14th in the series' two Chicagoland Speedway stops). Chicago is one of my better 1.5-mile tracks and we have a package now at RCR where I feel like when we go back, I think we'll be really strong and really stout. It's one of my favorite race tracks."

The highest finisher of the four eligible drivers at Chicago will win the money and automatically qualify for the Dash 4 Cash at Indianapolis the following weekend. The next three highest finishing NNS regulars at Chicago not already qualified will also get to compete for the $100,000 bonus at Indianapolis (July 26). The final event at Iowa Speedway (Aug. 2) will carry the same qualifying requirements.

If Smith can win the next two legs of the Dash 4 Cash and the Iowa race outright, Nationwide Insurance will award him an extra $600,000 -- totaling $1 million.

"Now we have another shot at it again at Chicago," Smith said. "It's a really cool program that Nationwide has put together, and everyone wants to be part of it. I'm grateful to be one of the four competing again."

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