The popular NASCAR Nationwide Series "Dash 4 Cash" program is back for the summer and Friday night's race at Daytona International Speedway served as the qualifier for the four drivers that will race for $100,000 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12th. The top four NASCAR Nationwide Series championship eligible drivers in the Subway Firecracker 250 punched their ticket to Race 1 of the Dash4Cash after a wild green-white-checkered finish. The qualifiers are surprising.
Championship points leader Regan Smith looked poised to sweep the 2014 Nationwide slate at Daytona but was edged out at the finish line by his JR Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and Smith had to settle for second. He will race for the $100,000 bonus on Saturday at New Hampshire and is the only driver of the four that is not a surprise. He will be the overwhelming favorite.
Ryan Sieg was the second qualifier and a major reason why Smith did not win the Firecracker 250. Sieg's great last lap drafting with Kasey Kahne shoved the Sprint Cup Series star to victory and landed Sieg with his career best Nationwide Series finish in third place. He said afterward that the third place finish felt like a win for his team.
The Rookie of the Year contender Sieg, who is 27-years-old, drives the No. 39 Chevrolet for RSS Racing. The underfunded team is competing in the Nationwide Series full-time for the first time this season. Sieg is currently 18th in the driver standings through 16 races. His family owned team though has put together a solid season so far with an average finish of 18.9 and backed up his solid ninth place finish at Daytona in February with the third place finish Friday night. Last season RSS Racing got their feet wet by running Sieg in four Nationwide Series races.
RSS Racing and Sieg competed full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from 2010 though 2012 and ran 20 of the 22 races in 2013. This season Sieg has only raced twice in the team's truck as they have switched their focus to the Nationwide Series. Now the team has a great opportunity to be in the spotlight this Saturday as a part of the Dash4Cash program.
Ryan Reed is also competing for the Rookie of the Year this season but unlike Sieg is driving for the big Roush-Fenway Racing. Reed finished fourth at Daytona to earn the Dash4Cash opportunity. The fourth place finish was the first top 10 for Reed this season and his career best finish in the series.
The 20-year-old drove six races last season for RFR and had a best finish of ninth which stood as his best result until Friday night's great finish. Currently Reed is tenth in the Nationwide Series points in the No. 16 Ford.
Joining Smith, Sieg, and Reed as the final Dash4Cash qualifier was Jeremy Clements who finished eighth at Daytona. Clements, like Sieg drives for a family owned and underfunded team. His No. 51 Chevrolet team picked up their second best finish of the 2014 season in the qualifying effort. His best finish of the season was sixth at Road America. Currently Clements is 15th in the point standings.
The 29-year-old Clements is a veteran of 150 Nationwide Series starts and has competed the full season since 2011 although he was suspended for two races last year. He has recorded seven top 10 finishes in his career.
While Smith is the odds on favorite to finish the highest of these drivers anything could happen and the $100,000 pay day awaits. It would be a great story to see the underfunded Sieg or Clements come away with the money and could be a career changer for Reed who has struggled in his rookie season by Roush-Fenway Racing standards.
The top four Nationwide Series championship eligible drivers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will race in Race 2 of the Dash4Cash at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19th. Then at that race the top four will qualify for Race 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26th and the top four in that race will qualify for Race 4 at Iowa Speedway on August 2nd.
If the same driver wins all four of the Dash4Cash races then they will receive an extra $600,000 to bring their total four race payment to an even $1,000,000. That will be a long shot even for Smith considering the big Sprint Cup Series names that they will have to compete against.
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