Regan Smith won the first round of the Dash 4 Cash last Saturday at New Hampshire, collecting a $100,000 bonus.
By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
While the Sprint Cup Series takes a break this weekend, the Nationwide Series is in action at Chicagoland Speedway. IndyCar holds its final weekend doubleheader of the season in Toronto, and Formula One revs it up with the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim.
Round two in the four-race Nationwide Series "Dash 4 Cash" bonus program takes place this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Nationwide is the only NASCAR national touring series that is competing this weekend. The Sprint Cup Series begins its final 17-race stretch next week at Indianapolis, and the Camping World Truck Series is back on track this coming Wednesday at Eldora Speedway, a half-mile dirt track.
JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith won the first round of the Dash 4 Cash last Saturday at New Hampshire, collecting a $100,000 bonus from series title sponsor Nationwide Insurance and qualifying himself for the chance to win $1 million. If Smith can win the first three rounds of the D4C -- New Hampshire, Chicagoland and Indianapolis (July 26) -- and the Aug. 2 Iowa race outright, then he will be awarded an extra $600,000 - totaling $1 million.
"Our team was pumped to win that first round of the 'Dash 4 Cash' last weekend, and 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."
Smith and the top-three finishing Nationwide Series regulars at New Hampshire -- Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott -- qualify to compete for the $100,000 bonus in Saturday night's 300-mile race at Chicagoland. Smith is the only one of the four drivers who qualified for the first round to make it into the second round. Jeremy Clements, Ryan Reed and Ryan Sieg were eligible for New Hampshire based on their finishes in the July 4 race at Daytona.
Heading into Chicagoland, Smith holds an eight-point lead over Sadler and a 13-point advantage over rookie and JRM teammate Chase Elliott.
Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson are those Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this race. Kahne will be behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet for JRM two weeks after he drove that car to victory at Daytona. Larson is running a near full-season schedule in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Sam Hornish Jr. will make his fifth Nationwide start of the season, driving the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, which is normally occupied by Kyle Busch.
After winning his second career Truck Series race earlier this month at Iowa for Kyle Busch Motorsports, 18-year-old Erik Jones is scheduled to make his Nationwide debut at Chicagoland, driving the No. 20 JGR Toyota. JGR plans to have Jones in that car for the upcoming Nationwide races at Bristol and Phoenix.
"I'm really looking forward to the start I get in the 20 car," Jones said. "I know it's a great team, and there are some expectations there. But at the same time, they're obviously a little different for me just making my first couple starts in the Nationwide Series. At the same time, I'm wanting to go out and show them that I can do it and run well in the Nationwide Series and hopefully show that we can go out and be competitive."
Forty teams are on the entry list for the EnjoyIllinois.com 300.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
Honda Indy Toronto - Streets of Toronto - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Three-time and defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon is hoping to repeat history this weekend on the streets of Toronto.
This will be the third and final time this season that IndyCar runs two full- distance races at one location on the same weekend. The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit hosted the first weekend doubleheader of the year on May 31- June 1. The second weekend doubleheader took place at Houston's NRG Park on June 28-29.
In 2013, Toronto was the second of three weekend doubleheaders for the season. Both races in Houston occurred in October.
Dixon scored a weekend sweep in Toronto last year. He had won the week prior at Pocono. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver nearly repeated the feat in the October weekend doubleheader in Houston, winning the first race and then finishing second to Will Power in the second race.
"When you win the first one of a doubleheader, you're obviously looking for big things for race two," Dixon said. "To have it go the right way twice within a two-day spread with the competition you have is almost impossible."
Dixon is currently eighth in the championship point standings. He is 140 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. Dixon has posted two straight top-five finishes (fifth at Pocono and fourth at Iowa).
After finishing eighth at Iowa, Castroneves took sole possession of first in the championship standings. He holds a nine-point advantage over second-place and Team Penske teammate Will Power, who placed 14th at Iowa. Power and Castroneves had been tied in points.
Castroneves had struggled in Toronto in the past but has improved here lately. In 10 career starts here, he has earned one pole (2000) and four top-10 finishes. Castroneves had finished no better than 17th in Toronto from 2009-11. Last year, he placed sixth in Race 1 and second in race 2.
"It's just a very tough track, much like all of the temporary street courses in the Verizon IndyCar Series," Castroneves said. "I'm encouraged by the way we have run on those types of tracks this year, Houston especially. A lot of unusual things usually happen at Toronto, and it's very hard to stay out of trouble there. With a little good fortune, we will be fine."
James Hinchcliffe, a Toronto native, is the only Canadian competing in the weekend doubleheader here. Hinchcliffe has not won a race since June 2013 at Iowa. His best finish this season is fifth, which came in Detroit (Race 2) and Houston (Race 1). The Andretti Autosport driver is hoping to end his winless drought in his home country.
"I'm not superstitious, but I think I certainly come in here with just a little bit of tempered expectations," Hinchcliffe said. "The car has been running well on these types of tracks, so I'm probably more excited than ever this year in terms of getting out there, because there's no reason why we shouldn't be competitive based on what we saw at Houston and what we saw at Detroit."
Twenty-three teams are on the entry list for the Honda Indy Toronto.
German Grand Prix - Hockenheimring - Hockenheim, Germany
Less than a week after the nation's win in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final, round 10 in this year's Formula One world championship takes place in Germany.
The 67-lap German Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday at the Hockenheimring, a 2.842-mile (4.574-kilometer), 17-turn course.
Prior to Friday's two practice sessions for the German GP, F1's governing body, the FIA, confirmed that none of the 22 cars taking part in this race will be fitted with a Front-and-Rear Interconnected Suspension (FRIC) system.
The removal of the FRIC on the cars follows a technical directive sent to all 11 teams by the FIA's race director Charlie Whiting after the July 6 British Grand Prix. The FIA called into question the legality of some of the FRIC systems being used this season.
It doesn't appear that the revised technical regulation will have an impact on Mercedes' dominance in the sport this season. Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were once again 1-2 in both practice sessions for the German GP. In the first session, Rosberg, the current world championship points leader, posted the fastest lap in 1 minute, 19.131 seconds. Hamilton was second in 1:19.196.
"It was a difficult day for us, because we had to work on some of the new settings as the car was running without the FRIC system," Rosberg said. "But it worked out quite well, even in difficult conditions. It was very hot outside, and the soft tires don't last that long here, so this will be tricky for the race."
In the second session, Hamilton led the way with a lap in 1:18.341, followed by Rosberg in 1:18.365. Hamilton won his home race in Great Britain and moved to within four points of Rosberg, who suffered his first retirement of the season due to a faulty gearbox.
"It was a pretty good day today," Hamilton said of his practice sessions for the German GP. "It was quite difficult to find the balance with the track being so hot, and it is a tricky circuit to drive in general. The car is a bit different now, as everyone made some setup changes in a different direction to what we've had in the past, but it's still fun to drive."
Rosberg is one of four Germans competing in this race. Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil from Sauber are the others. Rosberg has finished no better than fourth in the German GP.
Since the British GP, the 29-year-old Rosberg got married to his long-time girlfriend Vivian Sibold and then signed a new multi-year contract extension with Mercedes.
"It's been a very exciting week for sure," he said. "We also became world champions [FIFA World Cup], which was awesome. In terms of the [F1] championship, how do I see it? I just see it as the next race, which is Hockenheim. It's our home race. I really look forward to driving here. I'm here to win, of course. I'm here to try to extend the championship lead. That's where it ends for me. I'm really just looking at the moment, taking it race by race."
Vettel, the four-time and defending F1 world champion, won in his home country for the first time in 2013.
"Last year was very special," Vettel said. "I had been trying many times before [to win the German GP], so it was definitely a good feeling to succeed. I think this should be a very good weekend."