Nationwide Series points leader Elliott Sadler believes he has a car to not only win Sunday's STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway but claim the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus that would accompany his winning effort.
With his wife and friends in town, touring downtown Chicago on Saturday, the timing couldn't be better.
"I think they're going shopping [Saturday]. That's motivation for [Sunday]," Sadler joked. "We really need this Dash 4 Cash. My wife's already spent it."
Austin Dillon, Sadler's Richard Childress Racing teammate, won the first of four Dash 4 Cash bonuses last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leaving him the only driver still eligible for a $600,000 bonus should he emerge as the top Dash 4 Cash driver in four consecutive events.
The top four finishers among Nationwide regulars become eligible for the four-week bonus program. Sadler and Dillon, who have been 1-2 in the series point standings after each of the past five races, are joined by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr. as this week's Dash eligibles.
As much as he'd like the spending money this week, Sadler won't hold it against Dillon if he keeps his hopes for the $600,000 bonus intact.
"As long as we keep it in-house. That's the main thing," Sadler said.
And Sadler says that's been the prevailing attitude and recipe for success among RCR's Nationwide teams.
"It's been fun," Sadler said. "I know we're both running for a championship but it hasn't seemed to be that way. We've all been so much [about] helping each other. Our crews get along very well.
"When you walk into our shop, you see a lot of guys that work on Austin's car are putting my car together. Some of my guys are putting Austin's car together. It's a great mentality that we've built at the Nationwide shop at Childress. It's really one team with three drivers."
Sadler said the same one-for-all mentality carries over at the track.
"We meet after every practice. Everybody's sharing notes," he said. "It's pretty much: Let's help each other as much as we can, period, and let race adjustments dictate where we're going to finish. This is probably the best team I've been on in my career as far as everybody being so open-minded, so open-booked about helping each other as much as we can."
Going into Sunday afternoon's race, Sadler leads Dillon by three points with Roush Fenway's Stenhouse another 13 points back in the standings.
"Somebody asked me what it's going to be like if it goes down to the last two races and we're racing for a championship," said Dillon, a Nationwide rookie who drove his No. 3 Chevrolet to victory in the June 29 race at Kentucky Speedway, which, like Chicagoland, is a 1.5-mile track.
"I don't think it would change from what we're going with right now. We've been able to really help each other and, when it gets to the race, we settle it on the track. I think that's what our success is -- our teams working together."
Sadler said his team will likely revert to a setup similar to the one used in Saturday's first practice when his speed (171.021 mph) was second only to Kyle Busch (171.450).
Sadler's biggest concern this weekend, aside from his wife's shopping expenditures, is his health. Suffering from a stomach virus, he said he'd been in bed and not eating for 36 hours prior to Saturday's first practice.
"I'm a little weak right now," he admitted after the afternoon session. "I'm going to take some oxygen, relax, maybe take an IV. [But] I'll be ready to fire when the green flag goes."
Kligerman, Patrick finish strong
Parker Kligerman, driving the No 22 Dodge for Roger Penske, made his final Nationwide practice lap the fastest of the day at 172.695 mph.
But Danica Patrick, second-fastest at 172.601, was ecstatic with her afternoon time on what the Rockford, Ill., resident considers her home track.
"I'll take my little practice day victories," Patrick said after climbing from the No. 7 Chevrolet. "It's good for morale. Everyone on the team is working so hard."
Patrick has been unable to finish higher than 12th since her eighth-place showing at Texas Motor Speedway in the sixth race of the season.
|American Ethanol 225|
"I don't think, in any way, I've got it figured out," she admitted. "Qualifying has always been a little struggle and this should give us a good qualifying spot in the order."
Lofton earns first career pole
Justin Lofton, the last truck to take the track, won the pole for Saturday night's American Ethanol 250, as Chevrolets swept the first three spots.
Lofton's lap at 174.154 mph in the No. 6 Chevrolet prevented Joey Coulter (173.997) from capturing his first career pole. Ty Dillon was third-fastest (173.667), ahead of series points leader Timothy Peters, who had the fastest Toyota at 173.556.
Lofton trails Peters by 12 points in the standings. Dillon is third, 14 points out of the lead.
Todd Bodine had the seventh-fastest time in qualifying for his 200th career Truck start. David Starr, who qualified 21st for his 300th Truck start, posted the fastest time among the first 15 trucks to take the track.
- Elliott Sadler
- Austin Dillon