Illinois Natives Allgaier, Patrick Light Up Their Home State
Expect the cheers at driver introductions to be extra loud for Illinois natives Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway for the STP 300. Both Allgaier and Patrick are securely in the top 10 in NASCAR Nationwide Series points 17 races into the season.
Allgaier, from Riverview, Ill., had a popular win at Chicagoland in this race last year when he coasted across the finish line ahead of Carl Edwards after both drivers ran out of fuel. It was Turner Motorsports’ first win in the NNS.
Currently fifth in the standings 73 points out of first, Allgaier is still in the mix but is close to being in a now-or-never scenario as far as his championship hopes. He’s on a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes – and seven in his last eight races – including his first top fives of the year, fifths at Dover and Kentucky. In four career races at Chicago, Allgaier has three top-10 finishes. He has a pre-race Driver Rating of 97.8 and an Average Running Position of 9.9.
Patrick hails from Roscoe, Ill., and finished 10th in this event last season. She is currently ninth in the standings, 215 points back from leader Elliott Sadler coming off a solid run at New Hampshire, where she finished 14th.
Halfway Point: Championship Races Continue To Get Better With ‘Pick-A-Series’ Rule
Since the advent last year of the “pick-a-series” rule where drivers in NASCAR’s national series declare the series in which they’ll accumulate championship points, the NNS has had consecutive seasons during which the championship has been its closest at the midway point since 2005. Then, 79 points separated first through fourth in the rankings. At this stage last year, the top four were within 37 points of the leader. From 2006-10 (under a different point system), an average of 474 points were between first and fourth place at the halfway mark.
As the series heads to the first of two races at Chicagoland Speedway, the contenders list is growing with three drivers within 32 points of the lead. Elliott Sadler has a three-point advantage over Austin Dillon, his Richard Childress Racing teammate. Reigning series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 16 points back while resurgent Sam Hornish Jr., 32 points behind, is very much still in the hunt.
Among those, Dillon, 22, may be poised for the biggest second half. With a series-leading 10 top fives and tied with Sadler atop the leaderboard with 13 top 10s, the Sunoco rookie keeps fighting despite point penalties that may have destroyed the confidence of other young drivers. He’ll make his series track debut at Chicago but has great notes after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race there last fall. That win was key in his championship run.
But don’t count out Sadler or Stenhouse just yet. Sadler’s consistency is unmatched; he has a series-leading season-to-date Average Running Position of 7.437 and Driver Rating of 106.4. He has made five starts at Chicago, posting a best finish of sixth last fall. Stenhouse, on the other hand, has finally righted his ship rallying off three consecutive top-10 finishes. He has made three starts at Chicago with an average finish of 13.6.
Dash 4 Cash Heavyweights Ready To Fight For The Prize In Round Two
Chicagoland hosts the second of four consecutive NNS “Dash 4 Cash” races where the highest finisher (not necessarily the winner) among the four eligible drivers for this race – Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse, Sam Hornish and Elliott Sadler – will take home a $100,000 bonus in addition to his race purse. Indianapolis and Iowa round out the 2012 D4C races.
Dillon won the first $100,000 D4C bonus last week at New Hampshire with his third-place finish, best among the eligible drivers.
When asked what he would do with the money, Dillon said with a chuckle, “I think I am going to get a pool. Maybe I’ll be smart like my grandpa (Richard Childress) and invest it somehow.”
Dillon is the remaining driver with a chance at $1 million should he capture the bonus at Chicago and the Brickyard on July 28 and then win outright at Iowa. The bonus winner from Chicago automatically advances to Indianapolis. The next three highest finishers among series regulars from Chicago also are eligible for the bonus at Indianapolis.
NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.
Penske Racing announced this week that Ryan Blaney has joined the organization and will compete in the No. 22 Dodge in selected NNS events. First up is Iowa Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 4, then Richmond International Raceway and Kentucky Speedway. … NNS all-time wins leader Kyle Busch is the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver competing in the NNS this weekend at Chicago. He leads the series in wins at Chicago with two. … “It’s going to be a little different racing on Sunday but it will put us in front of a large audience, which will be pretty exciting,” Jason Bowles said. His MacDonald Motorsports has never been inside the top 20 in the owner standings this far into the season. … Former NNS crew chief for Trevor Bayne and Roush Fenway Racing, Chad Norris, has been called up to take the place of Bob Osborne in the NSCS for Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team.
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