Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
The Subway Jalapeno 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night kicks off the return of the series Dash 4 Cash program, sort of. This weekend's race isn't exactly one of the four races in the program. Instead, it kicks off the popular Nationwide Series bonus program by being the qualifying race to start of the Dash's 2012 installment.
The four highest-finishing Nationwide championship-eligible drivers at Daytona come Friday night will be the four drivers vying for a $100,000 bonus for the first race in the four-race series -- the July 14 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
I feel confident going into Daytona.We had a strong run there in February but got caught up in the chaos on the last lap.
This year, the four races for which the bonuses will be offered are consecutive ones, starting at New Hampshire and continuing through races at Chicagoland Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway on Aug. 4.
The driver claiming the bonus at New Hampshire, along with the other three highest-finishing championship-eligible drivers will be the four drivers eligible to claim the $100,000 for the next race in the program, and so on through the race at Iowa.
There will also be an additional $600,000 up for grabs at Iowa, if the same driver wins the $100,000 bonus in the previous Dash 4 Cash races and then goes on to win the Iowa Speedway event.
Joey Logano, who moves from the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota he was originally scheduled to drive to fill in for Denny Hamlin in the No. 18 JGR Toyota at Daytona, is the defending winner of the race. Meanwhile, Camping World Truck Series regular, James Buescher, won the Nationwide Series season opener at Daytona in February. Buescher, like Logano, will be back to try at another Daytona Nationwide win on Friday night. He'll climb back into the No. 30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet in an attempt to relive his February win.
"Returning to Daytona is special for me and this entire No. 30 Ron Jon/Quiksilver Chevrolet team," Buescher said. "We had a great car here in the spring and rolled into victory lane."
Neither Logano nor Buescher are Dash 4 Cash eligible, as Logano collects his championship points in the Sprint Cup Series and Buescher in the Camping World Truck Series. Prior to the Logano and Buescher wins, Sprint Cup Series regular Tony Stewart put together a string of four-straight Nationwide wins at Daytona, so needless to say, it's been awhile since a series regular has driven into victory lane there.
One of the keys for series regulars, or anyone in the race for that matter, to finish strong at Daytona is staying out of trouble. That's how Buescher drove into victory lane in February, by missing a last-lap wreck and driving from the back of the top-10, passing the wrecked cars in front of him and on to the checkered flag.
"Avoiding trouble and getting yourself in the right place at the right position is key," Brian Scott, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, said. "You have to be there at the end of the race to get a good finish."
As if they needed extra incentive to post wins, or at least strong finishes, this weekend the idea of a near future Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus opportunity is sure to provide at least a little bit of additional incentive for series regulars to be in at least close proximity to the front when the checkered flag waves on Friday night.
"I feel confident going into Daytona," Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, said. "We had a strong run there in February but got caught up in the chaos on the last lap."
Stenhouse, though, has more than Dash 4 Cash bonuses in mind. He's concerned with even bigger things, like another championship.
"This Nationwide championship battle is going to be tight, so we need a strong finish.