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NEWTON — With a green-white-checker finish looming, Jamie Dennis couldn’t hardly watch.
The NASCAR fan had been paired up with Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne in the finale of the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash program, and if Bayne finished highest of the four qualified drivers, both Bayne and Dennis would pocket $100,000.
Bayne held on through a chaotic final restart to finish third, just ahead of his Dash 4 Cash competitor Ty Dillon in fifth, and made Dennis and him richer.
“It just hasn’t sunk in entirely yet,” Dennis said. “I couldn’t watch (the final restart). It was just one of those things, it felt like fate. If I watched him the whole time I might jinx him. I was going to let him do his job, and he did it well.”
Like all the other Dash 4 Cash Sweepstakes that have rewarded the fans, the drivers get as much of a kick out of coming through for the fan they were paired up with as for themselves.
Bayne had fun with Dennis, of Henry, Ill., in the media center following the race, laughing and joking. He led 31 laps in the race, and despite not being as fast as the dominant cars of the night, winner Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr, he was happy to have something to race for farther back.
“I felt like we did everything but go to Victory Lane this weekend,” Bayne said. “To win the Dash 4 Cash, I really appreciate Nationwide Insurance giving us the chance to battle for something else. If a Cup guy is leading, it creates a little extra adrenaline with all the blue spoilers (indicating Dash 4 Cash participants) in the last green-white-checker.
“It’s really cool for (Dennis) … and just to see James’ response over here is really cool. I remember that feeling from winning races. You wake up the next morning, and you’re like, ‘This isn’t a joke, it’s for real.’ I’m sure (he’ll) probably have that feeling tomorrow.”
At one point in the final third of the race, all four Dash 4 Cash eligible drivers were running in the top 10, in positions fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth.
Dillon wasn’t too frustrated with coming up short of the $100,000 prize after winning it and the race last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He got excited at his chance to go back-to-back, though, when he saw the lineup for the final restart. In the end, he said, he just didn’t have enough to do it.
“As soon as we pulled out (of pit road) and were pulling up double file for the restart and all I saw was blue spoilers in front of me, I knew it was about to get good,” Dillon said. “Luckily (crew chief) Danny (Stockman) gave me a great adjustment and I was able to get a couple of them. But Trevor was too good and they were too far out ahead of us for me to make anything happen.
“Too much, too late. We’ll get them next time, hopefully.”
There was no need for a next time for Dennis, though. The feeling of disbelief never wavered in the few minutes Dennis answered questions, but he did remain measured.
When asked what he was going to do with the money, he led with a joke, then went the sensible route.
“I’m going to wait for the checks to clear so we know it’s real,” Dennis said to laughter. “It’s going in the bank, all of it.
“Maybe invest something and just sit on it. I don’t have any extravagant plans to go out and spend it or anything. We’re going to play conservative.”
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