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Lake Zurich grad fired up for Lay’s $1M announcement

Lake Zurich High School grad Tyler Raineri is finalist w$1 milliLay's “Do Us Flavor” contest. His submissiwas Sriracha.  |

Lake Zurich High School grad Tyler Raineri is a finalist to win $1 million in Lay's “Do Us a Flavor” contest. His submission was Sriracha. | Ruthie Hauge~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 2, 2013 12:14PM

Lake Zurich High School graduate Tyler Raineri could become a millionaire Monday.

But in the meantime, he is sweating out the final days of voting in Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest. Voting ends at midnight Saturday, May 4 with Raineri’s Sriracha submission in the running with Chicken and Waffles and Cheesy Garlic Bread.

On May 1, with about 80 hours of voting left, Raineri admitted that losing out on the $1 million grand prize would be the ultimate letdown, so he is maintaining an “expect the worst and hope for the best” mentality.

To make it to the final three, Raineri’s Sriracha entry first had to beat out 3.8 million flavor submissions. Voting opened Feb. 12 when all three flavors hit store shelves nationwide.

“You don’t know who’s voting and if they are voting based off the actual flavor or the name; like if it sounds like it could potentially taste good without trying it,” said Raineri, a 2010 Lake Zurich grad. “There’s just a lot of ifs.”

Raineri said he will be with his family and girlfriend in California this weekend for the announcement, which will be made during a private dinner at Eva Longoria’s restaurant, Beso Hollywood, on Monday night.

If Sriracha wins, Raineri will be flown to New York for a media tour.

“Finding out that I was a finalist three months ago was crazy, but now it’s really hitting me,” Raineri said during a phone interview on Wednesday night.

“It’s just crazy that my life could be totally different in five days.”

In the meantime, Raineri is trying to focus on final exams at Illinois State University, where he is currently finishing up his junior year. He was able to take the tests a week in advance in order to make Lay’s announcement dinner.

Raineri’s parents, who still live in Lake Zurich, have been helping him wrap his mind around the fact that the difference between winning and losing is $1 million. In either case, he said, the whole experience has been a win.

“They’re excited, but they are trying to keep me level-headed because they know how big this is for me,” he said. “They’re just trying to remind me that it’s a win-win; that if I don’t win, I’m still leaving with more than I came in with.”

The experience has included a trip to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North American Headquarters in Plano, Texas, to meet the culinary team that created his flavor. The following day, they flew to Los Angeles for a photo shoot with actress Eva Longoria and celebrity chef Michael Symon. The next trip was to New York to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. And his name and picture have been on a bag of Lay’s chips.

“For the most part, it’s really just been a marketing campaign, I guess,” Raineri said. “I’ve been working as hard as I possibly can just to get the word out.”

If he wins the money, he pledged to donate a yet-to-be-determined percentage to the Special Olympics and the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.

He explained that his cousin competes in the Special Olympics and The V Foundation is the philanthropic organization that his fraternity, Delta Chi, raises money to support each year.

Raineri said his fraternity brothers have been a big help encouraging people to vote for Sriracha.

“I told everyone in my frat that if I won, I would go home to Lake Zurich on Wednesday, spend the night there and then drive down to school to celebrate,” he said.

Votes can be cast once a day until polls close May 4. Voting can be in the form of a Twitter tweet, #SaveSriracha, for Raineri. Votes also can be cast on the Lay’s Facebook page, or by texting “VOTE” to 24477.

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