Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While Formula One returns to the United
States for the first time in five years, the championships in all three of
NASCAR's national touring series will be decided in the season-ending races at
Sprint Cup Series
Ford EcoBoost 400 - Homestead-Miami Speedway - Homestead, Fla.
It ain't over till it's over.
That's the mindset of Jimmie Johnson heading into this weekend's Sprint Cup
Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson fell 20 points behind leader Brad Keselowski after finishing 32nd in
last Sunday's penultimate race at Phoenix due to an accident in the late
going. Keselowski had trailed Johnson by seven points, but after his sixth-
place finish at Phoenix, he is now in the driver's seat to win the Chase for
the Sprint Cup championship.
"Certainly if you have the choice you always want to be in the lead of the
points, especially in the closing races, so I'm thankful for that," Keselowski
said. "But I also know that the troubles that (Johnson's team) had are the
same troubles that we could have (this) week, and so you try not to take
anything for granted. You try to just focus on what lies ahead, and we've got
to do the best job we can at Homestead."
Keselowski and Johnson are the only drivers who remain in title contention.
The other 10 members in the Chase field have been mathematically eliminated.
Keselowski will clinch his first Sprint Cup championship if he finishes 15th
or better at Homestead, regardless of Johnson's performance there. Keselowski
can also be guaranteed the title if he finishes 16th and leads at least one
lap or places 17th after leading the most laps.
Johnson has battled back from a points deficit with one race to go to win the
championship in the past. Two years ago, he trailed Denny Hamlin by 15 points,
which is roughly four under the current points system. Johnson's second-place
finish compared to a 14th-place run for Hamlin allowed Johnson to claim his
record-extending fifth consecutive title.
"My focus is going down there and winning the race," Johnson said. "We
typically haven't had to have that mentality going into this race, but we have
shown we can race for the win. We did it in 2010 against Denny, finished
second and won the championship. This 48 Lowe's team can do it again. We have
nothing to lose and can gamble and take chances. Brad doesn't have that
luxury. This isn't over. This team never gives up, and we don't intend to
Johnson has yet to win in his 11 races at Homestead. Keselowski, though, has
finished no better than 13th in his four starts there.
If Keselowski can win the championship, the 28-year-old would give team owner
Roger Penske his first title in NASCAR's premier series. Keselowski's 2010
Nationwide Series championship was Penske Racing's maiden title in a NASCAR
national touring circuit.
"When I first came to Penske Racing, I viewed it as an organization with so
much potential," Keselowski said. "I had a vision for what I knew this place
could become, and I shared that with Mr. Penske in our first meeting together.
And as he began to give (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) and I the things that we
needed, we began to show results on the racetrack which, in turn, led to a lot
of trust among myself, Mr. Penske, Paul and everyone else at Penske Racing.
"So having a legitimate shot to win the championship this weekend is something
that I take great pride in because I know we got there together."
Keselowski also has an opportunity to hand Dodge a huge going-away present
before the auto manufacturer bids farewell to NASCAR competition, at least for
the time being. Keselowski is seeking to become the first Dodge driver
champion since Richard Petty in 1975. The auto maker departed the sport after
the 1977 season and returned in 2001.
"I would hope that they come back as soon as possible," Keselowski said. "I
would love to see that happen. I think it's important for the sport to have as
many participating manufacturers as possible, especially one that fits the
sport as Dodge does. I don't have a good feel for their vibe on it, but I hope
to see them back soon."
Penske Racing will field Fords for its Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams in 2013
If Johnson can pull off a remarkable comeback to win the championship, it
would be the record-extending 11th title for team owner Rick Hendrick. A sixth
championship for Johnson would put him one behind the series record for most
titles, shared by Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Ford EcoBoost 300 - Homestead-Miami Speedway - Homestead, Fla.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler have fought tooth and nail for the
Nationwide Series championship all year long, and now it comes down to this
weekend's season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to decide the title.
Stenhouse is seeking to become the sixth different driver to win back-to-back
championships in NASCAR's second-tier series. He presently leads Sadler by 20
points, which is the same point-separation between Sprint Cup Series title
contenders Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.
No driver other than Sadler or Stenhouse has led in the Nationwide point
standings this season. Sadler has sat no lower than second in the rankings,
but his current 20-point deficit is his largest since May when he trailed
Stenhouse by 34 points.
Rookie Austin Dillon, who is Sadler's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, is
the only other driver who remains in contention for the championship. Dillon
is 25 points out of the lead.
Stenhouse will clinch the championship if he finishes 16th or better at
Homestead. The Roush Fenway Racing driver is also guaranteed of the title if
he finishes 17th or higher after leading at least one lap or places 18th or
better with the most laps led.
"It's not even close to being over," Stenhouse said. "We still have to make
sure we do everything at Homestead. It's gonna be tough, because I'm gonna
have to not push the limits as much as I like. I like going for race wins too,
so it's gonna be a fine balance there, because I want to win that race and win
the championship all at the same time."
Those drivers who have won successive championships in the series include: Sam
Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy LaJoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt
Jr. (1998-99) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05).
"We started the year off counting points as soon as we started, and it would
mean a lot to me to go back-to-back," Stenhouse said. "I think as a race car
driver you come out to win championships. You want to win races, but
championships are what last for a long time. Last year was special. It felt
like we didn't have a dominant year, so even though it was still a
championship, it didn't feel like a championship year. This year has felt like
it's been a championship year, so it would be huge."
Stenhouse and Sadler were tied in points heading into last Saturday's race at
Phoenix, but Sadler finished 22nd after he was involved in a multi-car crash
in the closing laps. Stenhouse posted a third-place run.
Sadler will compete in his last Nationwide race for RCR. He announced earlier
this year that he is leaving Childress' team at season's end. It is widely
rumored that Sadler will join Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 season.
"It's hard to believe that it is the last race of the season already," Sadler
said. "This team has been great to work with. I love the determination and the
heart each member of the team has, and although we head to Homestead with a
deficit, we are not out of this championship. We will fight until the end. We
have to finish off what we started, and we are as prepared as we need to be to
go out there and make it happen."
Neither Stenhouse nor Sadler has won a previous Nationwide race at Homestead.
Stenhouse has finished second and fourth in his first two starts there, while
Sadler has placed no better than fifth in his six races at this 1.5-mile
racetrack. Dillon will compete in a Nationwide event there for the first time.
Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Ford EcoBoost 300.
Camping World Truck Series
Ford EcoBoost 200 - Homestead-Miami Speedway - Homestead, Fla.
With the top-three drivers separated by just 12 points, Friday's season-finale
for the Camping World Truck Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway could be a wild
battle for the championship.
James Buescher heads to South Florida with an 11-point lead over Timothy
Peters and a 12-point advantage over rookie Ty Dillon. Joey Coulter and Parker
Kligerman remain mathematically eligible for the championship, with Coulter
trailing Buescher by 29 markers and Kligerman 37.
Buescher had a setback last week at Phoenix, where he finished 17th after
blowing a tire and making contact with the wall in the closing laps. He came
to Phoenix with a 15-point lead over Dillon.
If Buescher finishes seventh or better at Homestead, he will clinch his first
Truck Series championship, regardless of any other driver's performance.
Buescher can also be guaranteed the title if he finishes eighth or higher and
leads at least one lap or places ninth or better after leading the most laps.
"This team knows what it needs to do," Buescher said. "We've been running
great all year long, and I don't expect anything less than great for the last
race of the year. We're going to go down to Miami to run our own race, and
hopefully, we'll be celebrating a championship when the race is done."
Buescher has finished no better than 12th in his four previous truck races at
Peters had trailed Buescher by 25 points, but Peters gained significant ground
in the standings after his fourth-place finish at Phoenix.
"It feels good to be in this position," he said. "We've got a shot, and that's
all we can ask for."
Dillon finished 15th at Phoenix after he was caught up in one of many wrecks
that occurred during the 153-lap race there. Dillon competed in last year's
rain-shortened truck race at Homestead, finishing sixth.
"We're going to do our best to win this race," he said. "We had a good truck
there last year, and we've had some success on the 1.5-mile tracks this year.
We have one more race to claim the championship, and I know we're going to
fight hard to win it for (Richard Childress Racing)."
Just twice since the season-finale shifted to Homestead in 2002 has the points
lead changed hands in the final race. Travis Kvapil is the only third-ranked
driver to advance to the title, leapfrogging Ted Musgrave and leader Brendan
Gaughan in 2003. Ron Hornaday Jr. made up a 29-point deficit to catch
Mike Skinner in 2007. Jack Sprague is the only other second-place driver to
prevail in the last race of the season, edging Greg Biffle for the
championship in 1999 at Fontana, Calif.
Thirty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Ford EcoBoost
United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas - Austin, Texas
For the first time in five years, Formula One will compete on American soil.
The new Circuit of the Americas -- a 3.4-mile, 20-turn road course located 15
miles southeast of downtown Austin, Texas -- will host the United States Grand
Prix for the first time. Sunday's 56-lap USGP is the penultimate round in the
20-race season. F1 will run its season-finale on Nov. 25 in Brazil.
Fernando Alonso's second-place finish coupled with a third-place run for two-
time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Nov. 4 Abu Dhabi Grand
Prix allowed Alonso to trim Vettel's points lead from 13 to 10.
"We just need to concentrate on our race, and if we finish in front of
Sebastian in the next two races, then maybe we have a chance," Alonso said.
Vettel from Red Bull and Ferrari's Alonso are the only drivers who remain
eligible for the championship. Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus won the Abu Dhabi GP,
but Raikkonen has been mathematically eliminated from the title race, as he
trails Vettel by 57 points. The maximum amount of points a driver can earn
over the next two rounds is 50. The race winner is awarded 25 points.
Teams will be faced with a lot of unknowns at COTA. No active driver has yet
to make any laps around the course. Former F1 driver David Coulthard drove a
Red Bull Racing showcar there when circuit construction had just begun. Lotus
test driver Jerome d'Ambrosio piloted a 2010 Renault R30 on opening day at the
track. Teams only have simulator data to help them with their weekend
preparations at this course.
"We're in the best possible position, so I think we're looking forward to the
next race, a new grand prix and a new challenge," Vettel said. "It's difficult
to know who is going to be quick."
Vettel is scheduled to make his 100th career F1 grand prix start. The German
made his F1 debut in the 2007 USGP, which was held on Indianapolis Motor
Speedway's road course. Substituting for the injured Robert Kubica at BMW
Sauber, Vettel finished eighth at Indy to become the sport's youngest point
scorer. He was 19 years old at the time.
"I think it's great that we are traveling to the United States again," Vettel
said. "I have been in the simulator learning the Austin track, how it flows
and getting a general feel for it."
Nine U.S. venues have previously hosted a F1 grand prix: Sebring, Riverside,
Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Long Beach and Indy.
Lewis Hamilton is the last winner of the USGP, doing so in '07. Racing for
McLaren in his rookie season, Hamilton scored pole position and won at Indy.
It came one week after he recorded his maiden F1 win in the Canadian Grand
Prix in Montreal.
"It's crazy to think that the last United States Grand Prix was five years
ago," Hamilton said. "It's a race I still remember like yesterday, though the
nervy anticipation as I drove into the [Indianapolis Motor] Speedway for the
very first time, the thousands of supportive fans and the fantastic car I had
beneath me that enabled me to take my second grand prix victory in the space
of a week. For me, those were incredible, thrilling times."
Made up of 11 left and nine right turns, COTA is one of just five current F1
circuits to run anti-clockwise. Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil are the
COTA's track surface took four months to lay, and the third and final layer
was completed in late-September. The last layer is made up of aggregate from
all over Texas. All told, over 640,000 cubic meters of material have been used
to construct the track.
"I think the Circuit of The Americas looks like it could also be the place
that modern Formula One finally calls home," Hamilton noted. "I've only driven
it on the computer and in the (simulator), but I think it's going to be a
track that drivers enjoy, which produces some great, close racing, and which
fans will quickly love.
"This is a new circuit, a new challenge and a new opportunity. I'm definitely
looking to be the first grand prix winner at the Circuit of The Americas."
The first two practice sessions for the USGP are scheduled for Friday. The
third and final practice will take place on Saturday, prior to qualifying.
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