Richmond, VA (Sports Network) - The Sprint Cup Series concludes its regular
season this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. The Nationwide Series
also will be at Richmond, while the Camping World Truck Series will race at
Iowa Speedway. Formula One heads to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
Sprint Cup Series
Federated Auto Parts 400 - Richmond International Raceway - Richmond, Va.
It's now or never for several drivers who are trying to clinch a spot in this
year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The 12-driver field for the Chase will be determined after Saturday night's
400-lap race at Richmond International Raceway. Six drivers already have
clinched a top-10 spot in the playoffs -- Jimmie Johnson, the current points
leader, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, who won last
Sunday's race at Atlanta, and Matt Kenseth, who has the most wins this season
with five. Kasey Kahne has secured at least a wild card position due to his
two victories this year. Kahne fell from eighth to 12th in points after
finishing 36th at Atlanta.
Richmond will decide the five remaining spots in the Chase.
Right now, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch are
seventh through 10th, respectively, in the point standings. Those four drivers
control their top-10 clinching destiny.
Regardless of any other driver's performance, Earnhardt will clinch a top-10
spot if he finishes 32nd or better, and Logano will lock down his position if
he places 11th or higher. Biffle earns a spot if he finishes ninth or better.
Busch secures a top-10 in the Chase if he wins the race, comes in second with
at least one lap led or takes third after leading the most laps.
Busch, who won the inaugural Chase championship in 2004 when he drove for
Roush Racing, could become the first driver from a single-car team to qualify
for the playoffs. He is driving for Furniture Row Racing this season before he
moves over to Stewart-Haas Racing next year.
"We're in position to make history, and that's pretty exciting for everyone
associated with Furniture Row Racing," said Busch, who has scored four top-10
finishes in the last five races. "It's been our goal at Furniture Row Racing
from the beginning of the year to make the Chase, and we enter the final pre-
Chase race controlling our own destiny. We need to get it done on our own
Saturday night and not worry about what the other Chase contenders are doing."
While Busch has a good shot of making the Chase, two other former Sprint Cup
Series champions are in danger of not qualifying, particularly Brad
Keselowski, who won the title last year. Keselowski finished 35th at Atlanta
after suffering engine failure in the closing stages of the race. He dropped
four spots in points to 15th.
"We don't dictate our own fate, which is never good," said Keselowski, who is
presently 28 points behind 10th-place Busch. "We have the speed and
performance to get there, but we haven't put together the execution or the
luck. There's only so much you can control."
Keselowski has yet to score a victory this season. He definitely needs to win
at Richmond in order to be in contention for a wild card spot. Mathematically,
there will be at least two drivers outside the top-10 with wins. Martin Truex
Jr. holds the second wild card based on winning one race and sitting 13th in
points. Ryan Newman has one victory but is 14th in the standings, just five
points behind Truex.
To clinch, Keselowski would need to win the race as well as outpoint Truex by
13 and Newman by eight. If Kahne were to displace a winless driver from the
top-10 (Earnhardt or Busch), then Keselowski would only need to outpoint one
of those drivers. If Truex or Newman manages to displace Busch from the
top-10, Keselowski can get in the Chase if he finishes higher in points than
the other one-win drivers remaining outside the top-10.
"I'm ready to go to Richmond and win the race," Keselowski said. "I'm not
going to worry myself with where this car is or that car is during the race.
We're going to win the race, and when it's over, we'll see if that was good
enough to get us in."
Keselowski's best finish in eight starts at Richmond is seventh, which came
one year ago.
Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, is just six points behind Busch in 11th
place. He has gained ground in points by finishing sixth and seventh in
the last two races. Gordon will clinch at least a wild card spot if he wins at
"Winning is our goal this weekend; it's what we want to do every weekend,"
Gordon said. "Through practice, during qualifying and during the race, we're
doing every thing we possibly can to win.
"I've said all along that I think (Chase berths) will come down to the last
lap at Richmond, and we're going to battle all the way to that checkered flag
to try and earn one of those spots."
Gordon has won at Richmond twice, but his most recent victory here has been
since September 2000.
If Truex wins at Richmond, he will earn at least a wild card spot. It's the
same scenario for Newman. Both drivers have an opportunity to secure a top-10
Jamie McMurray (16th in points) and Paul Menard (17th) remain in the Chase
hunt, but each driver is a long shot.
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Federated Auto
Virginia 529 College Savings 250 - Richmond Int'l Raceway - Richmond, Va.
NASCAR's second-tier series, now known as the Nationwide Series, will
celebrate a milestone on Friday at Richmond International Raceway -- its
There have been 999 races run since the inception of the series in 1982. Dale
Earnhardt won the series' first event 31 years ago at Daytona International
Speedway. Who will have the honor of being the winner of the 1,000th race?
Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray are those Sprint
Cup Series regulars competing in the Nationwide race at Richmond. Busch and
Keselowski have won here in the past.
Busch holds the series record for most victories with 60. Four of them have
come at Richmond, including his first career win on May 14, 2004. He finished
third at this track in April.
"In the spring, we came with a good car, then couldn't get the handling right
in the end, finished top-five, but wanted a win," Busch said. "Richmond is
still a good track for me."
Busch already has nine wins in Nationwide this season. His most recent victory
came two weeks ago at Bristol. He finished second to Kevin Harvick in last
Saturday's race at Atlanta.
Keselowski won the spring event at Richmond. Can he make it a season-sweep
here this weekend?
"It's probably going to take a bit more speed than we had a Bristol,"
Keselowski said. "Kyle (Busch) was really hooked up there, and I couldn't do a
whole lot with him. Richmond has definitely been a good track for us, though.
I've always enjoyed the challenge of racing there because you can really
charge the corners and be aggressive."
After finishing third at Atlanta, Sam Hornish Jr. widened his lead in the
point standings to 10 over Austin Dillon. Hornish has been atop the rankings
for the past three weeks. There are nine races to go.
"We are in a decent place right now," Hornish said. "This team has had its ups
and downs, yet we have come back better than ever."
Elliott Sadler, a Virginia native, is 26 points behind Hornish, while Regan
Smith trails the leader by 29 points.
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Virginia 529
College Savings 250.
Camping World Truck Series
Iowa 200 - Iowa Speedway -- Newton, Iowa
Chase Elliott made history in the Camping World Truck Series last weekend with
a dramatic victory in the inaugural race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
At age 17, Elliott became the youngest driver to win a race in the series. He
surpassed the previous record set by Ryan Blaney, who won at Iowa Speedway one
year ago when he was 18. Elliott, the son of former NASCAR Cup Series champion
Bill Elliott, bumped into the side of leader Ty Dillon and spun him out on the
final turn of the last lap for the victory. It was the series' maiden visit to
Canada and the first road-course race in 13 years.
Four different drivers under the age of 21 have won a truck race this season:
Kyle Larson (Rockingham), Jeb Burton (Texas), Blaney (Pocono) and Elliott.
Dillon, who is 21 years old, won at Kentucky in June.
Elliott is scheduled to make his seventh career truck start on Sunday at Iowa.
He finished fifth here in July. For the second year in a row, the series is
competing at this 0.875-mile racetrack twice during the season.
"I think we learned a lot during our last trip to Iowa, setup-wise, and that
gives us a better starting point in practice," Elliott said. "Now that we have
one run here under our belts, the guys at the shop were able to make better
preparations to fight the things we struggled with last time. Coming off a win
(in Canada) and returning to an oval doesn't hurt either."
Timothy Peters won the first race at Iowa this year. Peters started 10th and
led 39 of 200 laps, including the final 27. He is the only driver with
multiple truck victories at this track. His first win here came in July 2012.
"It's kind of cool to say that I am in that category of the 'first'," Peters
said. "I'm looking forward to getting back to a racetrack where we won at
earlier this year and capitalize on another good run and try to keep gaining
in the championship point standings."
Matt Crafton comes to Iowa with a 47-point lead over second-place and
defending series champion James Buescher. Dillon is 63 points behind. Burton
is fourth in the standings (-65), followed by Miguel Paludo (-68), Peters
(-70) and Blaney (-82). Crafton has finished in the top-10 in each of the
first 14 races this season.
Thirty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Iowa 200.
Italian Grand Prix - Autodromo Nazionale Monza - Monza, Italy
The European tour of the 2013 Formula One season concludes with this weekend's
Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
After Italy, F1 will compete in Singapore, Korea, Japan, India, Abu Dhabi and
then Austin, Texas before the season wraps up in Brazil.
Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull won the most recent grand prix two weeks ago in
Belgium and increased his lead in the world championship standings to 46
points over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who moved to second after his second-
place finish. Lewis Hamilton, in his first season with Mercedes, is 58 points
behind Vettel, while Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus trails by 63. Raikkonen dropped
from second to fourth in the standings after his retirement just past the
halfway point in the Belgian GP.
Vettel returns to Monza five years after he claimed his maiden F1 race and
pole victories here. When Vettel was 21 years old in 2008, he became the
youngest race and pole winner in F1 history. The German drove for Toro Rosso
at time. He moved over to Red Bull in 2009.
"This track brings back great memories for me, mainly from my first win there
in 2008 with Toro Rosso," Vettel said. "I can't describe the feeling of
standing on the top of the podium for the first time, and Monza was one of the
best places to experience it because of the thousands of passionate fans that
stand beneath. It gives you goose bumps."
Red Bull has struggled at Monza over the years. Since its F1 debut in 2005,
Red Bull has scored only one podium finish in 16 starts at this 3.6-mile, 11-
turn course. Vettel won the Italian GP in 2011.
"We had painful years in a way, where we just get hammered down the straights,
and we've had years where the loss down the straight was limited, so we could
come back in the corners, and for sure if you look back, the 2011 experience
was great in that regard," Vettel said. "How it turns out to be this year is
difficult to say. I think we can be quite confident."
Since 1950, a Ferrari driver has won the Italian GP 18 times. Alonso most
recently did it in his first year with the team in 2010. This is the home race
for Ferrari. Its headquarters are located in Maranello, Italy, which is
roughly 125 miles southeast of Monza.
In last year's Italian GP, Alonso finished third and held a 37-point over
Hamilton, who won the race. Vettel trailed Alonso by 39 points after he was
forced to retired due to a mechanical issue with six laps to go.
But Vettel came roaring back in the championship battle by winning four
consecutive grand prix -- Singapore, Japan, Korea and India. He won his third
consecutive F1 title by just a three-point margin over Alonso.
Can Alonso turn the tables on Vettel this year?
"I'm optimistic, for sure," Alonso said. "I think in Spa (Belgian GP), we saw
some steps forward for us, and we hope to continue that direction and keep
improving here in Monza. The characteristics of the track should help our
performance as well. We have everything in place to have a good weekend. We
need to deliver when comes the time in Sunday in the race, but we arrive with
some good confidence and ready to fight.
"I think for us it will be a stronger test at the Singapore race when we come
back to the maximum level of downforce, etc., and there, we will see how much
of a step forward we did. But let's concentrate on this weekend. Let's try to
do the maximum, and let's try to finish in front of our main rivals."
Alonso also won the Italian GP for the first time in 2007 when he drove for
The Sports Network