Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It should be an exciting and wild weekend
of racing, as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the
fourth race in the championship Chase. The Camping World Truck Series is also
at Talladega. Formula One returns to action with the Japanese Grand Prix.
Sprint Cup Series
Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 - Talladega Superspeedway - Talladega, Ala.
When it's Chase time in the Sprint Cup Series, the one racetrack that concerns
the title contenders the most is Talladega Superspeedway.
Talladega is the "wild card" in the 10-race Chase for the championship. The
unpredictable can happen there, including the big wreck or wrecks. One thing
is for sure, the Chase drivers will be able to breathe a little easier once
the Talladega race is in the rear-view mirror.
Sunday's race at Talladega is round four in this year's playoffs.
Some of the Chase members have done well at Talladega lately, while other have
"That race can shake things up in a big way," said Chase driver Clint Bowyer,
who has won the last two fall races at Talladega. "It can propel you to the
lead or bury you. It's one of those races that I kind of look forward to. I've
won a couple times there and enjoy it, but I also know what can happen there
After winning this past weekend at Dover, Brad Keselowski reclaimed the points
lead. Keselowski holds a five-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson. Denny
Hamlin is 16 markers behind, while Bowyer trails by 25.
Talladega could be Bowyer's best opportunity to move up in the Chase rankings.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has finished no worse than seventh in the
last five races there.
Keselowski is also a two-time race winner at Talladega. He won the spring race
there in May and scored his first career Sprint Cup victory at this 2.66-mile
speedway in April 2009.
"I really respect the challenge that Talladega is mentally to every driver,
but then certainly loathe the lack of ability to fully determine the outcome
of your day," Keselowski said. "So it's a bit of a love/hate relationship for
sure, but the mental challenge of it is what I really enjoy a lot."
Jeff Gordon is the last driver who scored a season-sweep at Talladega, doing
so in 2007.
No Chase driver has won the fall race at Talladega and gone on to capture the
series championship in the same season since NASCAR began its playoff format
for its premier series in 2004.
Johnson and Hamlin have both struggled on the restrictor-plate tracks
(Talladega and Daytona) this year. Johnson is 0-3 in finishing a plate race
during the 2012 season. The five-time series champion was involved in an
accident in all of those events, placing 42nd in the Daytona 500, 35th in the
spring race at Talladega and 36th in July event at Daytona.
"Well, as you can probably see from our finishes this year, we haven't had a
lot of luck at the restrictor-plate tracks," Johnson said. "It definitely is
the one track in the Chase I've kind of been a little concerned about. There
are a lot of great tracks for the 48 (Hendrick Motorsports team) coming up in
the Chase, but this one is definitely one where anything can happen.
"There are so many things that are out of your control. There is a lot of room
on this track to move around though, obviously, and try things. I think the
odds are in our favor to be able to finish one of these restrictor-plate races
this year. At least I hope so."
Johnson does have two wins at Talladega, with his most recent one coming in
April 2011. He beat Bowyer to the finish line by the slimmest of margins --
0.002 seconds to be exact.
Hamlin did post a fourth-place run in the Daytona 500 but finished 23rd and
25th in the other two restrictor-plate races this season.
"(Talladega) is an absolute crap shoot, but it's going to be for everyone,"
Hamlin said. "We have to know who we're racing. We have to make smart
decisions and keep all the fenders on it. Typically, most superspeedways I'm
right in it until the very end and get caught up in a wreck. My job is to make
sure I concentrate on that weekend, not look forward and focus on getting the
most points possible."
Hamlin's finishes in the last two fall races at Talladega have been eighth and
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega, while his
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five victories there.
Earnhardt Jr.'s last win at Talladega came in Oct. 2004. Gordon has not taken
the checkered flag there in five years.
Heading to Talladega, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne are both 32 points out of
the lead. Earnhardt Jr. is next in the Chase rankings, 39 points behind,
followed by Martin Truex Jr. (-42), Kevin Harvick (-46), Gordon (-48), Greg
Biffle (-51) and Matt Kenseth (-72).
"For the first time in my career, I'm probably really looking forward to going
to Talladega," said Kenseth, who won this year's Daytona 500. "Our plate stuff
has been extremely strong this year. I think we've led a lot of laps at all
three plate races. They all ended on a green-white-checker. We were leading
all three green-white-checkers, but unfortunately, we lost the last two. I
messed up both of them and didn't do the right things, but we've had really
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Good Sam Roadside
Camping World Truck Series
Fred's 250 - Talladega Superspeedway - Talladega, Ala.
The Camping World Truck Series will run its second and final restrictor-plate
race of the season on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
With five races to go, rookie Ty Dillon holds a mere one-point lead over James
Buescher. Their closest competitors -- Timothy Peters, Joey Coulter and Parker
Kligerman -- have significant deficits to overcome. Peters is 24 points
behind, while Coulter trails by 38 and Kligerman 39.
Dillon has yet to make a Truck Series start at Talladega but has previous
experience at this track.
"We won at Talladega last year in the ARCA Racing Series," he said. "It's
really a fun track to race if you can stay out of trouble. I think we can run
up front this weekend if we're smart and race the racetrack. Pack racing can
be a lot of fun if you know how to do it right. You need to be sure you don't
get caught in the wrong place and the wrong time."
Buescher has run well at Talladega in the past, finishing 15th (2009), sixth
(2010) and third (2011). He leads the series with four wins this season. All
of his victories have come on 1.5-mile tracks.
"I really enjoy racing on superspeedways for the pure fast speeds and action
pack racing," Buescher said. "I am also on edge, because anything at any time
can happen on them. This is a place that we can win, and I hope we are in
place to accomplish that."
Todd Bodine is the only driver entered in this race that has won a previous
truck event at Talladega. Bodine scored back-to-back victories there from
In February, Bodine's then Red Horse Racing teammate, John King, won the first
restrictor-plate race of the season at Daytona. King lost his ride with the
No. 7 team in May due to lack of sponsorship.
Thirty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Fred's 250. Aric
Almirola and Kurt Busch are those Sprint Cup Series regulars scheduled to
compete in this race.
Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit - Suzuka City, Japan
After winning last week's Singapore Grand Prix, Red Bull driver Sebastian
Vettel put himself right back in the hunt for the Formula One world
Vettel, who is seeking his third consecutive title, benefited from Lewis
Hamilton's gearbox failure early in the race and then held off Hamilton's
McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, after two restarts to win in Singapore for
the second year in a row. Vettel moved up to second in the driver's standings.
He is 29 points behind leader Fernando Alonso from Ferrari. Alonso finished
third in Singapore.
Third through fifth in points right now are: Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus (-45),
Hamilton (-52) and Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber (-62).
F1 now heads to Suzuka, Japan for the 15th round in the 20-grand prix schedule
Alonso has not won a race since the July 22 German Grand Prix but has kept a
somewhat comfortable points lead due to Vettel and Hamilton's misfortunes in
previous grand prix.
"In Monza (Italian Grand Prix), it was Lewis winning the race and Sebastian
retired, and (in Singapore) it was Sebastian winning and Lewis retiring, so
for me, it's okay if they keep doing it like this," Alonso said.
But let's not forget what happened in 2010. With two races to go, Alonso held
a 25-point lead over Vettel, but Vettel won both the penultimate event in
Brazil and then the season-finale in Abu Dhabi to beat Alonso for the title by
Could history repeat itself in F1?
"I don't think Fernando would be too happy if it happened again in the last
race," Vettel said. "It's an incredible season for all of us, and we have a
lot of races left. The car seems to be competitive, and we just have to use
the momentum and keep pushing for these last races and see what happens."
Last year, Vettel clinched his second straight F1 title with a third-place
finish in the Japanese Grand Prix. He entered the race needing only one point
to secure the championship.
"I love the Suzuka circuit," he said. "I wish I had won in 2011. It was my
third Formula One race on my favorite track, and it still bothers me a bit
that I took my world title with a third place."
Alonso and Vettel have both won the Japanese GP twice. Alonso's victories came
in 2006 and '08. Vettel scored back-to-back wins in Japan from 2009-10. Button
is the defending race winner.
"Suzuka is definitely a circuit that puts hair on your chest," Button said.
"It's extremely uncompromising, like a street circuit. It doesn't allow for a
single mistake, punishing you for putting a wheel wrong at almost every point
on the circuit. It's also extremely quick."
Button trails Alonso by a distant 75 points. He finished second in the
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