Roger Diez: Chase going down to the wire
November 10, 2012
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is coming down to the wire, and it could very well turn out to be as close and exciting as last year. Will we see another tie? It’s certainly possible with only seven points separating points leader Jimmie Johnson from Brad Keselowski as they go into the next to last race of the season at Phoenix on Sunday. Each has five wins on the season, so if there is a tie one of them needs to win at Phoenix and/or Homestead. Last Sunday’s race at Texas was as good as it gets, with the two primary contenders for the championship going wheel to wheel in the closing laps, and even trading a little paint. It was almost as exciting as the finish at Watkins Glen earlier in the season, and Keselowski was also involved in that one.
Clint Bowyer, 36 points back, is the only other driver with a realistic chance at the title. Everyone else is more than a full race in points behind. And if Bowyer is to have a shot, he’ll need to have a run like Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel had at Abu Dhabi last weekend. Vettel started dead last after a qualifying infraction, and despite having to pit for a new nose wing, finished third and extended his championship lead.
Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, who has been knocking on the door most of the season, finally scored his first win since his return to F1 this year. The F1 driving championship, like Sprint Cup, is a two-horse race with only Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in position to take the title.
Another close championship battle is the NHRA Funny Car division, with Ron Capps only four points behind leader Jack Beckman. Capps has finished second in the championship three times, a history only surpassed by Mark Martin in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. Capps is definitely hungry for the big trophy, and has some momentum coming off a win at Las Vegas two weeks ago.
The other two premier NASCAR divisions also have tight points battles going. The Nationwide championship is tied, with both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler at 1,170 points. Austin Dillon, seven points in arrears, is the only other driver with a shot at the title. In the Camping World Truck series, James Buescher leads Dillon’s little brother Ty by 15 points, and Timothy Peters and Parker Kligerman are both in the hunt at 25 and 27 points back respectively. By the time you read this, the points will have changed, because the series ran their next to last race Friday night after my deadline. All three series are running this weekend at Phoenix and they all will close out the season next weekend at Homestead. I wasn’t too sure I liked the new point system that NASCAR put in place last year, but it has proven to generate intense competition and close championship finishes.
Finally, a big salute and thank you to all the veterans out there on Veterans Day; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Whether you are race fans or not, your service is appreciated.
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