Fernley 95A Speedway holds the 13th points race of the season tonight, featuring all the regular track racing divisions. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 6. Last night the track hosted the I-80 Challenge for IMCA Modifieds, along with chain races. Track owner Dan Simpson says the chain race division will be a regular part of the show for 2015. The track also plans to add a Bomber Division, an inexpensive entry-level class to get more drivers involved in racing. There are also plans to build special track cars people can rent. More details will be available by season’s end.
Nationally it’s a busy weekend. All three NASCAR touring series are racing; Sprint Cup and Nationwide at Atlanta and the Camping World Truck series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Sunday afternoon. The IndyCar season finale will also run tonight at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
The Sprint Cup series has only two races left before the 16 Chase positions are set, and there’s some concern, even panic, setting in among teams who haven’t clinched a spot. With Joey Logano’s win last Saturday night at Bristol, making him the fifth member of the “three win club,” anywhere from two to four drivers will make the Chase on points. The exact number depends, on whether there are repeat winners Sunday night at Atlanta and next weekend at Richmond. As of now, the four currently in the Chase on points are Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, and Greg Biffle – all four desperately trying to win, but also trying to avoid a bad finish and drop out of the top 16. Should any of the four have problems, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, and Paul Menard are in position to replace them with a good finish or two. NASCAR’s intention with the Chase format was to build excitement, and they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
Tony Stewart will return to NASCAR competition at Atlanta. In a brief and emotional press conference on Friday, Stewart expressed his sorrow and concern for the family of Kevin Ward Jr., but declined to take questions, citing the ongoing investigation and his own emotional state. Even though he missed three races, Stewart is still in the top 30 in points, so if he wins at Atlanta or Richmond, it puts NASCAR in a quandary. According to the rules, a driver must have attempted to qualify for every points race in order to be Chase eligible. However, NASCAR can make an exception to the rules, as it proved last season by adding Jeff Gordon as a 13th Chase driver. Speaking of which, points leader Gordon will make his 750th Cup start tomorrow, going for his 92nd win.
As the IndyCar series approaches its season finale at Auto Club Speedway tonight, Penske driver Will Power is in a familiar position. Three times in past seasons he’s gone into the last race in contention for the championship, only to be denied. After his dominating run at Sonoma last weekend, he’s 51 points ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves. With 50 points for a win, normally Power could have a bad race and still win the title. However, this year the last race is a double points event, meaning he has to finish ahead of Castroneves, or at least not too far behind. Simon Pagenaud is third in the title race, but with an 81-point deficit to Power it would take a miracle for him to become champion. They’re going 500 miles on a high-speed oval, so attrition will definitely play a part.
Formula 1 has a bye week, which should allow tempers to cool a bit on the Mercedes team. Points leader Nico Rosberg committed the cardinal sin at Spa last weekend, colliding with teammate Lewis Hamilton and costing the team a probable 1-2 finish. Hamilton subsequently retired from the race, and Rosberg finished second to Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who scored his second win of the season. His teammate, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, has probably ground his teeth down to the gum line, as he’s winless in 2014.