Due to a computer glitch, last week’s column sailed right past the Appeal’s sports email box and is lost somewhere in the cloud. So I will reiterate my congratulations to the 2013 champions at Reno-Tahoe-Fernley Speedway.
Shawn Natenstedt was the IMCA Modified champion, amassing 454 points to beat wife Melissa Natenstedt. She finished with 416, barely nipping Josh Ogg, whose season total was 415. David Rauscher won the Pro Stock title with a race win, scoring a season total of 384 and vaulting ahead of previous points leader Malen Gonzales, who stayed at 350 after missing the final race. Russ Cazier was third with 280.
Carl Barlow dominated the Hobby Stock division, winning on most weekends and garnering 389 points. Rocky Goetz was second with 364, and Tom Haxall ended the season with 315, good for third. Tate Morehead won the Dwarf car championship, edging second place Sam Marson by 13 points — 226 to 213. Reece Wilson was a very close third at 211. The new Mod Mini champion is David Payne, who drove a conservative final race to end the season with 382 points. Jesse James’ win in the season-ender increased his season total to 366, while Will Ritchey’s 282 points were good for third. And Justin Schilling nursed a sick engine home in the last race to take the Pure Stock title with 418 points. Ladies took second and third, with Danielle Paine scoring 400 points and Bracee Langevin 368.
• • •
I recently watched a TV special on the making of the movie “Rush,” in which director Ron Howard joked that in 1976 (the year the movie is set) “Sex was safe and racing was dangerous.” Well, we learned Sunday that racing is still dangerous, when Takuma Sato and Dario Franchitti collided on the last lap of the second race of the Houston IndyCar doubleheader. Franchitti went airborne and caromed off the catch fence, spewing debris and fence parts into the stands. Thirteen spectators were reported to have sustained injuries, and Franchitti himself suffered a concussion, a broken ankle, and two injured vertebrae. Thank goodness for the new, safer IndyCar chassis or he might have suffered a far worse fate. Franchitti was released from the hospital in Houston on Thursday and flown to Indianapolis for further evaluation and a second surgery on his ankle. Alex Tagliani will replace him in the No. 10 Target-Ganassi Racing car at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana next weekend for the IndyCar season finale. Also in the field will be A.J. Allmendinger in a third Penske car.
• • •
After looking like a three-car playoff early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, Race Four at Kansas turned out to be a game-changer. Jimmie Johnson closed to within three points of leader Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch crashed out and dropped to fifth in the standings behind a resurgent Jeff Gordon. Gordon is on pole for tonight’s round at Charlotte, and he could be on track for his fifth championship after being added to the Chase as the 13th driver. That would be a result for the record books. I’m reminded of Yogi Berra’s famous quote, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
• • •
The championship chase in Formula One is less in doubt. Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel could clinch the title this weekend at Japan’s Suzuka track with a victory. If Vettel wins and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finishes out of the points, Vettel could stay home for the rest of the season and still win the championship. He has already won eight of the 14 races run this season, including the last four. So even if Alonso finishes second to Vettel in Japan, he has to win all the rest of the races and keep Vettel virtually scoreless for the rest of the season to take the title. And if Vettel doesn’t clinch this weekend, he will do so in the next two races. I’m betting that 2013 will prove to be Vettel’s fourth consecutive championship, one shy of Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR record.