Final points race highlights the action at Fernley Speedway today

Tonight is the final points race for the regular racing divisions at Fernley 95A Speedway. The points will be a little tougher to figure out this year, because drivers are allowed to drop their two worst races. So chief scorer Brandi Coclich will have her work cut out for her at the end of the night as drivers clamor to know who finished where in the championship standings. Next weekend will be all about the money, however, no points involved. On Oct. 10 and 11 the annual two-day Shootout will be held with somewhere between 100 and 200 cars expected to battle for the $28,000 total purse. The plan is to have a full show (heats and mains) each day, with purses paid out on combined finishes. Racing starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.

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Both Mackena Bell and Bobby Hodges had issues last weekend. Mackena had a great qualifying session and started the K&N Pro Series East race in 11th position. She had moved up and was running in the top five when another blown tire did her in. She finished 17th, two laps down, and finished the season 16th in points, just one spot behind Ryan Gifford. Meanwhile, Hodges smacked the wall while practicing for the Spears Manufacturing SRL Southwest Tour Colorado 100 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, but his crew got the car repaired for the race, and Hodges came home 13th overall and seventh out of the West teams. He currently sits 18th in season points.

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There are now only 12 drivers in contention for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Dover was a good race for some, horrible for others. Jeff Gordon showed he’s a contender for a fifth title, winning the race with a solid performance. Kevin Harvick had the dominant car, but once again fate stepped in and handed him a lemon in the form of a lug nut that knocked off the valve stem in his left front tire’s inner liner. If it wasn’t for bad luck, Harvick wouldn’t have any luck at all this season. He managed to advance to the contender round of the Chase, which opens at Kansas Speedway this weekend. Not so lucky were A.J. Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Aric Almirola, who were eliminated from Chase contention at Dover.

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The points are now reset for the 12 still in the Chase, with everyone starting on an equal basis. Each of the 12 drivers in the contender round starts with 3,000 points.

A win will get you automatically into the eliminator round, but with only three victory slots available that leaves five which will be fighting for points; or maybe six, if somebody scores two wins, or seven if a driver is good enough or lucky enough to win all three in the round. If it happens, that driver will be about as rare as a Leprechaun riding a unicorn.

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With all the excitement being generated by this new Chase format, I’m a little confused by all the empty seats in the stands at Dover last Sunday. Could it be NASCAR has made the Chase format too complicated for the casual fan to understand, leaving only us race junkies to get excited about it?

Or is it a continuation of the declining fan base we’ve seen since the Great Recession descended upon us? I know this new Chase format was intended to build excitement, and it has certainly done that . . . at least among diehard fans and the motorsports press. But those folks are always going to show up at race tracks and tune in to the TV or radio broadcasts. Are we asking too much of the casual fan to put out the mental effort to grasp the permutations of an elimination tournament? Well, maybe next year will be better. Meantime, I’m enjoying the heck out of it!

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Formula 1 is in Japan this weekend as the point spread between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has narrowed to just three.

Expect some fireworks in both qualifying and the race.

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