Roger DIez: F1, Sprint Cup championships coming down to the wire | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger DIez: F1, Sprint Cup championships coming down to the wire

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

The 2010 racing season is drawing to a close, with just three races remaining for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and two races left for the F1 World Championship. Both series feature a three-way dogfight to the end. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa is determined to win his home race in Brazil Sunday’s, but with his teammate Fernando Alonso leading the points, will team orders come into play and force Massa to give way? There were no team orders last weekend at Talladega, as Clint Bowyer beat Childress Racing teammate and Chase contender Kevin Harvick by inches when a caution flag ended the race on the final lap. But even if the team had intended to boost Harvick’s points total with a victory, there was no way they could orchestrate it as NASCAR froze the field.

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The Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship is the closest it has been since format’s inception in 2004, with Hendrick Racing’s Jimmie Johnson a mere 14 points ahead of Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and 38 ahead of Harvick going into Sunday’s race at Texas. Everyone else in the chase is more than 200 points behind, with no realistic chance at the championship. Johnson nearly threw away his fourth consecutive title at Texas last season when a third-lap crash left him with a 38th-place finish. All three of the top Chase contenders typically run well at Texas, and barring any bad luck the Chase should still be tight going into next week’s race at Phoenix. Hamlin will be at somewhat of a disadvantage there, as he finished poorly in the spring race after knee surgery. The team does not have good notes on setup, and will have to rely on data from teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

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The Richard Petty Motorsports saga continues. It appears the team will have cars for the remaining races of 2010, and Richard Petty has taken a much more active role in the team’s management. Rumors are rampant, including one with a reincarnated Petty Enterprises fielding the 43 car for A.J. Allmendinger in Cup, and another with Petty moving to Indycar with John Andretti and Allmendinger (Petty did field a car in the 2010 Indy 500). Silly season just got a lot sillier!

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Speaking of IndyCar: Just to show that no good deed goes unpunished, Tony Kanaan’s loyalty to Michael Andretti (staying with the team rather than accept an offer from Chip Ganassi for the 2009 season) has been repaid. Yep, Michael cut Tony loose when he lost 7-11 sponsorship. I hope Tony secures a good ride for 2011 (Newman-Haas, Gil DeFerran and KV Racing are rumored to be interested). I’m sure he’ll be motivated to beat his old team at every race. Tony still is after that first Indy 500 win, and after his performance at Indy this year proved that he is more than deserving of it. Also, the 2011 Edmonton race has been canceled because the city refused to make changes the promoter requested. The series is looking at a replacement venue in Canada, possibly Montreal or Vancouver.

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Friday afternoon’s Sprint Cup qualifying in Texas produced a surprise pole sitter. Elliot Sadler’s Richard Petty Motorsports Ford topped the charts by over two tenths of a second over Roush Ford driver Greg Biffle, who will start alongside him. Biffle’s teammate Carl Edwards will start third. While it was a good day for Ford, it was less than stellar for the three drivers contending for the Sprint Cup championship. Points leader Johnson will start 17th with Harvick 26th and Hamlin 30th. Pole sitter Sadler, who was without a ride for 2011, announced that he had signed a full-season deal to drive in the Nationwide series for Harvick, with selected Camping World Truck starts as well.

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Also on Friday, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was quickest in both practices in Brazil, with teammate Webber a tenth of a second behind in the second session. Alonso was third fastest and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was fourth. Qualifying will be televised on SPEED this morning at 9 am PST.