Another busy weekend for fans of racing | NevadaAppeal.com
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Another busy weekend for fans of racing

Roger Diez

Once again, race fans have a full weekend of racing on tap. Locally, it’s the season finale for Fernley 95A Speedway, as champions in each of the track’s racing divisions will be decided. Racing action is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Nationally and internationally, the NASCAR Chase begins this weekend with all three touring series at Chicagoland Speedway. The Verizon IndyCar series wraps up its season at Sonoma on Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello series is at ZMax Dragway in Concord, N.C., and Formula One visits Singapore for the only night race on the schedule.

Sixteen drivers are in the Sprint Cup Chase field, with 13 race winners and three drivers qualifying on points. Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are the top seeds, their four wins apiece giving them 12 bonus points to start the first three-race round. Race winners automatically advance to the next round, with the lowest four drivers in points at the end of those three races eliminated. Twelve drivers are in the Xfinity Chase. Due to the fact Sprint Cup drivers frequently win in this series, only three Xfinity drivers locked in with wins. Erik Jones is top seed with three victories, followed by Elliott Sadler with two and Daniel Suarez with one. The rest qualified on points. The Xfinity Chase field of 12 and Camping World Truck series Chase lineup of eight will lock in at Chicago. Only three regulars have won in the Xfinity series, with nine drivers currently qualified on points. In the Truck series, six drivers have posted wins, and the final two Chase berths were decided Friday night, too late for this space’s deadline. The Xfinity Chase begins at Kentucky, the Truck Chase at New Hampshire.

NASCAR has tightened the rules and penalties for the Chase races, with possible championship implications. Officials will now have the ability to assess more stringent penalties for post-race lug nut and laser inspection violations. They can strip a race winner of the benefits of a win, i.e. automatic advancement to the next round and loss of 35 points. Crew chiefs of those cars face a three-race suspension and a sliding scale fine; $65,000 for Sprint Cup and $20,000 for Xfinity.

The IndyCar series championship is down to just two drivers, both racing for Team Penske. Simon Pagenaud goes to Sonoma this weekend with a 43 point lead over Will Power. But it’s a double points race, which means a win is worth 100 points, so the battle for the championship is by no means over. Each driver has four wins, so should it come down to a situation like last year, a tie-breaker might be needed to determine the 2016 champion. As a side note, James Hinchcliffe, though not in contention for the title, would like to match the result from his debut competition on Dancing With the Stars, where he tied for first place in the judges’ scoring on Monday night. Hinch is the second IndyCar star to compete on the dance floor, following in the footsteps of Helio Castroneves, who won in 2007.

The NHRA Mello Yellow championship fields are also set, with 10 competitors in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle locked in. The ladder is similar to the NASCAR Chase, with top seeds in each division starting with a 30 point advantage. In Top Fuel it’s Antron Brown, Ron Capps in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle. After this weekend there are only five races left to determine the champions in each division.

On the far side of the world, the battle between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg resumes under the lights in Singapore. Merely two points separate the pair going into this weekend’s race, with no one else in the same universe. Hamilton, already a three-time champion, is under less pressure than his young teammate who’s desperately trying to score his first title. Between them they have given their team an insurmountable lead in the constructor’s championship standings, 208 points ahead of the second place Red Bull team.