DIEZ: Reno-Fernley wraps up first season under NASCAR | NevadaAppeal.com

DIEZ: Reno-Fernley wraps up first season under NASCAR

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

Reno-Fernley Raceway has wrapped up its first season of competition under NASCAR sanctioning.

Shawn Natenstedt of Fernley is the champion in the Modified Division, with Carson City’s Tom Purcell finishing second in points. In Pro Stock, Jesse Gonzalez of Fallon took the title with Fernley’s Joe Specchio Jr. in second. Al Goss was the highest-placing Carson City racer in third.

Gardnerville driver Dwight Bolton and Dayton’s Royce Goetz tied for first in Hobby Stock points, but the championship went to Bolton who had four wins to Goetz’s three. The Wilson brothers dominated the Dwarf Car Division, with Billy nipping Bobby by 12 points, 271 to 259, to take the championship. Travis Barr of Reno won the Pure Stock Mini Division title with Justin Schilling second. Travis Barr took the title in the Modified Mini Division.

Next weekend is the final 2011 race at the track, a non-points shootout over two days.

Racing starts at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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This is the time of year when racers and fans turn their attention to the championships that will be decided in the closing races of the season.

Although Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel failed to clinch the 2011 Formula 1 title at Singapore last weekend, he only has to score one point in the next five races to secure the championship. I think I hear the fat lady singing.

The IndyCar title looks like it will go down to the wire with just two races left, and what had been a two-driver duel is now a three-way contest.

Sunday’s Kentucky race and the season finale at Las Vegas in two weeks are both ovals, and the Target-Ganassi cars may have a bit of an advantage.

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All three NASCAR championships are still very much in play.

With Sprint Cup drivers barred from scoring championship points in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, regulars in those series are locked in close battles. There has been a seesaw battle in the Camping World Trucks, with Austin Dillon currently two points ahead of James Buescher going into Kentucky with just six races remaining. Johnny Sauter is just seven points out of first, and a handful of other drivers have a mathematical chance. Dillon’s little brother, Ty, will make his Camping World Truck debut this afternoon, in preparation for taking over the No. 3 truck when Austin goes to the Nationwide series next season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has a 14-point advantage over Elliott Sadler in the Nationwide series with Reed Sorenson a distant third, 47 points behind. Sadler is still looking for his first season win.

The Sprint Cup series is an entirely different story, due primarily to its Chase for the Championship playoff formula.

The first two races of the Chase have turned the whole thing on its head. Tony Stewart, who said that he probably didn’t even deserve to be in the Chase, is in the lead by seven points over Kevin Harvick after winning the first two races in the playoffs.

Brad Keselowski, who scored a wild card berth after an amazing run while driving with a broken ankle, is just 11 points behind in third.

My pick to win the title this year, Jeff Gordon, recovered from a disastrous Chicago race to move up to fifth, 23 points back. The biggest surprise is Jimmie Johnson. He is mired in 10th place, 29 points behind, with eight races to go.

This weekend could see a big turnaround, though. Johnson holds the top driver rating at Dover’s Monster Mile, and has won three of the last five races there.

Dover is not one of Stewart’s favorite tracks. I foresee lots of Chase drama in the future.