Exciting battle down the stretch in NASCAR
With just three races to go in the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2014 season, I have to say it’s the most exciting championship battle in many years. That’s due in large part to the elimination format you either love or hate. Martinsville was a disaster for two of the remaining eight Chasers, as both Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski fell victim to accidents that left them well down in the finishing order. A win is a must in the next two races if these two drivers want to be one of the final four in the Championship round at Homestead.
Since Dale Earnhardt Jr. (a non-Chaser) won at Martinsville, that means at least two of the remaining eight will make the final round on points. Jeff Gordon currently leads in that category, but the top five are separated by a mere seven points. Hamlin is in fifth, only two points behind Matt Kenseth in fourth. So how do the odds shape up for this week’s race at Texas? Carl Edwards, currently sixth in points, has the most wins at the fast 1.5 mile oval with three. Gordon, Kenseth, and Denny Hamlin have each won twice at Texas, while Joey Logano and Ryan Newman have taken one victory apiece there. Keselowski and Harvick are both winless at Texas, and they are the two most in need of a trip to victory circle. But a non-Chaser could very well take the win on Sunday, leaving at least three to make the final round on points. Junior has won at Texas twice, and is on a roll after his Martinsville victory. Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart have two wins apiece at Texas, while Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, and Kurt Busch, all eliminated from the Chase earlier, have a Texas victory each and something to prove. And don’t forget Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, and a bunch of others looking for their first Texas trophy. It will be an exciting race for sure.
Formula 1 also has just three races left on the schedule, and coincidentally is also in Texas this weekend, at the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. The usual 22-car field will be a bit short in Texas, as both the Marussia and Caterham teams are no-shows due to financial constraints. No such problems face the dominant Mercedes juggernaut, which clinched the 2014 Constructors Championship with their 1-2 finish at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix three weeks ago. Lewis Hamilton led teammate Nico Rosberg to the checker in that race, extending his points lead in the Drivers Championship to 17. Hamilton won the inaugural race in Austin two years ago, and is looking forward to a repeat.
One thing that could throw a monkey wrench into the title fight between the two Mercedes drivers is the new gimmick of awarding double points in the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi. It seems other series are trying to emulate NASCAR’s success with the Chase by doing stuff like this, as the IndyCar series also featured a double-point final race.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series is in Las Vegas this weekend for the penultimate round of the 2014 season. The championships will be decided in two weeks at the season finale in Pomona. Tony Schumacher leads the Top Fuel points by 134 over Doug Kalitta. In Funny Car, John Force is 36 points behind Matt Hagan, with Courtney Force another 36 points behind. Pro Stock driver Jason Line has a 35-point advantage over Erica Enders-Stevens, and Andrew Hines has 25 points in hand over defending champion Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.