MOTORSPORTS COLUMN: Catch Mackena Bell on weekly racing show | NevadaAppeal.com
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MOTORSPORTS COLUMN: Catch Mackena Bell on weekly racing show

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

If you didn’t catch the episode of “Changing Lanes” on BET on Wednesday night, you missed watching local racer Mackena Bell going through the Drive for Diversity “boot camp” physical training regimen. Mackena has since told me that she has worked to get into top physical shape, but the episode was pretty humorous. If you didn’t see it, try and find a friend who has it on their DVR. The series continues next week, scheduled for 5 p.m. (but be careful … BET moved last Wednesday’s show to 7 p.m.).

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The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship field is set with 12 drivers ready to get an early advantage in Sunday’s race at Loudon, New Hampshire on a flat, one-mile oval. Heading into the Chase, there are lots of questions.

Will Jimmie Johnson set yet another record by winning five titles in a row? Will teammate Jeff Gordon get his own fifth championship? Will Tony Stewart become a three-time winner? Will Matt Kenseth add a Chase title to the championship he won under the old scoring system? Or will one of the other Chase drivers score their first Sprint Cup championship?

These questions, and the eventual answers, are why NASCAR instituted the Chase format for the 2004 season. Will it do what it was intended to do this year? Only the gate receipts and TV ratings will tell.

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Momentum going into the Chase can be a huge factor. Who has it this season? I’m sorry to break the news to you Jimmie Johnson haters, but in the 10 races leading up to the Chase, Johnson has the highest driver rating, and he also leads the stats at the 10 Chase tracks with 32 wins at those venues, a driver rating of 111.0, and an average running position of 9.1.

However, Carl Edwards has scored the most points in the last 10 races, finishing out of the top 10 only twice. Based on their performances last week at Richmond, I’d say that Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Clint Bowyer also bring some momentum to the Chase’s first event. However, the Loudon track has a way of killing momentum, and also does not favor repeat winners. The last 11 races at Loudon have seen 11 different winners.

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Another concern among Chase drivers is the possibility of “team orders” among the non-Chase drivers. NASCAR’s championship system is different than that of other sports, in that all the regular-season competitors also are out there on the track with those in the Chase. So there is the opportunity for a non-Chase driver to let a teammate pass him easily while holding up another Chase driver when being lapped. I’m not sure that NASCAR has any specific rule against this in their top-secret rule book, but they can always pull out the popular “actions detrimental to the sport of Stock Car Racing” to punish any violators. I’m sure the race officials will be keeping a close eye out for any such shenanigans.

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Although NASCAR has 10 races remaining on the schedule, the IndyCar series is in the final throes of its 2010 season, with only this weekend’s Motegi race and the season finale at Homestead left to run.

Motegi is the track where Danica Patrick scored her only series victory. Twenty-five cars are scheduled to take the green flag at 9 p.m. today. Race coverage on VERSUS begins at 8 p.m.

The race for the overall championship has tightened up in the last two races, with defending champ Dario Franchitti breathing down points leader Will Power’s neck. Power has already clinched the title for road and street courses, and Franchitti leads the points for the oval title. This is the first year that IndyCar will award championships in road and oval racing in addition to the overall championship. Power’s early season performance on the ovals was just adequate, but he has shown surprising strength in the past two oval races, only to fade in the late going due to circumstances beyond his control. Tonight’s race should be a very interesting one to watch.