NASCAR Chase providing plenty of drama |

NASCAR Chase providing plenty of drama

Roger Diez

Rain canceled the mains last Saturday night at Fernley 95A Speedway in the last points race of the season. They were rescheduled for Friday night, but results weren’t yet available at press time. Day one of the season-ending two-day Shootout begins tonight at 6 p.m., with racing resuming at 2 p.m. on Sunday for the grand finale. Cars are expected from most of the western U.S., so it should be a great show. The IMCA Modified winner will take home $4,000, the Pro Stock winner will receive $2.400, and $800 will go to the Super Stock 4 champion. Thanks to Dale Bertram for his $1,200 donation to the purses.

Once again, the NASCAR Chase format is providing lots of drama to the Sprint Cup Championship. Kevin Harvick needed a win at Dover to stay in the Chase, and he not only won, but dominated the field. As expected, Clint Bowyer didn’t make the cut, but the big surprise was Jimmie Johnson. Sidelined for 37 laps while his crew repaired an axle seal failure, Johnson needed a couple of Chasers to drop out for him to make the top 12. Alas, it didn’t happen, and Johnson is eliminated from contention in the quest for his seventh title. The big controversy of the weekend was NASCAR’s cracking down on restarts, which resulted in a pass-through penalty for Brad Keselowski. Also penalized was Martin Truex Jr., who was sent to the back for a side skirt that had been tweaked. Truex’s Furniture Row team was also assessed a P2 penalty on Tuesday for the infraction, resulting in crew chief Cole Pearn being placed on probation until December 31.

The points are reset for tonight’s race at Charlotte, and each of the 12 remaining contenders start with 3,000 points. All 12 have won at least once this season, with the exception of Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman, who have yet to visit Victory Circle. Based on past performance at Charlotte, Jeff Gordon looks like the driver to beat, with nine poles and five victories. Interestingly, his first Charlotte win came 22 years ago to the day, Oct. 10, 1993. Harvick has three Charlotte wins, Kenseth has two, and Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, and Keselowski have one apiece. The other six Chase drivers have never won at Charlotte. However, Jimmie Johnson could be the spoiler this weekend. He has seven wins and four poles at the North Carolina track. Other previous Charlotte winners not in the Chase are Jamie McMurray with two victories, and Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, and Casey Mears with one each. Kenseth’s pole for tonight’s race will make him hard to beat, but he’ll have to watch out for teammate Kyle Busch, who will start alongside.

Across the pond, Formula One is back in action in Sochi, Russia. Friday’s practice was pretty much a washout, literally, as rain forced a delay in the first practice and saw only eight of the 20 entrants attempt laps in practice two. The Sochi track is reputedly slick even in dry conditions, and diabolical in the wet. Fortunately, the weather report calls for dryer conditions for today’s qualifying and Sunday’s race. The Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are heavy favorites for both the pole and the race win, but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has shown surprising strength this season, winning three races. He’s the only driver besides the Mercedes teammates to post a victory in 2015.

Voting for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver is now open. Fans can vote for their driver in the Sprint Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck series, as well as in any of NASCAR’s seven touring series. Voting will be open through November 21, except for the Camping World Trucks, which closes November 20. To vote, go to and click on the tab that says “vote: most popular driver.”

And finally, Clint Bowyer has found a home for 2016. He will drive a Chevrolet for HScott Motorsports. The team has an affiliation with Stewart-Haas Racing, where Bowyer will take over the No. 14 Chevy in 2017, replacing the retiring Tony Stewart.