Here is Friday's weekend racing advance: NASCAR, IndyCar, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Sixth Annual Ohsweken Speedway Arrow Express Canadian Sprint Car Nationals and the Indian Summer Trophy Races at Mosport.
All of the pundits are starting their prognostications on which of the dozen drivers will benefit best from a fast start in the Chase for the NASCAR Championship that gets under way this weekend at New Hampshire International Raceway and they then name Denny Hamlin or Jeff Gordon or one of the remaining 10 others.
I say all of them, because whoever gets left at the gate this weekend will have a hard time catching up over the remaining nine races.
The Chase for the Championship is NASCAR’s playoff series. Although 43 drivers will start each race, as usual, and anybody can win, only the 12 drivers who are locked in because of points earned over the season can contend for the title.
Denny Hamlin finished in first place after the first 36 races; Clint Bowyer is starting the Chase in 12th (and last) place.
All of the drivers starting the Chase are awarded 5,000 points. Then, in order to reward those drivers in the Chase who did better than some of the others, 10 additional points are awarded for every win scored during the regular season.
Ergo, Hamlin starts the playoffs with 5060 points on the basis of six victories; Jimmie Johnson, who’s won the title the last four years, had five victories so has 5050 points, and on down the line.
Only the top seven drivers – Hamlin, Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle - have more than 5000 points.
Which means, when you’re talking about the importance of a particular race, such as the one in New Hampshire this weekend, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Bowyer are the guys who really have to shine or else they could really be behind the 8-ball between now and Nov. 21.
At the end of the day, Johnson has the edge going into the playoffs because although he didn’t have a particularly dominant season, he’s won the last four championships. He knows how to do it.
The other guy to watch is Kyle Busch. The most talented (other than Johnson) of the current crop of top drivers, all he has to do is keep his emotions in check and he could win his first championship.
Discussions about “team orders” in Formula One have raged the past couple of weeks.
Several of the commenters on my blog have pointed out that although the current talk has focused on which of a team’s two drivers should win a given race, the danger of team orders is that the “second” driver could act as a “blocker” and deliberately hold up or get in the way of drivers challenging the No. 1 guy.
That, of course, has always been a problem in NASCAR. Because teams often have three and four drivers, don’t ever kid yourself that when the chips are down, the ones lower on the pecking order aren’t given orders to obstruct.
Tony Stewart was saying the other day that his teammate, Ryan Newman, can perhaps be a bigger help because he’s not in the Chase.
Tony explained that Newman can help him by finishing ahead of other playoff drivers, thus taking away points from them.
What he really means is that Newman can also run interference for him.
It will be fun to see how often that happens this weekend in New Hampshire.
The pre-race show comes on Sunday at noon on TSN2, with the race itself starting at 1 p.m.
You’re going to have to stay up late on Saturday night – 11 p.m., to be exact – if you want to watch the IZOD IndyCar Series race from Twin-Ring Moteigi in Japan on TSN2.
For awhile this week, the TSN schedule showed the race being telecast at 11 p.m. Sunday (a tape-delay) but that was changed to Saturday (live) on Thursday this week.
The championship is down to two drivers – Will Power and Dario Franchitti. Sure, everybody else will be there – Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves,Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick are all in tough at that speedway (Patrick won her one and only race there) – but all eyes will be on Power and Franchitti as they duke it out for the title.
For those of you who won’t want to stay up, full results and editorial comment will be found in my Monday Morning Racing Roundup blog report.
By the way, Roger Penske has made it clear all season that unless he can find the sponsorship, he will only run two cars next season. So which of the three – Power, Castroneves or Briscoe – will be the odd driver out?
Briscoe had better start winning, if only to make the Captain’s decision tougher. Otherwise, he’ll be looking for a new ride in 2011.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series is racing at Riverside Speedway between New Glasgow and Antigonish, N.S., this weekend and the points race is like paper on a wall.
J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge is just slightly ahead of D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas with only the Riverside round and the final race of the season at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough next Saturday remaining on the 2010 schedule.
All of the NASCAR Canada regulars will be there – Kerry Micks, Mark Dilley, Joey McColm and Scott Steckly – but let’s hope that more than the 18 cars that started the race at Barrie Speedway last Saturday show up Down East.
Meantime, at Mosport this weekend, the British Empire Motor Club and the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs will present the 56th annual Indian Summer Trophy Races. Past winners include Allan Berg, Gary Magwood, Peter Ryan and Ludwig Heimrath Sr. (four times).
The event features the three-hour War Bonnet Enduro on Saturday afternoon and regional races for GT, Formula Ford and Formula Libre.
Cars will be on track both Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. Tickets are $15 and available at the gate.
And wrapping up this weekend’s racing advance (no Formula One till next weekend) is something about as close to home as Mosport.
The Sixth Annual Arrow Express Canadian Sprint Car Nationals will get under way tonight at Ohsweken Speedway near Brantford. The feature is scheduled for Saturday night (cross fingers there’s no rain) and 70 or so top sprint car teams from the U.S. and Canada will be competing for a $70,000 purse.
If you’ve never been to that speedway, it’s a lovely facility. I live in Mississauga, and it’s a 60-90 minute drive, depending how fast you like to bomb along. (Which means, like Mosport, there’s no excuse for not going. Nothing beats a top auto race when you attend it in person.)
Top runners expected to challenge for the championship at Ohsweken this weekend include Jessica Zemken from Syracuse (she’s been driving for Tony Stewart this year and her results show it), Dustin Daggett from Grand Ledge, Mich., Shane Stewart from Brownsburg, Ind., Glenn Styres of Ohsweken and Dave Dykstra of Port Colborne.
Gates open at 5 p.m., hot laps are at 6 and the first race both nights goes at 7:45 p.m.
The sprint cars fly. Go see for yourself.