NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

 
                 === This Week in Auto Racing Oct. 26 - 28 ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Philadelphia,  PA  (Sports Network) - Round  seven in the Chase for the Sprint
 Cup  championship  takes place  this  weekend  at Martinsville  Speedway.  The
 Camping  World Truck Series will also be at Martinsville. Formula One heads to
 New Delhi for the Indian Grand Prix.
 
 
 NASCAR
 
 Sprint Cup Series
 
 Tums Fast Relief 500 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.
 
 It's final four time in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
 
 Sunday's  race  at Martinsville Speedway is  not only the seventh round in the
 10-race  Chase but the only short-track event in the postseason as well. Texas
 (Nov. 4), Phoenix (Nov. 11) and Homestead (Nov. 18) follow Martinsville.
 
 Last weekend, Chase leaders Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson survived a wild
 race  at the newly repaved Kansas Speedway. Keselowski avoided one crash after
 another  during the  400-mile event  to finish  eighth and  remain the  points
 leader.  Johnson wrecked midway through the race but miraculously bounced back
 with  a  ninth-place run  to keep the  second spot in  the Chase rankings. The
 point separation between the two remained at seven. Denny Hamlin finished 13th
 at Kansas and fell 20 markers behind.
 
 "It's  pressure  time; it's go time,"  Johnson said. "It's all that stuff with
 four  to go. With the  points as tight as they are, we expect to be one of the
 cars racing for the win."
 
 Johnson,  who is  seeking his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship, has yet to
 win  a  race in this  year's Chase.  He started the  postseason with a pair of
 second-place  finishes  -- Chicagoland  and  New  Hampshire. He  placed  third
 earlier this month at Charlotte.
 
 "If  we can  get points on the  11 (Hamlin) and the 2 (Keselowski), especially
 the  2 at  this point, that would  be ideal," Johnson noted. "So we're showing
 up, racing hard, putting in everything we have got, which is to be expected by
 everybody at this point, and we'll see how things turn out."
 
 Clint  Bowyer is  currently 25  points  behind Keselowski,  while Kasey  Kahne
 trails by 30.
 
 Sixth  through  12th in the Chase  standings are: Martin Truex Jr. (-43), Tony
 Stewart  (-47),  Jeff Gordon  (-51), Matt Kenseth  (-55), Kevin Harvick (-59),
 Greg Biffle (-62) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-122).
 
 Earnhardt  Jr.  will return  to competition at  Martinsville after missing the
 past  two races  due to  a concussion.  He was  medically cleared  on Tuesday,
 following numerous neuropsychological evaluations, including a successful test
 session at the half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.
 
 The  points  leader after the sixth  race in the Chase  has gone on to win the
 series  championship  five of  eight times.  Last year,  Stewart was 19 points
 behind leader Carl Edwards after the sixth Chase event, but Stewart went on to
 win at Martinsville, Texas and Homestead to claim the title.
 
 Statistically, Johnson, Hamlin and Gordon have the upper hand at Martinsville.
 All  three  drivers have  combined for  17 wins there,  including seven in the
 Chase (2004-10).
 
 In  21 races  at Martinsville, Johnson has  an average finish of 5.8, which is
 tops among active drivers. He has won six times at this track but has not been
 to victory lane there since March 2009. He finished second at Martinsville one
 year ago and 12th there in April.
 
 Hamlin  has an average  finish of 6.4 in 14 races at Martinsville. He has four
 victories there, including three in a row from 2009-10. Hamlin placed fifth at
 Martinsville in last year's Chase race and then sixth there earlier this year.
 
 "The spring race is the one race where we did just not run well," Hamlin said.
 "We  had some  setup issues  that we  found in  the car  afterwards, and  some
 mistakes  that we  made with our setup. Basically, putting the wrong pieces in
 the  wrong places. So, that is hopefully why we ran so bad in the spring where
 we  finished  decent but not  great. Hopefully, that's rectified. Honestly, we
 look  forward to going back, especially as good as our short track program has
 been in the last few (races)."
 
 Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins at Martinsville, but the four-
 time  series champion  has not  posted a  victory there  since Oct.  2005. His
 average finish in 39 starts at this track is not too shabby -- 7.1.
 
 "Martinsville  is just that kind of place where you get into a rhythm," Gordon
 said. "And it's important when you get into traffic to maintain that rhythm or
 get  back into it as fast as you possibly can. No other track demands the kind
 of rhythm needed at Martinsville."
 
 For  Keselowski, Martinsville could be a roadblock in his quest for the Sprint
 Cup  title.  He has competed  there just five times,  scoring a pair of top-10
 finishes. He placed ninth at Martinsville in the spring.
 
 "Martinsville  is just  one of  those  tracks where  it seems  like there  are
 numerous  variables  that we've struggled with,  and I don't think they're our
 fault,"  Keselowski said.  "When I look at  last year, I think we were running
 fifth  or sixth  in the fall and just  got caught up in a wreck on a late-race
 restart caused by somebody who retaliated on the track."
 
 Chevrolet  can mathematically  clinch its  10th consecutive  and 36th  overall
 manufacturers'  championship  in  NASCAR's  premier  series  this  weekend  at
 Martinsville.  The auto  maker presently holds a 22-point lead. Chevrolet will
 guarantee a clinch if one of its drivers finishes second or better there.
 
 Forty-five  teams  are on the preliminary  entry list for the Tums Fast Relief
 500.
 
 
 Camping World Truck Series
 
 Kroger 200 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.
 
 After taking the past two weeks off, the Camping World Truck Series returns to
 action on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.
 
 Rookie Austin Dillon holds only a one-point lead over James Buescher with four
 races to go. Timothy Peters is 26 points behind, while Parker Kligerman trails
 by 34.
 
 In  March, Dillon competed in a truck race at Martinsville for the first time,
 as he qualified and finished second. Buescher placed one spot behind Dillon in
 third.
 
 "We  had  a really fast truck  when we came  here in the spring," Dillon said.
 "The  team has grown a lot since the last race at Martinsville. I know we have
 what it takes to contend for the win."
 
 Dillon  has  scored top-10 finishes in  each of the last five races, including
 his first win in the series on Aug. 31 at Atlanta.
 
 Buescher  leads  the series with  four wins this  season. All of his victories
 have  come  at 1.5-mile  racetracks --  Chicagoland, Kansas  and both races at
 Kentucky.
 
 "I'm  happy that  the off-weeks  are over,  and we  can get  back to  racing,"
 Buescher said. "Martinsville is a tough track to get a hold of. It's a totally
 different  animal. Coming off  a top-three the last time we were there, I feel
 good  about going back. I'm just looking to keep track position and keep it up
 front."
 
 Peters  is  the  only one  among  the  top-four  drivers  in points  that  has
 previously won a truck race at Martinsville. His maiden truck win came at this
 0.526-mile track in Oct. 2009.
 
 "It  always  gives me confidence  going back there knowing  that I was able to
 check the win box off my first time there," Peters said.
 
 Peters has finished eighth or better in the last three races at Martinsville.
 
 After  finishing a  truck race in the runner-up position five times, Kligerman
 finally became a first-time winner in the series on Oct. 6 at Talladega.
 
 In  August, Kligerman  was relieved of his driving duties with Brad Keselowski
 Racing,  but  he quickly  landed a  ride with  Red Horse  Racing, where he has
 scored five top-10 finishes in seven races.
 
 "I've  always considered  myself to be 100 percent focused no matter what, but
 anytime you can go out there and win and walk into the racetrack the next week
 as  the most recent winner, it always gives you a little more pep in your step
 and a little more confidence," Kligerman said.
 
 Kligerman  has finished  no better  than  11th in  his three  truck starts  at
 Martinsville.
 
 Denny  Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are those Sprint Cup Series regulars competing
 in  this  race. Hamlin won  the truck event at  Martinsville one year ago, and
 Harvick took the checkered flag there earlier this year.
 
 Forty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kroger 200.
 
 
 FORMULA ONE
 
 Indian Grand Prix - Buddh International Circuit - New Delhi, India
 
 Separated  by just six points, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso take their
 Formula One world championship battle to India.
 
 Just  four races remain,  with Abu Dhabi (Nov. 4), Austin, Texas (Nov. 18) and
 Brazil (Nov. 25) following the Indian Grand Prix.
 
 Vettel,  the  two-time defending F1  champion, will  attempt to win his fourth
 consecutive grand prix. Since his retirement in the Sept. 9 Italian Grand Prix
 due  to  a mechanical  problem, the Red  Bull driver has  returned to the same
 winning  form  he had last  year by scoring  victories in Singapore, Japan and
 Korea. He has gained 45 points on Alonso in the past three grand prix.
 
 "The  spirit is perfect  in the garage, the atmosphere is great and I think we
 all  want  to do  our best and  to really try  and win  the race on a Sunday,"
 Vettel  said. "I think  we've been pushing very hard all season. We have tried
 lots of stuff. Sometimes it was more successful than other times."
 
 Vettel won last year's inaugural Indian GP, doing so in dominating fashion. He
 started  on  the pole  and led all  60 laps around  the newly built 3.192-mile
 Buddh International Circuit.
 
 "I  loved  the track layout last  year, but not  just because I won the race,"
 Vettel  said. "With  an average speed of  235 kph (146 mph), the course is the
 second  quickest of the  year after Monza (Italy). There is a lot of elevation
 change  around the  lap, which adds to  the fun, from as much as eight percent
 downhill  and up  to 10 percent uphill.  It's like a roller coaster. It really
 has  emerged as  one of the most  challenging circuits on the calendar for the
 drivers."
 
 Alonso  has finished  third in  three of  the past  five grand  prix, but  his
 retirements in Belgium and Japan due to accidents on the opening lap have been
 costly  for the Ferrari  driver in his bid to win a third F1 title. Alonso has
 three  victories  this season but  has not won since  the July 22 German Grand
 Prix.
 
 Can he get back to his winning ways in India, as well as Abu Dhabi, Austin and
 Brazil?
 
 "We  will see."  Alonso said. "It will  depend obviously on the updates in the
 car. I think we will see in India if there are any new parts. If there are, we
 will  need to test  them. For sure, the other teams will also bring new parts,
 maybe more than us, so we need to see which of them are working, which of them
 are not working and for who they work."
 
 Alonso  started and finished third in last year's Indian GP. He has yet to win
 in  Abu  Dhabi and Brazil. F1  will compete in  Austin for the first time this
 year.
 
 "We just need a little last step to be as competitive as Red Bull, and I think
 it will be a beautiful last four races to the end," Alonso added.
 
 Narain  Karthikeyan  from HRT is the  only Indian driver currently in F1. Last
 year,  Karthikeyan replaced Vitantonio Liuzzi in the HRT car for the Indian GP
 only. He finished three laps behind in 17th.
 
 10/25 11:35:53 ET

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