NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

 
                  === This Week in Auto Racing Nov. 9 - 11 ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Philadelphia,  PA  (Sports Network)  - With  just two races  to go, the battle
 between  Jimmie  Johnson  and  Brad  Keselowski  for  the  Sprint  Cup  Series
 championship  continues this  weekend  at Phoenix  International Raceway.  The
 Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will also be at Phoenix.
 
 
 NASCAR
 
 Sprint Cup Series
 
 AdvoCare 500 - Phoenix International Raceway - Avondale, Ariz.
 
 Jimmie  Johnson could take  a big step forward in winning his sixth Sprint Cup
 Series title this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
 
 Johnson  enters  the  penultimate  race  in  the  Chase  for  the  Sprint  Cup
 championship  with a  seven-point lead over Brad Keselowski. Third-place Clint
 Bowyer is a distant 36 points behind.
 
 Just  two drivers in the Chase -- Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- have
 been mathematically eliminated from championship contention. Any driver who is
 49  points  or more behind the  leader after Phoenix  will be out of the title
 hunt.
 
 It  is  possible but  very unlikely  that Johnson could  clinch the Sprint Cup
 title  at Phoenix. Johnson must out-point Keselowski by 41 if he wins the race
 and 42 if he doesn't win. He must also net an additional 12 points on Bowyer.
 
 Johnson  has won the last two races -- Martinsville and Texas. He won the pole
 position and led the most laps in each of those events as well. If Johnson led
 the  most  laps and  won at Phoenix,  he would clinch  the title if Keselowski
 finished  37th  or worse and  Bowyer eighth  or worse, with neither challenger
 scoring a bonus point for leading a lap. Keselowski's worst finish this season
 is 36th, which came in April at Texas.
 
 After winning Martinsville, Johnson reclaimed the lead in the Chase standings,
 as he held only a two-point advantage over Keselowski. Johnson added five more
 points to his lead after a hard-fought battle with Keselowski at Texas.
 
 "There  is not going to be any breathing easy until the end," Johnson said. "I
 was two points, and now we've got seven. But there is a lot of racing left."
 
 Johnson  holds the  record for most wins at Phoenix with four, including three
 in the Chase. His most recent victory there came in Nov. 2009, a race which he
 led  238 of 312  laps. Johnson also holds the record for most laps led at this
 one-mile oval with 931. He has an average finish of 5.3 in his 18 races there.
 
 When  the series most recently competed at Phoenix in March, Keselowski scored
 his  first  top-10 finish  there with a  fifth-place run. Keselowski's average
 finish  in  six races at this  track is 22.17. He's  led just a total of seven
 laps  there --  four in last year's  fall race and three in this year's spring
 event.
 
 "I  look at  Phoenix, and I think we  had a great run in the spring, finishing
 fifth,"  Keselowski said. "I  felt like that was when we weren't even quite as
 strong  as  we are now  as a team.  Now that we're  stronger, I feel like it's
 realistic  for us  to go to the next  two races and win, and that's what we're
 going to try and do. That's the goal I have."
 
 In  each of  the last  two years,  the driver  ranked second  in Chase  points
 entering  the second-to-last  race overtook the leader in the season-finale at
 Homestead.  In 2010,  Johnson  trailed  Denny Hamlin  in  points heading  into
 Phoenix  but went  on to  win  his record-extending  fifth consecutive  series
 championship.  Tony  Stewart caught Carl Edwards  during the last two races in
 last year's Chase, beating Edwards for the title in a points tiebreaker.
 
 "I'd  say it's a heads-up match going into Phoenix and probably the same going
 into  Homestead," Keselowski said after his second-place finish last Sunday at
 Texas. "We just have to win the heads-up matches."
 
 Sunday's  race will  be the third time  the series runs at this track since it
 was  repaved and reconfigured in mid-2011. When the series competed at Phoenix
 one year ago, there were a lot of unknowns heading into the event. Since then,
 drivers have become quite familiar with the track's new surface.
 
 "The  track  has had some time  to age, and I  hope it's lost some grip, so we
 will  definitely move out," Johnson said. "They spent a lot of time and effort
 to  try to create extra lanes of racing through their modeling. I hope they're
 right.  The  first time there,  it was  pretty narrow, and  I hope that, as it
 ages, we can get a wider racetrack and really put on a good show."
 
 Kasey  Kahne won at  Phoenix one year ago, and Denny Hamlin took the checkered
 flag there earlier this year.
 
 Forty-four  teams are  on the  preliminary entry  list for  the AdvoCare  500.
 Danica Patrick is scheduled to make her 10th and final Sprint Cup start of the
 season at Phoenix.
 
 
 Nationwide Series
 
 Great Clips 200 - Phoenix International Raceway - Avondale, Ariz.
 
 With  just  two races to go,  Elliott Sadler and  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are in a
 deadlock  in their battle for the Nationwide Series championship. Both drivers
 are tied in points with 1,170 each.
 
 Stenhouse's  fourth-place  finish compared to  an 11th-place run for Sadler in
 last  Saturday's  race at  Texas  allowed  Stenhouse  to  pull even  with  his
 championship rival. He trailed Sadler by six points before Texas.
 
 Stenhouse,  the defending  Nationwide champion, is the points leader by virtue
 of his six wins for the season. Sadler has four victories.
 
 The  series now heads to Phoenix International Raceway before the season wraps
 up  next  week  at  Homestead-Miami  Speedway.  Sadler  won  the  most  recent
 Nationwide  race at Phoenix in March. It was his first win in the series since
 Oct. 1998. He had been without a victory in his last 91 starts.
 
 When  the series competed at Phoenix in Nov. 2011, Sadler trailed Stenhouse by
 17  points,  but Sadler was caught  up in a  multi-car wreck late in the race,
 which  essentially  ended his  chances of  winning the championship. Stenhouse
 went  on  to clinch  the title the  following week at  Homestead by a 45-point
 margin of victory.
 
 "With  two races  left in the season, there  is still a lot to be decided with
 this  championship," Sadler  said. "This  time last  year, we  saw our  season
 basically  end after being wrecked toward the end of the race. It was a bit of
 redemption being able to come back and win at Phoenix earlier this season, and
 I know that we are looking to do the same thing this weekend."
 
 Prior  to  Texas, Sadler had  led in the  point standings for four consecutive
 races. But Stenhouse has managed to take over the top spot after battling back
 from adversity in the past two races.
 
 Last month, Stenhouse won at Kansas after he bounced back from an accident and
 a  two-lap deficit  midway through the race. He dealt with an ill-handling car
 and nearly fell one lap behind in the early going at Texas but rebounded later
 in the event for a top-five finish.
 
 "We  have made gains on it the last two weeks to where we are tied (in points)
 now,"  Stenhouse said. "I guess all we have to do is tie. Last year, a tie won
 it  with the most wins, and we have that right now. I feel good about where we
 are."
 
 Tony  Stewart and Carl Edwards ended last year's Sprint Cup Series season in a
 points tie, with Stewart clinching the championship due to his five wins.
 
 Forty-six  teams  are on the  preliminary entry list  for the Great Clips 200.
 Kyle  Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are those Sprint Cup
 regulars  competing in  this event. Brian Vickers, a part-time Cup competitor,
 will  make his  Nationwide debut  with Joe  Gibbs Racing,  driving the  No. 20
 Toyota. Vickers will compete in the series full-time for JGR next year.
 
 
 Camping World Truck Series
 
 Lucas Oil 150 - Phoenix International Raceway - Avondale, Ariz.
 
 Points  leader  James Buescher  is looking  forward to  competing in a Camping
 World Truck Series race at Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in
 two years.
 
 Buescher enters the next-to-final race of the season with a 15-point lead over
 rookie  Ty  Dillon. Last week,  Dillon finished fifth  at Texas and shaved six
 points off of Buescher's advantage.
 
 After  leading  31 laps  in the  early going  at Texas,  Buescher got hit from
 behind  by  Matt Crafton  and then bumped  into the back  of Nelson Piquet Jr.
 during a restart. He then experienced a vibration, which caused him to fade in
 the field and therefore resulted in an 11th-place finish.
 
 "Last  (race) there we had a rough weekend, but this team has put that weekend
 behind us," Buescher said. "I feel that all teams are on an even playing field
 heading  into this weekend, with the track going through a reconfiguration and
 resurface since the last time we raced here. To better prepare myself for this
 weekend, I've been watching a lot of film of previous races."
 
 The  Truck  Series has  not raced at  Phoenix since February  25, 2011. It was
 scheduled  as  the second  event of  the season  that year, following Daytona.
 Buescher  failed to  qualify at  Phoenix,  but after  a remarkable  turnaround
 during  the season, he  came up 29 points short of the championship, which was
 won by Austin Dillon, who is Ty's older brother. Austin is now a rookie in the
 Nationwide Series.
 
 Buescher  has competed  in two previous truck races at Phoenix, finishing 23rd
 (2009)  and 11th  (2010). Dillon  will  make his  first truck  start there  on
 Friday.
 
 "I'm confident we'll have a solid finish at Phoenix," Dillon said. "I've raced
 there  in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West car before and ran well. We'll have all
 the  notes from the last two seasons when my brother ran there, so I feel good
 about this weekend."
 
 Timothy  Peters is currently 25 points behind Buescher, while Parker Kligerman
 trails  by  27. Joey Coulter  (-43), Matt Crafton  (-47) and Nelson Piquet Jr.
 (-81) are still mathematically eligible for the title.
 
 It  is  possible that  Buescher could  clinch the  championship at Phoenix. He
 would  have to leave there with at least a 48-point lead over the second-place
 driver.
 
 Thirty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Lucas Oil 150.
 
 11/08 15:54:24 ET

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