This Week in Auto Racing August 28 - 30

Here’s the latest round up on this week’s auto racing courtesy of Bookmaker.com.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is off for the final time this season, but there is still plenty of racing action this week, as the Nationwide Series heads to Montreal. The IndyCar Series and the Camping World Truck Series run under the lights at Chicagoland this weekend, while Formula One revs it up in Belgium.

Auto Racing - great for a wagerNASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Nationwide Series heads to Montreal for the second and final road course event on the 2009 schedule. Watkins Glen, NY was held earlier this month, with Marcos Ambrose defending his race title there. Montreal is now the only NASCAR national touring series event held outside the United States, since Iowa Speedway replaced Mexico City on this year’s Nationwide calendar. Canadian Ron Fellows returns to his home turf to defend his race title. Last year, Fellows endured wet track conditions on the 2.709-mile, 14-turn course and capitalized on an early-race pit strategy to claim his fourth career Nationwide victory. NASCAR ran its first-ever national series points event in the rain, but weather conditions deteriorated to the point where the race was cut 26 laps short of the 74-lap distance.

“I did just one race last year with JR Motorsports and Rick Hendrick in the 5 car,” Fellows said. “It was obviously a successful one. It was a wild day with certainly the threat of rain, getting an opportunity to actually race the Nationwide cars in the rain.”

Fellows will drive the No.5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at Montreal once again this year. Patrick Carpentier, from nearby Ville Lasalle, Quebec, has finished second in the first two races at Montreal. Carpentier will drive the No.99 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. He drove Waltrip’s No.55 Sprint Cup car at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, CA this year.Ambrose, Carl Edwards and Brendan Gaughan will pull double duty at Montreal. The trio will make their debut in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. The Grand-Am race runs Saturday, the day before the Nationwide event. Edwards and Ambrose will share driving duties in the No.77 Doran Ford Daytona Prototype (DP) car, while Gaughan and Grand-Am regular Andy Lally will team up in the No.66 TRG Porsche GT3 (Grand Touring) entry.

Ambrose finished third in last year’s Nationwide event at Montreal. “I’ve got a chance to win two races this weekend at Montreal, and that is what I’m going there to try and do,” Ambrose said. “The racing at Montreal is always really good, and I’ve been so close to winning that Nationwide race for the past two years.” Kyle Busch is looking to rebound after he finished a disappointing 28th at Bristol. Busch, who was involved in an early-race crash with Chase Austin, saw his lead over Edwards shrink from 339 points to 248. Edwards finished second to his Roush Fenway Racing teammate David Ragan.Edwards finished 30th in the inaugural event at Montreal in 2007 and sixth there last year.

“Montreal is one of the most fun events of the year,” Edwards said. “I love going to places that are out of the norm. It was an adventure last year racing in the rain, and it was one of the neatest events that I have been a part of.” Busch has yet to compete at Montreal. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has hosted Formula One, CART/Champ Car and NASCAR Canadian Tires Series events. The circuit, on lle Notre-Dame, a man- made island on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, was named after the late Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve, father of Jacques Villeneuve, who is driving the No.32 Braun Racing Toyota this week. Forty-five teams are on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s NAPA Auto Parts 200.

Auto Racing - great for a wagerCamping World Truck Series EnjoyIllinois.com 225 - Chicagoland Speedway - Joliet, IL

Despite his winning streak of five races coming to an end last week at Bristol, Ron Hornaday Jr.continues to hold a sizeable points lead in the Camping World Truck Series. Hornaday has a 211-point advantage over Matt Crafton with 10 races remaining in the season.Chicagoland kicks off a two-week stretch of an inaugural race at a track new to the series.Iowa is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Chicagoland has been on the Sprint Cup and Nationwide schedules since 2001.Kyle Busch, who snapped Hornaday’s streak at Bristol, won last year’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Chicagoland. He is looking to complete the track’s national series triple.”The biggest thing I learned last year was the track didn’t change much,” Busch said. “It just got cooler and gained grip. Winning both races at Chicago last year - it was just a great weekend.”

Busch has victories in all three of NASCAR’s national series at five different tracks (Atlanta, Bristol, California, Dover and Phoenix). Hornaday has won nine inaugural races in the Truck Series since its inception in 1995. He has also competed in two Nationwide events at Chicagoland, finishing fifth in 2002 and 10th in ‘04.”I’m really excited to go to Chicago,” Hornaday said. “We tested there some last year, and I really liked the track. We have run pretty well at the 1.5- mile tracks this season.” Hornaday has won two of the last three Truck races on 1.5-mile tracks. He took Kentucky last month and Charlotte in May.Busch and Roush Fenway Racing driver Colin Braun will attempt the Chicagoland- Montreal combo this weekend. Braun will make his first Nationwide start this season, and he’ll compete at Montreal for the first time. He has practiced there several times.”I feel like there’s definitely enough time in between to kind of transition in between those two different types of vehicles and types of racetracks,” Braun said.”I could see it would be really difficult to do it on the same weekend.” Forty teams are on the preliminary entry list for Friday’s EnjoyIllinois.com 225.

Auto Racing - great for a wagerINDYCAR SERIES Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 - Chicagoland Speedway - Joliet, IL

Three races to go, and three title contenders remain in the show.After finishing second in last Sunday’s race at Sonoma, CA, Ryan Briscoe from Team Penske reclaimed the championship lead in the IndyCar Series. Briscoe holds just a four-point advantage over Dario Franchitti, who led all 75 laps at Sonoma for his fourth victory of the season. Briscoe won earlier this month at Kentucky and the season-opener in April at St. Petersburg, FL, but has finished second in seven other races this year.”We just have to keep getting these points,” Briscoe said. “Coming in second gets a little old after awhile, but we’ll win one of these someday.” Scott Dixon, also a four-time race winner this season, came to Sonoma with the points lead, but after a 13th-place finish there, he has fallen to 20 points behind Briscoe and 16 back of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Franchitti.

Dixon was one of those involved in a seven-car pile on the opening lap. He got caught in a jam and drove into the back of Tony Kanaan, sustaining damage to the nose of his car. Dixon remained on the lead lap and worked his way back to 10th before Marco Andretti spun him out on the final lap. “Hopefully, we’ll take this as our bad weekend and just move on and get a good result on our next three,” Dixon said. With Chicagoland, Motegi, Japan and Homestead, FL remaining on this year’s schedule, Dixon is confident he can repeat as the series champion. “We have a great run coming up with the three tracks at the finish,” he added. Dixon has finished second in the last two races at Chicagoland, which has been the site of the season-finale the previous three seasons. Last year at Chicagoland, Helio Castroneves nipped Dixon in one of the closest finishes in series history. While Castroneves captured his second win of the season, Dixon clinched the series title by 17 points.In 2007, Franchitti, who drove for Andretti Green Racing at the time, entered the season-finale at Chicagoland with just a three-point lead over Dixon. The two drivers battled all the way to the final lap, with Franchitti taking the checkered flag and the series title. Dixon held the lead on the last lap, but Franchitti passed Dixon, who suddenly slowed when he ran out of fuel. He managed to coast home in second.”It’s just so competitive that you can’t afford mistakes,” Franchitti said. “We’ve all made them this year. Actually, we’ve all had bad luck as well. When you get the chance, you got to score the points.”

Castroneves saw his championship hopes diminish significantly after an 18th- place result at Sonoma. The Penske driver got slightly airborne after he made contact with Kanaan heading into a corner late in the race. Shortly after, his right front suspension failed, causing him to run off course and into the dirt. He now trails his teammate Briscoe by 126 points.

Auto Racing - great for a wagerFORMULA ONE Belgian Grand Prix - Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps - Spa, Belgium

Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello revived his Formula One world championship hopes afterwinning lastSunday’s European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain. Barrichello, who recorded his first grand prix victory since 2004 when he drove for Ferrari. The Brazilian moved to within 18 points of leader and teammate Jenson Button, who finished seventh at Valencia.Barrichello, who is the oldest current F1 driver at age 37, benefited from Lewis Hamilton’s costly pit road mistake to take the European GP. Hamilton started on the pole and led early, but was delayed during his final pit stop when his McLaren team was not properly prepared for a tire change. The defending world champion made steady progress in the closing laps, but settled for a second-place finish. After the conclusion of the ‘08 season, Barrichello and Button’s future in F1 were uncertain after their Honda team pulled out of the sport due to the world-wide economic slowdown. Ross Brawn acquired the former Honda team and has since revitalized both drivers’ careers.”Last year, people seemed to think that was it for me, but now I can show that it wasn’t. I have always thought I had it in me. I think I have just reached the peak of my speed, so I have more on me. I hope I can carry on,” Barrichello said.

Barrichello could very continue his march towards his first F1 title in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian GP is held on the famed Spa-Francorchamps, one of the oldest courses on the F1 circuit. The track has also been good to Ferrari the last several years.Michael Schumacher drove a Ferrari to consecutive wins at Spa from 2001-02. Kimi Raikkonen won the Belgian GP back-to-back from 2004-05 and then again in ‘07. Felipe Massa recorded the victory in last year’s race there. The event was not run in 2003 and ‘06. One year ago, Hamilton crossed the finish line first in the Belgian GP, but Massa was credited with the win after race stewards penalized Hamilton for an infraction during his late-race battle with Raikkonen. Hamilton was originally declared the winner, but was later handed a 25-second time penalty after stewards decided he gained an advantage by cutting the final chicane during his duel with Raikkonen. The McLaren driver dropped to third place as a result, with Nick Heidfeld from BMW Sauber moving up to second.Hamilton said he is skeptical about his team’s chances of winning in Belgium this year.”I don’t think we’ll be as competitive as we’ve been at the last few races, because Spa is a circuit where you need a lot of downforce,” he said. “I think Brawn, Red Bull and even Ferrari will be fast there.It’s a high-speed circuit, and Ferrari has always been very quick there, so I’m expecting Kimi to be quick. It should also suit the Red Bulls, because it’s very high-speed and flowing and they have great downforce.”

 

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