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NASCAR

This Week in Auto Racing August 12 - 14

The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will head to Watkins Glen International, while the IZOD IndyCar Series will return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first time since 1998.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, NY

The Sprint Cup Series will run its second and final road course race of the season this weekend at Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York. The series competed at the Sonoma, CA course in June.

Watkins Glen will be more of a challenge for last Sunday's Pocono race winner Brad Keselowski, who continues to heal from a broken left ankle he suffered during a crash while testing last week at Road Atlanta. Keselowski will have to endure a lot more braking at Watkins Glen compared to Pocono.

"If there is a silver lining to the wreck at Road Atlanta, it's that we weren't testing our primary car for Watkins Glen," he said. "It's still in one piece, and it's the same car that we finished inside the top-10 with at Sonoma. It will still be uncomfortable in the car this weekend, but I'll have to man up one more time, because we don't have time to let injuries get in the way of making the Chase."

With five races to go before the Chase begins, Keselowski holds the first wild card position and Denny Hamlin occupies the second spot.

Hamlin is currently 11th in points but has one win so far this season, which came in June at Michigan. He trails 10th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 23 points.

"I think this weekend's race will be crazy for a lot of reasons," Hamlin said. "Many of the guys outside the top-10 will be looking to do anything to get that first or second win. The road course guys will be in the mix and battling, and the guys at the back half of the top-10 will try to avoid the madness and get a good finish. As we saw in Sonoma earlier this year, guys drive very aggressive on these road courses, and with the new 'wild card' format for the Chase, anything is possible."

Despite one win each, Paul Menard (14th in points) and David Ragan (19th) are presently the odd-men out in the Chase battle.

Tony Stewart is the road course ace at Watkins Glen, winning a record five times at this track. Stewart had finished either first or second in six consecutive races here until his seventh-place run in 2010.

Stewart is now ninth in points. just one marker ahead of Earnhardt Jr. Both Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. have yet to win this season.

"We are kind of in the that weird spot in the points where we are trying to make it in on what we've got and not have to not rely on that wild card spot," Stewart said. "If you finish 11th in points and you didn't get one of those wild card spots, you'd say it hurt you. Hopefully, we'll get in on our points and won't have to worry about it."

Juan Pablo Montoya won last year's race at Watkins Glen. Montoya put on a dominating performance by leading 74 of 90 laps. He finished sixth here in 2009 and fourth the year prior.

"The Glen is a road course that really fits my driving style," he said. "The problem with the Glen is with those restarts the way turn one is. You can win it, or they can take you out on the last restart, and you finish 20th."

Montoya's two wins so far in Sprint Cup have come on road courses. His first victory came at Sonoma during his 2007 rookie season. Montoya comes to Watkins Glen ranked 21st in points.

Marcos Ambrose is another driver who has performed very well at Watkins Glen. Ambrose, 23rd in points, has finished second or third in his three Sprint Cup races at this track. He has won the last three Nationwide Series events here as well.

Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen.

Nationwide Series

Zippo 200 - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, NY

The Nationwide Series will join Sprint Cup this weekend at Watkins Glen International. This will be the second of three road courses for NASCAR's second-tier series this year. Reed Sorenson won the June race at Road America in Elkhart Lakes, WI. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal is scheduled for August 20.

Six Sprint Cup regulars, including Jimmie Johnson, are competing in the Nationwide race at Watkins Glen.

Johnson will drive the No.7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. The five-time defending Sprint Cup champion has not raced in Nationwide since October 2008 at Charlotte.

"I'm looking forward to a good run and getting more seat time on the road courses," he said. "I do only have one Nationwide win [Chicagoland 2001], and I'd love to get some more."

Johnson has 91 career Nationwide starts, including four with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team in 2008. He spent two full seasons in the series from 2001-02 before making the jump to Cup. Johnson has competed in three Nationwide races at Watkins Glen, finishing no better than 21st.

His car for Saturday's race is the same one that Ron Fellows drove to a second-place finish at Road America.

In a confusing finish, Justin Allgaier held the lead on final lap, while his Turner Motorsports teammate, Reed Sorenson, was second. Just after the caution flag was displayed for an incident involving Aric Almirola, Allgaier ran out of fuel and stalled on the track. Fellows then passed Sorenson, and it appeared at first that he took the lead.

NASCAR reviewed the finish until several minutes after the conclusion of the race. Race officials determined Fellows moved ahead of Sorenson when the yellow flag was in sight, and therefore, awarded the victory to Sorenson.

"We came so close to winning at Road America," Fellows said. "It was an emotional roller coaster for everyone after that race. As a racer, it's so difficult to have the win seemingly in your grasp and then be told you're runner-up instead. Unfortunately, there is no trophy for second place. So we've got a lot of motivation on our side heading up to Watkins Glen."

Fellows, a road-course expert from Canada, will be behind the wheel of the No.5 Chevrolet for JRM at Watkins Glen. He is a three-time Nationwide race winner at this track (1998, 2000 and '01).

Sorenson is now 12 points behind leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won last Saturday's race at Iowa.

"We obviously had a really good race at Road America, and I'm just going to apply the same principles this weekend as I did there," Sorenson said. "I think the best way to approach a road course is to stay on the track and take it easy on the transmission and brakes."

Due to his injury at Road Atlanta, Brad Keselowski will not compete in this race. Penske Racing announced earlier this week that Kurt Busch will substitute for Keselowski in the No.22 Dodge. Busch started on the pole and won the 2006 Nationwide race at Watkins Glen. He finished third here the following year.

Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Zippo 200. Marcos Ambrose, the winner of this race the past three years, is not entered.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES

MoveThatBlock.com 225 - New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, New Hampshire

After a 12-year hiatus, the IZOD IndyCar Series is returning to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. New Hampshire hosted seven IndyCar races from 1992-98. Bobby Rahal, Nigel Mansell, Al Unser Jr., Andre Ribeiro, Scott Sharp, Robbie Buhl and Tony Stewart have won here in the past.

New Hampshire is a flat one-mile oval, similar to The Milwaukee Mile, where IndyCar competed in June.

"You could compare it closely to Milwaukee," said Team Penske's Will Power, who tested at New Hampshire last month. "I see using two lanes, so maybe it will be fairly easy to pass, which makes it really good for racing."

Dario Franchitti's second-place finish compared to a 14th-place run for Power last Sunday at Mid-Ohio allowed Franchitti to widen his lead to 62 points.

Franchitti has previous experience at New Hampshire, running in the June 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide races here.

"The good thing about New Hampshire I think for us is that it will be a double-wide track," he said. "There's going to be multiple grooves there, so you're going to see a lot of side-by-side racing."

Franchitti's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, is coming off his first win of the season at Mid-Ohio. Dixon moved to within 93 points of the leader.

Four women are scheduled to compete at New Hampshire. They are: Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Anna Beatriz and Pippa Mann, who is driving an entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

Mann made her IndyCar debut in the May 29 Indianapolis 500. Driving for Conquest Racing, she became the first ever British female to race at Indy. She finished 20th.

Twenty-seven teams are on the entry list for Sunday's MoveThatBlock.com 225.

Tomas Scheckter will substitute for the injured Justin Wilson in Dreyer and Reinbold Racing's No.22 car. Wilson continues to recover from a back injury he sustained during a practice crash at Mid-Ohio.

"I'm just disappointed to not be the car, but my back is the most important thing," Wilson said. "I'm going to try and get that to heal and get back to 100 percent as soon as possible and get back in the car."