This Week in Auto Racing Sept. 21 - 23

Round two of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship takes place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series head to Kentucky Speedway. Formula One returns to Asia for the Singapore Grand Prix.


Sprint Cup Series

Sylvania 300 - New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, N.H.

For the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career that has spanned 116 races, Brad Keselowski is atop the point standings. It's also the first time a driver from Penske Racing is leading in points since Ryan Newman won the 2008 Daytona 500.

Keselowski holds a three-point advantage over five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson after winning the first round in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship this past Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. The winner of the first Chase race has gone on to become champion just twice. Kurt Busch first did it in 2004, the inaugural year of the playoff format in NASCAR's premier series, while Tony Stewart accomplished the feat last year.

"The points lead is nice," Keselowski said. "I refuse to let it sink in, because there is so much work left to be done. We need to keep our eyes looking forward. I'm going to focus on the next nine races, and I know everyone on the team is going to do the same. It would be a disservice to Sunday's win if we allow our focus to get away from tomorrow's workload."

Keselowski had a lot of momentum heading into the Chase, scoring more points than any other competitor during the final 10 races of the regular season. He claimed his fourth win of the season at Chicagoland, which placed him in a tie with Denny Hamlin for most victories in the series this season.

Round two in the Chase takes place on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

Keselowski has yet to win at New Hampshire but has posted three top-10 finishes in his six races Sprint Cup races there. His best finish at this flat 1.058-mile racetrack is second, which came one year ago. He placed fifth there in July.

"Loudon has been an underrated track for us over the last couple of years," he said. "I think we can run well there again and keep the points lead."

Tony Stewart won last year's Chase race at New Hampshire. Stewart took the lead with just two laps to go when then-leader Clint Bowyer ran out of fuel. His win there came six days after he took the checkered flag at Chicagoland. He recorded three more victories during the Chase to capture his third series title.

With last seasons' back-to-back victories at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, Stewart joined Greg Biffle as those drivers who won the first two races in the Chase. Biffle won at New Hampshire and Dover International Speedway in 2008 but finished the season third in points.

Stewart is eight points behind Keselowski following his sixth-place run at Chicagoland. When Stewart came to New Hampshire at this time last year, he was seven points out of the lead.

"It's nice to get off to a decent start when you're not feeling like you have to climb out of a hole after the first week," Stewart said.

New Hampshire is one of Stewart's best tracks. He has posted three wins, 14- top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 27 races there.

"I've always liked Loudon," he said. "I don't know if there's a real secret that we have there. It's just something about the way I drive the car. It's a fun track, and it's a track that I always look forward to. I'm not going to say that it's my favorite track, but it's definitely in my top-three."

Heading to New Hampshire, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Bowyer are each 15 points out of the lead. Kahne won at this track two months ago.

The other title contenders and their points deficit include: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-17), Biffle (-19), Martin Truex Jr. (-21), Kevin Harvick (-24), Matt Kenseth (-26) and Jeff Gordon (-47).

Gordon had the worst finish among the Chase drivers at Chicagoland with a 35- place result. The four-time series champion experienced a throttle malfunction and made contact with the wall late in the race.

"It was a disappointing result (in Chicago), but we had a fast race car," Gordon said. "We'll put that event behind us and focus on trying to win Loudon this weekend. There is still a long way to go."

When the series ran at New Hampshire during the regular season, Gordon was 191 points out of the lead. But Gordon recorded six top-10 finishes in the next eight races, including a pair of second-place runs at Atlanta and Richmond.

Forty-seven teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Sylvania 300.

Nationwide Series

Kentucky 300 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, Ky.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back on top of the Nationwide Series point standings.

Stenhouse, the defending series champion, jumped nine points ahead of Elliott Sadler after winning his fifth race of the season last Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Sadler, who had been the points leader for the past 14 races, finished eighth there.

In the last four events, Stenhouse has accumulated 31 points more than Sadler. He trailed Sadler by 22 markers after the Aug. 18 race in Montreal.

The series now heads to Kentucky Speedway, as seven races remain on the 2012 schedule. This will be the first time Nationwide teams compete at Kentucky twice in one season. The series has visited this 1.5-mile racetrack each year since 2001.

The first race at Kentucky this season took place on June 29. Stenhouse finished eighth, one spot ahead of Sadler.

"We're coming off a big win, so we will carry that momentum into this weekend, Stenhouse said. "Earlier this year (at Kentucky), we didn't make the right adjustments, but we've learned from that, so I feel we'll be a strong contender this weekend."

Four of Stenhouse's five wins in 2012 have come on the 1.5-mile tracks. He claimed victories at Las Vegas (March), Texas (April) and Atlanta (earlier this month) prior to his win at Chicagoland.

Stenhouse has finished either eighth or ninth in his three Nationwide races at Kentucky. Sadler placed fifth there one year ago.

"Last year, we sat on the pole and ran well there," Sadler said. "We missed it a little bit here in the spring, but we have worked on our set up, and I think we have an awesome package for this weekend. I think that any 1.5-mile track that we go to, we have a great shot at victory lane. We are taking the car I drove at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was really fast. We will feed off our (Richard Childress Racing) teammate, Austin Dillon, who won there last time, and our team feels really, really good about this weekend."

Dillon, the 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion, became a first-time race winner in Nationwide earlier this year at Kentucky. He started on the pole and led all but eight of the 200 laps. Dillon crossed the finish line a whopping 9.8 seconds ahead of Sprint Cup Series regular Kurt Busch. His maiden win in the series came in his 26th start.

"I think we definitely have a shot at having another dominating performance," said Dillon, who is currently 34 points behind Stenhouse. "Our car was really good at Kentucky Speedway in June, and I think it's going to be even better this weekend. RCR has a really strong 1.5-mile program, and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to gain some points this weekend."

Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kentucky 300.

Camping World Truck Series

Kentucky 201 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, Ky.

While the Sprint Cup Series competes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Camping World Truck Series will join Nationwide at Kentucky Speedway this weekend.

The Truck Series had normally accompanied Sprint Cup at New Hampshire in the fall, but the 1.058-mile New England racetrack was dropped from the schedule this year.

After finishing second in last Saturday's race at Iowa Speedway, rookie Ty Dillon took over the points lead. Dillon, the younger brother of 2011 truck champion Austin Dillon, holds an eight-point advantage over Timothy Peters.

"It feels great to get the points lead, but that doesn't guarantee how we will finish out the season," Dillon said. "We're going to keep our heads down and keep digging. This whole team has worked so hard this season, and they deserve to be sitting on top of the points battle."

Peters, who had led in points for seven races, placed 19th at Iowa.

Dillon finished third at Kentucky three months ago. He had an 18th-place run in his first truck race there in Oct. 2011.

"We had a fast truck when we were there in June and have a good place to start for when we get back to the track this weekend," he said. "I hope to better that top-three finish this time around."

James Buescher, who is just 11 points behind Dillon, won at Kentucky in June. He led 119 of 150 laps. All three of Buescher's victories this season have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He won in April at Kansas and in July at Chicagoland.

"I feel that the intermediate tracks suit this team the best," Buescher said. "There is no better place to make a statement than with a season-sweep in front of the great fans at Kentucky."

Ryan Blaney, the son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, will drive Brad Keselowski Racing's No. 29 RAM for the second week in a row. At age 18, Blaney became the youngest driver to win a race in the 18-year history of the Truck Series. It came in just his third start.

There have seven first-time race winners this year, tying the record for most inaugural winners in a season, set in 1997 and matched the following year.

Thirty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kentucky 201.


Singapore Grand Prix - Marina Bay Street Circuit - Singapore

Formula One runs its lone night race of the season with the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday.

The 61-lap race contested on Singapore's 3.152-mile, 23-turn temporary street circuit is considered as one of the longest and toughest events on the calendar.

Heading to Singapore, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari holds a 37-point lead over McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen is one point behind Hamilton, while two-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull trails Raikkonen by a single marker.

McLaren has been the hottest team lately, winning the last three races.

Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix and then finished 23rd in the Belgian Grand Prix after being involved in a multi-car wreck on the opening lap. He rebounded with the victory in the Italian Grand Prix.

His teammate, Jenson Button, put on a flawless performance to win in Belgium. Button led from start to finish in the 44-lap race. His 23rd-place finish due to a fuel system issue in Italy put him a distant 78 points behind Alonso.

Hamilton is at the height of F1's "silly season" right now. It remains to be seen if Hamilton will re-sign with McLaren or move over to Mercedes for the upcoming season. With seven races to go, he's concentrating more on winning the championship.

"We're now inching closer to the finishing line, and this is where it starts to get exciting," Hamilton said. "After winning in Hungary and Monza, I head to Singapore full of positivity and optimism that we can take the title fight to Fernando."

Alonso won the inaugural Singapore GP in 2008 and then claimed another victory in this event two years later. His other finishes in Singapore are third and fourth.

Hamilton won the 2009 race but finished 19th in 2010 and fifth last year.

"Although I had a fantastic win there back in 2009, I've not had the greatest of results in Singapore recently," he said. "I got a puncture and retired after tangling with Mark Webber in 2010, and I was delayed after touching wheels with Felipe (Massa) last year. Both those races were unlucky for me. I think I need a better roll of the dice this time around."

Vettel is the defending race winner. After leading all 61 laps in last year's race, Vettel left Singapore needing only one more point to clinch his second straight F1 title. He captured it in the following round in Japan.

The last three Singapore GP's have been won from the pole position.