This Week in Auto Racing Sept. 29 - 30

The Chase for the Sprint Cup championship moves on to Dover International Speedway. The Nationwide Series is also at Dover, while the Camping World Truck Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


Sprint Cup Series

AAA 400 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.

Round three in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship takes place this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

After finishing second at both Chicago and New Hampshire, Jimmie Johnson is atop the championship standings, as he holds only a one-point advantage over Brad Keselowski. Denny Hamlin's win last Sunday at New Hampshire moved him to within seven points of the lead.

Dover, also known as "The Monster Mile," could be the turning point in Johnson's quest for a sixth Sprint Cup Series title. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has won four of the last seven races there.

In June, Johnson avoided a 12-car wreck in the early stages of the race and led 289 of 400 laps to claim his seventh win at Dover. It moved him into a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most all-time victories at this one-mile, concrete-surfaced racetrack.

"So far it's been a great track for us," Johnson said. "The thing there that is tough and we have been very fortunate to miss it, if something happens, we know it's a self-cleaning track, and you get torn up pretty bad because you are going so fast."

Dover is one of several tracks on the Chase schedule where Johnson has been dominant. Johnson has also been strong at Charlotte, Martinsville and Phoenix. His biggest concern in the Chase, though, is Talladega on Oct. 7.

"We have tracks that have been great to the 48 for a lot of years; tracks that we were very successful at in the spring events," he said. "The one hanging out there that has me concerned, is the same for everybody else, is Talladega. I haven't finished a plate race this year...But outside of 'Dega and the unknown at that track, there's a lot of tracks for this 48 team that I'm very optimistic."

Johnson won the Chase race at Dover in consecutive seasons from 2009-10. He finished second there one year ago.

While Johnson maybe dreading Talladega, Hamlin is worried about Dover. Hamlin considers Dover as one of his most troublesome tracks. His most recent finishes there show it. He has just two top-10 finishes in his last 10 races there.

"It's unlike any racetrack that we go to all year," Hamlin said. "There is no high-banked, one-mile track other than Dover. It's concrete on top of that, which makes it even more difficult. If the track was paved, I'm sure I would run a lot better there, because I have such a good feel on the pavement. But the concrete surface has kind of thrown me for a loop over the course of my career."

Hamlin has yet to win a Sprint Cup race at Dover. His best finish there is fourth, which came in the 2007 and '10 spring events. Hamlin does have two Nationwide Series victories at this track.

Keselowski has also struggled at Dover. His best finish in his five races there is 12th, which came earlier this season. He placed 20th at Dover one year ago.

"There is no question that Dover is probably our weakest track in the Chase," Keselowski said. "We've had some good, not great, cars there in the past. I let a top-10 finish slip away there last year when I stalled the car on pit road late in the race. So we know we can get a solid finish, but we're going up there to win the race.

"I know (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) has really targeted Dover for the last several weeks, really putting a lot of emphasis on it. I'm confident we can go up there and keep ourselves in the championship conversation."

Keselowski began the Chase by winning at Chicago. He finished sixth at New Hampshire.

While seven points separate the top-three drivers, Tony Stewart, the defending series champion, heads to Dover with a 10-point deficit. Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer are both 15 points behind. Dale Earnhardt Jr. trails by 26.

Dover has been a difficult track for Earnhardt Jr. as well. Earnhardt Jr. had finished outside the top-10 in eighth consecutive races there before snapping that streak with a fourth-place run in June. He won at Dover in Sept. 2001.

"Dover's a tough track, a track that I don't have the greatest track record on over the last several races, although we did finish in the top-five earlier this year," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I got good confidence going in. We're just going to try to maximize our opportunity on the racetrack."

Eight through 12th in the Chase standings right now are: Kevin Harvick (-31), Greg Biffle (-33), Martin Truex Jr. (-34), Matt Kenseth (-35) and Jeff Gordon (-45).

Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the AAA 400.

Nationwide Series

OneMain Financial 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.

The Nationwide Series will join Sprint Cup at Dover International Speedway this weekend. Last week, Nationwide coupled with the Camping World Truck Series at Kentucky.

When Nationwide last ran at Dover in June, Mayetta, N.J. native Ryan Truex nearly pulled off a win at his home track. Truex, the younger brother of Sprint Cup regular Martin Truex Jr., claimed his first pole in the series at Dover. He held the lead late in the race, but Joey Logano took the top position away from him when he was caught up in lapped traffic.

"I learned a lot in the spring, and it will really help me coming back this time," said Truex, who finished a Nationwide career-best second at Dover. "Plus, I know now not to run into lapped cars with five to go."

Truex will be behind the wheel of the No. 99 Toyota for RAB Racing, which formed an alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing earlier this year. He drove the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the spring race at Dover. He finished eighth and 18th in last year's Nationwide races there.

"Dover has always been one of my strongest tracks," he said. "Martin has taught me tricks over the years. Plus, I've always wanted to run well there, since it's my hometown race. After the June race, I now know the feel I need in the car and how to run the race to win for sure."

Truex, the 2009 Camping World East Series champion and 2010 K&N Pro Series East titleholder, has competed in nine Nationwide races this season. In addition to his second-place run at Dover, Truex has three other top-10 finishes for the year.

With six races to go, Elliott Sadler holds a four-point lead over defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Rookie Austin Dillon, who is Sadler's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, won last Saturday's race at Kentucky and moved to within 19 points of the lead.

Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the OneMain Financial 200. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and Logano are those Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this race.

Camping World Truck Series

Smith's 350 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, Nev.

While the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series run at Dover, the Camping World Truck Series travels west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.

The Truck Series will race at nighttime in Las Vegas this year after running a daytime event there last season. The 2011 race ran hours prior to the Sprint Cup night event held at Charlotte.

James Buescher heads to Las Vegas with a whole lot of momentum. Buescher notched his series-leading fourth win of the season at Kentucky. All four of his victories this year have come on 1.5-mile racetracks. Las Vegas is the next mile-and-a-half track on the schedule.

"The team and I are really confident that we can go to Vegas and win this race after last weekend's performance," Buescher said. "We had some trouble the week prior in Iowa, but this team never gives up. That is the type of performance you need to win championships. Las Vegas Motor Speedway falls right into our wheel house with it being an intermediate track."

After winning at Kentucky, Buescher moved to within four points of leader Ty Dillon, who is a rookie in the series this year. When Buescher went to Las Vegas last year, he trailed Ty's elder brother, Austin, by just three points. Austin Dillon went on to win the series championship by a six-point margin.

Ty Dillon will compete in a truck race at Las Vegas for the first time.

"I'm confident that we'll have a fast truck at Las Vegas," he said. "My brother, Austin, won here in the past, and we'll have the notes from that win to start off with on Friday when we unload. I really like racing on 1.5-mile tracks, and I'm excited to race in Vegas."

Buescher has three starts at Las Vegas. He finished 3rd in 2010 and placed 21st last year. Buescher finished 13th in his first race there in 2009.

Travis Pastrana will make his truck debut at Las Vegas. Pastrana, a worldwide action sports icon, has competed in nine Nationwide races this season. He will pull double duty on Saturday at Las Vegas. The 28-year-old driver is entered in the Global RallyCross Championship (GRC) event there.

"I'm really excited," Pastrana said. "The GRC program has been awesome. I'm really looking forward to great racing. I'm trying to get my future more into NASCAR, and I always wanted to race (in Las Vegas). I watched last year's Smith's 350 (truck) race here from the grandstands."

There have been 13 different winners in 15 truck races at Las Vegas. Todd Bodine, Brendan Gaughan, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Johnny Sauter are those drivers competing in this event that have won there in the past. Hornaday is the defending race winner.

Thirty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Smith's 350.