This Week in Auto Racing September 23 - 25

The second round in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship takes place this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Camping World Truck Series will join the Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire. Formula One will rev it up under the lights in the Singapore Grand Prix.


Sprint Cup Series

Sylvania 300 - New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, NH

After winning last Monday's rain-delayed race at Chicagoland Speedway, Tony Stewart has become more of a championship contender than a Chase pretender.

Stewart entered the Chase opener at Chicagoland in the ninth seed, and many had considered him as a long shot to win the title. But that's no longer the case for the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion, as he now holds the second spot in the rankings, just seven points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Round two of the Chase is Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which is one of Stewart's better racetracks on the schedule.

Stewart-Haas Racing had a perfect weekend at this one-mile track in July. Ryan Newman and Stewart qualified and finished 1-2, respectively, here.

Last year when the first Chase race was held at New Hampshire, Stewart was leading with two laps to go, but he ran out of fuel and coasted across the finish line in 24th.

"It was a tough way to start the Chase, that's for sure," he said. "I would've settled for second. If you know exactly how much gas you have, it would be different, but you never know. It's part of the sport, always has been. It's what makes it exciting when you never know until the last lap what's going to happen."

Stewart has recorded 15 top-10 finishes, including two victories, in 25 starts at New Hampshire.

Newman has also been impressive at this track, posting three wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 19 races. He has also claimed five poles here.

"New Hampshire has always been a good place for me," Newman said. "I'm not a hundred percent sure why. It's the place of my first win [September 2002]. This past July, we were able to qualify and finish 1-2 at Stewart-Haas. It's a fun race, and it's a very finesse racetrack. You can't overdrive the car there very much because it's so flat."

Newman sits seventh in the point standings (-14) after finishing eighth at Chicagoland.

Harvick's second-place run earlier this week allowed him to take sole position of first in points. He ended the regular season earlier this month by winning at Richmond.

"Obviously, the last three weeks have been really good for our team," he said. "We've just got to keep going."

Harvick won the 2006 Chase opener at New Hampshire. He finished fifth in both races here last season.

Several Chase drivers are hoping to rebound this weekend after disappointing finishes at Chicagoland. Jeff Gordon tumbled from third to 11th in the standings (-25) after his 24th-place run there.

"That is not how we wanted to start the Chase," Gordon said. "We battled hard throughout the event, and that's what we're going to do at New Hampshire and the other eight races."

Gordon is tied with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Newman for second most wins at New Hampshire with three each. Jeff Burton, a non-title contender this year, holds the track record with four victories.

Denny Hamlin was the lowest finisher of the 12 Chase drivers at Chicagoland. His 31st-place run there has him now 41 points behind Harvick. Hamlin has finished second and third in the last two races at New Hampshire. He also finished second here in September 2009.

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

Camping World Truck Series

F.W. Webb 175 - New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, NH

It's a very tight points battle in the Camping World Truck Series with seven races to go. Heading into Saturday's 175-lap race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, James Buescher holds only a three-point lead over Austin Dillon and just a six-point advantage over Johnny Sauter. Fourth-place Timothy Peters is 20 markers behind.

Dillon picked up his second win of the season and the fourth of his truck career last week at Chicagoland. After finishing 22nd at Michigan and then 23rd at Bristol in August, Dillon has scored two straight top-10 finishes, which has given him a much-needed boost in points.

"We've been thinking about the championship from the beginning of the year; that's what we set out to do," Dillon said. "I feel like we've had a championship season, just not been able to finish at the end of some races. We've had the fastest truck pretty much all year. It's just finishing these races off."

Dillon finished 15th at New Hampshire in 2009 and fifth here last season.

Buescher finished 11th at Chicagoland, which snapped his streak of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes.

One year ago, Buescher finished second at New Hampshire, matching his career- best performance in the series.

"We had a great run there last year," he said. "I thought we were going to get our first win, but [Kyle Busch] passed us coming to the checkered flag. We have made a lot of improvements to our short track program since last fall, and I cant wait to get on the track."

Ron Hornaday Jr., currently fifth in points (-47), leads all drivers with three truck wins at New Hampshire.

"I really like Loudon," he said. I've got three wins there, and it's a track where you will have a lot of side-by-side racing. That always puts on a great show for the fans. You've really got to have the whole package at this racetrack to come through the field. Track position is critical."

Thirty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the F.W. Webb 175.

Busch, who has won at New Hampshire the previous two years, and Kevin Harvick are those Sprint Cup Series regulars scheduled to compete in this race.


Singapore Grand Prix - Marina Bay Street Circuit - Singapore

Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull could wrap up his second consecutive Formula One world championship in this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.

With six grand prix remaining, Vettel holds a 112-point lead over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, and Jenson Button from McLaren are both 117 points behind, while Button's teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is 126 markers out of the lead.

To clinch the championship at Singapore, Vettel has to at least finish on the podium (first, second or third). If Alonso is on the podium for this race, Vettel cannot clinch it this week. He also can't do it if Hamilton wins.

Simply put, if Vettel leaves Singapore with a 126-point lead or higher, he clinches the title.

"Looking to the championship, there is still some way to go," Vettel said. "We are in a very strong position, which we deserve because we've been working hard and made few mistakes. As long as we come out of the next race with a bigger lead then we started with, then we have done a good job."

Vettel has finished second, third and fifth in the first three Singapore GPs.

"We've had some good races in Singapore in the past, especially last year when we finished second, just behind Fernando," he said. "I love the track. It's very challenging, and there are a lot of corners. It's very long, it's hot and it's a night race, so there are a lot of special things about Singapore.

"The car seems to be very competitive there, so I hope we can go back there this year and win. It would be very special."

Alonso will attempt to win in Singapore for the third time on Sunday.

"Of the races remaining, I think Singapore is probably the best one for our car characteristics," Alonso said. "I love the Singapore circuit, so the next race will probably be it."

Alonso's win in the 2008 inaugural Singapore GP -- the first-ever F1 race to run at nighttime -- came amid controversy. The Spaniard drove for Renault at the time. F1's governing body, the FIA, later accused Renault of conspiring driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to cause a deliberate crash in the early going to benefit the race strategy for Alonso, who had started 15th on the grid.

In what turned out to be one of the sport's biggest scandals, investigations by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council and officials from Renault determined then team principal Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds planned the crash. Renault avoided permanent expulsion from F1 competition when the FIA handed the French team a two-year suspended ban.