NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

                  === This Week in Auto Racing Oct. 6 - 7 ===
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 Philadelphia,  PA (Sports Network) - It should be an exciting and wild weekend
 of  racing, as  the Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the
 fourth  race in the championship Chase. The Camping World Truck Series is also
 at Talladega. Formula One returns to action with the Japanese Grand Prix.
 Sprint Cup Series
 Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 - Talladega Superspeedway - Talladega, Ala.
 When it's Chase time in the Sprint Cup Series, the one racetrack that concerns
 the title contenders the most is Talladega Superspeedway.
 Talladega  is  the "wild card" in  the 10-race Chase for the championship. The
 unpredictable  can happen  there, including the big wreck or wrecks. One thing
 is  for sure,  the Chase drivers will  be able to breathe a little easier once
 the Talladega race is in the rear-view mirror.
 Sunday's race at Talladega is round four in this year's playoffs.
 Some of the Chase members have done well at Talladega lately, while other have
 "That  race can shake things up in a big way," said Chase driver Clint Bowyer,
 who  has won  the last two fall races  at Talladega. "It can propel you to the
 lead or bury you. It's one of those races that I kind of look forward to. I've
 won  a couple times  there and enjoy it, but I also know what can happen there
 After winning this past weekend at Dover, Brad Keselowski reclaimed the points
 lead.  Keselowski holds  a  five-point advantage  over  Jimmie Johnson.  Denny
 Hamlin is 16 markers behind, while Bowyer trails by 25.
 Talladega could be Bowyer's best opportunity to move up in the Chase rankings.
 The  Michael  Waltrip Racing driver has  finished no worse than seventh in the
 last five races there.
 Keselowski is also a two-time race winner at Talladega. He won the spring race
 there  in May and scored his first career Sprint Cup victory at this 2.66-mile
 speedway in April 2009.
 "I  really  respect the challenge that  Talladega is mentally to every driver,
 but  then certainly  loathe the lack of ability to fully determine the outcome
 of  your day," Keselowski said. "So it's a bit of a love/hate relationship for
 sure, but the mental challenge of it is what I really enjoy a lot."
 Jeff  Gordon is  the last driver who scored a season-sweep at Talladega, doing
 so in 2007.
 No  Chase driver has won the fall race at Talladega and gone on to capture the
 series  championship in  the same season since NASCAR began its playoff format
 for its premier series in 2004.
 Johnson  and  Hamlin  have  both  struggled  on  the  restrictor-plate  tracks
 (Talladega  and  Daytona) this year. Johnson  is 0-3 in finishing a plate race
 during  the 2012  season. The  five-time series  champion was  involved in  an
 accident  in all of those events, placing 42nd in the Daytona 500, 35th in the
 spring race at Talladega and 36th in July event at Daytona.
 "Well,  as you can  probably see from our finishes this year, we haven't had a
 lot  of luck  at the restrictor-plate tracks," Johnson said. "It definitely is
 the  one track in  the Chase I've kind of been a little concerned about. There
 are  a lot of great tracks for the 48 (Hendrick Motorsports team) coming up in
 the Chase, but this one is definitely one where anything can happen.
 "There are so many things that are out of your control. There is a lot of room
 on  this track  to move around though,  obviously, and try things. I think the
 odds are in our favor to be able to finish one of these restrictor-plate races
 this year. At least I hope so."
 Johnson  does have  two wins at Talladega,  with his most recent one coming in
 April  2011. He  beat Bowyer to the  finish line by the slimmest of margins --
 0.002 seconds to be exact.
 Hamlin  did post  a fourth-place run in  the Daytona 500 but finished 23rd and
 25th in the other two restrictor-plate races this season.
 "(Talladega)  is  an absolute crap shoot,  but it's going to be for everyone,"
 Hamlin  said. "We  have  to know  who  we're  racing. We  have  to make  smart
 decisions  and keep  all the fenders on it. Typically, most superspeedways I'm
 right in it until the very end and get caught up in a wreck. My job is to make
 sure  I concentrate on that weekend, not look forward and focus on getting the
 most points possible."
 Hamlin's finishes in the last two fall races at Talladega have been eighth and
 Jeff  Gordon  leads all active  drivers with six  wins at Talladega, while his
 Hendrick  Motorsports  teammate Dale  Earnhardt Jr.  has five victories there.
 Earnhardt  Jr.'s last win at Talladega came in Oct. 2004. Gordon has not taken
 the checkered flag there in five years.
 Heading  to Talladega, Tony  Stewart and Kasey Kahne are both 32 points out of
 the  lead. Earnhardt  Jr. is  next in  the Chase  rankings, 39  points behind,
 followed  by  Martin Truex Jr. (-42),  Kevin Harvick (-46), Gordon (-48), Greg
 Biffle (-51) and Matt Kenseth (-72).
 "For the first time in my career, I'm probably really looking forward to going
 to Talladega," said Kenseth, who won this year's Daytona 500. "Our plate stuff
 has  been extremely  strong this year. I think  we've led a lot of laps at all
 three  plate  races. They all ended  on a green-white-checker. We were leading
 all  three  green-white-checkers, but  unfortunately, we lost  the last two. I
 messed  up both  of them and didn't  do the right things, but we've had really
 fast cars."
 Forty-four  teams are  on the preliminary entry list for the Good Sam Roadside
 Assistance 500.
 Camping World Truck Series
 Fred's 250 - Talladega Superspeedway - Talladega, Ala.
 The  Camping World Truck Series will run its second and final restrictor-plate
 race of the season on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
 With five races to go, rookie Ty Dillon holds a mere one-point lead over James
 Buescher. Their closest competitors -- Timothy Peters, Joey Coulter and Parker
 Kligerman  -- have  significant  deficits  to overcome.  Peters  is 24  points
 behind, while Coulter trails by 38 and Kligerman 39.
 Dillon  has  yet to  make a Truck  Series start at  Talladega but has previous
 experience at this track.
 "We  won  at Talladega  last year in  the ARCA Racing  Series," he said. "It's
 really  a fun track to race if you can stay out of trouble. I think we can run
 up  front this weekend  if we're smart and race the racetrack. Pack racing can
 be  a lot of fun if you know how to do it right. You need to be sure you don't
 get caught in the wrong place and the wrong time."
 Buescher  has run  well at Talladega in the past, finishing 15th (2009), sixth
 (2010)  and third (2011).  He leads the series with four wins this season. All
 of his victories have come on 1.5-mile tracks.
 "I  really enjoy  racing on superspeedways for the pure fast speeds and action
 pack  racing," Buescher said. "I am also on edge, because anything at any time
 can  happen  on them. This is  a place that  we can win,  and I hope we are in
 place to accomplish that."
 Todd  Bodine is  the only driver entered  in this race that has won a previous
 truck  event at  Talladega. Bodine  scored back-to-back  victories there  from
 In February, Bodine's then Red Horse Racing teammate, John King, won the first
 restrictor-plate  race  of the season at  Daytona. King lost his ride with the
 No. 7 team in May due to lack of sponsorship.
 Thirty-six  teams  are on the preliminary  entry list for the Fred's 250. Aric
 Almirola  and  Kurt Busch  are those  Sprint Cup  Series regulars scheduled to
 compete in this race.
 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit - Suzuka City, Japan
 After  winning last  week's Singapore  Grand Prix,  Red Bull  driver Sebastian
 Vettel  put  himself  right  back  in  the hunt  for  the  Formula  One  world
 Vettel,  who is  seeking his  third  consecutive title,  benefited from  Lewis
 Hamilton's  gearbox  failure early  in the  race and  then held off Hamilton's
 McLaren  teammate,  Jenson Button, after two  restarts to win in Singapore for
 the second year in a row. Vettel moved up to second in the driver's standings.
 He  is  29 points behind leader  Fernando Alonso from Ferrari. Alonso finished
 third in Singapore.
 Third  through fifth in points right now are: Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus (-45),
 Hamilton (-52) and Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber (-62).
 F1 now heads to Suzuka, Japan for the 15th round in the 20-grand prix schedule
 this year.
 Alonso  has not won  a race since the July 22 German Grand Prix but has kept a
 somewhat  comfortable points  lead due to Vettel and Hamilton's misfortunes in
 previous grand prix.
 "In  Monza  (Italian Grand Prix), it  was Lewis winning the race and Sebastian
 retired,  and  (in Singapore) it was  Sebastian winning and Lewis retiring, so
 for me, it's okay if they keep doing it like this," Alonso said.
 But  let's not forget what happened in 2010. With two races to go, Alonso held
 a  25-point  lead over  Vettel, but  Vettel won both  the penultimate event in
 Brazil and then the season-finale in Abu Dhabi to beat Alonso for the title by
 four points.
 Could history repeat itself in F1?
 "I  don't think  Fernando would be too  happy if it happened again in the last
 race,"  Vettel said.  "It's an incredible season  for all of us, and we have a
 lot  of races  left. The car seems to  be competitive, and we just have to use
 the momentum and keep pushing for these last races and see what happens."
 Last  year,  Vettel clinched his  second straight  F1 title with a third-place
 finish  in the Japanese Grand Prix. He entered the race needing only one point
 to secure the championship.
 "I  love  the Suzuka circuit," he  said. "I wish I  had won in 2011. It was my
 third  Formula  One race on my  favorite track, and  it still bothers me a bit
 that I took my world title with a third place."
 Alonso and Vettel have both won the Japanese GP twice. Alonso's victories came
 in 2006 and '08. Vettel scored back-to-back wins in Japan from 2009-10. Button
 is the defending race winner.
 "Suzuka  is  definitely a circuit that  puts hair on your chest," Button said.
 "It's  extremely uncompromising, like a street circuit. It doesn't allow for a
 single  mistake, punishing you for putting a wheel wrong at almost every point
 on the circuit. It's also extremely quick."
 Button  trails Alonso  by  a distant  75  points. He  finished  second in  the
 Singapore GP.
 10/02 19:02:57 ET

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