2011 motorsports activity heats up.
By Harrison Card
NASCAR’s regular season ended Saturday night with Kevin Harvick’s win at Richmond. Now, 12 drivers will attempt to bring home the Sprint Cup Championship, NASCAR’s post-season chase for racing greatness. Notably, Jimmie Johnson’s mastery of championship strategy has resulted in a thoroughly predictable finish for each of the last five years — he just wins it every time.
A new points system was supposed to shake up the racing in Sprint Cup this year. However, the chase is still full of familiar faces. Johnson, Edwards, Hamlin, Harvick, Stewart, Gordon, Kenseth all return from 2010’s chase. Earnhardt and Newman have both been to the chase before. Brad Keselowski is the only driver in his first chase.
With Johnson’s dominance now very tedious, the 11 other drivers will be gunning to knock Johnson off , perhaps for the good of the sport, and to bring back some credibility to the chase format, which Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have mastered and dominated.
This year’s chase brings Chicagoland Speedway as the first event, a change from years past. Fontana lost its second date this year with New Hampshire now hosting the event.
Charlotte remains the only night race and Homestead-Miami still hosts the final event, once again allowing the Sunshine State to begin and end the yearly schedule of races.
Over on the IndyCar open wheel circuit, no playoff format exists, but with three races left, Dario Franchitti and Will Power remain neck and neck. Franchitti has won the last two IndyCar championships. However, his once commanding points lead earlier this year has dwindled as Power picked up wins on a recent string of road courses.
IndyCar’s championship looks like it will be determined at the final race in Las Vegas, even without a playoff system. Power must perform well on the last two ovals, but due to the spring earthquake, the race in Japan will be run on the Motegi road course instead of the oval. This favors Power. Still, the return of IndyCar to Las Vegas for the final race will most likely provide for a hectic finish to the championship.
Across the pond, the Formula 1 World Championship is all but over. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing have dominated all season. Vettel looks almost certain to repeat as the driver’s champion. Vettel has racked up eight wins this season, with 10 starts from pole. His Red Bull RB7 chassis has been consistently faster than the competition.
Vettel’s latest victory at Monza this weekend proved the RB7 can beat everyone else, even on a fast circuit. Faster circuits were thought to be a weakness of the chassis, which is very quick in tight corners. Still, Vettel managed to win the race from poll anyway and pretty much ended the points race. Red Bull Racing looks certain for a second consecutive constructor’s championship as well.
While Formula 1 may have all but crowned its champion this weekend, there is still some excitement in the first Indian Grand Prix at the brand new Buddh International Circuit. Also, the classic layout of Suzuka circuit always provides a multitude of thrills due to its demanding lap.
As the major racing series wind down, more excitement is yet to come. While Formula 1’s championship battle may be over, both IndyCar and NASCAR have many races left before the champion will be crowned. Hopefully, the NASCAR chase will provide for more excitement than years past, with the eventual winner decided late in the final.