This Week in Auto Racing Oct. 25 - 27

Sprint Cup Series

Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.

After competing at its biggest racetrack, Talladega Superspeedway, last weekend, the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship has moved on to the smallest track on the schedule, Martinsville Speedway.

Sunday's 500-lap race at Martinsville -- 0.526-mile in length -- is the only short-track event in the Chase. It's also the one track that current points leader Jimmie Johnson looks forward to the most during the 10-race playoffs.

Johnson's 13th-place finish compared to a 20th-place run for Matt Kenseth at Talladega allowed Johnson to take a four-point lead over Kenseth.

It's the first time Johnson has led in the Chase point standings this year. Kenseth had been atop the rankings for the first five Chase races. Johnson is attempting to win his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship.

"When we're leading in points, it's certainly helpful," Johnson said. "It's a place where I'd rather be, in the lead defending, than trying to get points and get ahead. I like the position that we're in.

"In years past, the pressure has weighed on me differently. I think through the experience of winning those five (series championships) and being in the sport as long as I have been, that I'm really in a position that I want to be in, and I hope to stay here for the rest of the year."

Johnson has started on the pole and won the past two races at Martinsville. In April, he led 346 of 500 laps. Johnson ran in front for 193 laps in last year's Chase event here.

In 23 races at Martinsville, Johnson has scored eight wins, 16 top-five finishes, 20 top-10s and three poles. His average finish of 5.348 is tops among all active drivers at this track.

Johnson has won three consecutive races at Martinsville in the past. He claimed the victory in the October 2006 event and then scored a season-sweep here in 2007.

"It's been good to us in the past," he said. "We've got to go there and race. There is going to be a lot of strong competition. We will make sure we get buttoned up and ready to go for this weekend's race and go up there to that paperclip and see what we can do."

Every Chase-era champion has finished among the top-10 in the fall race at Martinsville. Brad Keselowski's sixth-place finish here one year ago is the worst by the champion. Tony Stewart won at this track en route to his third series title in 2011.

Kenseth has struggled at Martinsville in the past, recording just three top- five finishes and eight top-10s in 27 races. His best finish here is second, which came in the spring of 2002. He has finished 14th in the previous two events at this track.

After Martinsville, the Chase heads to Texas (1.5-mile track) and then Phoenix (1-mile) before the season concludes at Homestead (also 1.5-mile).

This is Kenseth's first season as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, and four of his series-leading seven wins this year have come at mile and a halfs.

"I think I have one of the greatest teams out here, obviously, and I feel like we can go everywhere else, and honestly, we can race with anybody when we're at our best," Kenseth said. "Hopefully, we'll be at our best the next four (races), and we'll give them a run for their money."

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are both 26 points behind Johnson, while Jeff Gordon, a four-time series champion and seven-time Martinsville race winner, trails his Hendrick Motorsports teammate by 34 points.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is sixth in Chase points (-52), followed by Greg Biffle (-53), Clint Bowyer (-57) and Kurt Busch (-61).

Tenth through 13th are: Carl Edwards (-68), Ryan Newman (-72), Joey Logano (-75) and Kasey Kahne (-101).

Chevrolet can clinch its 11th consecutive and 37th overall Manufacturers' Championship in NASCAR's top series this weekend at Martinsville. If the top- finishing driver for Chevrolet finishes ahead of the top-placing driver for Toyota, then Chevrolet will secure the title in the first year of the Gen-6 race car.

Aric Almirola will run the No. 41 Ford at Martinsville, rather than his customary No. 43, in honor of NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Maurice Petty, the chief engine builder for Petty Enterprises during its seven championships. Petty ran nine of his 26 career Cup races in the No. 41.

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.

Camping World Truck Series

Kroger 200 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.

What a week it's been for Johnny Sauter in the Camping World Truck Series.

Sauter won last Saturday's truck race at Talladega, and then two days later, his No. 98 ThorSport Racing team acquired new sponsorship with Nextant Aerospace for the 2014 and '15 seasons.

Sauter's three victories this year is the best among points-eligible drivers in the series. He began the season by winning at Daytona and the spring event at Martinsville, but struggled during the middle part of the year by finishing outside the top-10 in five straight races. Sauter fell back as far as 10th in the point standings. He is currently sixth.

After Sauter led in points for the first three races, his teammate, Matt Crafton, took over the top spot in the standings with his win at Kansas (April 20) and has been there since. Crafton finished ninth at Talladega and increased his points lead to 57 over Ty Dillon, who finished 14th there.

"It's awesome," Crafton said. It just shows what (ThorSport Racing team owners) Duke and Rhonda Thorson have done and gave us to work with to be able to lead the points. Johnny led the first quarter of the season, and I've led up to here, and that just shows what Duke and Rhonda Thorson have done and have been so loyal to the Truck Series. It's going to be huge for us if we can pull it off. We've just got to be smart and hopefully be lucky."

Martinsville has hosted two truck races each season since 2003. Mike Skinner is the only driver who has scored a season-sweep at this 0.526-mile short track.

"I think anytime you race somewhere twice in one season what you did in the spring race is very relevant as far as setups," Sauter said. "Strategy will probably be a little bit different. The race was 250 laps in the spring, and this time it's only 200. I think that puts a bigger emphasis on getting where you want to be in a hurry. I think you're going to see some guys gamble (Saturday) to try to make it a one-stop race."

Sauter won at Martinsville for the first time in the spring of 2011. Crafton finished second to him here earlier this year.

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are those Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in this race. Hamlin is driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He has won the last two fall events here. Harvick is behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet for NTS Motorsports. He has three truck victories at this track.

Thirty-eight teams are on the entry list for the Kroger 200.


Indian Grand Prix - Buddh International Circuit - New Delhi, India

It could be celebration time for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull this weekend in India, as the champagne is ready to be put on ice.

Vettel is in great shape to clinch his fourth consecutive Formula One world championship, while his Red Bull team is on the brink of securing its fourth successive constructors' title.

Heading into Sunday's Indian Grand Prix, which is the 16th round in this year's 19-race calendar, Vettel holds an insurmountable 90-point lead over his closest competitor, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari.

Vettel will capture the championship if he finishes fifth or higher in the Indian GP, even if Alonso were to win the race. If Alonso finishes third or lower, Vettel will still claim the title, regardless of his result.

After India, F1 heads to Abu Dhabi (Nov. 3) and then Austin, Texas (Nov. 17) before the season wraps up in Brazil (Nov. 24).

The Red Bull driver has been unstoppable lately, winning the previous five grand prix -- Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea and Japan. Based on his previous performances in India, it's likely he'll collect his sixth victory in a row. He started on the pole and won the first two Indian GPs (2011-12).

On Friday, Vettel was quickest in each of the two practice sessions at Buddh International Circuit. His teammate, Mark Webber, was second fastest in both sessions.

Wherever Vettel clinches the title, he will become just the fourth driver in the history of the sport to win four championships. He'll also be the third to win four in a row, joining his German compatriot Michael Schumacher as well as Juan Manuel Fangio. Alain Prost had quadruple titles during his F1 career.

"To tell the truth, I am happy that I am on that list of champions at all," Vettel said. "It was almost unbelievable when I won the first title, as it was almost my dream, becoming Formula One world champion. But when you dream these things as a kid, the chances that it really happens are rather slim, and when you really do it, then it's hard to put it into words or emotions."

There are many scenarios for Red Bull in clinching the constructors' title in India. The team presently has 445 points for the season, compared to 297 for nearest rival Ferrari. If Vettel or Webber wins the Indian GP, then Red Bull will earned its fourth championship, regardless of what Ferrari does.

"I think that should we achieve a quadruple double-championship it would be an amazing feat for every single member of the team to achieve such results against such illustrious opposition," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "But those thoughts really aren't in our minds at the moment. Our focus is very much on this event.

"The championship tables obviously look very healthy, but it's never done until it's mathematically impossible for anybody else to win. So the whole team's focus is very much on getting the most out of this weekend."

This 3.192-mile, 16-turn circuit is one of the most technically challenging tracks on the F1 calendar. It has the second-highest average speed of the year after Monza (Italian Grand Prix).

"It is not an easy track because of a few complicated rhythm-breakers that are in there," Vettel said. "The most difficult part is the uphill entry to turn 3, because seeing the apex is practically impossible. So to drive a perfect lap around the Buddh circuit, you need a good driving instinct.

"So far, everything has always gone perfectly for us in India. There is also a very nice trophy at the end of the race. So it would be great to hold one again this year. It's a circuit that I like, in a country that is very, very impressive every time we go there."

The last time a driver recorded six or more consecutive F1 grand prix wins was in 2004 when Schumacher scored seven in a row between the European and Hungarian GPs.

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