Fuel & Tires: Sprint Cup, Formula One winding down


Ralph Lauer

The racing season is winding down with a just few NASCAR Sprint Cup races and a couple Formula One races remaining.


After winning at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Jimmie Johnson will be trying for his seventh Sprint Cup title at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in just over two weeks. Between Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway and next weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway, three more drivers will advance to the Championship 4 to challenge Johnson.

The current field of eight drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup includes Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards. Of those eight drivers, Johnson, Edwards, Hamlin and Kurt Busch have all won the fall race at Texas. Five of those eight have at least one Sprint Cup title.

While Kenseth, Logano and Kyle Busch have never won at Texas in the fall, they have all won there in the spring while Harvick is the only Chase driver to have never won there. Regardless, Johnson surely has the upper hand as he has won at Texas a total of six times, including the last four fall races.

While a win this weekend will secure a spot in the Championship 4, it's next week's race at Phoenix that will really be the battle. If Johnson continues his win streak Sunday, which he's likely to do, three spots would remain open heading to the penultimate race. That means there will certainly be some points racing, which many people don't want to see. No matter what happens, these next few races will be nothing short of exciting.

Coverage of the AAA Texas 500 starts at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBC.


Two big moves in the Verizon IndyCar Series were confirmed this week with Juan Pablo Montoya staying on at Team Penske, though only for one race, while Takuma Sato heads to Andretti Autosport.

Montoya's move is a bit of a surprise to me since (as of now) he'll only be competing in the Indianapolis 500, though he will be with the best team on the grid. There's also talk that Montoya may be an integral part of setting up team owner Roger Penske's foray into sports cars.

Sato's move isn't necessarily a surprise as A.J Foyt Racing, whom he has raced for the last four seasons, announced they are switching to Chevrolet engines for 2017. The Japanese native has been connected with Honda since his days in Formula One, where he raced from 2002-2008, so a move to a Honda team was all but necessary.

The seats that are still unaccounted for include the Nos. 14 and 41 of Foyt's team, the No. 8 of Chip Ganassi Racing, the No. 21 of Ed Carpenter Racing, and the No. 19 of Dale Coyne Racing. While Carpenter will compete in the six oval races, his No. 20 seat is open for the other eleven races. The status of the entire KV Racing team and the No. 11 car is unknown, as one of the team owners is believed to be leaving the team.

Carlos Munoz, who has driven for Andretti the past three seasons, is rumored to have the inside line on one of the Foyt seats, completing what would be a Foyt-Andretti switch. As for the rest of the vacancies, I only hope that drivers like Conor Daly, Sage Karam, J.R. Hildebrand and Spencer Pigot figure in somewhere. Only time will tell.


Coming off a second-place finish at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, Nico Rosberg holds a 19-point lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton took the win in Mexico as well as the previous race in Texas.

With two races remaining in the season, Rosberg's points lead is by no means a sure thing to win the championship. On the other hand, with a separation of seven points between finishing first and second, Rosberg could sew up the title by winning next race even if Hamilton finishes second.

However, we'll have to wait to find out as the series is off this weekend, but returns with the Brazilian Grand Prix on Nov. 13 before the season finale in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 27.

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