November 8, 2013

Auto Racing Roundup

Mishaps are equal-opportunity at Phoenix.

From news service reports

NASCAR would be thrilled if the Chase for the Sprint Cup went down to the final race, at Homestead-Miami Raceway on Nov. 17, with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth locked in a taut battle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lurking on the fringe.

“It’s going to be the best points race,” said Rick Hendrick, whose powerful four-car operation includes the Chase-leading Johnson and Earnhardt. “If they don’t have any trouble, it’s going to come down to Homestead.”

One hang-up to that scenario – someone is likely to have Chase-changing trouble.

Before going to Homestead-Miami, the Chase hits Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday. The best-laid plans of Chase contenders can be trashed at what has become one of the circuit’s trickiest tracks.

The track was reconfigured and resurfaced after the spring race in 2011. Since then, racing on the different one-mile layout has been challenging at the least.

There have been four Cup races at the reworked PIR. In that stretch, there have been 19 wrecks and six other cautions caused by spinouts. By comparison, there have been 18 wrecks and six spinouts in the last eight Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway.

“The new configuration is a little bit slicker,” said Kurt Busch, who is 10th. “If you hit it exactly right, you can be quick there. But if you’re off, it makes it treacherous and tough to pass when the track heats up.”

The challenges of PIR make this a wild-card race because mishaps play no favorites. Johnson and Kenseth as well as non-contenders are likely to be swept up in a crash or lose track position because of a caution.

Each has wrecked once on the new track: Kenseth in 2011; Johnson in the fall race last year.

MAC TOOL has extended its sponsorship with John Force Racing through 2017.

The partnership began in 1996, and Mac Tools has been with Force for 13 of his titles and 177 Funny Car national events.

Force heads into this weekend’s finale at Pomona, Calif., for a coronation of sorts after winning his 16h Funny Car championship. But he is at a crossroads. Longtime sponsors Ford and Castrol are leaving at the end of 2014, and he’s searching for replacements to keep John Force Racing running.

CONNELL J. O’DONNELL was named chief marketing officer of Hulman Motorsports and will be charged with leading a combined team of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff.

Jay Frye was named chief revenue officer and will lead IndyCar and IMS’ sponsorship sales, licensing and account services staff.

IMS’ suite and hospitality sales will remain an IMS function under track president Doug Boles’ direction.

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