Fort Worth, TX (Sports Network) - All three of NASCAR's national touring
series are in action this weekend. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are
racing at Texas Motor Speedway, while the Camping World Truck Series is
running at Rockingham Speedway. The Formula One season resumes with the
Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Sprint Cup Series
NRA 500 - Texas Motor Speedway - Fort Worth, Texas
The Sprint Cup Series will run its first nighttime (points-paying) race of the
season this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR's new race car, the Gen-6,
will also return to intermediate track competition.
After winning last Sunday's race at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson reclaimed the
points lead, as he holds a six-point advantage over defending series champion
Brad Keselowski. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 12 points behind Johnson, his Hendrick
Johnson became the first repeat winner of the season. He won the Feb. 24
Daytona 500. Johnson also took the checkered flag for the most recent Sprint
Cup race at Texas five months ago. Can the five-time series champion pick up
another victory there on Saturday night?
"I feel good about it," Johnson said. "We ran really well at Vegas, and
California didn't go as well as we wanted, but it's a much different racetrack
than what we have at Texas. I would say that Texas and Vegas are closer
together than Texas and California. We'll go there and see. We're still
learning this car on the big tracks. At Fontana, we were certainly trying some
things, and are smarter leaving there, and I know that these guys (No. 48
Hendrick Motorsports team) will work hard and give me a great car this coming
Texas is the second 1.5-mile track on the schedule this year, following Las
Vegas (March 10). The series will run at another mile and a half, Kansas, on
With the Gen-6, Texas will likely feature this season's fastest non-
restrictor-plate lap times. The track qualifying record here is 196.235 mph,
set by Brian Vickers in November 2006. Sprint Cup teams tested at Texas on
Thursday to get more familiar with the new car here.
"The surface (at Texas) is a little bit older than places like Charlotte,
Michigan and Kansas," Johnson noted. "I think you will see a lot of four-tire
calls and that could make a difference in the race. It's a fast track, and
it's going to be challenging to keep the car underneath you and not get
yourself in trouble. I really like the track. I think it's really going to be
another great race."
Greg Biffle won last year's spring race at Texas, adding to Roush Fenway
Racing's dominance here. Jack Roush has the most car owner victories at this
track with nine, compared to four wins for Rick Hendrick and three for Joe
Carl Edwards, who drives the No. 99 Ford for Roush, leads all drivers with
three Sprint Cup victories at Texas. He won both races here during the 2008
season. Last month, Edwards snapped a two-year, 70-race winless streak in the
series at Phoenix.
"I love racing at Texas, because everything about the race track is fun,"
Edwards said. "We're hoping for our second win of the season and fourth at
Texas. It's going to be a tough one on the crew chiefs and engineers to get
these cars perfect in the nighttime conditions, because we don't get to
practice like that. It's going to be a tough race from start to finish."
Five different Roush Fenway drivers have won at Texas: Biffle, Edwards, Jeff
Burton, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin. Biffle, Burton and Kenseth have two
victories each here.
"I attribute it to good teams, good drivers and communication with equipment,"
Biffle said. "Teams will get on to setups. Maybe their race cars cater to this
type of racetrack a little bit better. I've had a lot of success here. We
are sharing that information, so Carl (Edwards) has that setup. Carl has won
here, so we copied his setup. We learn together as a group, and I think it
helps us as an organization to be strong at particular race tracks."
Brian Vickers will drive the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in relief of the
injured Denny Hamlin. Vickers, a Nationwide Series regular this season, is
also scheduled to be in the car at Kansas and Richmond (April 27). Mark Martin
drove the No. 11 to a 10th-place finish at Martinsville. Hamlin continues to
recover from a compression fracture in his lower back due to an accident on
the final lap in the March 24 race in Fontana, Calif.
Forty-five teams are on the preliminary entry list for the NRA 500.
O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 - Texas Motor Speedway - Fort Worth, Texas
After a two-week break, the Nationwide Series resumes its schedule on Friday
night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch has been the hottest driver in the series this season, winning
three of the last four races, including the previous two (Bristol and
California). Busch, a Sprint Cup Series regular, is behind the wheel of the
No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in Nationwide this season. Last year, he
did not score a victory in NASCAR's second-tier series while driving for his
Most of Busch's record 54 victories in Nationwide have come with JGR. He won
five races in a row at Texas from 2008-10. Busch also has victories in the
Camping World Truck Series at this track but has yet to win a Sprint Cup event
"The Nationwide Series wins the last several years and getting the win in the
Truck Series the last couple of years have been real confidence-boosters
there," Busch said. "I've sort of learned how to drive it a little bit better,
and I know what I need in my race car to make it easier. The cars that JGR has
given me since I joined the team have also been a confidence-booster there."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth
and Busch are those full-time Sprint Cup competitors scheduled for this race.
Harvick also has five Nationwide wins at Texas. The Richard Childress Racing
driver led 127 of 200 laps in his victory here last November.
"We just had a good handling race car, and we were able to get the track
position and take control of the race," Harvick said. "Our car was really good
on the long run, so if we could hold off the cars behind us for eight or 10
laps, we knew we were going to be good, because the car was so strong as the
run went on. Hopefully, we can do that again this race."
Sam Hornish Jr. presently holds a 28-point lead in the Nationwide standings.
Hornish won at Las Vegas, a 1.5-mile racetrack similar to Texas, one month
ago. He is the only driver in the series with top-10 finishes in each of the
first five races this season.
"It feels great to know that we have a legitimate shot at winning every
weekend," said Hornish, who finished second in the most recent race on March
23 in Fontana, Calif. "We are having a good time, and I am ready to race."
Hornish has finished seventh in two of the last three Nationwide races at
Texas. He won an IndyCar event at this track three times (2001, '02 and '07).
Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the O'Reilly Auto Parts
Camping World Truck Series
North Carolina Education Lottery 200 - Rockingham Speedway - Rockingham, N.C.
Johnny Sauter could make Camping World Truck Series history this weekend at
Sauter has started the 2013 season with a bang, posting victories in the Feb.
22 race at Daytona and last Saturday's event at Martinsville. He joined Mark
Martin as the only drivers in the series to win the first two races of the
year. Martin accomplished the feat in 2006. No driver has begun the season
with three straight victories.
"This is great to start the year off with two in a row," Sauter said after his
win at Martinsville. "We still have 20 races left, and there's a lot that can
happen. We need to keep focused and take it all in stride."
This will be the second time the Truck Series competes at Rockingham Speedway.
Sauter finished fourth in the inaugural race at this one-mile track last year.
Sauter enters Sunday's 200-mile event at Rockingham with a 12-point lead over
rookie Jeb Burton, who is the only other driver with top-five finishes in the
first two races this season (fifth at Daytona and third at Martinsville). Matt
Crafton, who is Sauter's teammate at ThorSport Racing, is 17 points behind.
Joey Logano is the lone Sprint Cup regular entered in this race. Logano will
drive the No. 19 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing. He is Keselowski's teammate
at Penske Racing.
This will be Logano's second career start in trucks. He made his series debut
in October 2008 at Talladega, where he started sixth and finished 26th after
being involved in a multi-truck wreck. In that same year, Logano ran his first
race at Rockingham. He won an ARCA Series event there after starting on the
pole and leading 257 of 312 laps.
"I've always wanted to run more NASCAR Camping World Truck races, and to be
able to get back in a truck at a place like Rockingham is awesome," Logano
said. "I watched that race last year on TV, and I was so jealous of the guys
that were out there racing. Rockingham is one of the coolest tracks around.
I've run a lot of testing laps around there in Cup cars and Nationwide cars,
so I feel like I know what it takes. It should be a blast to get out there and
race with the Truck Series regulars."
Kasey Kahne won last year's truck race at Rockingham, driving an entry for
Turner Scott Motorsports. Kahne is not competing in this year's event there.
Forty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the North Carolina
Education Lottery 200.
Chinese Grand Prix - Shanghai International Circuit - Shanghai, China
The current relationship between Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark
Webber is the center of attention heading into this weekend's Chinese Grand
Prix -- the third round on the 2013 Formula One calendar.
Emotions are still high between Vettel and Webber following their altercation
in last month's Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel, the three-time defending F1
world champion, won in Malaysia after a controversial pass on Webber in the
late stages. After the race, Webber had heated words with his teammate,
claiming he disobeyed team orders.
Vettel has apologized to Webber and the team but continues to defend his
actions in the race. The young German has repeatedly said that he did not
understand the "Multi 21" message (team order not to overtake Webber) that was
issued over his radio.
"I personally don't consider myself as the bad guy in this situation, as I
don't think that I did something that in particular could be rated as bad,"
Vettel said. "I think I said more-or-less everything after the (Malaysian)
race, and I apologized to the team, which was important to me. I also took the
opportunity to visit the team and explain to them personally what had happened
from my point of view."
Vettel and Webber have been at odds with each other in the past, but after
Malaysia, their association has sunk to an all-time low.
"I do respect (Webber) a lot as a racing driver," Vettel admitted. "But I also
think there have been a few occasions in the past where he could have chosen
to help the team, but he didn't."
There had been speculation that Webber might depart Red Bull in wake of the
incident in Malaysia. However, the Australian said on Thursday that he has no
plans of leaving the team this season.
"I'm definitely keen to race this year and put together a very strong campaign
and challenge for more wins," said Webber, who finished second in Malaysia.
"In the summer, I will talk to (Red Bull top boss) Dietrich (Mateschitz) and
then go from there. If I'm driving well, performances are good, then we'll
make some decisions in the future. But at the moment, it's the third race, and
I've never made decisions on my career at this point in the season.
"Obviously, it's a bit of a topic at the moment for different reasons, but I
don't see why I should make any decisions at the moment for the future."
Both drivers are hoping to put their latest episode behind them and focus on
Sunday's 56-lap Chinese GP at Shanghai International Circuit. Vettel enters
the race with a nine-point lead over Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, who won the March
17 season-opener in Melbourne, Australia. Webber is 14 points behind Vettel.
"In Malaysia, there was plenty of interest from everyone, other teams, media
etc, but for me, it's not an unusual situation, and I'm looking forward to
racing here (in China) this weekend and getting on with it," Webber said.
"When you're at the front in Formula One, there's always stuff going down, so
it just depends on how much is going down that you've got to manage.
"In the end, for me, I'm looking forward to driving the car here, putting in
first gear and driving out of the garage and getting down there to feel what
the car is like on the circuit. That's what I'm looking forward to."
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