This Week in Auto Racing July 21 - 22

10:14 PM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While the Sprint Cup Series takes a break this weekend, the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series compete at Chicagoland Speedway. The IZOD IndyCar Series heads to Edmonton, Canada, while Formula One travels to Germany.

NASCAR

Nationwide Series

STP 300 - Chicagoland Speedway - Joliet, IL

A lot of money is up for grabs again in the Nationwide Series this weekend.

Chicagoland Speedway hosts the second of four consecutive "Dash 4 Cash" races in Nationwide. Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr. are those eligible for the $100,000 bonus from Nationwide Insurance, the title sponsor of NASCAR's second-tier series. The highest finisher among those four drivers in Sunday's 300-mile race at Chicagoland will collect the cash award.

Dillon, a rookie in the series this year, won the first $100,000 bonus last weekend with his third-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Sadler, Stenhouse and Michael Annett were the other drivers eligible.

"It was pretty cool that you have a one in four chance to win a hundred grand, and it was a fight until the end at New Hampshire, and I'm sure it will be the next couple of races," said Dillon, who is the 22-year-old grandson of NASCAR multi-team owner Richard Childress.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 28) and Iowa Speedway (Aug. 4) are the last two races in the D4C. Dillon is the only driver with a chance at $1 million, should he claim the bonus at Chicagoland and Indianapolis and then win the race at Iowa.

The bonus winner as well as the next three highest finishers among Nationwide regulars at Chicagoland become eligible for the next round at Indianapolis.

Dillon has yet to compete in a Nationwide race at Chicagoland, but he did win the Camping World Truck Series event there in September 2011. Dillon went on to capture the truck championship last season. He enters this race just three points behind leader and Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler.

"Once we get (to Chicagoland), we'll be using some of the same stuff that Elliot learned last year and add that to what we learned in our Truck Series start at Chicago and try to build on it and have a shot to win," Dillon said. "I think the guys racing for the 'Dash 4 Cash' will be up front racing for the win. I think among Stenhouse, Elliot, Hornish and me...there's going to be some great racing going on, and especially for that extra bonus."

Sadler finished 11th at Chicagoland in June 2011 and then placed sixth there last September. Stenhouse, who is currently 16 points behind Sadler, finished eighth and 14th at this 1.5-mile racetrack this past season.

Hornish competed in his first Nationwide race at Chicagoland ten months ago, finishing fifth.

Kyle Busch is the only Sprint Cup Series regular entered in the Nationwide race at Chicagoland. Busch, who is driving his own No. 54 Toyota, has won at least one race in each of NASCAR's three national touring series at this track. His Nationwide victories there came in 2008 and '10.

"I like racing Chicago and think our intermediate-car program at (Kyle Busch Motorsports) is competitive enough that we can have a good finish," Busch said. "Hopefully, we can get the monkey off our back now and put another win in the column for the KBM Nationwide team, here in Chicago.

Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the STP 300.

Camping World Truck Series

American Ethanol 225 - Chicagoland Speedway - Joliet, IL

Timothy Peters has emerged as a strong contender to win this year's Camping World Truck Series championship after winning last weekend's race at Iowa Speedway.

Peters became the eighth different winner in nine races this season. He also moved atop the point standings. Peters holds a 12-point lead over Justin Lofton, while rookie Ty Dillon is 14 markers behind.

James Buescher is the only repeat race winner so far this season, earning his victories at Kansas and Kentucky. Buescher led the most laps at Iowa but crashed in the late going and ended up finishing 30th. He is now 40 points out of the lead.

"We know that the competition is going to get tough," Peters said. "The series has already proven that this season. With the tough competition, that means the mistakes need to be very slim on our part. If we keep running like we are and putting down the finishes that we have, we hope that next win is around the corner. It would be nice if we could knock off a couple wins in the summer stretch. Momentum from a win is going to keep us moving in the right direction."

Peters's worst finish so far this season is 11th, which came last month at Texas.

The series is running at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. Peters has three truck starts at this 1.5-mile racetrack, with his best finish of ninth coming in 2009.

"I've always liked Chicago," he said. "It was a great track for us to go test at before it got added to the Truck Series schedule. I've only had one good finish there when I joined Red Horse Racing in 2009. This year we have changed things around in our 1.5-mile program, and we have gotten our best results at these types of tracks. So, I am really looking forward to going back."

Todd Bodine, who is Peters' teammate at Red Horse Racing, is expected to make his 200th career truck start on Saturday night. Bodine, the 2006 and '10 series champion, has scored 22 victories, 90 top-five finishes, 121 top-10s and seven poles. He won the June 1 rain-shortened race at Dover.

Bodine has also competed in 241 Sprint Cup Series races and 321 Nationwide Series events to date.

Thirty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the American Ethanol 225.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES

Edmonton Indy - Edmonton City Centre Airport - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Ryan Hunter-Reay has indeed been the hottest driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series lately.

Hunter-Reay has won the last three races in the series -- Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto. The Andretti Autosport driver has also accumulated 154 points in those three events to put him atop the championship point standings. Five races remain this season, with Edmonton scheduled for this weekend.

Before the June 16 race at Milwaukee, it looked as though Hunter-Reay would be a long shot for this year's IndyCar championship, as he sat seventh in the rankings and trailed then-leader Will Power by 75 points. Hunter-Reay experienced a suspension problem and wound up finishing 27th in the Indianapolis 500 the last weekend in May. Two weeks later, he had another mechanical issue that led to a 21st-place finish at Texas.

Right now, Hunter-Reay, a 31-year-old Floridian, holds a 34-point lead.

"It's been the best run of my career, but it's not something that's happened by accident," Hunter-Reay said. "I'm just like a lot of people who reach their own American dream through hard work. It took a lot of persistence and perseverance to get to this point. Credit has to go to (team owner) Michael Andretti, who hired me three years ago and told me he was going to bring this team back to its championship form."

No driver has ever won four consecutive races in the 17-year history of the IndyCar Series. However, several drivers in the now-defunct CART/Champ Car Series won four events in a row. Sebastien Bourdais last did it in 2006, posting victories at Long Beach, Houston, Monterrey and Milwaukee.

Alex Zanardi won four straight CART races in 1998, and Cristiano de Matta accomplished the feat in that series in 2002. Al Unser Jr. is the last American driver with four consecutive victories, do so during the 1990 CART season.

"I'm definitely honored to be carrying the American flag at the front right now, and every time I get on the podium, I raise it because I'm proud of it," Hunter-Reay said. "I think what hits home for me is when I was a kid, before I started racing go karts, my dad took me to a couple of IndyCar races in Miami, and I watched the series as a fan of the series. I was really focused on the American drivers.

"I liked to watch Michael (Andretti), Bobby Rahal, Rick Mears, Al Unser Jr., the big names. I feel like now that I'm in IndyCar and doing well, hopefully, there is some kid sitting there doing the same thing, so that's kind of cool."

Hunter-Reay's victories have been on a mixture of racetracks. Milwaukee and Iowa are ovals, and Toronto is a road/street course.

This Sunday's race will be contested on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn course at Edmonton City Centre Airport. Power won last year's race on the newly- reconfigured Edmonton circuit. The track had been a 1.96-mile, 14-turn course when IndyCar competed there from 2008-10.

"The old track was like the toughest driving track, just corner after corner, high speeds and bumpy and as tough as you get as a driver," Power said. "The new circuit, I think it creates good racing. It's like Toronto, and we all love Toronto. But if you would just drive around that track just by yourself, you probably couldn't think much of it. But as an actual racetrack, to race on it, it's one of the best for the single fact that it's great racing, and that's what the new Edmonton track has got."

Power also scored three straight victories earlier this season, winning at Birmingham, Long Beach and Sao Paulo, but the Australian finished 28th in the Indy 500 after wrecking early in the event. He has yet to win a race since then. In fact, Power has placed 12th, 15th and 23rd in the last three events.

Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Edmonton Indy.

FORMULA ONE

German Grand Prix - Hockenheimring - Hockenheim, Germany

The 2012 Formula One season resumes this weekend with the German Grand Prix, which returns to the 2.842-mile, 17-turn Hockenheimring circuit.

With nine of 20 grand prix completed this season, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari holds a 13-point lead over Red Bull's Mark Webber in the world championship standings. Webber won the British Grand Prix earlier this month and joined Alonso as the only drivers with multiple victories so far this year.

Webber's teammate, Sebastian Vettel, the two-time defending F1 titleholder, trails Alonso by 29 points, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is 37 points behind the leader. Hamilton won last year's German GP, which was contested on the 3.2-mile Nurburgring circuit.

"(This) weekend will mark my 100th grand prix," Hamilton said. "That's incredible, because I still remember my first as if it were only yesterday. I guess Formula One has that effect on you.

Hamilton started on the pole and won at Hockenheim during his 2008 world championship season.

"It's always been a regret of mine that I arrived in Formula One too late to race on the classic, old Hockenheim layout, where the track disappeared for miles into the forests and was only broken up by a couple of relatively high- speed chicanes," he said. "It must have been incredible battling around that track with minimal downforce, locked in a slipstreaming battle with another car and waiting for just the right moment to pounce and overtake. Still, I very much enjoy the updated track."

Vettel is among the five Germans competing in front of their home crowd. Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, the seven-time F1 champion, as well as Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Timo Glock from Marussia are the others.

"Hockenheim is only half an hour away from my home town (Heppenheim), so I have a lot of friends and family there, and it's always a special crowd to race in front of," Vettel said. "I've driven on that circuit in different series, and it's always been great. The campsites near the new circuit are fun, and it's special to meet the fans there. I haven't won the German GP before, and of course, I would like to."

Vettel has finished second, third and fourth in the last three German GPs. Schumacher has won this race four times (1995, 2002, '04 and '06).

"People often ask me whether there is any such thing as a home advantage in such an international sport as ours, and my answer is, perhaps not a home advantage but certainly a home-race feeling," Schumacher said. "As a German driver, you naturally have a different sense of excitement when you arrive at the German Grand Prix, and know that all the spectators in the grandstands are supporting you. That makes you proud and always boosts your motivation even higher."

Schumacher finished third in the June 24 European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain. It was his first podium appearance since coming out of retirement in 2010. Schumacher took a three-year break from the sport following the '06 season.

When the German GP was last held at Hockenheim two years ago, Alonso won it under a cloud of controversy. Felipe Massa was robbed of a potential win after his Ferrari team instructed him to move aside and allow his teammate, Alonso, to take the lead with 20 laps remaining.

Shortly before Alonso made his winning pass, Massa's race engineer, Rob Smedley, told his driver over the radio that "Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand the message?" Massa finished second.

Hours after the race had concluded, F1's governing body, the FIA, determined Ferrari breached sporting regulations and fined the Italian team $100,000. Race stewards determined Ferrari gave team orders to Massa, which interfered with the race result.

Ferrari maintained their action did not constitute a team order.

Alonso won the German GP for the first time in 2005 when he drove for Renault.

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