Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hoe you had a nice weekend. Here is a quick recap of some of the weekend’s top stories.

  1. Matt Kenseth won at New Hampshire for his fifth victory of 2015 and to punch his ticket to the Contender round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup after Kevin Harvick ran out of fuel with 3 laps to go. With Kenseth and Denny Hamlin moving on, 14 drivers will be battling for the remaining 10 spots next week at Dover.Right now though, the championship looks to be a battle between Joe Gibbs Racing’s four drivers, with Kenseth, who has won two of the last three races, in an excellent spot for his second championship.

2. The NHRA Countdown to the Championship saw its second round run at Gateway Motorsports Park. Top Fuel’s Antron Brown and Funny Car’s Del Worsham continued their hot streaks with wins, while pro Stock’s Drew Skillman took his first career win and Hector Arana Jr. won his second race of the year. Pro Stock and Motorcycle points are still lead by Erica Enders-Stevens and Andrew Hines.Next week for the series is a trip to Maple Grove, asĀ  Brown and Worsham look to make it three in a row.

3. After Sunday’s race, it was announced that Tony Stewart will be holding a press conference on Monday and announce that he will step away from NASCAR after 2016.

Anyone who has followed the sport recently knows that Stewart has struggled of late and has had several issues he has dealt with off the track. The one hope that many of us who have watched Stewart will have for next year is that he can close out his career as the competitive racer we have become so used to seeing.

Have a great week and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Good afternoon and thank you for reading as we look into the weekend’s top racing headlines.

  1. The second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be this Sunday at Loudon. One of the interesting things to watch throughout the race will be how restarts are handled. Last week, there was some controversy about a restart where it was determined Kyle Busch spun his tires and Jeff Gordon went before him. Judging by the restart issues the past few weeks, it may be time for NASCAR to adopt the IndyCar rule that the flag-stand controls the start. Doing this would cause less confusion among drivers and may even be more exciting for fans.

2. The second round of NHRA’s Countdown for the Championship will also take place in St. Louis this weekend. Right now, all four points leaders (Antron Brown in Top Fuel, Del Worsham in Funny Car, Erica Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle, who also won the event last weekend in Charlotte.

It will be interesting to watch the former champions try and parlay this success into a run at another. Other contenders like Tony Schumacher (TF), Jack Beckman (FC), Greg Anderson (PS) and Eddie Kraweic (PSM), who have also won championships and will be looking to continue their regular season success in the Countdown.

3. The Xfinity Series will be in Kentucky, while the Truck Series will run with the Cup Series in New Hampshire.The standalone event will be a great opportunity for some of the lesser-known drivers to get some exposure, while it will be great to see the points leaders like Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon contend for the win.

In the Truck Series, some of the young guns like Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemecheck (last week’s winner at Chicagoland) to go up against veterans like Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Kyle Busch to contend for a win.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top 10 Tuesday: Non-Chase Headliners

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Like it was last week, much of the focus will be on the 16 drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup over the next nine weeks. Here are some of the drivers who will be looking to attract some attention and compete for a win over the last nine races.

10 Brett Moffitt: One of the drivers who replaced David Ragan at Front Row Motorsports, Moffitt impressed early in the season when he subbed for Brian Vickers at Michael Waltrip Racing and finished eighth at Atlanta. Since then, Moffitt has finished no better than 17th driving for MWR and Front Row Motorsports.

With MWR closing its doors after Homestead, Ragan rumored to be in consideration to come back to FRM and current Xfinity Series points leader Chris Buescher a potential driver for the team next, Moffitt will look to prove he can be competitive with Front Row as 2015 winds down.

9. Trevor Bayne: Like Stenhouse, Bayne was expected to be part of the future for Roush-Fenway Racing. The 2011 Daytona 500 winner has not seen that same success since his breakout win in his second start. Bayne has recorded two top tens this year, his first in over three years, but will be looking for more success to close out his first full-time Cup season with Roush-Fenway.

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The two-time Xfinity Series Champion has struggled since moving up to the Cup Series. Though Stenhouse has shown some flashes, he and his Roush Fenway teammates have been mired mid-pack. Having a competitive nine-race stretch to end the year may be a tall task for the team, but if they can it could do wonders for Stenhouse moving forward.

7. Kasey Kahne: After winning his way into the Chase last year, Kahne missed out on the playoffs in 2015. The only one of Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers to not make the playoffs, Kahne has also been working with a new crew chief this season. The last ten races could be key in giving the team some traction before 2016 starts.

6. Danica Patrick: After starting off 2015 well, the third-year driver has slipped some and still has yet to post a top five in nearly three seasons in Sprint Cup. With a new sponsor slated for next season, having some late-season success to build on for next year will be key for her.

5. Aric Almira: Almirola, who made the Chase in 2014 after winning the July race at Daytona, has strung together consecutive top tens. With no Chase this time, Almirola will be looking for a second career win and some success to build on for 2016.

4. Austin Dillon: The only Richard Childress Racing driver to not make this year’s Chase, Dillon’s time in Sprint Cup has largely been underwhelming. The former Truck and Xfinity Series Champion ran up front some during Sunday’s race in Chicagoland, and the young driver will look to continue that same success and translate it into good finishes to close out 2015.

3. Tony Stewart: In the midst of several setbacks, Stewart has also not won in more than two years. Even bigger than that, his team has not been very competitive and rumors were swirling about retirement being near for Stewart. If Stewart is to prove his doubters wrong, he will have to at least run near the front a substantial amount these last few weeks of the year.

2. Kyle Larson: Heading into the season, Larson was considered by many to be primed for a breakout season. That has not happened for the sophomore driver, as he went winless and missed the Chase. After finishing seventh at Chicagoland, Larson proved he can be competitive. Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray is in the Chase, and Larson can use the end of the season to show he can be a contender next year.

  1. David Ragan: 2015’s most popular substitute driver is on his third team of the season, having driven for Michael Waltrip Racing since Talladega in May. Ragan is a free agent at the end of the season and MWR is shutting down at the end of the year, so Ragan will likely use the final quarter of the season to try and impress teams looking for a driver for 2016.

Enjoy the rest of your week and see you soon.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope you had a great weekend. Here are the top stories in racing this weekend.

  1. Denny Hamlin punched his ticket to the Contender 12 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win at Chicagoland on Sunday. Hamlin pulled away from Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch on a late restart. The streak of wins by the Penske and Gibbs teams is now 10 races. Though there are certainly several drivers outside of those teams capable of contending over the next nine weeks, it is all but officially a two-team fight.

After the race, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson were involved in an alteraction ending with Harvick, upset with earlier contact, shoving Johnson. Rivalries in NASCAR are often overblown, but with two intense competitors like Harvick and Johnson running near the front, it could be a major storyline later on as the two battle for a championship.

2. NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship began today in Charlotte, with Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens winning her third race in a row, while Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won to take the points lead in their respective classes.

The common link between the current points leaders is that they have all won championships in a professional NHRA class before. Although some may not have been the dominant driver, their past experience and early success will make each of them a major contender over the remaining five events.

3. Sebastian Vettel dominated in Singapore to take his third win of the season and break a tie with Ayrton Senna in career wins, as he now has 42. It may be too late for Vettel to make a run at Lewis Hamilton for the championship, but if he and Ferrari can build upon some of this weekend’s success, he could easily return to the form that won him four straight titles from 2010-2013 at Red Bull.

Have a great night and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great week. These are some of the big headlines for the weekend in racing.

  1. The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins this weekend in Chicagoland with the Contender Round. 16 drivers will battle over the next three races for 12 spots in the Contender Round. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have won the past nine races and I would be shocked if that streak ended, aside from Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson, who is looking for a record-tying seventh title.
  2. The Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will also be in action at Chicagoland for a triple-header. Chase Elliott won last week at Richmond and could be primed for a run at consecutive titles before replacing Jeff Gordon in Cup. In Truck Series, Erik Jones won the last time out at Mosport and took over the points lead. The way Jones has dominated, it could be the year of the young guns in the two lower series.

3. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series begins their Countdown to the Championship in Charlotte. 10 drivers in each of the four professional series will compete over the final six national events for the championship.

In Top Fuel and Funny Car, the Don Schumacher Racing teammates of eight-time champ Tony Schumacher and 2012 title winner Jack Beckman have dominated of late. While in Pro Stock, defending champion Erica Enders-Stevens is coming off her first US Nationals win and in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Kraweic will look to win his fourth series title and first since winning back-to-back in 2011-2012.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top 10 Tuesday: NHRA Countdown’s Best Championship-less Drivers

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

While the much-publicized Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship starts this Sunday in Chicagoland, another motorsports series starts their own playoff this weekend as well. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series begins their Countdown to the Championship this Sunday in Charlotte. To celebrate, here is a look at the top active drivers who have yet to win a championship since the Countdown began in 2007.

10. V. Gaines: One of the more underrated drivers in the series, Gaines has posted just four wins in over 19 years of competition, but did make the countdown each of the last three years before barely missing out in 2015.

9. Bob Tasca III: Tasca made his name quickly on the Funny Car circuit, reaching the Countdown in three of his first four years, as he notched four career wins. Funding has limited Tasca’s schedule, but he has made occasional appearances in the series.

8. Tommy Johnson Jr.: After six years away from drag racing, Johnson Jr. has experienced a career revival over the past few years. While driving for Don Schumacher Racing in 2014 and 2015, he has increased his career win total by three to nine, including two this season. With the way his team has been dominating, Johnson Jr. will be a legitimate contender for the Funny Car title.

7. Courtney Force: One of three of John Force’s daughters to compete at NHRA’s professional level, Force has won seven national events and was named Rookie of the Year in 2012. Courtney has yet to post a victory this year and missed out on a spot in the Countdown, but more wins and a possible title are very likely to be in her future.

6. Morgan Lucas: Lucas stepped away from full-time competition after 2013 season to focus on running the team, but before that he had started to become a serious contender in Top Fuel. From 2009-2013, Lucas qualified for the Countdown each year and won 16 events. As a part-timer and teammate to Ritchie Crampton, he has won three. Lucas earned his latest victory at the US Nationals two weeks ago.

5. Spencer Massey: The week before the US Nationals, Massey was dismissed from Don Schumacher Racing for a second time due to an unspecified violation. Over eight seasons in Top Fuel, Massey notched 18 career wins and finished runner-up to Antron Brown in the 2012 championship.

4. Dave Connolly: Until this year, Connolly had made his name in Pro Stock, including a win in the 2014 US Nationals. At this year’s event, he made it to the final round and clinched the 10th and final spot in the Top Fuel Countdown, as he looks to add to his resume of 26 professional class wins.

3. Angelle Sampey: Although Sampey was not involved in drag racing from 2009 to 2014, she did spend the late 1990s and early 2000s dominating Pro Stock Motorcycle. Her 41 wins are second only to the late Dave Schultz. Sampey did not make it to this yea’s Countdown, but has shown some flashes of her past dominance earlier in 2015.

2. Doug Kalitta: Kalitta, whose late cousin Scott won Top Fuel titles in 1994 and 1995, was a part of one of the most memorable championship battles before the Countdown era began. In 2006, Tony Schumacher used a national elapsed time record to help propel him to a championship in the final race at Pomona. Kalitta also finished runner-up in the 2003 and 2004 standings and despite 35 national event wins, has not won a championship.

1. Ron Capps: Capps is likely the most accomplished active driver who still has not won a championship. Despite 43 national event wins, Capps’ best finish is second in points four times, with the most recent being in 2012, to teammate Jack Beckman.

Have a great night and see you soon.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are some of the top headlines after this weekend in racing.

1. Matt Kenseth earned his fourth win of the season, as Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman clinched a spot in the Chase at Richmond. Kenseth is tied for the top seed with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch based on wins.

2. As far as contenders for the championship, it may be an upset at this point if the winner comes from outside the Gibbs and Penske teams. The two organizations have combined to win the last nine races. Although, Hendrick Motorsports’ six-time champion Jimmie Johnson is always a contender at Chase time.

3. Chase Elliott earned his first Xfinity Series win of the season at Richmond on Friday. Elliott will look to use the victory to propel him to a second consecutive championship. Right now, his deficit to points leader Chris Buescher is at 21, but Elliott has won at Chicagoland before.

Have a great week and see you soon

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great week. This weekend will be a big one for motorsports so here are the headlines.

1. The regular season for the Sprint Cup closes out tomorrow night in Richmond. With eleven winners already in and Jamie McMurray expected to clinch a spot after starting, there are four spots up for grabs. Based on the way things have gone the last few weeks, do not expect a 12th spot to be taken by a race winner.

2. There is already some concern for one of the drivers locked in the Chase. Denny Hamlin suffered a torn ACL earlier this week while playing basketball. This is the second time Hamlin has had this injury, but he will delay surgery until after the season. It will be worth watching just how much the injury affects Hamlin.

3. The Xfinity Series will also run at Richmond tonight. Chris Buescher will look to extend his 29-point lead over Ty Dillon. Buescher won at Iowa earlier this year, a similar track to Richmond, so he may be the driver to beat among the regulars.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top 10 Tuesday: Dream Chase Schedule

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

On Saturday night, the field for the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup will be set in Richmond. Many within NASCAR have voiced displeasure with the current 10-race playoff schedule. With that in mind, here is a look at my dream 10-race Chase schedule, listed from the first to last race. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section or on Twitter.

10. Texas Motor Speedway: Track President Eddie Gossage has been known as a great promoter of his events, so putting the second Texas race at the beginning of the Chase would be a great move, especially considering it would cancel the conflict with the Formula One race in Austin. The race ideally would also be in the daytime, where the track’s racing has been more exciting.

9. Iowa Speedway: From Texas, the series would move to a new track on the schedule. Iowa has quickly become a popular track for many drivers and one that people have been clamoring for on the Cup Schedule. Here it gets a date as the second race in the Chase, and give the schedule a nighttime short-track event.

8. Chicagoland Speedway: This year’s Chase opener gets moved back two weeks. A second straight race in the Midwest and in one of America’s biggest media markets gives NASCAR extra promotion for the final seven weeks, especially since the race will be the end of the first round of the playoff.

7. Dover International Speedway: Another holdover from this year’s Chase Schedule, Dover has a reputation for being one of the most grueling tracks on the schedule. That and its proximity to some of the bigger media markets in the Northeast help cement its place in the Chase.

6. Martinsville Speedway: NASCAR’s oldest track keeps its second, albeit a few weeks earlier. The tradition and excitement of the Virginia short track help keep its place in the Chase.

5. Charlotte Motor Speedway: Charlotte keeps its date and the October race will be kept on Saturday night under the lights. A 500-mile night event would be a great way to end the second round of the Chase.

4. Talladega Superspeedway: One of the Chase’s “Wild Card” events keeps its place in the Chase. The unpredictability and close-racing often found at Talladega has made the event one of the most exciting for fans, and one of the most frustrating for teams.

3. Phoenix International Raceway: Moving up a week, the race at Phoenix International Raceway would still stay in the Chase. Last year’s event provided some thrilling racing as drivers looked to make their way into the Championship 4 at Homestead.

2. Sonoma Raceway: One of the biggest debates about the Chase scheduling has been the addition of a road course. Here, the series not only gets a road course in its playoffs, but also gets an October date with favorable weather in California as a last race before the championship finale.

1. Auto Club Speedway: Over the past few years, the race at Auto Club Speedway has become one of the most thrilling on the schedule. Given that, as well as its proximity to Los Angeles and its history hosting the IndyCar finale in the past, Auto Club Speedway would be a perfect place to cap off the season.

Have a great week and see you soon.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are some thoughts on the weekend in motorsports.

1. Carl Edwards climbed back from two laps down to win at Darlington. It was the second win of the year for Edwards, who also won at Charlotte. With the expertise of crew chief Darian Grubb and the proven ability to win some of the year’s marquee races, Edwards could be primed for a title run once the chase starts in two weeks.

2. Tomorrow will be the final race before NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship. With more than a dozen spots across all four professional categories, tomorrow could be a huge day for some upsets as many look to clinch a shot at a series title.

3. Lewis Hamilton dominated to win the Italian Grand Prix in Monza on Sunday, as teammate Nico Rosberg fell out of the race late in the running with an engine issue. Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg is now 53 points and a third title is well within reach.

Have a great Labor Day and see you soon.

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