Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: Kenseth, Earnhardt and Busch in jeopardy; Hamilton close to F1 title

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Dave von Falkenstein
October 15, 2015

With two races to go before the second elimination of drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, things are getting strange. Following next Sunday's race at Talladega, the lowest four drivers in Chase contention will be eliminated, leaving eight drivers eligible for the championship.

While Joey Logano won Sunday's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, three title favorites recorded poor finishes that could ultimately eliminate them from title contention. Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch all had issues and now occupy the bottom three spots in the Chase standings. Cambridge native Kenseth suffered the biggest blow, going from first in points to last in the span of one afternoon.

Those three drivers, along with Ryan Newman, have to make up some ground Sunday at Kansas Speedway before heading to Talladega Superspeedway. The million-dollar question is can any of them win either race to cement their place in the next Chase round?

Between the bottom four at Kansas, Kenseth has two wins and Newman has one win. As for Talladega, Earnhardt has won there five times, most recently in the spring, while Kenseth and Busch have each won there once. While the battle at Kansas will likely be between Logano and Kevin Harvick, I'm hoping Kenseth can break up that party and get his sixth win of the season to avoid elimination.

If I were a betting man, I'd say that Earnhardt and Kenseth have the best chance to rise up and avoid elimination considering the upcoming races. Busch never seems to have great races in the Chase and even though he's already surprised so many this season, I just don't know if he can get the job done.

Newman and Jeff Gordon (seventh in points) are the only drivers who have not won a race yet this season, but you know Gordon wants to get at least one more win before he rides off into the sunset at the end of the season. I'm hoping it comes at Martinsville in a few weeks, where he would take the ninth win of his career there.

No matter what happens this weekend, all bets are off when the series hits the “wildcard race” at Talladega. It wouldn't be at all surprising if the majority of the Chase drivers ended up crashed out by the end of the day. That will create a huge shakeup in the points and make things very interesting.


Lewis Hamilton won Sunday's Russian Grand Prix for his ninth win of the season while his teammate Nico Rosberg had throttle issues and did not finish. Sebastian Vettel finished second to leapfrog Rosberg in the points, but still sits 66 points behind Hamilton.

Hamilton's win in Russia was the 42nd of his career and moved him past Ayrton Senna and ties him with Vettel on the all-time wins list. It was also Hamilton's 20th win in 34 races, dating back to the 2014 season opener.

There is a chance that Hamilton could clinch the championship at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, coming up a week from Sunday.


Actor/racer Patrick Dempsey and his Dempsey Proton Racing team broke through at Fuji Speedway in Japan on Sunday and took the GTE-Am class victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Fuji. It was the first career win for Dempsey, who started racing part-time in 2007 and has competed in various sports car series since then.

This is the first full season that Dempsey's team is competing in the WEC. They competed full-time in the United SportsCar Series Championship in 2014 and in the American Le Mans Series in 2013.

Dempsey and his team have competed three times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing a career-best second in their class this year.

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at [email protected].

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