This Week in Auto Racing May 31 - June 2

3:42 PM, May 30, 2013   |    comments
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Dover, DE (Sports Network) - All three of NASCAR's national touring series are racing at Dover International Speedway, while the IZOD IndyCar Series is running its first doubleheader of the season in Detroit this weekend.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

FedEx 400 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.

With the regular season in the Sprint Cup Series now reaching the halfway point, Brad Keselowski is hoping to get back on track to avoid fear of missing out on this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, is currently 10th in the point standings and has yet to win a race this year. He is just three points ahead of 11th-place Kyle Busch, who already has two victories for the season.

The top 10 in points after the Sept. 7 race at Richmond will qualify for the Chase. The two wild card positions will go to those drivers between 11th-20th in points that have the most wins.

Keselowski sat third in points following his sixth-place finish in the April 21 race at Kansas, but he has finished 15th or worse in the four events since then, dropping him six positions in the standings. Last Sunday at Charlotte, Keselowski had his streak of 46 races without a DNF come to an end when he was caught up in an accident with Danica Patrick late in the race. He finished a season-worse 36th.

This weekend, the series will be at Dover for race 13 in the 26-race regular season. Dover could be where Keselowski's season moves in the right direction again. Here are two reasons why.

One.

Several key members on Keselowski's No. 2 Penske Racing team, including crew chief Paul Wolfe, are back after serving their suspensions for two points- paying races due to illegal parts found on his car prior to the start of the April 13 event at Texas. Car chief Jerry Kelley, team engineer Brian Wilson and team manager Travis Geisler were suspended as well. NASCAR had penalized each member with a six-race suspension, but National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook reduced it to two after Penske made its final appeal.

Kevin Buskirk served as Keselowski's crew chief at Darlington (May 11) and Charlotte, as well as the all-star race (May 18).

"It's going to be nice to get all of our guys back," Keselowski said. "We have one of the strongest teams in the garage. I'm very proud of everyone that stepped up during the last three weeks. We've really improved our depth at Penske Racing, but now everyone can go back to their normal jobs. Hopefully that means we can get some of our mojo back."

Two.

Keselowski won the most recent Sprint Cup race at Dover last September, which was the third event in the Chase. He has not been to victory lane since then.

"I'd like to have one, and I feel like this is the week to get it done," said Keselowski, who presently has a 19-race winless streak. "I feel like we've been very, very fast and very under the radar because we haven't one, qualified well, or, two, executed in the race."

Prior to his win in the fall 2012 race, Keselowski had finished no better than 12th in five starts at Dover.

If Keselowski fails to qualify for the Chase this year, he would be become the second driver to miss the playoffs in NASCAR's premier series following his championship season. In 2006, Tony Stewart did not make the Chase after winning the series title the year prior.

"I would certainly like to be in a better position than where I'm at right now," Keselowski noted.

Jimmie Johnson enters this race with a 32-point lead over Carl Edwards. Johnson won at Dover one year ago. He claimed his seventh victory at this track, placing him in a tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most wins here.

"I'm extremely proud of that," Johnson said. "I've worked hard to put myself in this position and so does the team, and we've been able to capitalize on those opportunities and hard work and get stuff done."

Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the FedEx 400.

Nationwide Series

5-Hour Energy 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.

Kyle Busch has an opportunity to break more records in the Nationwide Series this weekend.

Busch has been practically unstoppable in NASCAR's second-tier series this season, winning six races, including a victory last Saturday at Charlotte.

He claimed his seventh win at Charlotte, which broke a tie with Mark Martin for most victories in the series at that track. If Busch wins Saturday's 200- mile race at Dover, he will surpass Todd Bodine and Carl Edwards for most victories (three) here.

A driver from Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last seven Nationwide races at Dover. Last year, Joey Logano, in his final season with JGR, won both events at this track.

"This is a favorite track for most in the garage, because it's so unique with the concrete and high banking," Busch said. "JGR has obviously run well here, sweeping both events in 2012. So we have good notes to return with. I have high expectations for this one, since I feel I know the track pretty well and I know (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) has been successful here too. He won both of the races here last year. So I want another stab at it. and this time we can win it together."

If Busch takes the checkered flag at Dover, his seventh win will come in the 11th race of the season. The earliest a driver in Nationwide has captured his seventh victory of a season was in the 16th race of 1984 when Sam Ard won at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.

Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Logano join Busch as those Sprint Cup Series regulars scheduled to compete in this race.

After posting his eighth straight top-10 finish at Charlotte, Regan Smith holds a 29-point lead over Sam Hornish Jr. in the Nationwide standings.

Thirty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the 5-Hour Energy 200.

Camping World Truck Series

Lucas Oil 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.

Matt Crafton will celebrate a career milestone in the Camping World Truck Series on Friday at Dover International Speedway.

Crafton, the current points leader, is expected to make his 300th start. He will become the sixth driver in series history to reach that number of starts, joining Rick Crawford (336), Ron Hornaday Jr. (327), Terry Cook (314), Dennis Setzer (314) and David Starr (311).

All of Crafton's starts have come consecutively.

Crafton heads to Dover with 22-point lead over second-place and rookie driver Jeb Burton. In a record 12 starts at Dover, Crafton has posted two top-5 finishes and seven top-10s. His best finish at this one-mile, concrete- surfaced track is third, which came in 2011.

"Ever since I first went (to Dover), it's been the kind of racetrack where you can move around and find a better groove, and as a driver, that's all you can ask for," Crafton said. "That's what I love about Dover, the great side-by- side racing. That's what the fans come there to see, not everyone freight- training around the bottom of the racetrack. I was always leery of concrete, but Dover is an awesome racetrack, and Bristol is the same way. You can move around wherever you need to. So now I think concrete is pretty cool."

Crafton has finished no worse than ninth in the first five truck races this season. He won the April 20th event at Kansas.

Two weeks ago at Charlotte, Crafton finished fourth after bouncing back from a two-lap deficit. He fell one lap down after pitting under green just before a caution came. The ThorSport Racing driver also dropped a lap behind when he was forced to pit for a flat tire.

"I feel like there's nothing that could come up, at any racetrack, that this team couldn't overcome," he said. "If we continue to do what we're doing, at the end of the season, we're going to look back at nights and days like we've had at Charlotte and Martinsville and say that's why we continued to contend for this championship, because these guys never give up."

Thirty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Lucas Oil 200. Kyle Busch is the only Sprint Cup Series competitor scheduled to compete in this race.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES

Chevrolet Indy Dual/Detroit - The Raceway at Belle Isle Park - Detroit, Mich.

The IndyCar Series will hold its first doubleheader of the season this weekend at Detroit's Bell Isle Park.

It's the first time in IndyCar history two full-distance races take place at a venue on the same weekend. The street circuits in Toronto and Houston also will host doubleheaders this season. Toronto is scheduled for July 13-14, and Houston's Reliant Park, which is a new venue on this year's series schedule, is slated for Oct. 5-6.

The first 70-race at Belle Isle Park is scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and the second is slated for Sunday at the same time. If a driver wins both events here, that person will collect a $50,000 bonus.

Tony Kanaan comes to Detroit after a very busy week of appearances and media obligations following his victory in last Sunday's 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. The 38-year-old Brazilian won IndyCar's most prestigious race of the season for the first time in his 12th attempt.

Kanaan will now have to endure a physical weekend in Detroit.

"I hope I survive by the time I get there," Kanaan said. "I don't know what to think about the doubleheader. I think it's going to be extremely brutal on the drivers. One race is hard enough. Two in a weekend is going to be extremely tough."

With the win at Indy, Kanaan climbed up to seventh in the point standings. He is currently 44 points behind Marco Andretti, who took over the top spot after finishing fourth in the Indy 500.

Can Kanaan keep his momentum going in Detroit?

"I have to think so ,especially coming here with this good momentum, I think we definitely can," he said.

Qualifying for race 1 will follow the regular three-round format, including the "fast six" final segment, for road and street circuits.

Last week, IndyCar announced that qualifying for the second race in Detroit, Toronto and Houston will be split into two groups. Each group runs for 12 minutes, with five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time. Group 1 will consist of odd-numbered positions on the practice time sheet, while even-numbered positions will make up group 2.

The starting field positions for race 2 will be determined by the best time ranking of the two groups combined, from fastest to slowest. The fastest qualifier earns the pole position.

"It's going to be physically and mentally demanding, not only for the drivers but for the crews and for the cars," said Simon Pagenaud, who finished third in last year's IndyCar race at Belle Isle Park. "The biggest thing is if you crash in qualifying, then you can't really go racing. It's going to be very important to take as much risk as possible without crashing the car because that would be quite dramatic on the event itself.

"I'm looking forward to it. There's a lot of points available, obviously. Detroit is a racetrack I really enjoy being at, driving on. It should be an interesting weekend."

When the series competed at Belle Isle last year, the race was stopped shortly after James Hinchcliffe struck a piece of asphalt, sending him into the tire barrier in turn seven. Chunks of asphalt in turns 6, 7 and 10 were coming loose before Hinchcliffe's incident occurred on lap 40.

Track personnel repaired the affected areas on the circuit with an epoxy compound that required about 30 minutes of drying time. The race resumed on lap 46. However, IndyCar officials had to shorten the event by 30 laps due to darkness approaching and safety concerns.

Scott Dixon dominated the whole race, starting on the pole and leading all 60 laps. Dario Franchitti finished second to give Chip Ganassi Racing its second straight 1-2 finish. The week before Detroit, Franchitti and Dixon finished first and second, respectively, at Indianapolis.

Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit.

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