This Week in Auto Racing Nov. 7 – 9

(SportsNetwork.com) – All three of NASCAR’s national touring series are
running at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend, culminating with
Sunday’s elimination race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint
Cup championship.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 – Phoenix Int’l Raceway – Avondale, Arizona

The elimination race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup
championship takes place this Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Phoenix, a flat 1-mile racetrack, will decide which four drivers will battle
for the Sprint Cup Series championship in the Nov. 16 season-ending race at
Homestead.

None of the eight drivers who are currently in championship contention won at
either Martinsville (Oct. 26) or Texas (last Sunday). That means at least
three of the four positions for Homestead will be determined by points. If
none of the title contenders wins at Phoenix, then all four will be decided by
points.

Entering Sunday’s race at Phoenix, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin are tied in
points (4,072 each), while Ryan Newman is just two points behind them.

Logano and Hamlin can both clinch a final four spot for Homestead with
finishes of 11th or better, 12th with at least one lap led or 13th with the
most laps led. Newman’s clinching scenario is finishing ninth or better, 10th
with one lap led or 11th with the most laps led.

When the series most recently competed at Phoenix in March, Logano finished
fourth, Newman seventh and Hamlin 19th.

“Basically, we want to do what we did here in the spring,” Logano said. “We
had a good car that started up front and led some laps. We were able to have a
solid day and finish fourth. All we have to do is finish 11th, but our goal is
to come out here and win the race. If our goal was only 11th, we may not
finish there, so we have to make sure we set our goals high like we’ve been
doing for the rest of the season.”

Jeff Gordon is presently fourth in the Chase point standings (-12), while
fifth-place Matt Kenseth and sixth-place Carl Edwards are both only one point
behind Gordon. Brad Keselowski is seventh in the rankings (-17), followed by
Kevin Harvick (-18).

Harvick has the most victories in the series at Phoenix with five. He has won
three of the last four races here, including the previous two. Harvick is also
the only driver with a season-sweep at this track (2006).

Can he get another season-sweep here?

Harvick finished 33rd at Martinsville and fell 33 points behind the leader,
but he bounced back nicely with a second-place run at Texas.

“We’re excited,” Harvick said. “I think last week was a little bit unexpected
just for the fact that we made up a lot more ground than I think we
anticipated going in (to Texas). Came up a little bit short on the win, but we
couldn’t pick a better racetrack for us to come to next and need to try and
win a race. The team is in good spirits, and we are looking forward to this
weekend’s challenges.”

In Friday’s lone Sprint Cup practice at Phoenix, Harvick had the quickest lap
at 141.521 mph.

“I think you need to win this weekend,” he said. “I think it would leave a lot
less in everybody else’s hands. I think we are very capable of winning this
race, and we have been fortunate to have a lot of success here in the past
from my driving side and the first race this year. That would be the easiest
way to do it.”

Gordon came to Texas as the points leader and appeared to be on his way to
victory there when he held the lead late in the race, but Gordon suffered a
flat tire and spun out after Keselowski bumped into him while battling for
position following the restart for the first of two green-white-checkered
finishes. Gordon ended up finishing one lap down in 29th, while Keselowski
placed third.

After the race, Gordon had heated words with Keselowski on pit road while crew
members from both of their teams were engaged in a shoving match. Then Harvick
approached Keselowski from behind and pushed him. It sparked a huge brawl with
plenty of punches being thrown. Harvick was also irritated with Keselowski for
his actions on the track.

Both Gordon and Keselowski suffered cuts and bruises to their faces and lips
during the altercation.

On Tuesday, NASCAR suspended and fined three crew members from Gordon’s No. 24
Hendrick Motorsports team and one member from Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick
team for their involvement in the physical altercation. Gordon, Harvick and
Keselowski were not penalized.

“The thing that I feel terrible about is getting my guys involved with it,”
Gordon said. “I feel like if we could have just had a face-to-face
(conversation), there would have been no incident.

“Kevin played a role. There’s no doubt about that. I didn’t realize who it was
at the time. I thought it was him, but it wasn’t until I went back and saw it
later on video. I got a good chuckle out of that one.”

Gordon, at age 43, is attempting to win his fifth championship in the series
but his first since 2001. He finished fifth at Phoenix earlier this year.

“We did have a good run here earlier in the year, and we had a good test here
a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I feel like we had a lot of confidence
coming out of that test, and in practice (Friday), the track was reacting
different than what we had expected. It’s not going to be easy. This team
doesn’t seem to like to do anything the easy way, but we’re highly motivated
and excited about our chances.”

For the second time in this Chase, Keselowski is on the verge of being
eliminated from the championship. During the Contender Round, the No. 2 Team
Penske Ford driver and 2012 Sprint Cup champion finished 36th at Kansas and
then 16th at Charlotte before winning the Talladega race, which automatically
advanced him into the Eliminator Round.

Keselowski began the Eliminator Round with a 31st-place finish at
Martinsville. He leads the series with six wins this season.

“If this team is in the race, then we are more than capable of winning,”
Keselowski said. “We’ve demonstrated all year long that we can contend for
wins and that we are a viable threat to win every weekend…We are going into
the Phoenix race with our heads up, our hearts pure and our eyes focused. It’s
going to be fun.”

Keselowski started on the pole and finished third in the spring race at
Phoenix.

Forty-four teams are on the entry list for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes
500.

Nationwide Series

DAV 200 Honoring America’s Veterans – Phoenix Int’l Raceway – Avondale, Ariz.

Chase Elliott could make NASCAR history this weekend at Phoenix International
Raceway.

Elliott, the 18-year old son of former NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill
Elliott, is on the verge of clinching the driver’s championship in the
Nationwide Series. He enters Saturday’s 200-mile race at Phoenix — the
penultimate event of the season — with a 48-point lead over second-place and
JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith.

If Elliott, a rookie this season, leaves Phoenix with a 48-point lead or
higher, he will clinch the championship, regardless of any other driver’s
performance at either Phoenix or the Nov. 15 season-finale at Homestead.

Last Saturday, Elliott finished fourth at Texas and added six points to his
lead.

He is set to become the first driver in NASCAR national touring series history
to claim a series title and rookie-of-the-year honors in the same season.

The Elliotts (Bill and Chase) are destined to become the fourth father/son
combo to win NASCAR national series championships, joining the Jarretts (Ned
and Dale), Pettys (Lee and Richard) and Earnhardts (Dale and Dale Jr.).

“It would be phenomenal,” Chase Elliott said of his opportunity to win the
Nationwide Series championship this year. “It would mean the world to me, and
not just me, but our team and our sponsors, NAPA, and everybody that makes it
happen. We’ll give it our best shot to do so.

“We’d still like to have another win or two before the year is out, so that’s
our main goal. The biggest thing about the points, I think, is keeping it as
simple as knowing you get the most points for finishing highest up at the end
of the day. I think that’s about as simple and as much as you need to worry
about it.”

Elliott drives the No. 9 Chevrolet for JRM, a Nationwide team co-owned by
Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister, Kelley Earnhardt
Miller, and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick.

Forty-one teams are on the entry list for the DAV 200 Honoring America’s
Veterans. Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are those
Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this race. Busch has won the last
three Nationwide events at Phoenix.

Camping World Truck Series

Lucas Oil 150 – Phoenix Int’l Raceway – Avondale, Arizona

The Camping World Truck Series will kick off NASCAR’s tripleheader weekend at
Phoenix International Raceway on Friday night.

When the series competed at this flat 1-mile track one year ago, Erik Jones
made NASCAR history by becoming the youngest driver to win a national touring
series race. Jones was 17 years, 5 months and 9 days old when he took the
checkered flag for the 150-mile event here.

In September, 16-year-old Cole Custer surpassed Jones’ record when he won the
Truck Series race at New Hampshire.

Jones is in his second season as part-time driver of the No. 51 Toyota for
Kyle Busch Motorsports. His first win in the series last year came in just his
fifth start.

“That’s a memory that I don’t think will ever fade away for me, coming here
and just picking up our first win in the Truck Series,” Jones said. “We ran
five races that year, and to pick up a win in one of those five starts was a
goal I had set for myself. It was a tall order really the whole year. To get
it done and to pick up a win was pretty special. It really helped the 51
(team) pounce towards an owner’s championship too.”

On Thursday, Kyle Busch Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing jointly announced
that Jones will compete full time for KBM in the Truck Series and run a
partial schedule for JGR in the Xfinity (now known as Nationwide) Series.

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle will serve as Jones’ crew chief in trucks next year, but his
entry number and team sponsor in that series have yet to be decided.

This season, Jones has scored two wins (Iowa and Las Vegas) and seven top-10
finishes as well as one pole (Eldora) in 11 truck starts. He also made his
first two career Nationwide starts this year, driving the No. 20 JGR Toyota to
a seventh-place finish at Chicagoland in July and then an eighth-place run at
Bristol the following month.

“We’ve been working hard over the past probably three months now to get this
deal done, and it’s finally come together to where I’ll be in the full season
next year for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series as well as Joe Gibbs
Racing for some Nationwide races too,” Jones said. “Definitely an exciting
year ahead for me.

“I felt like it was coming, but we all worked hard for it and to finally have
it come together and get to run a full season in one of the NASCAR series is
pretty special for me. Happy to see it all come together and really looking
forward to it.”

Last weekend, Kyle Busch drove the No. 51 to victory at Texas. It was the
ninth win for the team this season. The No. 51 currently holds a 12-point lead
over ThorSport Racing’s No. 88 team, with driver Matt Crafton, in the owner’s
standings.

With just two races to go, Crafton, the defending series champion, has a 23-
point advantage over second-place Ryan Blaney. The season will conclude on
Nov. 14 at Homestead.

Thirty-four teams are on the entry list for the Lucas Oil 150.