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This Week in Auto Racing Oct. 4 - 6

<p>Sprint Cup Series</p>

Sprint Cup Series

Hollywood Casino 400 - Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, Kan.

Matt Kenseth has another shot at winning three in a row.

Last Sunday, Kenseth finished seventh at Dover after winning the first two races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship -- Chicagoland and New Hampshire. He'll now try to score his third consecutive victory at Kansas Speedway.

Kenseth won last year's Chase race at Kansas in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing. The April 21 event here marked his second victory as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Entering Sunday's 400-mile race at Kansas, which is round 4 in the Chase, Kenseth holds an eight-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who won at Dover. Kyle Busch is 12 points behind his JGR teammate Kenseth.

Sprint Cup teams arrived at Kansas a day early on Thursday for a Goodyear tire test. This will the third time the series runs on this 1.5-mile racetrack since it was repaved during the middle of the 2012 season. Teams familiarized themselves with Goodyear's new multi-zone tread tire for this race.

"I would have rather left everything alone for us, especially after (Thursday)," said Kenseth, who was 13th on the practice charts at 180.711 mph. "It was a struggle. I was glad we got the extra practice. Whenever anything is working good for you, then you kind of like to leave everything the same. But yet when you come back it's the same for everybody. You just have to figure it out."

Johnson posted the quickest lap at 182.648 mph. Chase drivers Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch were second and third fastest, respectively.

"Goodyear and NASCAR didn't like the fact there wasn't any tire wear, and that is why they tested a couple of times and having this test day for us," Johnson said. "They are trying to create the right tire fall-off, so we can have that side-by-side racing that is everybody's goal."

Five drivers have two victories at Kansas: Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Johnson and Kenseth. No driver has yet to win three races here.

Kenseth has finished no worse than seventh in the last six races at Kansas. He started on the pole and led 163 of 267 laps at this track in the spring.

"Kansas obviously was brand new, paved, and reconfigured for last fall," Kenseth said. "We had a fast car there last year, and then circumstances worked out where we had to pit and fix some damage, and ended up being in the front. It's pretty tough to pass with the new pavement, and this past spring, we just had an unbelievably fast car and were fortunately able to turn it into a win."

Kansas is the second of five mile-and-a-half tracks on the Chase schedule. The remaining intermediate tracks are: Charlotte (Oct. 12), Texas (Nov. 3) and Homestead (Nov. 17). Four of Kenseth's series-leading seven wins this season have come at mile and a halfs.

Johnson's victories at Kansas occurred in September 2008 and October 2011. He has finished ninth or better in the last nine races here. Johnson placed third in the spring event.

While Kenseth and Johnson have been impressive at Kansas, Kyle Busch has not. Busch has scored just two top-10 finishes in 12 races at this track. He finished 31st in last year's Chase event at Kansas and then 38th here earlier this season.

"We definitely had a great start to our Chase thus far with three top-fives in a row," Busch said. "We go to one of our worst racetracks on the circuit. Probably going to be our second biggest test, we feel like, in the Chase. We're ready for it. We're focused and excited about being able to get there and have a great weekend in Kansas."

Kevin Harvick is presently fourth in the Chase standings (-39 points), followed Gordon (-39), Biffle (-41), Ryan Newman (-48) and Clint Bowyer (-51).

Ninth through 13th in points are: Kurt Busch (-55), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-57), Edwards (-65), Joey Logano (-66) and Kasey Kahne (-78).

Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Hollywood Casino 400.

Nationwide Series

Kansas Lottery 300 - Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, Kan.

The battle for the Nationwide Series championship is heating up between Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon.

A sixth-place run for Dillon coupled with a 17th-place finish for Hornish last Saturday at Dover allowed Dillon to trim Hornish's lead to just four points.

Five races remain. Four of them will be contested on 1.5-mile racetracks, beginning with this weekend's event at Kansas Speedway. After Kansas, the series will head to Charlotte (Oct. 11), Texas (Nov. 2) and Phoenix (Nov. 9) before the season wraps up at Homestead (Nov. 16). Phoenix is one-mile in length.

Hornish has only one win this season, which came in March at Las Vegas (a mile-and-a-half track). Dillon has yet to score a Nationwide victory in 2013.

"I think it's going to take top-five finishes, and by top-five finishes, I don't mean you can finish fifth every weekend for the rest of the year and win the championship," Dillon said. "I think you need to finish in the top-three consistently.

"Sam Hornish, Jr. and I are both really competitive, and in order to win the championship, the No. 3 (Richard Childress Racing) team is going to have to finish ahead of him every weekend. Kansas Speedway is a mile-and-a-half track where we have performed well at in the past. I'm really comfortable there and looking forward to this weekend's race."

Dillon has gradually crawled back up the Nationwide standings since his 21st- place finish at Mid-Ohio in mid-August. He dropped from first to fourth in the rankings at that time. After the Sept. 14 event at Chicagoland, Dillon was 17 points behind Hornish but has trimmed 13 points from his lead in the two races since.

Both drivers competed in a Nationwide race at Kansas for the first time last year. Dillon finished second, while Hornish placed ninth.

"Kansas is one of the tracks that we have run better than we have finished," Hornish said. "It has changed a lot over the years, and with the resurfacing they did there last year, it is fast. This weekend is going to be a good one for us, as our intermediate track program has been solid this year. We know what we have to work on, and we plan on making the most of it come Saturday. We are coming down the stretch for the championship, and every position counts."

Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard are those Sprint Cup Series regulars competing in this event.

Keselowski is driving the No. 22 car for Penske Racing. That car has been to victory lane in 11 Nationwide races this season, including the last two events. Ryan Blaney won at Kentucky, and Joey Logano scored the victory at Dover.

Busch (2007) and Keselowski (2011) have won a Nationwide race at Kansas in the past.

Forty-two teams are on the entry list for the Kansas Lottery 300.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES

Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston - Reliant Park - Houston, Texas

After taking a month-long break, the IndyCar Series is back on track this weekend with not one race but two.

The series will run its third and final weekend doubleheader this season at a new venue -- Houston's Reliant Park. Houston is race 17 and 18 on the 19-event schedule this year. The season concludes on Oct. 19 in Fontana, Calif.

After finishing ninth in the most recent IndyCar race, the Sept. 1 Grand Prix of Baltimore, Helio Castroneves increased his lead in the championship standings to a season-high 49 points over Scott Dixon, who finished 19th. Dixon started on the pole but was involved in a wreck with Will Power following a restart late in the event.

"Wow, it seems like a long time since we last raced in Baltimore a few weeks ago," Castroneves said. "It's been tough waiting, but it will make it even better once we get on track."

Castroneves has scored 12 consecutive top-10 finishes and has completed every lap in the first 16 races this season. The Team Penske driver has one win, which came in June at Texas Motor Speedway.

This is the third time Castroneves has led in points with three races to go. He was atop the standings at this juncture of the season in 2003 and '06. Castroneves has been in contention for the series title in four of the last five years.

"We know we need to have a strong weekend with two races in front of us and a close battle for the championship," he said. "We are focused and ready, and I'm looking forward to getting to know the new Reliant Park street course and see what we can do."

After winning the GP of Baltimore, Simon Pagenaud moved up to third in the standings. Pagenaud is 70 points behind Castroneves.

Sebastien Bourdais had a superb performance in Baltimore, finishing third after starting 22nd. Bourdais won both Champ Car Series races at Reliant Park from 2006-07. He has yet to win in IndyCar.

"I have great memories from Houston, having won the previous two events at this track, back in the Champ Car days," Bourdais said. "I sure hope to score some more podiums and why not a win."

Ten different drivers have been to victory lane in IndyCar this year, including first-time race winners James Hinchcliffe (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Takuma Sato (Long Beach, Calif.), Charlie Kimball (Mid-Ohio) and Pagenaud (Detroit/Race 2).

Each of the two races on the 1.683-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit at Reliant Park will be 90 laps (153 miles) in length.

Six drivers competing in this weekend's doubleheader have previously raced at Reliant Park -- Bourdais, Pagenaud, Power, Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson.

"I think it's great to add the Houston street circuit this year," Power said. "I remember racing there around Reliant Park in 2006 and 2007, and it seemed to be a really popular event with the fans and a cool venue for a race. It was a bumpy and challenging street circuit, and I think it's definitely going to make for an interesting weekend, especially with two races and so many points on the line for the championship."

IndyCar will conduct a standing start in the first Houston race. In race 2 on the streets of Toronto (July 14), pole sitter Dixon had a clean getaway and went on to complete his weekend-sweep there.

Twenty-four teams are on the entry list for the Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

FORMULA ONE

Korean Grand Prix - Korean International Circuit - Yeongam, South Korea

With six races to go, Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull is on the way to claiming his fourth consecutive Formula One world championship.

Vettel has won the last three grand prix -- Belgium, Italy and Singapore. He now holds a 60-point lead over Fernando Alonso from Ferrari and a 96-point advantage over Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Sunday's Korean Grand Prix is the next round on the 19-race schedule this season.

Last month in Singapore, Vettel put on a flawless performance by starting on the pole and leading all 61 laps. He crossed the finish line a whopping 32.6 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Alonso. The 26-year-old German earned his 33rd career victory, which put him in sole possession of fourth on F1's all-time race winners list. Michael Schumacher (91), Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41) have more victories than Vettel.

"In Singapore, we had something of a luxurious situation in that, towards the end, we could even take it a bit easier and reduce the speed. Let's hope that it's going to be the same this Sunday."

Vettel has won the last two Korean GPs. Last year, he scored four consecutive victories late in the season (Singapore, Japan, Korea and India) but claimed the championship by just three points over Alonso.

"We've done fantastic in the last few races, but that does not mean that you can bank on it to continue everywhere," Vettel said. "We do have a strong package. That is a fact. How strong? The weekend will show. Korea is a track that, in general, suits us."

Alonso won the inaugural Korean GP in 2010, his first season with Ferrari. The Spaniard is hoping to win in South Korea for a second time and gain ground on Vettel in the championship battle.

"We have to be realistic that we don't have the pace to beat them (Red Bull) in normal conditions, and if we do get any luck, you can be sure we will take it," Alonso said. "We will not give up the fight until it's mathematically impossible to take the title."

After Korea, F1 moves on to Japan (Oct. 13), then India (Oct. 27), Abu Dhabi (Nov. 3) and Austin, Texas (Nov. 17) before the season wraps up in Brazil (Nov. 24).

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