This Week in Auto Racing June 6 - 8

This Week in Auto Racing June 6 - 8

<p>Sprint Cup Series</p>

Sprint Cup Series

Pocono 400 - Pocono Raceway - Long Pond, Pa.

Thirteen races down and 13 to go before the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins.

The second half of the regular season kicks off this weekend at Pocono Raceway.

After being winless in the first 11 races this season, Jimmie Johnson has been hot with two victories in a row -- Charlotte and Dover. Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion, will try to win his third consecutive race, a feat that he nor any other driver has not accomplished since the fall of 2007. He won four in a row at that time -- Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix.

"I know that we've had some great runs, and usually when we're hot, it carries from track to track," Johnson said. "I certainly hope we can keep it rolling. [Pocono] is a great place for us."

Johnson has won at Pocono three times. He scored a season-sweep here in 2004. His most recent victory at this 2.5-mile triangle-shaped track came one year ago.

When the series competed here last August, Johnson started on the pole and dominated the first half of the race by leading 43 laps, but he cut his right- front tire and made contact with the wall. Johnson pitted numerous times for repairs but rebounded nicely for a 13th-place finish.

"Last year, we had some great speed in our race cars and really thought we had an opportunity for the sweep but unfortunately blew a tire off of turn 1 while having a dominant day," he said. "It took us out of the opportunity for the win, but I think we came back for an awesome finish with a torn up race car.

"It's a new year with a new rules package, so we'll have to get to work on that, and hopefully, we'll have what we need here."

Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Johnson are those drivers who have multiple victories in the series this season (2 each). Johnson is the highest-ranked of the three in the point standings. He sits fourth in points, compared to sixth for Logano and 12th for Harvick.

"We have some momentum right now," Johnson said. "Pocono is a great track for the No. 48 [Hendrick Motorsports] team. I know it is Chad's [Knaus, crew chief] favorite racetrack to go to because all three corners are different, the loading is different, the banking is different, and there are a bunch of tools and options to adjust the race car all the way around the track. That is what Chad really enjoys about that."

Right now, Hendrick Motorsports is virtually assured of having three of its four drivers in the Chase, which starts on Sept. 14 at Chicagoland. Jeff Gordon (2nd in points) scored the victory at Kansas last month, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fifth in points) won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.

Kasey Kahne, who drives the No. 5 car for Hendrick, has struggled somewhat this season, as he currently sits 18th in the point standings. Kahne has not won since the August 2013 race at Pocono (28 races ago).

In the first Sprint Cup practice session at Pocono on Friday afternoon, Brian Vickers recorded the fastest lap at 180.854 mph. Brad Keselowski was second quickest, followed by Harvick, Kurt Busch and Johnson. Kahne placed 20th on the charts.

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

Camping World Truck Series

WinStar World Casino 400 - Texas Motor Speedway - Fort Worth, Texas

The Camping World Truck Series will hold its first "stand-alone" race of the season on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

After Texas, the series will be the feature event at Gateway Motorsports Park, just outside of St. Louis, on June 14. The truck race at Kentucky Speedway on June 26 will kick off NASCAR's tripleheader weekend there.

Kyle Busch has won the last three races in the series -- Kansas, Charlotte and Dover -- but Busch is not competing at Texas, as the Sprint Cup Series is running at Pocono Raceway this weekend.

Erik Jones is driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Texas. Jones, who turned 18 years old on May 30, is scheduled to make his seventh career start in trucks but his first on an intermediate track. Last November at Phoenix, Jones became the youngest race winner in series history. His first start this season came in March at Martinsville, where he finished 18th.

KBM's No. 51 and No. 54 trucks have combined to win seven of the last nine races in the series, dating back to Darrell Wallace Jr.'s historic win on Oct. 26, 2013 at Martinsville.

"Racing on my first mile-and-a-half track is something I have been looking forward to for a long time now," Jones said. "It was great that NASCAR opened up the age to 16 for the Truck Series on short tracks, but still the main goal is to get on these big tracks. That's where the bulk of the schedule is, so I think it's something that every driver looks forward to. Kyle and this No. 51 team have had a lot of success on the mile-and-a-half tracks already this year, so I hope to go out and keep that streak alive."

While competing at Texas Motor Speedway, Jones will miss his high school graduation on Friday. However, just before driver introductions for the truck race here, Jones will walk across the pre-race stage in his cap and gown from Swartz Creek (Mich.) Community Schools to receive his high school diploma from track president Eddie Gossage, as "Pomp and Circumstance" plays on the PA system.

"I really only dreamed about running a NASCAR race, so I definitely couldn't imagine getting a high school diploma at one," Jones said. "I think it fits pretty well. The balance of my life since I was about seven [years old] has been those two things. It'll make for a great story someday and something that will make the torture of getting through high school more meaningful.

"Talking with friends the other day, they were wondering if I was going to be walking with my class. After I told them what was going to happen, they thought it was pretty awesome. I really can't think of a better way to get a diploma than at a racetrack, ready to go racing."

Just 27 teams are entered for the WinStar World Casino 400, which is nine short of a full 36-truck field.

Jeb Burton, the 21-year-old son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, scored his maiden victory in the series one year ago at Texas, driving for Turner Scott Motorsports at the time. Burton is now behind the wheel of the No. 13 Toyota for ThorSport Racing.


Firestone 600 - Texas Motor Speedway - Fort Worth, Texas

Helio Castroneves put his season in high gear this past Sunday when he won race 2 in the IndyCar Series' weekend doubleheader at Detroit's Belle Isle Park.

Castroneves ended his 17-race winless drought after leading 42 of 70 laps and beating his Team Penske teammate, Will Power, to the finish line by 1.7 seconds in the second event in Detroit. The Brazilian captured his 29th career win, moving him into a tie with Rick Mears for 11th on the series' all-time race winners list. It was his first victory since June 2013 at Texas Motor Speedway.

With the win, Castroneves climbed up to second in the IndyCar championship standings, 19 points behind Power.

"We are on it. We are not playing around," Castroneves said after his win in Detroit.

The series will race at Texas on Saturday night. It is the second oval event of the season.

Two weeks ago, Castroneves came up 0.06 seconds short of winning the Indianapolis 500. He was attempting to win the Indy 500 for a record-tying fourth time. Ryan Hunter-Reay won it for the first time in his career.

Castroneves followed up from his second-place finish at Indianapolis with a fifth-place run in the first race in Detroit. He started on the pole and led the most laps in race 1 with 30. Castroneves is hoping his momentum will continue at Texas.

"I'm very confident with my team," he said. "The Hitachi car, we know what we got, especially after Indy. Ovals, we've improved quite a lot."

Castroneves won an IndyCar race at Texas for a record fourth time last year. He grabbed the lead on lap 97 and then ran in front for the remaining 132 laps. His other wins at this 1.5-mile oval came in 2004, '06 and '09.

"Wow, I've won there four times," Castroneves said. "I guess Texas has been good to me."

Castroneves has yet to win an IndyCar championship. Last year, he held the points lead for most of the season but ended up losing the title to Scott Dixon by 27 points.

"[Castroneves] is just very strong. The guy has passion for winning and motorsports itself, which this sport is very tough on you," said Power, who took over the points lead after winning race 1 in Detroit. "A guy like him that hasn't won a championship, he's been so close. He'll be a contender this year. To me, he's better than when I first turned up on the scene."

On Friday morning, Tony Kanaan led the way in the first practice session at Texas. Kanaan, who is driving the No. 10 car for Chip Ganassi Racing this season, posted a lap at 219.382 mph. Dixon was second quickest, followed by Ryan Briscoe, Marco Andretti and Castroneves.

Twenty-two teams are on the entry list for the Firestone 600.


Canadian Grand Prix - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - Montreal, Canada

Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg claim they have resolved their differences from Monaco two weeks ago, and both drivers are looking forward to this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

There has been growing tension between Hamilton and Rosberg during the season, and it reached a new height in the Monaco Grand Prix. Rosberg started on the pole and led all 78 laps to win the Monaco GP for the second year in a row.

After the race had concluded, Rosberg and Hamilton kept their distance from each other. There were no congratulations or handshakes.

Hamilton was furious with Rosberg in qualifying for the Monaco GP when Rosberg, who held the provisional pole, ran wide and had to pull over on to an escape road. Hamilton was making his final run at the same time as his teammate's incident, but Hamilton had to slow his pace, as the yellow flags were displayed, preventing him from a possibility of winning the pole.

In Monaco, Rosberg ended Hamilton's four-race winning streak. Rosberg also reclaimed the lead in the Formula One world championship standings. He has accumulated 122 points for the season, compared to 118 for Hamilton.

"I would say that the feeling of having won Monaco is better than the feeling of leading the standings, as it means having broken the rhythm of Lewis - to put a stop to his winning streak," Rosberg said.

Both drivers have recently spoken, in hopes of resolving their issues from Monaco.

"We did talk to put that behind us," Rosberg said. "More than that, I don't want to say. I want to find a sound compromise between the interests of the fans and the team's interests, because there is always the tendency that the media blow up stories unnecessarily. Remember what frenzy was created in Monaco. We did talk about that. And now it's history."

Hamilton did note that the feud between Rosberg and him has been "overblown" by the media.

"We spoke after the race, and just like friends, we have our ups and downs," Hamilton said. "We've known each other a long, long time, so it's done and dusted. We look forward to working together to try to help this team win the constructors' championship."

Mercedes has been the dominant team this year, with Hamilton or Rosberg winning the first six grand prix and qualifying sessions.

On Friday, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari had the quickest lap in the first practice session. Alonso made a lap around Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1 minute, 17.238 seconds. Hamilton was second on the charts and Rosberg third.

In the second practice session, held later in the day, Hamilton had the fastest lap in 1:16.118, followed by Rosberg's lap in 1:16.293. Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull was third in that session. Vettel, the four-time and defending F1 world champion, won last year's Canadian GP for the first time.

Hamilton is the only active driver who has multiple victories in the Canadian GP. Hamilton scored his first career F1 grand prix win and pole victory in this race in 2007. He also won in Canada in 2010 and '12. All three of those wins came when he drove for McLaren.

"I guess there are certain tracks you like more than others and this is one of those circuits I particularly like," Hamilton said. "I really like coming out to Canada, I always have a great response from the fans here."

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