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This week in motor racing

Gearing Up

June 13, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

What's happening in motor sports heading into this weekend:

1. NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series rolls into the Irish Hills of southern Michigan for Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway.

Carl Edwards is the defending winner at the two-mile oval, which is a near replica of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Jamie McMurray, his teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, plans to carry a "Thanks Dad" paint scheme on his No. 26 Ford Fusion in honor of Father's Day.

This will be the season's 15th race and, after 26 races, the top 12 drivers in points are eligible for the Chase for the Cup to decide the championship over the final 10 races.

Four-time winner Kyle Busch leads the points, followed by Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Edwards.

NASCAR's second-level Nationwide Series, meanwhile, heads to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for the Meijer 300 on Saturday night. Stephen Leicht is the defending winner of the race.

2. Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart is 12th in points and thus still in the hunt for another title -- but just barely. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is only seven points head of David Ragan and 10 points ahead of Ryan Newman, this year's Daytona 500 winner.

Stewart -- who said in April that he was considering leaving Gibbs for another team, perhaps before his contract expires at the end of next year -- is struggling to consistently finish races in the top 10. He was 38th at Talladega, 41st at Dover two weeks ago after an early crash, and 35th last week at Pocono. Stewart does have four top-five finishes.

Stewart could reach a milestone at Michigan. He's only 10 laps shy of leading 10,000 laps in his Cup career, which would place him 13th on the all-time list.

Also, Stewart plans to donate his prize money from Sunday's race to the American Red Cross in his hometown of Columbus, Ind., which recently was hit by severe flooding.

3. Newman's team owner, Roger Penske, said he was not concerned about the potential loss of the primary sponsor on Newman's No. 12 Dodge.

The sponsor, wireless phone company Alltel, last week agreed to be acquired by Verizon Wireless. NASCAR, with wireless carrier Sprint as its series sponsor, is unlikely to allow Verizon to take over sponsorship of Newman's car.

Penske told that his team could absorb the loss of Alltel's sponsorship and that the sale should not affect negotiations with Newman to extend his contract, which ends after this season.

4. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous endurance race, starts Saturday on the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe road course in France.

Four classes of sports cars, typically with three drivers each, compete in the grueling race. The top-tier LMP1 class, which features exotic prototype cars, has been dominated in recent years by Audi, which won again in 2007 with its diesel-powered R10.

5. In local racing Saturday night, dads will be admitted free for Father's Day at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, where late-model stock cars head the multi-race program.

Perris Auto Speedway in Riverside County plans to host motorcycle racing, and sprint cars and midgets are featured at Ventura Raceway.



Denny Hamlin, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, after last week's hot, grueling race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway:

'As soon as you get vertical outside of that race car, it just seems like all the blood leaves your head and goes somewhere else.'



The last NASCAR Sprint Cup win for Penske Racing's Kurt Busch, above, came in August at Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday's race.




LifeLock 400

When: Today, qualifying (Speed, noon); Sunday, race (TNT, 9:30 a.m.).

Where: Michigan International Speedway (D-shaped oval, two miles, 18-degree banking in turns), Brooklyn, Mich.

Race distance: 400 miles, 200 laps.



Meijer 300

When: Saturday, qualifying (ESPN2, 2 p.m.), race (ESPN2, 5 p.m.).

Where: Kentucky Speedway (oval, 1.5 miles, 14-degree banking in turns), Sparta, Ky.

Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps.



Cool City Customs 200

When: Saturday, qualifying, 7:30 a.m., race (Speed, 11:30 a.m.).

Where: Michigan International Speedway.

Race distance: 200 miles, 100 laps.


All times Pacific

Associated Press


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