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This week in motor racing

Gearing Up

June 20, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

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

1. While NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series races in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday, the sport's second-tier Nationwide Series visits Milwaukee on Saturday night -- with all eyes on Joey Logano.

Logano became the youngest winner in Nationwide history last weekend when he won from the pole in Kentucky in only his third series start. The victory came only 21 days after he turned 18.

The driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano already has a nickname: "Sliced Bread," as in "the best thing since . . ." Most consider him a lock to join the Cup series full time one day, and Gibbs has said it might let the Connecticut native drive in some Cup races near the end of this season.

That might seem like a lot to ask of a teenager, but Logano said he doesn't mind.

"I like all of the pressure," he said. "I feel weird without it. It shows that I'm here and we're running up front right off the bat."

2. The IndyCar Series holds its eighth race of the season Sunday at Iowa Speedway in Newton, just east of Des Moines.

The series had its debut race at the 7/8 -mile Iowa oval last year, with Dario Franchitti beating Marco Andretti by less than one second to claim the victory. Franchitti now drives in NASCAR.

"Iowa is a very unique circuit," said Andretti, who drives for Andretti Green Racing.

"You really have to put an emphasis on track position because it is very difficult to pass."

3. The Formula One series returns to Europe for the French Grand Prix on Sunday at the Magny-Cours circuit in central France.

A key question is whether the BMW Sauber team of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld can maintain its hot streak against the powerful Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes teams.

Kubica won the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal two weeks ago and Heidfeld was second. It was the first F1 win for Kubica -- the series' first Polish driver -- and for BMW Sauber.

The victory also lifted Kubica, 23, into the series point lead ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who are tied for second.

"Consistency is an important factor, and I hope that we are also able to make further improvements to the car," Kubica said. "After all, who knows if I will ever get a chance like this again?"

4. One of the venerable stops on the NHRA drag-racing schedule, Englishtown, N.J., will host this weekend's Powerade Series event, the Lucas Oil SuperNationals.

Larry Dixon and Tommy Johnson Jr. are the defending winners in the top-fuel and funny car classes, respectively.

As the series moves closer to its late-season title playoff, called the Countdown to the Championship, reigning top-fuel champ Tony Schumacher holds the point lead again this season. Antron Brown, who moved to top fuel from motorcycles this year, is second.

5. In local racing Saturday, late-model stock cars lead multi-race lineups at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale and Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, and Perris Auto Speedway features USAC/CRA sprint cars.

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LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

Robby Gordon, on preparing for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race

at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma:

'Pretty simple strategy: Go there, sit on the pole, win the race.'

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STAT OF THE WEEK

IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira, above, has gone 83 races without a victory, the longest drought of any driver in the series.

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Have a motor sports question for Jim? E-mail him at james.peltz@latimes.com

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