Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel clinched his fourth consecutive Formula One driving championship in India last Sunday in what was probably the last Indian Grand Prix. The only surprise was the team strategy, changing tires after only two laps. And, after teammate Mark Webber parked his car with a mechanical issue, the team worried that the same problem would strike Vettel. Despite their cautions on the radio, he went on to set fast lap, and then entertained the crowd after the checkered flag. And against all regulations, he left his car on the track and went to celebrate with his team, prompting commentators David Hobbs and Steve Matchett to speculate on potential penalties.
It was Vettel’s sixth consecutive win this season, and he hopes to extend it to seven this weekend in Abu Dhabi. He won’t get his trophy until the end of the season, but he is nevertheless the 2014 F1 driving champion.
Unlike F1, the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is anything but settled. Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are tied in points, continuing their seesaw battle for the lead. Kenseth is currently ahead, with seven wins to Johnson’s five, but there are three races to go and anything can happen. Speaking of that, remember Jeff Gordon ... the guy who was added as the 13th member of the Chase in reparation for the shenanigans on the part of Michael Waltrip Racing at Richmond? Well, he is currently in third place, just 27 points back. If you don’t think he’s motivated to win his fifth championship, then you don’t know race drivers.
This weekend is a NASCAR triple-header at the very fast Texas Motor Speedway. The Camping World Trucks ran last night, and I have to congratulate Darryl (Bubba) Wallace Jr. on his first win in one of NASCAR’s premier series. Wallace was supported that night by Franklin and Wendell Scott Jr., the sons of the late Wendell Scott, the first black driver to win in NASCAR in 1963. Wallace is a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, and appeared on the TV reality series “Changing Lanes” a few years ago with our own Mackena Bell.
All three of NASCAR’s top series will be together for the final two races of the season — Phoenix and Homestead. While the Cup series has the tightest point race, Austin Dillon’s Nationwide series lead is a slim eight points over Sam Hornish Jr. Regan Smith is a distant third, 52 points back. Justin Allgaier at minus 70 and Elliott Sadler at minus 78 might have a shot if Dillon and Hornish take each other out on the first lap. Truck series leader Matt Crafton is in the most comfortable position with 51 points in hand over second-place James Buescher. Youngsters Ty Dillon and Jeb Burton are 61 and 68 points in arrears, still alive if Crafton has a disastrous race.
In addition to NASCAR’s proposal to change the qualifying format for next season, the sanctioning body is also proposing baseline concussion testing for drivers. Given all the recent press about concussions in football, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s voluntary hiatus last season due to concussion, I think it’s an idea with some merit. Not everybody agrees with me, particularly defending Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski, who is vehemently opposed to the idea. I suppose, like anything else it does, NASCAR will ponder all the variables before implementing anything in this area. Looking back a dozen years, I remember NASCAR’s slow and measured approach to both SAFER barriers and head/neck restraint systems. Today it’s hard to imagine racing without them.