Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, David Stremme, Ken Schrader

Problems aplenty at Bristol for several Chase hopefuls

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On Saturday night, Bristol Motor Speedway’s usual chaos contributed to yet another dramatic shift in the Race to the Chase. In hindsight, you’re tempted to say to yourself, “As if it wouldn’t.”

Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Newman – all of them trying to cement a spot in NASCAR’s ten-race postseason dash – suffered setbacks in the Volunteer State, as Busch was victimized by a wheel hub issue on his car and the other three were caught in a late-race crash.

Busch had started on the front row and led 54 laps early on, but his right-rear wheel came loose and he was forced to pit under green. After service, he was promptly tagged for speeding on pit road and then made contact with Josh Wise on the track that damaged his car and sent him back to the pits.

Eventually, he was forced to go behind the wall in order for his team to properly deal with the hub problem.

“We didn’t even pit yet, so we had a wheel start to vibrate loose at an odd time,” said Busch, who would make some progress and finish 31st, but fell back to 12th in the Sprint Cup standings at six points out of 10th position.

“I felt vibrations before, but we are leading the race walking the dog and our right-rear is falling off. It’s just kind of how you have to fight sometimes and overcome the obstacles that come your way.”

Even with that turn of events, Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race was playing out to be relatively cleaner than your typical 500-lap romp around the Bristol high banks. At least, until Lap 446.

On that lap, contact between Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin caused a tire failure for the latter, who then slid up into traffic and started an eight-car incident that involved Keselowski, Truex and Newman.

Truex, who was unable to return to action and finished 35th, said he couldn’t see anything during the incident.

“They just started jamming up and I tried to follow the 29 [Kevin Harvick] through and [the hole] closed up,” he said in the TV broadcast. “We got smashed in the fence and hit a couple of times.

“…We just didn’t have enough gas at the end there and we had to pit, and once you get in the back here towards the end, they start wrecking and you’re an innocent victim.”

Truex wound up falling to 14th in the standings, but thanks to his win earlier this summer at Sonoma, he still maintains hold of a Wild Card spot despite being sidelined before the checkered flag. Newman, who finished 21st on Saturday, has managed to climb into the second Wild Card position.

As for the winless Keselowski, he’s dropped from eighth to 11th in the standings after a 30th-place result – and is now likely steeling himself for what will be a pressure-packed final two weeks of the regular season.

“If you’re not in [the Chase] right now, I don’t care if you’re running eighth or you’re running 13th, every team is worried and concerned – not just mine,” said Keselowski.

“I’m not gonna be out of the worried zone unless I make it or it’s over…We’ve tested at the next two tracks [Atlanta and Richmond] and we’re gonna be very competitive. I feel like this is gonna come down to the last lap at Richmond and I’m ready for that battle.”

Here are your Russian Grand Prix air times on NBCSN, Live Extra

Photo: NBC
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The Russian Grand Prix airs this weekend on NBCSN, marking the second time for Formula 1 to hit the streets of Sochi after its debut at the new track last year.

Here’s your TV times breakdown:


Formula One returns to Sochi for its second race in Russia in as many years, following the first running of the Russian Grand Prix in a century last year. Mercedes enjoyed success at last year’s Russian GP, as Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to a 1-2 finish and the team clinched its first-ever constructors’ championship. Mercedes is on the brink of winning its second straight constructors’ championship, and needs to outscore Ferrari by just three points this weekend in Sochi to secure the title.

Hamilton dominated the most recent race on the F1 calendar, the Japanese Grand Prix on Sept. 27, as he led all 53 laps to claim his eighth win of the 2015 campaign. Hamilton leads teammate Nico Rosberg by 48 points with just five races remaining in the season.

Live coverage from the Sochi Autodrom begins Friday morning with Practice 1 at 3 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra, followed by Practice 2 at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Live Extra will stream Practice 3 on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, prior to live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Live Russian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday at 6:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by F1 Extra at 9 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air an encore presentation of the Russian Grand Prix at noon ET on Sunday.

Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call the Russian Grand Prix, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driverDavid Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter from the Sochi Autodrom. Alex Jacques will call the GP2 race in Sochi airing Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

F1 Motorsports Coverage This Week on NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra (subject to change):

Date Program Time (ET) Network
Fri., October 9 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 1 3 a.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 2 7 a.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports 8:30 a.m. NBCSN
Sat., October 10 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 3 5 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Russia Grand Prix – Qualifying 8 a.m. NBCSN
Sun., October 11 F1 Russian Grand Prix 6:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 9 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Russia Grand Prix (Encore) 12 p.m. NBCSN
GP2 – Russia* 10:30 p.m. NBCSN

Rosberg: F1 title race is not over yet

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Suzuka, Japan.
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Nico Rosberg is refusing to back down in the fight for the 2015 Formula 1 drivers’ championship despite trailing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 48 points with five races remaining.

F1 arrives in Sochi this weekend for the Russian Grand Prix, and Rosberg knows that failing to score any points would leave Hamilton just one victory away from a third world title.

Rosberg has failed to put up the same kind of fight to his teammate this year as he did in 2014 when the championship was only decided at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

However, he is refusing to back down and write off his title hopes yet, despite not having won a race since June.

“Once I got back from Japan, I was able to focus on the positive elements from my weekend in Suzuka: pole position, the on-track pass on [Valtteri] Bottas and then having the speed to undercut [Sebastian] Vettel’s Ferrari at the second pit-stop,” Rosberg said, reflecting on his fightback to second place at Suzuka two weeks ago.

“I’m not backing down in my fight for the championship and gaining those positions back fair and square showed that. We have five races to go and, although the championship gap to Lewis is quite big, in my mind it’s definitely not over yet.

“The way the whole team has performed this year – from the factories to the garage – has been just incredible and I have the car I need to get back to the top step.”

Sochi was the site of Mercedes’ first constructors’ championship victory in 2014, and Rosberg is hoping to aid its bid to clinch a second title on Sunday.

“I really enjoyed our first trip to Russia last year and it was an awesome weekend for the team – one that I will always remember after seeing all the hard work they’ve put in during my time here,” Rosberg said.

“So, I’m aiming to put all those tools they’ve given me to good use and bring home a top result.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend.