Five things NASCAR’s 2013 Chase is missing

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NASCAR’s 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup opens this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, and it won’t be a moment too soon to actually be discussing cars on track and not controversy. We hope, at least.

And while there’s still a great amount of talent distributed among the 12 Chasers, I can’t help but acknowledge what we’re missing out on in the 2013 edition of the Chase, the tenth edition of NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs.

  • Defending champion Brad Keselowski. Love him or hate him, Keselowski provided a needed jolt of energy to last year’s Chase as the upstart, brash member of the younger generation threatening the establishment. It all started with the famous “Tweet heard round the world” during the red flag at Daytona, five race wins in the next 35 races, and concluded with downing a huge glass of Miller Lite on live TV. In 2013, it’s been a different story, as inconsistency has plagued the No. 2 Penske Racing team, now racing Fords, from the start.
  • And 2011 champion Tony Stewart, a three-time champ. Stewart’s lone media availability since his sprint car accident was a riot, and I only watched it on the live stream via NASCAR.com. I can’t imagine how much more uproarious it was in person. I’ll let a tweet from Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press sum up the lack of “Smoke” in the Chase:
  • And four-time champion Jeff Gordon. Sensing a theme, here? Like Keselowski, Gordon didn’t win in the 26 regular season races preceding the Chase, and ultimately, that doomed him more than anything. Still, this marks only the second time in 10 Chases (finished 11th in points in 2005) that Gordon has missed out, and the angst surrounding his absence is felt by a wide range of individuals. We can only hope this wasn’t his last shot.
  • Denny Hamlin. This is a new case, because Hamlin has missed out for the first time in his career after seven consecutive appearances in his first seven full seasons. The disclaimer here is that Hamlin, has of course, had a tumultuous season filled with fines, injuries and a general lack of performance. This has to be particularly frustrating given the efforts of teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, who each have a shot at the title for Joe Gibbs Racing.
  • A road course. The lack of a road course in the Chase isn’t new – there’s never been one in 10 Chases. Still, it’s another layer of variety that could be added instead of yet another mile-and-a-half 400-miler that would likely be decided after the last Green-White-Checkered. NASCAR has added more road course races to the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series ranks and the action there is some of the best you’ll see all season across any of NASCAR’s three major series. If a rethink of the Chase tracks occurs, I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in suggesting this variable gets added to the equation.

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m. ET: Post-script: Well, so much for Jeff Gordon missing out. He’s just been added to the Chase as a 13th driver. And I don’t know what to think anymore.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”