Matt Kenseth

After Charlotte, Kenseth up four points on Johnson in Chase

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What seemed to be a sure win for Jimmie Johnson tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway instead went to Brad Keselowski. And what seemed to be the perfect situation for Johnson to overtake Matt Kenseth (pictured) for the lead in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup instead ended with Kenseth still atop the standings with five races left.

Kenseth and Johnson ultimately finished third and fourth in the Bank of America 500. That effectively constitutes a draw, as Kenseth was only able to extend his lead in the Chase by one point to a margin of four as the scene shifts to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.

But Kenseth will surely take it, especially as it appeared that Johnson would be the new Chase leader coming out of North Carolina this evening. He’d been crushing the competition in the middle stages of the race, but a debris caution with 27 laps left changed everything.

As the yellow waved, Johnson led the race leaders to the pits for their final stops of the night but dropped back to third when he took four tires, while Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne took two and grabbed first and second positions respectively.

Then, instead of capitalizing on his four fresh Goodyears, Johnson fell all the way back to seventh after a poor restart. He would regain three of those lost positions back, but an opportunity to seize control of the championship had vanished.

Still, Johnson – as usual – tried to keep on an even keel about the situation.

“I wish we’d finished better, but it was still a strong performance for the Lowe’s car,” Johnson said to ESPN. “I’m very proud of the effort – we had a fast car, great qualifying, great pit stops. Everything’s there. We’ll just keep doing our jobs and work at it week after week, and see what we can get.”

But with Charlotte in the rear view mirror, the biggest wild card in the post-season now beckons. Nothing more and nothing less than a 200 mile-per-hour game of Russian Roulette, Talladega and its dreaded “Big One” can wipe out championship dreams in an instant.

For his part, Kenseth emphasized both Dega’s unpredictable nature and the fact that he still has the Chase lead when asked about what awaits him and the rest of the Chasers in Alabama.

“Jimmie’s certainly been strong in the [restrictor] plate races and Harvick’s always been good there, but you never really know what’s going to happen at Talladega,” he said.

“But I’m glad we’re still in the lead. We have a lot of racing to do, we made it through the first half of [the Chase] and have maintained a very small lead, so it’s better than being behind. We’ll go to Talladega, race hard, hope our car has some speed in it, and be able to hang up front.”

Lotus prepared for close fight with Force India for P5

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 26:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 26, 2015 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Lotus technical director Nick Chester believes that the team faces a close fight with Force India for fifth place in the constructors’ championship that will rage on until the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season.

Lotus currently ranks sixth in the teams’ standings, 17 points behind Force India in fifth with five races remaining this year.

Finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship would not only secure some much-needed additional prize money for Lotus, but it would also secure it a place on the F1 Strategy Group for 2016 when it is poised to become Renault F1 Team.

Reflecting on last weekend’s race in Japan, Chester said he was pleased with the double-points finished achieved by Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, and believes that the team can catch up in the coming weeks if Force India hits trouble.

“[Japan] was very rewarding and also very important for us in our fight for fifth place in the constructors’ championship,” Chester said. “We closed up a little bit more on Force India and of course there is a bit more to do.

“They had a good race in Monza when both our cars got knocked out but effectively we’re one good race away where they have a bad one and we can catch up. It will be tight all the way until the end of the season.

Looking ahead to the upcoming Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Chester spoke of the challenge posed to both the teams and the drivers by the tight and twisting circuit around the site of the old winter Olympic park.

“We know that the surface is very smooth and last year we struggled generating temperature with the tires, partly through the smooth surface and partly through what was a conservative tire allocation,” Chester said.

“Pirelli’s softer allocation for this year along with the more weathered track surface and our better knowledge of the circuit should mean we fare far better in this regard. In terms of its needs, we know that it’s a track that is quite power and traction-sensitive.

“The layout presents a lot of slow speed corners and long straights. Braking down into turn 13 is very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it is a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track is quite technical, so it certainly a challenging one for the drivers.”

Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
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Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.