NASCAR notes: McDowell switches teams, Schrader to retire from Cup

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Two quick NASCAR notes after this weekend’s race in Martinsville:

  • Michael McDowell, a NASCAR journeyman who’s raced with high profile Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing before, will leave his current No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford at year’s end for a lateral move to the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford in 2014. It’s a one-year deal but it provides the fledgling team a bit of stability after Scott Speed and the team parted ways earlier this year. McDowell, 28, has a season and career-best finish of ninth at this year’s Daytona 500. The PPR team rarely runs a whole race and besides the four restrictor plate events, McDowell’s only other race finishes this year were 32nd at Indianapolis and 26th yesterday in Martinsville.
  • While McDowell moves on, Ken Schrader told ESPN’s Allen Bestwick during yesterday’s broadcast that this year’s season finale at Homestead will be his last race in a Sprint Cup car. Schrader’s the epitome of a “wheel man” with more than 760 career Cup starts dating to 1984, and thousands more on short tracks and dirt tracks throughout the country on a weekly basis. He has run part-time in Cup since 2007 and has a best finish of 27th at the fall Bristol race this year driving Frank Stoddard’s No. 32 U.S. Chrome Ford. Assuming that is his last Cup start – it’s hard to think of the words “Schrader” and “retire” in the same sentence – a proper appreciation post of his career will follow at that point.

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.