Short tracks have been good for Richard Petty Motorsports this year

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For the first time since the passing of his wife, Lynda, seven-time Sprint Cup champion Richard Petty has returned to the track this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

And with “The King” present once again, his “knights” at Richard Petty Motorsports – Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola – will both be pushing even harder to get good results in tonight’s Toyota Owners 400.

RPM has put up a strong effort so far this season on the short tracks, so the 3/4-mile Richmond bullring could play into their favor this evening.

In the most recent short track race last month at Martinsville, Ambrose earned a fifth-place finish and Almirola claimed eighth on the half-mile paperclip.

And earlier in March at the high-banked half-mile of Bristol, Almirola was part of a 1-2-3 sweep for Ford thanks to a third-place run while Ambrose wasn’t far behind in fifth.

Tonight, Ambrose and Almirola will start 11th and 15th on the grid respectively after rain washed out yesterday’s qualifying and had NASCAR set the field on speeds from the opening practice.

Going into the weekend, Almirola put down tire management as a key to doing well tonight at RIR.

“The fun thing about Richmond is that the tires fall off really bad,” he said in a release. “You get slipping and sliding around and forward drive is really important. It’s the one race track we go to that you wish you didn’t have 900 horsepower. Halfway through a tire run, we literally can spin the tires at the flag stand. That just becomes a huge challenge.

“…We’ve really hit on our short track setups this year and shown a lot of speed. If we can keep that up this weekend, we will be able to make a run at a win.”

As for Ambrose, he’ll have even more incentive to perform well as he’ll claim a $1 million donation for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals with a win tonight.

A runner-up performance will secure a $500,000 donation to CMNH, while a third-place result will secure a $250,000 donation.

“It would be the highlight of my career to be able to win this Saturday night for these kids,” Ambrose said about the challenge.

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.