NASCAR points observations through 11 races

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Taking the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in chunks, we’re now two races away from the regular season halfway mark, with nine winners from the first 11 races. Once we hit Race 13 at Dover first weekend in June, that’s the official halfway point of the regular season.

Here’s how the points, Chase-wise, shook out post-Kansas:

AND GORDON MAKES NINE

Finally, right? The way Jeff Gordon and the Alan Gustafson-led 24 team have been running to start 2014, it was only a matter of time before they finally went to victory lane. Now it’s a likely battle between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth to make it to 10 winners this year.

THE NINE ARE SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE TOP 30

Five of the nine race winners are in the top six, with Kenseth in second the lone interloper. But with Brad Keselowski 11th, Denny Hamlin 12th, Kevin Harvick 15th and Kurt Busch 28th, they wouldn’t necessarily be in Chase positions at the moment given their current standing – Busch in particular.

NEXT TO WIN? 

With the All-Star race this weekend, the next points-paying race is the Coca-Cola 600 in two weeks. It’s traditionally been a strong track for Johnson, Kenseth and Kasey Kahne, and you’d expect one of those three could break through.

THAT FREAKY MOMENT P27 IS DANICA AND P28 IS KURT BUSCH

For one week anyway, Danica Patrick is 27th in points and her Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Busch is 28th. Busch has run better than he’s finished; the reverse is true for Patrick, but she posted one of her best career NASCAR races Saturday night in Kansas with a career-best seventh place finish.

ROOKIE BATTLE REMAINS TIGHT

Kyle Larson in 13th and Austin Dillon in 14th in points are separated by only 12 points, a gap that increased by seven this weekend. What was a deep rookie class in terms of numbers to start the year isn’t anywhere near these two performance-wise. The other six rookies entered fall anywhere from 29th to 39th in points, and Justin Allgaier in 29th is 108 points behind Dillon.

POINTS: Through 11 of 26 regular season races.

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)