NASCAR: Tight Nationwide championship battle resumes at Michigan

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When you have Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a boss and one of NASCAR’s brightest young stars as a teammate in Chase Elliott, you run the risk of being overshadowed.

But JR Motorsports’ Regan Smith is front and center in a hotly-contested race for the Nationwide Series championship, which resumes this weekend with a 250-miler at Michigan International Speedway.

Since winning the NNS season opener at Daytona in February, Smith has stayed consistent by earning a Top-10 finish in every race since (making for an overall average finish of 7.1). He also comes to Michigan as its defending Nationwide race champion.

But while Smith has been steady, so has Elliott Sadler, who is only four points behind Smith. Sadler also has a win under his belt (Talladega) and boasts an almost identical average finish of 7.6.

Meanwhile, Chase Elliott will try to keep digging out of the points hole he fell in after a bad 37th-place result in Charlotte two races ago.

The JRM driver dropped from the lead to third in the NNS standings, where he remains at 22 points behind teammate Smith. However, a strong fifth-place run in the most recent event at Dover should have him feeling good going into the Irish Hills.

Also within striking distance are Trevor Bayne (fourth, -27 points) and Ty Dillon (fifth, -34 points). Bayne finished second at Dover, which marked his 10th Top-10 finish of the year. If not for a 23rd-place finish at Texas, he’d likely be higher up the table.

As for Dillon, he’ll look to carry over his solid Camping World Truck Series results at Michigan (sixth, 2012; fourth, 2013) to Nationwide.

The NNS rookie has racked up nine Top-10s but has not yet earned a Top-5; his best finish was a seventh at Daytona in February. We’ll see if Austin’s little brother can take the next step starting at MIS.

Adding more intrigue this weekend is a solid number of Sprint Cup drivers in the NNS field, including the aforementioned Earnhardt and Busch, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard.

The first three in that group have four NNS wins at Michigan between them, while Larson has picked up two NNS victories in 2014 at Charlotte and California’s Auto Club Speedway.

Ferrari junior Ilott victorious in Macau F3 qualification race

Theodore Racing
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Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott will start the 64th Macau Grand Prix from pole position after beating his Formula 3 rivals to victory in Saturday’s qualification race.

Ilott, 19, started third on the grid on Saturday behind pole-sitter Joel Eriksson and McLaren junior Lando Norris, but made a good start to rise to second early on.

Ilott hounded Eriksson for position for much of the race before battling past at Mandarin on Lap 7 as his Swedish rival struggled to keep his tires alive.

With Eriksson unable to respond, Ilott ultimately crossed the line more than seven seconds clear to take his first Macau win and secure pole for Sunday’s main event.

“We started quite strong as I got up to second from third which was not too bad. Then in the middle part of the race I had a good pace and I got past Joel for P1,” Ilott said.

“After that I managed to pull away. It was a good race, even quite relaxing at the end. I’m really happy for the result. Thank you SJM Theodore Racing by Prema, they did a great job and it should be good for tomorrow too.”

Eriksson held on to second ahead of Sergio Sette Camara, who completed the podium ahead of Maximilian Günther in P4.

Ferdinand Habsburg finished fifth ahead of Pedro Piquet, while Norris was left to settle for a lowly P7 after a clutch issue off the line caused him to drop down the order.

You can see full results from the Macau F3 qualifying race here.