NASCAR: Dates set for end-of-season awards in Las Vegas, Miami

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For the sixth year, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams will celebrate their season in Las Vegas, Nevada.

NASCAR announced today that the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards are set for Friday, Dec. 5 at Wynn Las Vegas.

The ceremony serves as the grand finale for Champion’s Week, which, in addition to the Awards, also features a variety of experiences for fans to enjoy in and around Sin City.

Additionally, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series will stage a joint end-of-season awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 17 at the Trump National Doral Miami in Miami, Florida. This ceremony will honor both series’ driver and owner champions and their respective Top 5 drivers.

“NASCAR’s postseason celebrations continue to be highly anticipated, can’t-miss events on the season’s calendar,” NASCAR chief operating officer Brent Dewar said in the same statement.

“Las Vegas was built on world-class entertainment, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards and Champion’s Week fit perfectly.

“In addition, we’re thrilled to shift the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Awards to Trump National Doral Miami. It’s a first-class property that will certainly provide an elevated experience for our industry and our championship teams.”

Last year’s NNS and Truck Series awards were also staged in Miami, but at a different venue.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “