Looking back at the weekend in motor racing -- including the NASCAR race in Bristol and Formula One’s Belgian Grand Prix -- five things come to mind:
1. Jeff Gordon’s Chase hopes are in big trouble . . . With only two races left before NASCAR’s 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup title playoff starts, the four-time champion needs to make something happen. Gordon finished seventh Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway but he’s 13th in points without a win this season. He needs a victory in Atlanta on Sunday or in Richmond, Va., the following week.
2. ... and Brad Keselowski’s aren’t much better. Hard to believe that through 24 races, the reigning Cup champion hasn’t won. But Keselowski still has a solid shot to make the Chase by finishing in the top 10 in points. He’s currently 11th and only four points behind his Penske teammate, Joey Logano, who’s in 10th.
3. Can Danica Patrick earn another top-15 finish this year? Coming into Bristol her average finish was a tad below 26th. Her finish at Bristol? 26th. Patrick’s last top-15 finish came in July at Daytona, a so-called restrictor-plate track where the Cup rookie runs well. But there’s only one of those left this season: Talladega on Oct. 20.
4. Sebastian Vettel’s fourth consecutive Formula One title is his to lose. The Red Bull driver crushed the field in the Belgian Grand Prix for his fifth win of the season, and he now holds a 46-point lead in the title standings over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. There are eight races left starting with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sept. 8, but unless Vettel stumbles badly in the next race or two, the championship is his.
5. IndyCar’s Helio Castroneves is hanging tough. His Penske teammate Will Power won Sunday’s race in Sonoma, but Castroneves -- by finishing 7th -- maintained his lead in the IndyCar title standings as the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner tries to capture his first series title. The Brazilian is 39 points ahead of Scott Dixon with four races left, including the finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Oct. 19.