Five thoughts on NASCAR at Charlotte, Formula One and more

Looking back at the weekend’s motor racing, including Brad Keselowski’s win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte and Sebastian Vettel’s Formula One victory in Japan, five things come to mind:

--The issue of non-Chase drivers winning Chase races. Keselowski’s win at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the first time since late 2011 that a Cup driver not in the Chase playoff won one of the 10 Chase races. That seems like a liability for the sport. Granted, the Chase contenders are the cream of this year’s crop and, with a title on the line, they’re expected to be front-runners. And fans want a close Chase. But if 30 of the 43 cars in the field aren’t expected to win before the race even starts, what does that say about NASCAR parity?

--Too bad Clint Bowyer has fallen out of Chase contention. With his 11th-place finish at Charlotte, Bowyer now sits eighth in the championship standings, a distant 63 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. Imagine if Bowyer, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing driver, was very much in the hunt to win the Chase after his spin at Richmond set in motion the race-manipulation scandal that dropped MWR’s Martin Truex Jr. from the playoff and added Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon. That would have been rich.

--Speaking of MWR, Brian Vickers is out for the rest of 2013. The team said Monday morning that Vickers, who has had health issues before, suffered another setback when a small blood clot was found in his right calf. That required that Vickers be placed on blood thinners, leaving him unable to compete the rest of this season. He’s expected back to start the 2014 season when he’s scheduled to drive the No. 55 Toyota full-time in the Cup series.


--Kyle Larson gave a good account of himself. The 21-year-old prodigy made his Cup debut at Charlotte and mostly ran 16th or better until engine failure forced him to the garage early. He finished 37th. Here’s the thing about Larson: He wasn’t content to just cruise around and turn laps to gain experience in NASCAR’s top level. He was passing people. Larson will be one to watch when he drives in Cup full-time next year in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

--Just appreciate Sebastian Vettel’s surge to another title. The 26-year-old German won his fifth consecutive race with his victory in Japan and now has a virtual lock on his fourth consecutive Formula One championship. The Red Bull driver’s winning ways prompted no less than rival Lewis Hamilton to grumble last week that Vettel was making things boring for the fans. For some, that’s no doubt true. But Vettel is accomplishing something only a handful of other F1 drivers have done, and any fan of Formula One should enjoy watching his incessant march toward making history.


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