Chasing a little drama

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

There is only one question that remains to be answered about the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship: Will Brian France wait until after the final race at Homestead Miami Speedway to legislate Hendrick Motorsports back to the pack?

It must be driving the bosses at 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd. in Daytona Beach absolutely to distraction to see how Hendrick has taken every ounce of drama out of this year's Chase.

After all, with a sixth-place finish at Talladega, and still three weeks of racing left on the 2009 calendar, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus already have cleared space on their mantel pieces for their unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup for the No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet team.

As a result it is a virtual certainty that scores of NASCAR executives have been working 24-7 on plans that would attempt to squash this from happening again.

For those out there who think that's just more of the conspiracy talk that abounds in NASCAR, let us not forget what happened when Jack Roush put all five of his teams in the Chase back in 2005.

Within days of the end of that season, NASCAR introduced a new regulation forcing Roush to drop one of its teams. As a result, Jamie McMurray, the winner at Talladega in the No. 26 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford, will be out of a job after Homestead this season. It must be said that McMurray will land on his feet -- most likely at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the No. 1 car -- but it is no accident that the RFR domination of Sprint Cup was over the minute France announced the new rules.

As for the faint hope that Johnson and Knaus might stumble at either Texas this week, Phoenix next week or at the final at Homestead, ESPN's Jayski.com has figured out it would take a near miracle for anyone to pass the No. 48 team.

According to Jayski, Mark Martin would have to win the final three races and lead the most laps in each, to even have a chance at clinching the crown. And even if he accomplished that Herculean feat, Johnson and company would have to finish 10th or worse in all three races.

And if anyone at NASCAR thinks that's going to happen, there's some ocean-front property in Arizona that we hear is still for sale.

Talladega frights

The almost universal negative backlash that NASCAR has faced after its ill-fated decision to outlaw bump drafting in the corners at Talladega is surely all that's need to halt that kind of interference on the racing surface from being repeated.

That last word on it should go to Ryan Newman, who raced at or near the front all afternoon in Alabama in the No. 39 Newman Haas Chevrolet before his spectacular crash with 17 laps remaining: "It's just a product of this racing and what NASCAR has put us into, with this box and these restrictor plates with these types of cars," he said. "Drivers used to be able to respect each other and race around each other. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and all those guys "We're supposed to be racing all day long, and I think we lost a little bit of that lustre."

Enough said.

Sharp moves on

Patron Highcroft Racing, the 2009 American Le Mans Series champions, will be back to defend its LMP1 crown next season, but without Scott Sharp as part the two-man team.

Sharp, a former IndyCar series driver, has formed his own ALMS GT2 team. He will race a Ferrari 430 GTC with Ed Brown.

David Brabham, Sharp's partner at Highcroft, will be back in the LMP1, with a driver yet to be announced.

The Brabham/Sharp combination recorded seven wins in their time together --four in 2008 and a further three victories this past season.

Changing tires

Japanese tire giant Bridgestone shocked the racing world this week when it issued a release saying it will withdraw from Formula 1 at the end of the 2010 season.

"The decision made by the board of directors comes after considerable and lengthy evaluations and has been based on the company's need to redirect its resources toward further intensive development of innovative technologies," Bridgestone Motorsport director Hiroshi Yasukawa said in a statement.

Bridgestone had been a tire supplier in F-1 since 1997 and had been the sole supplier since the beginning of the 2008 season.

Wickens ready for F-1

Canada's Robert Wickens, who finished second in the 2009 F-2 championship this season, he has his sights firmly set on a career in F-1.

Next on the 20-year-old's list of things to do to get that opportunity is a FIA Super-licence that would allow him to test in the ultimate single-seat racing series.

"The FIA Superlicence is a great motivation, as it really opens doors and provides you with a lot of opportunities," Wickens said before he won a pair of pole positions in the final two F-2 races at Barcelona a week ago.

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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