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Kimi Raikkonen, Jimmie Johnson win big

Published November 4, 2012

NORRIS NOTE:

Yikes! When I screw up, I sure can screw up.

My apologies – and thanks to the readers who’ve  commented on my first error – for saying that Nico Hulkenberg survived a huge accident on Sunday when, in fact, it was Nico Rosberg. I have since made the change in the copy.

And I should have explained my little shot about the SAFER barrier better. So I’ve just removed that reference to avoid even further embarrassment.

I apologize and will try to do better from now on.

The world’s two premier motor racing series, Formula One and NASCAR, both have two races remaining.

Both championships have come down to two drivers.

And both held races Sunday in which the starts were in bright sunshine and the finishes came after dark, under the lights.

Jimmie Johnson won the late race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway. It was the second straight race in which Johnson, who’s won five championships previously, scored maximum points (he won pole, led the most laps and finished in Victory Lane) and he now holds a seven-point lead over Brad Keselowski (for complete details, click here).

In Abu Dhabi, although he didn’t win for the first time in five races, two-time world champion Sebastien Vettel finished on the podium, which gave him enough points to hold onto first place in the standings by 10 points over challenger Fernando Alonso, who’s also a two-time world champion (for complete details, click here).

The Texas race came down to a green-white-checkers finish and Johnson just overwhelmed Keselowski after the restart, beating him into the first turn after starting beside him and then pulling away decisively.

Keselowski is a hard-ass driver with a hard-ass attitude and told his crew over the radio that he would “refuse to lose” the championship.

Johnson, who’s a Cool-Hand Luke kind of guy, didn’t say anything over his and just went out and won the race.

There’s a lesson there.

Kyle Busch finished third behind Keselowski, with Matt Kenseth fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. The rest of the top ten: Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle.

The next-to-last race will be next Sunday in Phoenix. Then, it’s on to Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida for the final. Changes are, the championship will go all the way to the wire.

Meantime, Kimi Raikkonen won Sunday’s Abud Dhabi Grand Prix in fine style, holding off second-place finisher Alonso of Ferrari and surprise third-place finisher Vettel of Red Bull-Renault.

Raikkonen, who returned to F1 this season with the Lotus-Renault team after two years in the World Rally Championship series, hadn’t won a Grand Prix since 2009, when he was first in the Grand Prix of Belgian.

Jenson Button of McLaren-Mercedes was fourth, Pastor Maldonado of Williams-Renault was fifth, Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber-Ferrari sixth, Felipe Massa of Ferrari seventh, Bruno Senna of Williams eighth, Paul Di Resta of Force India-Mercedes  ninth and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso-Ferrari tenth.

Lewis Hamilton of McLaren had started from pole and was running away with the race when his engine stopped on Lap 20 because of a fuel-pressure problem.

Vettel had started from pit lane after his qualifying speed was disqualified Saturday when his car didn’t have sufficient fuel for a post-session test and his run to the podium was nothing short of amazing.

Vettel continues to lead the world championship with two races remaining, the return of the United States to F1 competition in two weeks at Austin, Tex., and then the finale at Brazil a week after that.

NOTEBOOK JOTTINGS:

- F1 has had some doozy crashes this season and it’s remarkable that nobody has been injured. One of the most spectacular came on Lap 9 when  Narain Karthikeyan slowed suddenly in his HRT-Cosworth and Nico Rosberg went up and over him in his Force India-Mercedes, eventually slamming into a barrier.

Neither driver was hurt, but it was close.

- I fail to understand the “excitement” over Nico Hulkenberg’s leaving Force India for a seat with Sauber in 2013.  He’s trading one mid-field seat for another, it seems to me.

Or is something else going on? Will Force India be around much longer? Maybe he got out while the going was good. Di Resta has also reportedly been “shopping.”

- Of all the new F1 circuits, I like the one at Yas Marina the best. And I can’t watch the Abu Dhabi race at that wonderful facility without thinking how great a similar project would look plopped down on Ontario Place and the Exhibition grounds in Toronto.

- Poor Lewis Hamilton. He wins the pole and he’s running away with the race and all of a sudden he pulls of the circuit. His team was quick to radio him these words: “Lewis, we’ve lost all power.” And I can imagine a cartoon bubble over Hamilton’s helmet with these words in it: NO KIDDING!”

- The next race will be held at the new Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Tex., in two weeks. There will be a tendency on the part of the drivers to want to drive ’round and ’round to learn the new circuit. They can do that in simulators, however. I have a suggestion for Red Bull, though. Don’t let Mark Webber do anything but practice standing starts. He’s a good enough driver, once he gets going, to be right up there. And the Red Bull is a superior car. But every time a race starts, Webber “bogs down,” and he loses valuable positions. So don’t let him do anything else but practice race starts. Once he gets those down pat, everything else should fall into place.

- Romain Grosjean has been involved in eight or nine race accidents this season. Yet again, he was in his street clothes when the race ended Sunday. I can’t think of why Lotus-Renault would want to keep him on for 2013, can you?

- This is not about F1, but I’m wrapping up here so I’m putting it in.

IndyCar should hire the promoter at the Dirt Track at Charlotte who had a full grandstand for the World of Outlaws sprints and late-model dirt cars Saturday night.

And those guys put on their usual wonderful show.

Dale Blaney won the sprint car race and Donny Schatz was crowned champion.  Jimmy Owens won the late-model race while Darrell Lanigan won the title.

Both were on Speed and both were terrific to watch.

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