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Canada's James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport drives during the Indy Car Series practice at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton July 21, 2012. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/REUTERS)
Canada's James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport drives during the Indy Car Series practice at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton July 21, 2012. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/REUTERS)

Motorsports

Hinchcliffe looking to get back on track Add to ...

Formula One may have taken the month of August off, but that certainly doesn’t mean other racing series are standing still.

The IndyCar Series returns to a permanent road course for the first time since the second race of the season with Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at the 13-turn, 3.634-kilometre Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course. With four races to go in the 2012 season, Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay leads the point standings by 23 over Penske’s Helio Castroneves. Penske driver Will Power is third, 26 behind Hunter-Reay. Drivers get 50 points for wins.

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Canadian James Hinchcliffe will be looking to forget a couple of tough outings on home soil, where he retired from Toronto’s race a month ago with an engine problem and then struggled to a 12th place finish in Edmonton two weeks ago. While Hinchcliffe remains one of the surprises of 2012 and is fifth overall in points, there are five drivers within striking distance of pushing the Oakville, Ont., native out of the top five.

On the other hand, Lachenaie, Que.’s, Alex Tagliani will be looking to build on his best result of the year in Edmonton, where he led 49 laps and finished fifth. Although Tagliani is out of the title battle after struggling with Lotus engines early in the season and then missing one race before his team switched to Honda power, he has come on strong of late with one pole and four top-10 finishes in his last five starts.

There will also be a new face in the crowd as former F1 and sometimes IndyCar driver Giorgio Pantano fills in for Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk car. Kimball broke a finger in a testing incident last week at Mid-Ohio.

Chase line-up almost set

NASCAR heads into its final stretch before the 10-race Chase for the Cup playoff begins in Sept. 16 in Chicago. While the top-10 looks like it won’t change, the two wild-card spots remain up for grabs with several drivers in the running to fill out the Chase field over the next six races.

NASCAR changed the format of the Chase two years ago. Previously, the top 12 drivers made it into the championship battle; now the first 10 in points get a guaranteed spot with the final two places filled by the two drivers in the top 20 with the most wins.

Right now, the two wild card drivers are Kyle Bush and Kasey Kahne, who are 11th and 13th respectively in the standings. With two wins, Kahne likely has a spot sewn up, unless someone behind him gets sizzling hot in the final six races, and Busch wins another race and finishes ahead of him in points.

In reality, it’s likely that only Joey Logano and Ryan Newman, who both have one win, could bump Busch out of a Chase berth with a strong finishing kick. Interestingly, last year’s overall runner-up, Carl Edwards, looks to be on the outside looking in. Edwards has no wins and is 12th in points. Also in danger of not making the cut is four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who is 15th overall with no wins.

There’s no doubt that a win would be welcomed by either Edwards or Gordon in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at the 2.5-mile tri-oval Pocono Raceway.

Can Kennington be beat?

In Trois Rivieres, Que., this weekend, the NASCAR Canadian Tire series field will gather to see if anyone can knock D.J. Kennington off the top step of the podium. The No. 17 Dodge driver from St. Thomas, Ont., is on a five-race win streak, which ties the record for modern era NASCAR touring series.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty set the all-time consecutive victory record in 1967 when he took an incredible 10 straight Sprint Cup chequered flags. The Nationwide record is four in a row established by Sam Ard in 1983; while Ron Hornaday Jr. holds the truck series record after five straight race wins in 2009.

It’s likely that the biggest challenge for Kennington will come from Roxton Pond, Que.’s, Andrew Ranger, who always puts in a stellar effort at Trois Rivieres. He has three wins and a pair of second-place finishes in his five Canadian Tire Series starts on the tight street circuit.

Also racing on the 10-turn, 2.462-kilometre street course are the Firestone Indy Lights Series, Star Mazda, Canadian Touring Car Championship, and Formula 1600.

Fellows Five Challenge

Fans who think they can only dream about getting driving lessons from an accomplished racing driver now have the chance to do exactly that courtesy of Ron Fellows.

The veteran road racer is offering up a grand prize of a three-day driving experience package at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in a contest on his Nationwide team’s website.

The contest consists of five questions concerning each of Fellows’ two races with JR Motorsport in August, the Zippo 200 at New York’s Watkins Glen International and the NAPA 200 at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

For each race, fans must predict his running position at the halfway point, the lap he makes his final pit stop, the total number of caution laps, the number of laps Fellows leads, and his finishing position.

Anyone who gets a question correct becomes eligible for the prize associated with it, which includes race-worn gloves and shoes, and autographed 1:24-scale die-cast models of Fellows’ No. 5 Canadian Tire Chevrolet. All correct answers for each question will go into a draw for the prize. The racing school grand prize goes to the person with the most correct answers.

Fans must visit jrmracing.com/fellows5/default.aspx to register to enter the contest.

For more from Jeff Pappone, go to facebook.com/jeffpappone (No login required!)

Twitter: @jpappone

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