It’s just a coincidence both the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup and NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will start the championship portion of their respective schedules this week.
NASCAR will be in Chicago for the beginning of its 10-race schedule that will finish Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which escaped major damage from the recent Hurricane Irma. Sixteen drivers are in the playoffs and four are eliminated after three-race segments until the surviving quartet battle for the championship in the series finale. Jimmie Johnson is the defending champion.
In NHRA, the top 10 drivers in each of the four pro classes will vie for the title in the six-race series. The Countdown to the Championship begins in Charlotte, N.C., this weekend and will finish at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona on Nov. 12. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending class champions.
Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR’s regular-season title and heads the points list going into the championship run. Kyle Larson is second, followed by former champs Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. The sport’s upcoming generation is represented by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott. Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Matt Dillion, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray round out the list.
The field will be trimmed by four following the Oct. 1 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and again Oct. 22 at Kansas Speedway. The Nov. 4 Cup race at Phoenix will determine the final four who will vie the title.
Johnson has won 48 times on the tracks that comprise the title run.
“I feel that, once we get back to tracks that I know the sensation I’m looking for, and I know how to create speed at these tracks,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “I can help better steer our group and say, ‘OK, this is the area we need to work on.’”
In NHRA, Brown has won three of the past four titles, This year’s hottest driver has been Steve Torrence and he’ll be in first ahead of Brown and Leah Pritchett. Tony Schumacher and Doug Kalitta round out the top five.
Although Capps has five wins this season, Funny Car is perhaps the most competitive of the classes since it’s been transformed into a Don Schumacher Racing vs. John Force Racing rivalry. Capps is ahead of JFR’s Robert Hight, but the next three racers — Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. — are in the DSR camp. Courtney…