Weekend Preview

The racing season is definitely winding down and this is truly the last weekend when most of the major circuits are all in action. CART could crown its champion, the Winston Cup point leader can take another step toward the crown, the Craftsman Truck Series can be locked-up and a new IRL champ will emerge.

NASCAR Winston Cup Series
Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, ESPN, 1 p.m. (ET)

Bobby Labonte can nearly taste the victory champagne for winning this year’s Winston Cup title. Labonte needs only to finish ninth or better the remainder of the way to become NASCAR’s 51st Winston Cup champion.

Unfortunately, he’ll have to survive a day at Talladega on Sunday, which is a lot easier said than done. The introduction of the restrictor plate has turned Talladega into an uneasy parade of three-wide racing while waiting for the day’s "Big One" to happen.

But it’ll be a whole new ballgame at Talladega this weekend as Winston Cup drivers utilize NASCAR’s new aerodynamic package. Designed to give the drivers more control of the car, the sanctioning body is hoping the new rules will bring back the excitement that was a staple of the Alabama speedplant in its early days.

While speeds were down during an open test of the new package, it remains to be seen just how the cars will handle in race conditions. NASCAR will allow extra practice time over the weekend to give drivers and teams every opportunity to become comfortable with the new modifications. But I have a hunch they’ll still be a lot of nervous stomachs out on the racetrack and in the pit area when the green flag flies on Sunday afternoon.

CART FedEx Championship Series
Surfers Paradise, Australia
Sunday, ESPN, 12 Midnight (ET)

In CART’s infinite wisdom, this year’s champion could be crowned at 2 o’clock Sunday morning. Because the sanctioning body scheduled its second to last race of the season in Australia, the tightest point battle in series history may culminate in the darkness of night due to the 15-hour time difference in the Land Down Under.

Gil de Ferran sits atop the standings over Paul Tracy by only 19 points, but there are nine drivers still in the hunt for the championship. But it will be de Ferran’s championship to lose and a title would cap a remarkable turnaround for team owner Roger Penske.

Northern Light Indy Racing League
Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, ABC, 4 p.m. (ET)

It’s been almost two months since Buddy Lazier won the last IRL race in Kentucky. Lazier has had a lot of time to think about his series point lead coming into Sunday’s final race of the year and needs to finish only 13th or better to clinch the crown.

Texas was the scene of the IRL’s best race ever, last June’s Longhorn 500, which featured side-by-side racing and a photo finish between Scott Sharp and Robby McGehee. It’ll be a tough act to duplicate, but for some reason, the IRL drivers and cars seem to always put on a great show at the Texas showplace.

Al Unser Jr. may be a darkhorse to steal a second win in his inaugural IRL season, but Lazier seems destined to follow-up his 1996 Indianapolis 500 win with his first-ever championship.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Texas Motor Speedway
Friday, ESPN, 8 p.m. (ET)

Greg Biffle can play out the string and merely start the last two races of the truck series season to clinch the crown. Sharing the bill this weekend with the IRL, the trucks also have a history of putting on a solid and competitive show at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. Will Biffle go for the win or play it safe for the title? My money’s on a victory for the sophomore driver on Friday night.

Other Action

The Pennzoil World of Outlaws return to the Dirt Track at Texas Motor Speedway for two nights of racing Thursday and Saturday. ... USAC’s Silver Bullet Series visits the beautiful Irwindale Speedway in Southern California on Saturday night. ... The ASA AC-Delco Series brings down the curtain on the 2000 season Saturday night at Gateway International Raceway (TNN, 9 p.m. ET). ... ARCA invades the high-banks of Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday afternoon in the Winn-Dixie 300 (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET, Sunday).

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