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Motor racing on tap from Alabama to Malaysia

April 8, 2011 | 12:20 pm


While the Formula One series holds its second race of the season Sunday in Malaysia, the Izod IndyCar Series is racing in Alabama and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Formula One and IndyCar opened their seasons with both of their reigning champions claiming victory. Sebastian Vettel won F1's Australian Grand Prix, and Dario Franchitti won IndyCar's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.

Now, Vettel and his Red Bull team will try to make it two in a row at F1's Malaysian Grand Prix on the Sepang International Circuit outside of Kuala Lumpur. But thunderstorms are predicted for Sunday's race, which could upset expectations for Vettel, McLaren Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and other favorites.

Fans also will be keeping a close eye on Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who finished third in Australia to become the first Russian to earn an F1 podium (top-three) finish.

"We are realistic and know that the Red Bulls, the McLarens and the Ferraris are the benchmark," Petrov said this week. "And to take a podium again you have to outperform at least four of their drivers, which is a pretty huge task."

IndyCar, meanwhile, moves to the Barber Motorsports Park road course for the second annual Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday. Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves won the inaugural race last year on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn course.

The following weekend IndyCar arrives in Southern California for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the city's seaside streets. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay will be the race's grand marshal and give the command to drivers to start their engines.

NASCAR's Cup series has its first night race of the season Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, with Kyle Busch leading the early championship standings.

Kevin Harvick of Bakersfield will be trying to win his third consecutive race after posting victories at Fontana and Martinsville, Va., while Denny Hamlin has won the last two races at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

And the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series holds its 14th race of the season Saturday night at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, with Ryan Villopoto leading the title standings by six points over Chad Reed and by seven points over defending champion Ryan Dungey.


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--Jim Peltz

Photo: Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing during practice Friday for the Malaysian Grand Prix near Kuala Lumpur. Credit: Diego Azubel/EPA