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NOVEMBER 13, 2006

Here and there

With the racing season now winding down around the world, this is a time when championships are settled and at the weekend NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson finished second in the Checkers Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway to strengthen his position in the championship. Johnson is now 63 points clear of Matt Kenseth (who had a bad weekend and finished 13th) and 90 clear of Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick and rookie challenger Denny Hamlin. The only other man still mathematically in with a chance to win the title is Dale Earnhardt Jr but it would be a miracle if he could pull that off. Johnson goes to the season-closing race at Homestead Miami next weekend needing to finish only 12th to win the title. Now out of the running are Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch.

Way in Mexico the Champ Car season came to a close with a seventh win of the year for Sebastien Bourdais, despite a valiant effort by Justin Wilson, who was driving with a broken wrist. It was a dramatic race with Bourdais grabbing the win on the last lap.

"It wasn't a matter of leading the most laps," Bourdais. "It was a matter of leading the last one. It was just an incredible race, a great battle with Justin the whole time. We both drove the wheels off these cars."

Australia's Will Power came home third ahead of Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani. The result means that Wilson finishes second in the title race, beating AJ Allmendinger, who missed the last race having signed to drive in NASCAR next season. France's Nelson Philippe finished fourth.

The event marked the last race of Lola in the series, during which time the firm has won 181 victories, 84 of them with Newman Haas Racing. Next year Champ Car switches to new Panoz chassis.

Meanwhile in China the A1 GP Series had a stressful weekend with track problems on the street circuit in Beijing. This meant that there was very little running in practice because of the various problems. Once the track was sorted out - albeit much shorter than planned because of the need to cut out a hairpin which the cars were unable to navigate, the racing did get underway although the races started behind the Safety Car and most of the 20-minute sprint event was spent behind running under caution. The winner of that was Jeroen Bleekemolen for Holland with Mexico's Salvador Duran (Mexico) second and Italian Enrico Toccacelo third.

In the main event Bleekemolen led but Duran was an early retirement. There followed a series of incidents for others and three Safety Cars but ultimately the Dutchman also retired which allowed Toccacello to take the lead ahead of Germany's Nico Hulkenberg, although the latter disappeared almost immediately with gearbox trouble. This meant that Great Britain's Oliver Jarvis was able to finish second ahead of Australia's Karl Reindler.

In Spain Ricardo Risatti won the national Formula 3 title at Barcelona but the weekend belonged to Racing Engineering which scored two wins one for Miguel Molina and the other for a youngster called Nicolas Prost, son of Alain Prost. It was his first victory in F3 and secured his fourth place in the Spanish Championship.