Friday, October 31, 2014

Hamilton Fastest Again But Not Without a Scare

For the second consecutive practice session Lewis Hamilton was the fastest driver but the championship leader's session was anything but easy. During the session the British driver was experiencing some problems while shifting, abbreviating his session to only 18 laps. Despite the problem, Hamilton's fastest lap was a 1:39.085. Three thousands back of Hamilton was his teammate Nico Rosberg. Rosberg was the only driver within a second of Hamilton.

Fernando Alonso was 1.104 seconds back of Hamilton in third with Daniel Ricciardo ending up fourth in the second session after an ERS issue in first practice. The Australian was just over two-tenths back of Alonso's Ferrari. Felipe Massa rounded out the top five just ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in sixth.

Daniil Kvyat was seventh with a lap of 1:40.641 seconds. The McLaren of Kevin Magnussen was only 0.010 seconds behind the Russian. Jenson Button followed his teammate on the time sheet, just 0.057 seconds back of the Dane. Nico Hülkenberg rounded out the top ten with a lap of 1:40.800 seconds.

Valtteri Bottas surprisingly outside the top ten. The Finn was 1.743 seconds back of Hamilton. Romain Grosjean jumped up to twelfth after being in the cellar in the first session. Jean-Éric Vergne was thirteenth, just 0.013 seconds ahead of Sergio Pérez. Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top fifteen. The Saubers of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez were sixteenth and seventeenth. Sebastian Vettel was eighteenth in the session after having to change the gearbox early in the session. The German was able to get out on track and run nineteen laps. He was 4.895 seconds off of Hamilton's best time.

Third practice will take place tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. ET with qualifying taking place at 2:00 p.m. ET. NBC will show third practice taped at 1:00 p.m. ET with qualifying immediately following.


Hamilton Fastest in FP1 from Austin

The championship leader ended first practice on top of the time sheet from Circuit of the Americas with his championship rival and teammate in tow.

Lewis Hamilton ran the fastest lap of the session at 1:39.941 seconds. The two-time United States Grand Prix winner was just under three-tenths of a second quicker than his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Jenson Button made it three Mercedes-powered cars in a row with a 1:40.319. Following the 2009 world champion was Daniil Kvyat, 0.946 seconds back of Hamilton. Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top five, a tenth back of the Russian.

Fernando Alonso was sixth with his fastest lap being a 1:41.065. Sebastian Vettel was nearly four-tenths back in seventh. Last year's winner of the United States Grand Prix will have to start from the pit lane as he will be using his sixth power unit of the season, one more than the regulations allowed to be used during a season. Williams reserve driver and currently second in GP2 championship Felipe Nasr was eighth fastest sitting in for Finn Valtteri Bottas. Nico Hülkenberg was ninth and Max Verstappen was tenth in his second appearance in a Formula One car. The 17-year old Dutch driver's fastest lap was a 1:41.785. He ran in place of Jean-Éric Vergne as he prepares to make his race debut in 2015 driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Felipe Massa was eleventh with his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen in twelfth. Pastor Maldonado was thirteenth and the Venezuelan had a lazy spin during the session but was able to continue with no damage to the car. Adrian Sutil was fourteenth and he to had a lazy spin that he escaped with no damage.

Mexican drivers Sergio Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez were fifteenth and sixteenth. Daniel Ricciardo only race five laps in the session after suffering ERS problem and was 2.657 seconds back of Hamilton. Last year's runner-up in the United States Grand Prix Romain Grosjean was eighteenth, 3.288 seconds behind Hamilton.

Free practice two will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET and can be seen live on NBCSN.


Friday Five: USGP, Baku, Qatar, Shanghai and Fort Worth

Happy Halloween as the motorsports world provides us with a few treats this weekend. Two championships will be decided while Texas is busy with two major events and China plays host to sports cars. Normally we start with series with the fewest races remaining but with Circuit of the Americas being the center of the Formula One world, we start with the United States Grand Prix.

United States Grand Prix
Formula One returns to the United States and Lewis Hamilton enters having won the last four races and two of the last three United States Grands Prix. The Brit has a 17-point lead over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Hamilton is a win away from becoming the all-time leading British driver in victories. He is currently tied with Nigel Mansell at 31 victories.

Daniel Ricciardo's championship are still alive but the Australian will have to pick up multiple victories along with multiple stumbles from his Mercedes rivals as Ricciardo trails Hamilton by 92 points with 100 points left on the table. With his third place finish at Sochi, Valtteri Bottas jumped Sébastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso to fourth in the World Championship. The Finn is two points ahead of the four-time world champion and four points ahead of the two-time world champion. Jenson Button makes it three champions in a row in the champion as he is seventh having scored 94 points so far this season.

Nico Hülkenberg is eighth with 78 points, five ahead of Felipe Massa. Kevin Magnussen rounds out the top ten with 49 points. The Dane is two points ahead of former McLaren drivers Sergio Pérez and Kimi Räikkönen.

Hamilton has two victories and a fourth in his three United States Grand Prix starts. He could join Michael Schumacher, Graham Hill and Jim Clark as the only drivers to win the United States Grand Prix at least three times. Rosberg has only finished in the points once in the United States and it was ninth last year. Vettel's victory last year was the first time a manufacture other than Ferrari or McLaren had won the United States Grand Prix since Alan Jones won at Watkins Glen in 1980. Jones is the only Australian to win the United States Grand Prix. Ricciardo has yet to finish in the points in the United States.

As we all know, this United States Grand Prix will only feature 18 cars after Caterham and Marussia pulled out due to financial issues.

Baku World Challenge
The battle is between Maximilian Götz and the #28 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini pairing of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Hari Proczyk. The German driver of the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes leads the Lamborghini pairing by 27 points with 33 points left on the table as Blancpain Sprint Series heads to the capital of Azerbaijan. Götz and his co-driver Maximilian Buhk have won three races this year while Bleekemolen and Proczyk have four wins but only one has come in a championship race.

The battle for fourth in the championship is between the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT teammates. The #2 of Enzo Ido and René Rast lead the #1 of Laurens Vanthoor and César Ramos by one point. Vanthoor and Ramos won the qualifying race at Zolder two weeks ago.

Vanthoor is still in contention for the Blancpain GT Drivers' Championship, a combination of points from the Sprint and Endurance Series. Vanthoor trails Götz by 23 points. In the Blancpain GT Teams' Championship, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT leads HTP Motorsport by 17 points. Last year, Vanthoor won at Baku with Stéphane Ortelli as his co-driver. Ortelli will run the #9 Audi with fellow Monegasque driver, GP2 driver Stéphane Richelmi.

Other notable teams entered for Baku are the Boutsen Ginion McLarens with Kevin Éstre and Rob Bell in the #15 and Chris van der Drift and Frédéric Vervisch in the #16. Trackspeed will run Richard Westbrook and Norbert Siedler in the #31 Porsche 997 GT3 R.

World Superbike Season Finale
Tom Sykes looks to make it back-to-back World Superbike championships this weekend in Qatar but he has Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli breathing down his neck, 12 points back and coming off six consecutive finishes in the top two. Skyes is looking to become the ninth rider to win multiple World Superbike championships and the fourth in win championships in consecutive season. Another title for Sykes would the ninth for a British rider and would tie them with the United States for most World Superbike championships. Guintoli is looking for his first title in his sixth season in World Superbike and he would be the first French champion since Raymond Roche won in 1989.

This is the first time World Superbike has visited the Losail International Circuit since 2009. Sykes' lone appearance at Losail was in 2009 when he was Ben Spies' teammate at Yamaha. He finished seventh and fifth in the two races. Guintoli has never raced at Losail in World Superbike but has made five starts between 250cc and MotoGP at the track with his best finish being sixth in the 2006 250cc race. James Toseland is the only Brit to have won in World Superbike at Losail. He won race one in 2006 and race two in 2007.

Guintoli's Aprilla teammate Marco Melandri is third in the championship, 11 points ahead of Honda rider Jonathan Rea. Melandri finished second in the 2005 Qatar Grand Prix to Valentino Rossi. Sykes' Kawasaki teammate Loris Baz rounds out the top five.

6 Hours of Shanghai
Toyota enters China having won their fourth race of the season with Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi. The drivers of the #8 TS040 have a 29-point lead over the #2 Audi of Marcel Fässler, Benoît Tréluyer and André Lotterer. Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi are 11 points behind their Audi teammates after the German manufacture was shut out of the podium at Fuji last month. Alexander Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima made it a Toyota 1-2 at their home race and Wurz and Sarrazin are 21 points behind the Dane and Brazilian.

Four points outside the top five is the #14 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani who have finished fourth in three of five races. Despite two podiums, the #20 Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley are eight points behind the #12 Rebellion Racing of Mathias Beche, Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld.

The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander is well on it's way to it's second consecutive championship in GTE-Pro as Bruni and Vilander has won three of five races this season. The pairing has a 49.5-point lead over Porsche driver Frédéric Makowiecki as the Italian and Finn could lock up the World Endurance Cup for GT Driver with two races to go. Richard Lietz is 58 points back after missing two races and Jörg Bergmeister is 70 points back.

While Ferrari has dominated GTE-Pro, Aston Martin has been wiping the floor with the competition in GTE-Am. Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson has three victories and two second places finishes. The drivers of the #95 Vantage GTE lead their sister #99 of Christoffer Nygaard, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana by 39 points and the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried, Klaus Bachler and Khaled Al Qubaisi are 49 points back. AF Corse did not enter any car in GTE-Am for Shanghai leaving the #90 8Star Motorsports Ferrari as the only 458 Italia in the class.

The LMP2 field has nearly doubled in size for the Shanghai round. Sergey Zlobin leads the LMP2 championship by 16 points over the #26 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan of Julien Canal, Olivier Pla and Romain Rusinov. Zlobin will be joined in the #27 SMP Racing Oreca-Nissan by Nicolas Minassian and Maurizio Mediani. Thirty points back of Zlobin are KCMG Oreca-Nissan drivers Richard Bradley and Matthew Howson. The Brits will be joined by Swiss driver Alexandre Imperatori in Shanghai. Extreme Speed Motorsports has entered two HPD ARX-03bs for Shanghai. Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Ricardo González will pilot the #30 with Johannes van Overbeek, David Brabham and Ed Brown in the #31. OAK Racing racing has entered Asian Le Mans Series championship leaders David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung in the #35 Morgan-Judd. They will be joined by journeyman gentleman driver Mark Patterson.

Last year, Lotterer, Tréluyer and Fässler won at Shanghai while G-Drive won in LMP2. Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner won in GTE-Pro and they could make it back-to-back this weekend while 8Star Motorsports won in GTE-Am and could also double up from China.

Fort Worth
Jeff Gordon leads the points after finishing second at Martinsville. The four-time champion is three points ahead of Ryan Newman. Joey Logano is a point behind Newman and won at Texas this past April. Matt Kenseth is fourth in the standings, a point behind Logano. Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin is three points behind him. Their future Joe Gibbs teammate Carl Edwards is 15 points behind Kenseth. Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick are 26 and 28 points back of fourth respectively after accidents at Martinsville.

Logano is the most recent winner at Texas but Edwards is one of two drivers with three victories at Texas. His last Texas victory was in 2008. Jimmie Johnson is the other driver with three Texas victories and he has won the last two fall races at the 1.5-mile track. Kenseth and Hamlin both have two victories with both of Kenseth's coming in the spring while Hamlin swept the Texas races in 2010. Newman and Gordon each have one win at Texas.

Keselowski and Harvick have yet to win at Texas in the Cup series. Keselowski has one top five and three top tens in 12 starts. He finished second in the 2012 fall race. Harvick has three top tens and eleven top tens in 23 starts. His best finish is third in the spring of 2006. Harvick finished 42nd at Texas in April and has only led six laps in his career at Texas.

Only once has the Texas Chase race been won by a non-Chase driver. That was Tony Stewart in 2006.

Over/Unders
1. Over or Under: 45.5 laps led by Mercedes at Austin?
2. Over or Under: 3.5 German cars finishing the top five in the Baku championship race?
3. Over or Under: 3.5 podium finishes for British riders at Qatar?
4. Over or Under: 150.5 laps run by the #9 Lotus CLM P1/01 of James Rossiter, Pierre Kaffeer and Lucas Auer?
5. Over or Under: 2.5 Chase drivers finishing ahead of Matt Kenseth at Texas?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: 5 non-Spaniards/Italians finished in the top ten (Stefan Bradl (German), Bradley Smith and Scott Redding (British) and Yonny Hernández (Colombian).
2. Under: Sébastien Ogier won Rally Catalunya by 11.3 seconds over Jari-Matti Latvala.
3. Under: José María López scored 38 points at Suzuka.
4. Over: Two podiums finishers at Surfers were from outside the top ten in the championship (Micahel Caruso and Tim Slade).
5. Under: Jeff Gordon led 130 laps, the most at Martinsville.

Predictions
1. At least 17 cars will finish the United States Grand Prix.
2. Maximilian Götz wins the Blancpain Sprint Series championship.
3. Sylvain Guintoli's consecutive podium streak ends at Qatar.
4. Extreme Speed puts a car on the LMP2 podium.
5. At least one Chase driver will finish outside the top twenty-five at Texas.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Second time is the charm, Marc Márquez ends his winless streak at Sepang (Correct).
2. Sébastien Ogier clinches the title in Catalunya (Correct).
3. José María López clinches the title at Suzuka (Correct).
4. Mark Winterbottom will end his streak of 11 consecutive races without a top five (Correct. He finished 4th in race one from Surfers).
5. A non-Chase driver wins at Martinsville (Correct. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won).
Overall: 5/5. Running Tally: 19.5/35


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule: It Could've Been Worse

It's official. The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season will begin Sunday March 8th in Brasilia, Brazil and end Sunday August 30th in Sonoma, California and feature a total seventeen races.

Three weeks later, IndyCar will head to St. Petersburg, Florida for their traditional early-spring visit to the street course. After a week off for Easter, the series will run three consecutive weekend and will start with making their debut at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana. The week after being in the Bayou, IndyCar heads to the second-longest staple on the schedule, Long Beach for what should be another race with Chamber of Commerce weather. IndyCar will head back down to Dixie the week after that to the gorgeous Barber Motorsports Park to close out the month of April.

The month of May once again features the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend with Indianapolis 500 qualifying taking place the following weekend. The 99th Indianapolis 500 will run on May 24, 2015. Belle Isle closes out the month of May with a doubleheader on May 30-31st.

Texas returns in June in for their Saturday night extravaganza. The following week IndyCar heads to Toronto. The race is moved up one month because of the Pan American Games taking place in the city in July 2015. Due to the June date, Toronto will not be a doubleheader in 2014 but that does not rule out the possibility of Toronto being a doubleheader in 2016.

After a week off, Fontana will be on Saturday June 27th, it's fourth different date in four years. The series will take 4th of July weekend off but will be running at Milwaukee the following Sunday, Milwaukee's third different date in three years. Iowa will run the Saturday night after Milawukee.

After a week off, IndyCar heads to Mid-Ohio for their traditional first weekend of August date. The series will then take two weeks off before heading to their final two races, taking place on different sides of the country. On Sunday August 23rd, IndyCar will run their final oval race of the 2014 season at Pocono Raceway. The following Sunday the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale will take place at Sonoma Raceway on August 30th, a week before Labor Day. It will be the first time an IndyCar season has ended on a road course since the 2007 Champ Car Series season ended at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

Let's break this down.

There are 129 days until the first race of the 2015 IndyCar season. There will be 189 days between IndyCar races.

That "international series" is just one race in Brazil. It's a start but after it appeared the series eyed the Middle East, it fell short of being a "series."

One less race than 2014 but that is due to Toronto not being a doubleheader. That's no big deal. If all venues from 2015 make it to 2016 (which would be a miracle because IndyCar always loses a race season-to-season) and Toronto returns to being a doubleheader then we are back to eighteen.

I don't see how date equity is moving Fontana to their fourth different date in as many years and Milwaukee to their third different date in as many years but IndyCar is much smarter than I am so if they say so.

The good news is there are new venues. Along with Brasilia is New Orleans and with Andretti Sports Marketing running it, I feel the race is in good hands.

I understand what IndyCar did with their final two races. Pocono is the weekend of NASCAR's night race at Bristol and Sonoma is when NASCAR is off. It makes sense but the Sonoma season finale is the day after the NASCAR Xfinity Series is at Road America and the Truck Series is at Mosport the same day so there will be competition.

IndyCar is dropping the ball not racing on the June weekend NASCAR is off. June 21st will feature no races as the Truck Series is at Iowa that Friday night and the Xfinity Series is at Chicago that Saturday night.

With Pocono off 4th of July weekend, it's now on them to draw a better crowd. Otherwise, 2015 might be the last time IndyCar visits the state of Pennsylvania for quite sometime. To be honest, their should be a race 4th of July weekend. Just because it didn't work at Pocono and Watkins Glen before that doesn't mean no IndyCar race will work on that weekend.

The 2015 schedule could have been worse. IndyCar could have lost Pocono and Fontana and Milwaukee and then the season would be over by July. I can't see ending by Labor Day weekend being the long term answer. I think the increase in television ratings had more to do with consistently racing week-in and week-out from the start to the end of the season. End in October, fill the month of September with European races if they can't find domestic race as Formula One heads to Asia after Monza. There has to be a better answer than cramming every race into six months and then waiting half a year for the next race. Start earlier, end later and spread the races around.

The 2015 season is far from perfect but it isn't a disaster. However, it looks like 2015 will be another transition year for IndyCar with hopes of better in 2016. I guess that is something to look forward to.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Wrap-Up: Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's 2014 Season

Halfway through the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series team reviews has brought us to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Josef Newgarden. The pairing made great strides in Newgarden's sophomore season in 2013 with the Tennesseean earning his first career podium at Baltimore as well as four top fives and seven top tens after his best finish in his rookie season was eleventh. The 2014 season had a lull in May and June but they turned it around as the summer wore on.

Josef Newgarden started slow in 2014 but ended strong.
Josef Newgarden
Newgarden started 2014 with a ninth place finish at St. Petersburg after starting last on the grid in 22nd. He had a career day going at Long Beach where it appeared he was going to be in serious contention for his first career victory. He was able to get out ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Will Power on a pit cycle and was in position to claim the lead once everyone had made their stops but Hunter-Reay attempted a bold pass on the inside of turn four and ruined his day as well as Newgarden's and about a half a dozen other drivers. Newgarden would recover at Barber with an eighth place finish after starting fourth.

His month of May wasn't spectacular but it had it's moments. He was average in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis finishing 17th. In Indianapolis 500 qualifying, he ended up eighth on both day one and day two, his second career top ten start in his third appearance for the famed event. During the race he started well but ran out of fuel coming into the pit lane and like Tony Kanaan lost many laps due to it. The dagger to the heart that ended his day was Martin Plowman running into the back of Newgarden when he slowed for the caution that Scott Dixon brought out.

His struggles carried over to Detroit where accidents in each day, one on his own, the other caused by Will Power. Texas was a step in the right direction but could have been better after he started second but slides back to 11th, one lap down. Houston capped off a rough stretch of races with a mechanical failure in race one and a brakes issue in race two gave him a pair of 20th place finishes heading into the second half of 2014.

Needing to make his own luck, Newgarden turned an average day at Pocono into a top ten with an eighth place finish. After deciding to stretch fuel mileage and despite starting dead last, Newgarden found himself leading with thirteen to go but had to stop with six to go. At Iowa, he once again had to make his own luck. While the leaders Kanaan, Dixon, Ed Carpenter, Hélio Castroneves and Power stayed out on the final caution, Newgarden took tires, as did Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal and all three finished much better than they would have had Juan Pablo Montoya and Carpenter not gotten together. Hunter-Reay beat Newgarden out of the pit lane and held off Newgarden by just over a half second after the two blew by the Target Ganassi duo as Newgarden was able to pick up his second career podium and first on an oval.

He was on the verge of a top ten in race one at Toronto but locked up the tires heading into turn three and blew the corner. When he tried to get back into the race, he smacked the barrier, adding insult to injury. He was running in the top five in race two but was a sitting duck on wet tires and came home 13th. At Mid-Ohio, Newgarden had another career day. He started second and was on the back of pole-sitter Sébastien Bourdais all day. He was in contention until a sloppy pit stop caused a penalty for running over the air hose and dropped them to 12th in the final results while Scott Dixon performed a masterpiece, stretched fuel to win from 22nd on the grid and Bourdais finished second.

At Milwaukee, Newgarden had to pit late for fuel but on fresh tires was able to go from 12th to fifth after making up a lap on his own under green flag conditions. He started second for the third time in 2014 at Sonoma but fell to sixth in final results which could have been a few positions worse had Will Power not spun on his own. He qualified third for Fontana and ran well all night in the season finale before slipping to tenth.

Josef Newgarden's 2014 Statistics
Championship Positions: 13th (406 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 7
Laps Led: 14
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 4
Fast Twelves: 5
Average Start: 10.588 (10th)
Average Finish: 13.722 (18th)

Josef Newgarden ended 2014 strong as he and SFHR head to new terrain after merging with Ed Carpenter Racing. Being a Chevrolet team may benefit the American as the American manufacture ended 2014 winning the final six races. He has been making strides but the clock is ticking.

He has made 51 starts in his IndyCar career. Only 25 drivers have won their first career race after making their 51st start. Of those 25, eight only won once in their career (note: Takuma Sato is one of those drivers and is still active) and those 25 combine for 87 career victories. The average amount of victories for a driver to take more that 52 starts to get their first career victory is 6.69. Only one of those drivers reached double-digit career victories (Jimmy Vasser won ten races after taking 56 starts to get his first). And possibly most importantly only three of those 25 drivers are Indianapolis 500 winners (Eddie Cheever, Arie Luyendyk and Buddy Lazier).

Merging with Ed Carpenter Racing puts the pressure on Newgarden to win after Carpenter and Mike Conway combined for three victories in 2014. There is no reason why Newgarden shouldn't get a victory in 2015. The resources are there and it appears he will have two competent teammates to help him out. After getting by for three years as the likable driver on the little team pinching pennies to get by, it is time to be more stern on him. It is time for him to get into victory lane.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: IndyCar to Save the Day?

While champions were being crowned around the globe, the news floating out of the Formula One circle was bleak. Two teams have fallen on financial hardship and will not be coming Stateside this upcoming weekend and that is disappointing for the so called premier division of motorsports. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Remember When Formula One Nearly Split?
Five years ago, the teams that formed the Formula One Teams Association (Everyone but Williams and Force India) announced the formation of a breakaway series.

Of course it never came to fruition, although the breakaway series schedule was pretty killer, but five years later we sit with Caterham falling to pieces in front of our very eyes, as is Marussia, the debate over three-car teams becoming stagnant and Bernie Ecclestone pretty much telling the teams he is in charge and they can't stop him.

Maybe the split should have happen. Maybe it should have gone down the path of USAC-CART, CART-IRL and Grand-Am-ALMS. The three teams added to the 2010 grid tentatively appear down to none as HRT folded after three season, Caterham is on the cutting room floor and Marussia will miss Austin as well. Sauber has been on a decline ever since BMW pulled out after the 2009 season. And we've been over the three-car team issue. If it is enforced, the struggle we see with Caterham, Marussia and Sauber are now occurring at Lotus, Force India and Williams.

Then there is Bernie. I think he has been watching a little bit too much NASCAR in the two weeks since Sochi. The me, me, me attitude the 78-year old has is more like a 7-year old. The "If I want more races, then we will have more races regardless of what the teams say" dictatorship mindset is ridiculous. Formula One cannot be adding races to whoever has the largest paycheck to line Bernie's pockets, especially when teams can't make the current amount of races scheduled. Forget Baku and Las Vegas. It is time to strengthen the races that have been the backbone of the series for over six decades. Attendance has been down at places such as Germany and TV ratings have been down around the globe. If places such as Germany, Italy and the rest of Europe, the heart and soul of the series, lose interest and faith, nothing can make up for it, not even a seven-figure check.

Formula One has to get their act together. They need to get back to their roots. They need to not price out the average citizen. They need to worry less about money and more about people. If you lose enough people, you eventually will start losing money. Things have to change and quick. Otherwise you mind as well just start all over again from scratch.

Could IndyCar Save the Day?
With Caterham and Marussia stiffing Austin, maybe IndyCar could fill those final four spots on the grid?

Put the regulations aside and realize that having four IndyCars running at Austin would hurt nobody. The cars are just as slow as the Marussias and Caterhams. I bet they would make it under the 107% rule and if not, then just turn up the turbo to get them there. After all, who would be against a little more power? Refueling makes an IndyCar pit stop four times longer than a Formula One stop, putting the invited IndyCar teams as a greater disadvantage. Who cares if they are on Firestone? They aren't going to be an advantage over the Pirellis. The drivers are professional, will stay out of the way of the full-time teams and will be competitive amongst themselves to put on the best showing for IndyCar and try to get as many positions as possible. The only thing to worry about is the standing start but as long as you get the right drivers, that won't be a problem.

It's not like the IndyCars are doing anything but collecting dust. What's the worst that could happen? If I was Mark Miles I would be on the phone immediately inquiring about allowing four cars to round out the field. I've said it before and I will say it again, IndyCar should run support races with Formula One when they head to Montreal and Austin because racing on those Saturdays would provide bigger crowds than every other IndyCar race but the Indianapolis 500 and I would ask for little to no sanctioning fee because it would be free exposure for the series. Plus, it would give NBC and NBCSN more coverage those weekends.

Have two Chevrolets and two Hondas run. Have one be the newly crowned champion Will Power and the other be this year's Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. The second Chevrolet driver is the toughest. Do you have Juan Pablo Montoya make a Formula One comeback? Or what about Sébastien Bourdais? Do you give Scott Dixon a shot? If it was my call, I would want Dixon on the grid. The second Honda I would want to be an American because this is the United States Grand Prix after all. But instead of Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden or Graham Rahal, I would want Texas' own A.J. Foyt Racing fielding Alexander Rossi. Rossi has to be wondering what it will take to make his Formula One debut. After it appeared it would happen at Spa and it appeared he would be the logical substitute for the injured Jules Bianchi only to have Marussia skip his home race, Rossi deserves this opportunity.

The only other problem I can think of is numbers and the good news is the #12 and #28 aren't used in Formula One, so Power and Hunter-Reay are good. Marcus Ericsson was using #9 but since Caterham won't be at Austin, I don't see why Dixon couldn't use it. Fernando Alonso uses #14 but Foyt and Rossi could run #41.

It's a pipe dream but it's my pipe dream damn it. IndyCar and Formula One have nothing to lose by putting four cars on the grid. It couldn't be any worse than Caterham.

What Lower Ticket Prices Will Do
The crowd for the MotoGP race at Sepang looked a hell of a lot better than the attendance for the Formula One race there earlier this year. So I decided to look up ticket prices. The most expensive ticket was the "premium roving package" which allows access to all the spectator stands as well as a set of event merchandise and cost about $110. Want to sit in the main grandstand? You could have for  $49. You could have sit on the hillside for just over $12.

Name one Formula One race you can get in to see for under $15? Make it affordable for people to attend. Formula One has more money than God and probably a fair amount more than MotoGP, yet the latter is having no problem drawing people and their championship was decided two weeks ago and one guy has dominated the world championship and won ten consecutive races earlier this year. The former has three drivers still alive for the world championship and double points in the final round to keep it interesting. Remember when everyone was pinning blame on Sebastian Vettel for the declines in Formula One attendance and ratings because of his dominance? I call bullshit because you can clearly keep fans engaged and interested when someone has all ready locked up the championship in a dominating fashion.

Random Thoughts
I like Martinsville but shortening their Cup races to 300 laps would be a victory for everybody. Less is more people.

If you don't have a hood on your car or front fenders, you shouldn't be allowed back out on the track in NASCAR. You are a caution waiting to happen as something is bound to come off your car and it just looks ridiculous.

Good news IndyCar fans! The DTM still hasn't released their 2015 schedule so you are not alone.

Fun Facts
If four IndyCars were allowed to run at Austin, it would be the first time Firestone has competed in a Formula One race since the 1975 Argentine Grand Prix when they were on Mario Andretti's Parnelli VPJ4-Ford. Firestone's last victory in Formula One was the 1972 Italian Grand Prix and Emerson Fittipaldi clinched the 1972 World Drivers' Championship with that victory driving for McLaren.

The last time the #28 was used in Formula One was the 1995 Australian Grand Prix when Gerhard Berger was at Ferrari.

Champions From the Weekend
Sébastien Ogier clinched his second consecutive World Rally Championship with a victory in Rally Catalunya. He won by 11.3 seconds over teammate and championship rival Jari-Mati Latvala. The final round of the WRC season will take place in three weeks from Great Britain.

José María Lopez clinched the 2014 World Touring Car Championship with a victory in race one from Suzuka. This was the Argentine's first season in WTCC. He would finish sixth in race two as Gabriele Tarquini won race two. The final round of the WTCC will take place from Macau in three weeks.

Esteve Rabat clinched the Moto2 title with a third place finish from Sepang, his seven consecutive podium. Maverick Viñales and Mika Kallio finished first and second respectively. The Moto2 season finale will occur in a fortnight from Valencia.


Winners From the Weekend
You know about Marc Márquez, Sébastien Ogier, José María López, Gabriele Tarquini and Maverick Viñales but did you know...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the NASCAR Cup race at Martinsville. No one clinched a spot in the final race at Homestead.

Shane Van Gisbergen and Jonathon Webb won race one of V8 Supercars Castrol Edge Gold Coast 600. Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell won race two and claimed the 2014 Endurance Cup while Whincup extended his championship lead over Mark Winterbottom.

Efrén Vázquez won in Moto3. Jack Miller finished second and kept his title hopes alive. The Australian trails Álex Márquez by 11 points points heading to Valencia,

Darrell Wallace, Jr. won the Truck race from Martinsville.

Coming Up This Weekend
Formula One comes to the United States for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
NASCAR also heads to Texas.
FIA World Endurance Championship heads to Shanghai.
Blancpain Sprint Series wrap up their 2014 season at the Baku World Challenge.
World Superbike ends their season in Qatar.
Stock Car Brasil returns after a month off at Tarumã.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Márquez One Away From Breaking Record

He may have already locked up the 2014 World Championship but Marc Márquez has his sights set on the single season record for victories after picking up his twelfth win at Sepang. The Catalan rider started on pole position but dropped as far back as eighth on the first lap as Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso were the top three at the end of lap one with Valentino Rossi and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top five.

Pedrosa would fall on the final corner of the second lap as Márquez would make his way up to third that lap behind Lorenzo and Rossi and those three would breakaway from the field and have their own battle at the front for most of the race. The Majorcan Lorenzo would lead the first nine laps before his teammate Rossi and Márquez would pass him. On the eleventh lap, Márquez would take the lead from Rossi and the two of them would go at for the next seven laps before the Italian started to fade.

Márquez won by 2.445 seconds over Rossi with Lorenzo rounding out the podium, 3.508 seconds back of his fellow Spaniard. Bradl finished fourth, matching his best finish of the season for a third time. Bradley Smith finished fifth, his third top five in the last four races. Pol Espargaró finished sixth despite suffering an broken bone in his left foot in Saturday practice. Pol is now sixth in the championship. Yonny Hernández scored a career-best seventh place finish while Andrea Dovizioso faded to eighth after having brake issues. Héctor Barberá finished ninth, his third consecutive points paying finish after having only two in the first fourteen races. Scott Redding finished tenth.

Hiroshi Aoyama came home eleventh with Michael Laverty finishing a career-best twelfth. Mike Di Meglio finished thirteenth and scored points for the second consecutive race with Broc Parkes finishing fourteenth. For the second consecutive race, only fourteen riders made it to the finish.

Alex de Angelis was in position to score a point but retired on the final lap. Dani Pedrosa had worked his way up to eleventh before falling again and this time falling out of the race. Nicky Hayden fell while running in the top ten. Cal Crutchlow had a mechanical issue end his race while he was solidly in the points and Aleix Espargaró and Álvaro Bautista had an accident end their days after only one lap.

Márquez's victory tied Mick Doohan for the record of most victories in a single season. The Australian won twelve of fifteen rounds in 1997 with his first coming in Malaysia and his twelfth coming in Catalunya as the final of a ten-race winning streak. Doohan finished second in two of the other three races while retiring in the final race of the season, his home race in Australia. Márquez will now head home to Valencia, Spain with a chance to take the record all for himself.

Márquez has a 62-point advantage Rossi with the Italian having only a 12-point gap between him and Lorenzo for second in the championship. After back-to-back retirements, Pedrosa will be guaranteed to finish fourth in the 2014 championship. Andrea Dovizioso is also assured he will finished fifth in the 2014 championship.

Pol Espargaró has a 7-point lead over Bradley Smith for sixth in the championship and a 9-point gap over his brother Aleix. Bradl is seven back of Aleix while Andrea Iannone stayed in the top ten of the championship despite missing Sepang due to a left arm contusion. Iannone is thirteen points clear of Bautista for tenth in the championship.