Saturday, September 14, 2013

Racing's Penultimate Weekend of Summer and Winter

We are coming down the stretch for summer here in the Northern Hemisphere (congratulations Southern Hemisphere as your winter comes to an end and spring begins). Racing is in full swing across the globe for the Windy City to Melbourne, Misano to the former German Democratic Republic.

NASCAR has already run one race at Chicagoland Speedway with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski dominating the Camping World Truck Series race with Busch picking up his fourth Truck win this season. The big news from Chicago is the addition of Jeff Gordon to the Chase after the events of Richmond last Saturday night. This year will set the record for most drivers to compete in the Chase with thirteen. Chase driver Joey Logano won pole position for tomorrow's Sprint Cup Series racing. His teammate and defending champion Brad Keselowski starts second. Juan Pablo Montoya starts third ahead of Chase driver Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Chase drivers Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth rounding out the top ten. The rest of Chase drivers will start as follows: Kyle Busch twelfth, Kurt Busch sixteenth, Kevin Harvick seventeenth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. eighteenth, Ryan Newman twentieth and Clint Bowyer twenty-fourth. Since Chicagoland became the opening race of the Chase in 2011, the winner at Chicagoland has always gone on to win the Sprint Cup title.

In the Nationwide Series, Sam Hornish, Jr. leads Austin Dillion by sixteen points with Regan Smith in third twenty-six back, Elliott Sadler twenty-eight back and Justin Allgaier, who will be making his Cup Series debut this weekend, fifth, fifty-two markers back of Hornish. Hornish has two IndyCar wins at Chicagoland while Allgaier and Sadler each have a Nationwide Series win at Chicagoland.

In Melbourne, the V8 Supercars will run the Sandown 500 tomorrow, the first of three endurance races for the series. Will Davison and co-driver Steve Owen will be on pole position after Davison defeated championship rival Jamie Whincup in the second qualifying heat. Whincup leads Davison leads by fifty-five points with nine races to go. Whincup's teammate Craig Lowndes will start third ahead of Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert. David Reynolds and James Courtney will start sixth and seventh ahead of the highest starting Mercedes of Tim Slade. Scott McLaughlin and Todd Kelly round out the top ten. Since this is an endurance race, each V8 Supercar regular has a co-driver. IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe will be teamed with Russell Ingall and start sixteenth. Class winners at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Marc Lieb and Jeroen Bleekemolen are teamed with Tekmo Autosport drivers Jonathon Webb and Shane Van Gisbergen respectively. Van Gisbergen/Bleekmolen will start fourteen with Webb/Lieb starting twenty-third.

MotoGP returns to Misano and Marc Márquez returns to his dominating ways. The Spaniard has been quickest in all three practices so far and has been directly ahead of his factory Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in each one. Jorge Lorenzo was third ahead of his factory Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in fourth. Italian Andrea Dovizioso gave his home Italian crowd a reason to cheer being fifth quickest on his Ducati. The next three riders on the time chart are customer bikes, the two Hondas of Álvaro Bautista and Stefan Brandl and the Pramac Ducati of Andrea Iannone. Nicky Hayden was ninth with CRT rider Aleix Espargaró in tenth. The Tech 3 Yamahas of Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith were both outside the top ten and will have to participate in the first qualifying session later today and have to advance to Q2 to have any shot at pole.

Márquez has won the last three years at Misano in the 125cc and 250cc/Moto2 classes. Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP races at Misano. All but one Misano MotoGP winner since the track returned to the MotoGP calendar in 2007 will be competing this weekend. Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi will be competing while 2007 Misano winner Casey Stoner is enjoying retirement.

Mike Rockenfeller looks to extend his Deustche Tourenwagen Masters points lead and possibly clinch the DTM title this weekend and after being fastest in first practice at Oschersleben, he looks to be in a good position to do so. The Audi driver leads Mercedes driver Christian Vietoris by thirty-five points and should he exit Oschersleben with a fifty point lead or more, he will be DTM champion for 2013. BMW driver Dirk Werner was second in practice. Werner's best finish this season was a second at the opening round at Hockenheim. Double DTM champion Timo Scheider was third. Scheider was pole-sitter for the opening round at Hockenheim but hasn't finished on the podium since Lausitz 2011 and hasn't won since Adria 2010. Frenchman Adrien Tambay was fourth and has scored points in the last two races. Portugal's Felipe Albuquerque was fifth and is the lone driver on the DTM grid to have yet to score a point in 2013. Gary Paffett was the top Mercedes driver in sixth.

Rockenfeller's championship rival Vietoris was last on the time chart with third in points, Canadian Robert Wickens was eighth in the session. Other notable drivers: Canadian and defending DTM champion Bruno Spengler was eleventh, 2011 DTM champion Martin Tomczyk was twelfth ahead of Timo Glock, Mattias Ekström was sixteenth with American Joey Hand nineteenth.