Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Five: Bathurst, Charlotte, Fuji, Motegi, Sochi

The world will be busy from Saturday night on the East Coast to breakfast on Sunday. It will be nearly non-stop on track actions from four countries from 7:00 p.m. ET Saturday to 9:00 a.m. ET Sunday. From endurance races to sprints. Night races to day. City streets to closed circuits. Get yourself a cup of coffee and carton of ice cream.

Bathurst 1000
The 59th Bathurst 1000 is scheduled this weekend. Mark Winterbottom leads the V8 Supercars championship with 2215 points to his Ford teammate Chaz Mostert's 2017 points. Winterbottom and co-driver Steve Owen won the Sandown 500 with Mostert and Cameron Waters finishing second. Mostert is the defending Bathurst 1000 winner with Paul Morris but Mostert will not get a chance to repeat after suffering a broken leg and broken wrist in a qualifying accident on Friday. Winterbottom won the 2013 Bathurst 1000 and Ford is looking for its first three-peat in the famed event since 2006-2008.

David Reynolds is third in the championship, 360 points behind Winterbottom. Dean Canto will be Reynolds co-driver. Craig Lowndes is fourth in the championship and is looking for sixth Bathurst 1000 victory, which would put him in a tie for third all time with Jim Reynolds and Mark Scaife. Lowndes has not won at Bathurst since 2010 when Scaife was his co-driver. Steven Richards will be Lowndes' co-driver. Fabian Coulthard rounds out the top five in the championship and Luke Youlden will be his co-driver.

Garth Tander is sixth but has yet to win a race this season. The three-time Bathurst 1000 winner will be joined by Warren Luff. Shane van Gisbergen lost a shot at victory in last year's Bathurst 1000 after a mechanical failure on his final pit stop. Jonathon Webb returns as van Gisbergen's co-driver. Defending V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup is eighth, despite having three victories. Whincup and Paul Dumbrell started on pole at Sandown but had a tire puncture ruin their race.

James Courtney will miss Bathurst after suffering two broken ribs and a punctured lung at Sydney Motorsport Park after being hit by some signage board blown loose by a helicopter. Jack Perkins and Russell Ingall will pilot the #22 Holden. Rick Kelly is tenth and will be joined by David Russell.

Other driver pairing to watch for: Nick Percat and Oliver Gavin finished third in last year's Bathurst 100 and they return in the #222 Holden. Lee Holdsworth and Sébastien Bourdais finished seventh at Sandown and both look for their first Bathurst victories. Todd Kelly and Blancpain Endurance Series champion Alex Buncombe will be in the #7 Nissan. Will and Alex Davison will shared the #9 Mercedes-Benz. Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie will make their Bathurst debuts in the #200 Ford. The #33 Volve will be driven by Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat. Scott Pye and Marcos Ambrose will be in the #17 Ford.

Twelve drivers remain championship eligible as NASCAR enters the second round of the Chase.

Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick all won in the first round. Kyle Busch is coming off a second place finish at Dover. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished third at Dover and advanced on tiebreaker over Jamie McMurray. Joey Logano finished in the top ten in all three first round races. Kenseth was the only other driver to accomplish that.

Kurt Busch finished third at Chicagoland but failed to finish in the top fifteen in the following two races. Carl Edwards finished in the top five in the first two races but finished 15th at Dover. Brad Keselowski's and Martin Truex, Jr.'s best finish in the first round was eighth, Keselowski at Chicagoland, Truex at Loudon, and both drivers finished in the top fifteen in all three first round races. Ryan Newman had two top tens in the first round while Jeff Gordon's best finish in round one was seventh at Loudon.

Six of the dozen drivers remaining have won at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon has five victories at Charlotte, two of those in the fall race. Kevin Harvick has three Charlotte victories and won last year's fall race. Matt Kenseth has two Charlotte victories and won the 2011 fall race. Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski all have won at Charlotte but Keselowski is the only driver of those three to have won the fall race. Keselowski won the 2013 fall race.

Ryan Newman has never won at Charlotte but has nine pole positions at the track. Kyle Busch has no wins but ten top fives and 14 top tens in 23 Charlotte starts. Joey Logano's average Charlotte finish is 10.2 but he has only led 20 laps at the track. Denny Hamlin has finished in the top ten in nine of the last ten Charlotte races. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished third in this year's Coca-Cola 600, his first top ten at the track in five races. He hasn't finished in the top ten in the fall Charlotte race since 2006 when he finished fourth. Martin Truex, Jr. has one top five, which he scored this past May, and five top tens in 20 Charlotte starts.

The sixth round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship heads to Toyota's home track of Fuji. The #17 Porsche of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley has won the last two races and find themselves ten points behind the #7 Audi of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer. The #18 Porsche of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb has won pole position in the last three races but has only one podium to show for it. The #8 Audi of Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis are coming off their first podium of the season at the most recent round at Austin.

Defending champions Toyota has not finished on the podium since the season opener at Silverstone. Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi are the defending Fuji winners and will be joined by Kazuki Nakajima in the #1 TS040. The #2 Toyota of Alexander Wurz, Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin has failed to finish in the top five in the last three races.

The #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan of Matthew Howson and Richard Bradley continue to lead the LMP2 championship but the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Sam Bird, Romain Rusinov and Julien Canal are now 14 points behind Howson and Bradley after winning at Austin. Le Mans winner Nick Tandy will join the KCMG team at Fuji. The #27 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan of Gustavo Yacamán, Ricardo González and Pipo Derani are four points behind their teammates.

Extreme Speed Motorsports is still looking for their first podium of the season. The #30 Ligier-HPD of Scott Speed, Ryan Dalziel and David Heinemeier Hansson finished fourth at Austin. The #31 of Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty retired at the team's home race.

Richard Lietz has won the last two races and leads the World Endurance Cup for GT drivers with 98 points, 11 ahead of the #71 AF Corse Ferrari drivers James Calado and Davide Rigon. Lietz will be joined by Michael Christensen in the #91 Porsche. Christensen missed the Spa round and is third in the championship. Defending champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander are 29.5 points behind Lietz and have failed to finish on the podium since winning the season opener at Silverstone. Spa winners Alex MacDowell, Richie Stanaway and Fernando Rees rounds out the top five. Stanaway will miss Fuji due to GP2 duty in Sochi. Stefan Mücke will replace him in the #99 Aston Martin.

The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Aleksey Basov and Victor Shaitar have won the last three rounds in GTE-Am and hold a 35-point lead over the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas. The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda won the first two rounds of the season and was on their way to winning the first three but had an accident while leading at Le Mans. The #77 Proton-Dempsey Racing Porsche of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried are two points behind the #98 Aston Martin and finished fourth after winning pole position at Austin.

With four races remaining in the 2015 MotoGP season, four riders remain eligible for the championship. Valentino Rossi's championship lead has been cut to 14 points over Jorge Lorenzo as the Majorcan won at Aragón two weeks ago while Rossi finished third. Marc Márquez is 79 points behind Rossi after retiring from his fifth race of the season at Aragón after starting on pole position. Márquez has retired from the last two races he has started on pole position. Andrea Iannone is the final rider alive for the championship. The Ducati rider is 91 points behind his fellow Italian Rossi. Iannone only has two podiums this season, a second at Mugello after starting on pole position and a third at Qatar.

Rossi is looking for his fifth Japanese Grand Prix victory, which will put him second all-time behind  John Redman. Lorenzo is looking for his third consecutive MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix victory. The last rider to win three consecutive Japanese Grands Prix was Loris Capirossi, who won from 2005-2007. Márquez has finished second in his two Japanese Grand Prix starts in the MotoGP class. He won at Motegi in 125cc in 2010 and in Moto2 in 2012. Iannone also has two wins at Motegi, 2009 in 125cc and 2011 in Moto2.

The World Championship fight continues in Sochi as Formula One heads to the 15th round of the season. Lewis Hamilton increased his points total to 277 points after winning at Suzuka. The defending world champion holds a 48-point lead over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Sebastian Vettel is the only other driver championship eligible as he sits 59 points behind Hamilton. No driver can be eliminated from championship contention at the Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel finished in that order on the podium at Suzuka in the most recent round. Hamilton won last year's inaugural Formula One Russian Grand Prix after leading all 53 laps from pole position. Rosberg finished second with Valtteri Bottas rounding out the podium and scoring fastest lap on the final lap of the race. The McLarens of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished fourth and fifth. Fernando Alonso was sixth with Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel rounded out the top eight. Kimi Räikkönen and Sergio Pérez rounded out the points.

Alexander Rossi will not be competing for Manor this weekend as he has GP2 duty for Racing Engineering. Rossi is second in the GP2 Series championship, 108 points behind ART Grand Prix and McLaren development driver Stoffel Vandoorne. Vandoorne could clinch the GP2 title this weekend. Rossi has to score 12 more points than the Belgian this weekend to keep his GP2 championship hopes alive. Rossi has won two of the last three GP2 races. 

1. Over or Under: 3.5 top ten finishers in the Bathurst 1000 that started outside the top ten?
2. Over or Under: 8.5 cautions at Charlotte?
3. Over or Under: 4.5 French drivers winning at Fuji?
4. Over or Under: 0.5 points scored by Nicky Hayden in his final Japanese Grand Prix?
5. Over or Under: 100.5 laps completed by McLaren cars in the Russian Grand Prix?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: Nine cars finished on the lead lap.
2. Over: Three 2015 Indianapolis 500 starters finished on a podium at Petit Le Mans.
3. Over: The #17 Team Falken Tires Porsche finished seventh in class.
4. Over: Two Americans won the GTD championship, Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler.
5. Over: Kevin Harvick led the most laps, 355, on his way to victory at Dover.

1. Two European drivers finish in the top ten.
2. Jimmie Johnson finished ahead of at least six Chase drivers.
3. A team gets their first victory of the season at Fuji.
4. Andrea Dovizioso finishes ahead of his Ducati teammate Andrea Iannone.
5. Nico Hülkenberg leaves Sochi ahead of his Force India teammate Sergio Pérez in the championship.

Last Week's Predictions
1. For the second consecutive year, at least one American wins Petit Le Mans overall (Wrong. An Austrian, a Frenchman and a Brit won overall).
2. All three cars on the PC podium finish ahead of the GTLM class winner (Wrong. GTLM entries finished 1-2 overall).
3. The GTLM winner finishes within 15 laps of the overall winner (Wrong. GTLM won overall).
4. There will be a repeat winner in GTD (Correct. The #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche won their second race of 2015).
5. Jamie McMurray does not advance to the second round of the Chase (Correct).
Overall: 2/5 Running Tally: 12/25