Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Five: Phoenix, Interlagos, Motegi, Wales

Two seasons come to a close this weekend and one championship will be crowned. Meanwhile, two seasons will be entering their penultimate rounds. Formula One remains in the Americas and heads south to Interlagos. NASCAR heads southwest to Phoenix and four drivers will be eliminated from championship contention while four drivers will advance with a shot at the title. Super GT ends at Motegi and World Rally ends in Wales.

The penultimate round of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season will take place from Phoenix International Raceway. Jeff Gordon is the lone driver locked in as championship eligible for the season finale after his victory at Martinsville. Jimmie Johnson won at Texas, meaning at least two drivers will qualify for the season finale on points.

Kyle Busch is the top driver on points with 4,080. He is one point ahead of Kevin Harvick and current bubble driver Martin Truex, Jr. is four points behind Busch. Seven points behind Truex, Jr. and the first on the outside looking in is Carl Edwards. Brad Keselowski led 312 of 334 laps at Texas but was passed by Jimmie Johnson with four laps to go, taking a Chase spot away from the Penske driver. Kurt Busch trails Truex, Jr. by 28 points and Joey Logano trails by 63 points. Logano has to win the race to be championship eligible at the season finale.

Five of the eight Chase drivers have won at Phoenix. Kevin Harvick is the all-time leader in victories at Phoenix with seven, including the last four races at the one-mile oval. The last driver not named Kevin Harvick to win at Phoenix was Carl Edwards and he has two victories at Phoenix, as does Jeff Gordon. The Busch brothers each have one victory at Phoenix and both of them won in 2005, splitting the first year Phoenix had two Cup races. Kurt won the spring race and Kyle won in autumn.

Martin Truex, Jr. has one top five, seven top tens and a pole position in 19 starts at Phoenix. He finished seventh in the spring race back in March. After failing to finish in the top ten in his first five starts at Phoenix, Brad Keselowski has six top tens in his last seven Phoenix starts and his worst finish is 11th in that time frame. Four of those finishes were top tens. Joey Logano has two top fives and seven top tens in 13 starts at Phoenix, including starting and finishing in the top ten in the last four Phoenix races.

Jimmie Johnson has the top average finish amongst active drivers at Phoenix. His average finish is 7.8 and he has four victories at the track. Five other non-Chase drivers have won at Phoenix. They are Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin.

Formula One
The penultimate round of the 2015 Formula One season will be the Brazilian Grand Prix from Interlagos.

Lewis Hamilton has the world championship locked up and he is still looking for his first Brazilian Grand Prix victory. In his previous eight starts, Hamilton has two podiums at Interlagos. Nico Rosberg is the defending Brazilian Grand Prix winner and he is looking to tie Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel for most Brazilian Grand Prix victories among active drivers. Rosberg is also looking to become the first driver to win consecutive Brazilian Grand Prix since Juan Pablo Montoya won the race in 2004 and 2005. Rosberg has a 21-point advantage over Sebastian Vettel for second in the championship after Vettel retired at Mexico City.

Valtteri Bottas has 126 points and is three ahead of fellow Finn Kimi Räikkönen. The two came together at Mexico City, which ended Räikkönen's race. Felipe Massa is nine points behind his Williams teammate. Daniil Kvyat has 88 points and is four ahead of his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Sergio Pérez has 68 points in ninth and Max Verstappen rounds out the top ten with 47 points. Romain Grosjean is two points behind Verstappan with Nico Hülkenberg a point behind Grosjean.

Felipe Nasr has 27 points, one ahead of Pastor Maldonado. Carlos Sainz, Jr. has 18 points and is two ahead of Jenson Button with Fernando Alonso a further five points back. Marcus Ericsson sits on nine points. Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens have yet to score for Manor. This will be Rossi's final race of the 2015 season. The American will be on GP2 duty for the next two week. He will run at Bahrain next weekend at the FIA WEC weekend, a make-up round for the German weekend being cancelled and the GP2 season finale is at Abu Dhabi. Rossi is looking to wrap up second in the GP2 championship. 

Super GT – GT500
The 2015 Super GT season ends this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi. Six teams are still championship eligible for the GT500 championship.

The #12 Calsonic Team Impul Nissan GT-R of João Paulo de Oliveira and Hironobu Yasuda lead with 66 points but they have yet to score a race victory this season but have four podiums in seven races. Both drivers are going for their first championships in Super GT. The #1 NISMO Nissan GT-R of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda are two points behind the #12 Nissan and looking for their second consecutive title. The #1 Nissan has two victories this season, including the most recent round at Autopolis. Quintarelli is looking for his fourth title in five years.

Super Formula champion Hiroaki Ishiura looks to double-down on championships as he and his #38 Lexus Team Zent Cerumo teammate Yuji Tachikawa trail the #12 Nissan by 13 points. The #38 Lexus has three podiums this season. Ishiura won the 2007 GT300 championship and could join Pedro de la Rosa, Satoshi Motoyama and Richard Lyons as drivers who won a Super GT and Super Formula/Formula Nippon in the same year. Tachikawa is going for his fourth Super GT championship. The #46 MOLA Nissan GT-R of Satoshi Motoyama and Masataka Yanagida are fourth, 16 points back. Motoyama is going for his fourth Super GT title while Yanagida is going for his fifth Super GT, third in GT500. Motoyama and Yanagida won at Buriram.

The #100 Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX-GT of Naoki Yamamoto and Takuya Izawa and the #36 Lexus Team Petronas TOM's Lexus RC F of Daisuke Itō and James Rossiter are tied for fifth, 17 points behind the #12 Nissan. The #100 Honda won at Sportsland SUGO with the #36 Lexus winning the Suzuka 1000km. Yamamoto, Izawa and Rossiter are all going for their first titles while Itō won the 2007 GT500 title.

Super GT – GT300
In GT300, the title has already been decided. André Couto clinched the title at Autopolis with a second place finish. Couto is twenty points clear of his #10 Gainer Nissan GT-R co-driver Katsumasa Chiyo.

The #3 NDDP Racing with B-Max Nissan GT-R of Kazuki Hoshino and Mitsunori Takaboshi have won two races and are third on 61 points, 12 points clear of the #31 apr Toyota Prius GT of Yuichi Nakayama and Koki Saga. Seiji Ara and Jörg Müller are on 45 points and are looking for their first victory of 2015 in the #7 Studie BMW Z4 GT3.

The #55 Team Aguri Honda CR-Z of Takashi Kobayashi and Shinichi Takagi and the #11 Gainer Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 of Björn Wirdheim and Katsuyuki Hiranaka are tied on 41 points. The #55 Honda won at Fuji while the #11 Mercedes looks to close out their season with a victory.

World Rally
The final round of the 2015 World Rally Championship season is a dead rubber.

Sébastien Ogier already has the world championship locked up but the Frenchman has failed to finish in the point in the last two rounds, the first time he has failed to score in consecutive rallies since 2012. Ogier has not failed to finish in the points in three consecutive rounds since he failed to score in the final two rounds of the 2011 season and the first two rounds of the 2012 season. Ogier has won the last two Wales Rally GBs.

Jari-Matti Latvala is second in the championship and the Finn has finished first or second in the last five races. He is 26 points ahead of Volkswagen teammate Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian scored his first rally victory at Catalunya in the last round after Ogier had an accident on the final stage. Latvala is a two-time Wales Rally GB winner.

Citroën drivers Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke round out the top five in the championship. Østberg has 110 points with Meeke on 94 points. Meeke won Rally Argentina earlier this season and he is looking to become the first British driver to win Wales Rally GB since Richard Burns won in 2000.

Thierry Neuville has 90 points with Elfyn Evans nine points behind him. Dani Sordo is coming off a third in Catalunya and is on 77 points. Hayden Paddon is three points behind Sordo with Estonian Ott Tänak rounds out the top ten on 63 points.

1. Over or Under: 0.5 Chase drivers finishing a lap down?
2. Over or Under: 4.5 retirements in the Brazilian Grand Prix?
3. Over or Under: 70.5 years being the combined age of the winners in GT500 at Motegi?
4. Over or Under: 1.5 podium finishers in GT300 coming from outside the top three starters?
5. Over or Under: 2.5 Scandinavian drivers in the top five at Wales Rally GB?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: Valentino Rossi went from 26th to 4th. Twenty-two spots gained.
2. Under: The margin of victory in the Moto3 race from Valencia was 0.198.
3. Over: Naoki Yamamoto won race two at Suzuka, giving Honda a podium on the weekend.
4. Over: Three top ten finishers in Putrajaya started outside the top ten.
5. Over: Four Chevrolets finished in the top seven at Texas.

1. One of the four drivers on the outside looking in entering Phoenix will be championship eligible at Homestead.
2. A car will retire while running in the top three.
3. The GT500 champion will have a race victory.
4. A non-Japanese manufacture will win the GT300 race at Motegi.
5. Three British drivers finish in the points.

Last Week's Predictions
1. At least two riders outside the top sixteen in the MotoGP championship score points at Valencia (Wrong. Michele Pirro was the only one from outside the top 16 to score at Valencia).
2. Miguel Oliveira finishes ahead of Danny Kent but does not win the Moto3 championship (Correct. Oliveira won, Kent finished ninth and took the title).
3. André Lotterer wins at least one race at Suzuka (Correct. Lotterer won race one).
4. A driver scores their first career Formula E podium in Putrajaya (Correct. Robin Frijns crabbed to a third place finish in his second career start).
5. A Chase driver is involved in a caution at Texas (Correct. Joey Logano brought out a caution).
Overall: 4/5 Running Tally: 26/50