Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Five: Austin, Estoril, Talladega, Surfers Paradise, Phillip Island

Every thing is bigger this weekend. Three endurance races, a superspeedway and a grand prix take place this weekend. Two championships will be decided in Portugal. Teammates go at it in Texas and Queensland. Meanwhile, the fight is for second in MotoGP as its Asia-Pacific trip takes the series south to the home of Casey Stoner and Jack Miller.

United States Grand Prix
The two Mercedes drivers head to Circuit of the Americas as the final two drivers standing for the World Drivers' Championship. Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead to 33 points over Lewis Hamilton after his victory at Suzuka. Rosberg's 2016 season has been a year of firsts as the German has scored his first victories at Bahrain, Sochi, Spa-Francorchamps, Monza, Singapore and Suzuka. His victory at Melbourne was his second at the track and he won the maiden race in Baku. Rosberg has never won at Circuit of the Americas and has finished second from pole position at the track the last two years. He retired in the inaugural Austin race and finished ninth in 2013.

Hamilton heads to Austin as the winner of the last two United States Grand Prix and has won three of four races held at Austin with his worst finish being fourth. Hamilton has eight podiums in his last nine races with his engine failure at Sepang being the only blip in that span. Rosberg has seven podiums in the last nine races. Hamilton and Rosberg have both won eight pole positions this season but the British driver has started on pole position at Austin as all three of his victories have come from second on the grid and his worst starting position at the track is fifth.

With 100 points remaining on the table in the Formula One season, Daniel Ricciardo trails Nico Rosberg by 101 points and is just out of championship contention. After finishing on the podium in the 2014 race, Ricciardo finished tenth last year at Austin. He is 52 points clear of Kimi Räikkönen. The Finn has failed to score points the last two years at Austin. He missed the 2013 race due to a back injury and finished sixth in 2012. Räikkönen is five points ahead of Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes while Vettel has finished on the podium in three of four Austin appearances.

Valterri Bottas sits on 81 points, one ahead of Sergio Pérez. Nico Hülkenberg sits on 54 points, 11 ahead of Felipe Massa, who sits tenth in the championship a point ahead of Fernando Alonso. Carlos Sainz, Jr. has failed to score points in the last six races but he is 12th in the championship with 30 points. Romain Grosjean leads Haas F1 into it's first home race having not scored a point in the last two races and two points behind Sainz, Jr. Daniil Kvyat trails Grosjean by 3 points and Jenson Button rounds out the top fifteen on 19 points.

Kevin Magnussen has seven points while Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne all have one points. Esteban Gutiérrez, Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr and Esteban Ocon are all looking for their first points of 2016.

The United States Grand Prix will be at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday October 23rd.

4 Hours of Estoril
The final round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series takes place at Estoril and two of the three class championships are still up for grabs.

Mathias Beche and Pierre Thiriet of the #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan lead the three-horse race for the LMP2 championship with 92 points. Beche and Thiriet have three victories this season and finished third in the most recent race at Spa-Francorchamps. Ryō Hirakawa has run four of the five previous races in the #46 Oreca-Nissan after missing the teams victory at Circuit Paul Ricard and will be in the car this weekend for the finale.

Fourteen points behind the Swiss-French duo is the #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan of Giedo van der Garde, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell. The Anglo-Dutch trio won the season opener at Silverstone and finished on the podium in the following two races but has finished fifth at Circuit Paul Ricard and Spa-Francorchamps. Stefano Coletti and Andreas Wirth of the #32 SMP Racing BR01-Nissan are still alive for the title but trail by 24 points. They finished second at Silverstone and Circuit Paul Ricard. Vitaly Petrov returns for the second consecutive race as the third driver in the #32 BR01.

Two British teams are vying for the GTE championship.

The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Rory Butcher and Robert Smith has won the last three races and finished fourth at Imola and led the championship with 93 points. Twenty points behind the JMW Motorsport Ferrari is the #99 Aston Martin of Darren Turner, Alex MacDowall and Andrew Howard. The #99 Aston Martin won the season opener at Silverstone but the teams only other podium was a third at Circuit Paul Ricard.

The LMP3 championship has already been locked up by the #2 United Autosport Ligier-Nissan of Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England. The #9 Graff Ligier-Nissan of Paul Petit, Eric Trouillet and Enzo Guibbert has won the last two LMP3 races.

The 4 Hours of Estoril starts at 8:27 a.m. ET on Sunday October 23rd.

Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway marks the final race of the second round of the Chase. Kevin Harvick joined Jimmie Johnson in the semifinal round after the Stewart-Haas Racing driver won at Kansas. Johnson leads on points with 3,082 after finishing fourth at Kansas, his fourth consecutive top ten finish. He is eight points ahead of Matt Kenseth, who has finished in the top ten in all five Chase races. Kyle Busch has 3,072 points and like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kenseth has finished in the top ten in all five Chase races.

Carl Edwards has 3,069 points after finishing second at Kansas. That second place finish was Edwards' first top five finish since he finished second at Kentucky in July. Edwards hasn't had consecutive top five finishes since he won at Bristol and Richmond in April. Kurt Busch has yet to finish in the top ten on an odd-numbered Chase race but he has 3,062 points and four points ahead of Martin Truex, Jr., who has yet to finish in the top ten in round two after winning two of the first three Chase races and finishing seventh in the other.

Harvick has 3,048 points and three points behind him are Joey Logano and Austin Dillon for the eighth and final transfer spot. Logano currently holds the tiebreaker with his third-place finish at Kansas over Dillon's sixth at Kansas. Denny Hamlin is six points behind Logano and Dillon while Brad Keselowski trails by seven points. Keselowski had three top five finishes and his worst finish was seventh in the first four Chase races before an accident ended his day at Kansas. Chase Elliott is 25 points out after two consecutive finishes outside the top thirty.

Keselowski leads all Chase drivers with four Talladega victory with his most recent coming this May and has the best average finish of the Chase drivers with at least three Talladega starts at 13.9. Elliott finished fifth in his Talladega debut in May from pole position. Dillon has never led a lap at Talladega but he scored his career best finish at the track in May when he finished third. Logano won last year's Chase race at Talladega but he had finished outside the top twenty in eight of 15 starts and he has finished outside the top thirty five times at the track. Kurt Busch leads all active drivers with most starts at Talladega without a victory. Kurt Busch will be making his 32nd start at the track.

The 500-mile race from Talladega will be at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday October 23rd.

Gold Coast 600
Shane Van Gisbergen holds the Supercars championship lead with 2,524 points and the New Zealander and Alexandre Prémat have finished second in both endurance races held. Despite the two runner-up finishes, the Red Bull Racing Australia pairing does not lead the Enduro Cup standings as Tekno Autosports and Bathurst winners Will Davison and Jonathon Webb lead that championship with a third in Sandown on top of their Bathurst victory. Van Gisbergen and Webb won the first race of the Gold Coast 600 each of the last two seasons. Davison is fourth in the championship, 412 points behind Van Gisbergen.

Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell had their Bathurst appeal denied as the duo looked to have the 15-second penalty that dropped them from victory to 11th in the final race standings reversed. Whincup trails his teammate in the Supercars championship by 139 points. Craig Lowndes makes it a sweep of the top three for the Red Bull Racing Australia trio and he is 319 points behind Van Gisbergen. Lowndes and co-driver Steven Richards are coming off a 16th-place finish at Bathurst. Whincup leads all drivers with four victories at Surfers Paradise since the endurance-era began in 2009. Lowndes has one victory on the Gold Coast.

Scott McLaughlin trails Van Gisbergen by 440 points as the Volvo driver and his co-driver David Wall look to bounce back after their retirement at Bathurst. Defending Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom is 616 points behind Van Gisbergen. He and Dean Canto's best finish in the first two endurance race is 23rd. Winterbottom hasn't finished on the podium in the last six races. He has two victories at Surfers Paradise with the most recent coming in 2011. Chaz Mostert sits on 1,853 points as he looks for his first victory with Rod Nash Racing and Steve Owen joins him in the #55 Ford. Twenty-nine points behind Mostert is Tim Slade and Slade's co-driver will be Ashley Walsh.

Michael Caruso sits on 1,818 points and the Nissan driver shares his seat with Dean Fiore. Fabian Coulthard is 110 points behind Caruso and the Penske driver rounds out the top ten in the championship. He and Luke Youlden have finished sixth in both endurance races this season. Holden Racing Team drivers James Courtney and Garth Tander are the final two drivers mathematically eligible for the championship. Their co-drivers are Jack Perkins and Warren Luff respectively.

Race one Surfers Paradise will be at 11:55 p.m. ET on Friday October 21st. The second race will be at 12:25 a.m. ET on Sunday October 22nd.

Australian motorcycle Grand Prix
Marc Márquez has already locked up the MotoGP world championship but the Spaniard looks for his sixth victory of 2016 and his second consecutive victory at Phillip Island. Should Márquez win in Australia, it would be his third consecutive victory in 2016 and it would be his longest winning streak since he won ten consecutive to start the 2014 season.

The battle for second in the championship will be between the Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi has 196 points, 14 clear of his teammate. Prior to his retirement at Motegi, Rossi had finished on the podium in four consecutive races. Lorenzo had finished on the podium in two consecutive races before his fall at Motegi. Márquez, Rossi and Lorenzo have won the last three Australian Grand Prix.

Maverick Viñales scored his third podium of the season at Motegi and the Suzuki rider sits fourth in the championship on 165 points. Viñales is ten points clear of Dani Pedrosa, who will miss the Australian round due to a collarbone injury suffered at Motegi. Nicky Hayden returns to the factory Honda team as Pedrosa's substitute. Hayden finished 15th at Aragón substituting for Jack Miller. Hayden's last race with the factory Honda team was the 2008 Valencian Community Grand Prix, where he finished fifth. All three of Hayden's podiums at Phillip Island came riding for Honda. He finished second in the 2005 race behind Rossi.

Andrea Dovizioso finished second at Motegi, his third runner-up finish this season and he has 124 points, eight ahead of Cal Crutchlow. Pol Espargaró is ten points behind Crutchlow. Andrea Iannone has missed the last three races due to a T3 vertebra fracture and is ten points behind Pol Espargaró. Héctor Barberá rounds out the top ten in the championship with 84 points, two ahead of Aleix Espargaró. Barberá replaces Iannone on the factory Ducati for the second consecutive race.

The Australian motorcycle Grand Prix will be at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday October 23rd.

1. Over or Under: 12.5 cars finishing on the lead lap in the United States Grand Prix?
2. Over or Under: 3.5 British drivers winning across the three classes at Estoril?
3. Over or Under: 1.5 cautions that involve Chase drivers at Talladega?
4. Over or Under: 15.5 lead changes between the two races at Surfers Paradise?
5. Over or Under: 14.5 on the starting grid for Nicky Hayden at Phillip Island?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Three riders were within ten seconds of Motegi winner Marc Márquez.
2. Over: The #67 Ford won GTE-Pro and completed 212 laps.
3. Under: There were two Toyotas in the top seven at Kansas (Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch).
4. Over: Marco Wittmann and Timo Glock finished in the top ten of the DTM championship.
5. Over: Nicky Hayden scored 26 points at Jerez.

1. Haas F1 scores points at its home race of Austin.
2. The #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan finishes ahead of the #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan in the race.
3. At least one driver outside the top twenty of the championship gets a top ten finish at Talladega.
4. Holden does not sweep the Gold Coast 600 for the third consecutive season.
5. A rider running in the top five falls in turn four at Phillip Island.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Marc Márquez does not clinch the championship but he increases his lead over Valentino Rossi (Wrong and Correct. Márquez did clinch and he increased his lead over Rossi).
2. A team gets its first victory of 2016 at Fuji (Correct. The #6 Toyota, #26 G-Drive and #67 Ford all got their first victories of 2016).
3. None of the cautions at Kansas involve Chase driver front on Chase driver rear contact (Wrong. Denny Hamlin got into the back of Brad Keselowski but it was intentional).
4. One of the three championship contenders wins a race at Hockenheim (Correct. Edoardo Mortara won the second race from Hockenheim).
5. Both World Superbike and World Supersport championships are clinched at Jerez (Wrong and Correct. Jonathan Rea fell two points shy of clinching the WSBK title. Kenan Sofuoglu did clinch the WSS title).
Last Week: 3/5 Overall: 9/20