Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Five: Mexico City, Martinsville, Sepang, Qatar and Suzuka

The final weekend of October sees races from Appalachia to the Persian Gulf. Formula One returns to its new favorite party site and the championship could be decided this weekend. While we aren't sure about the title in Formula One, three championships will come to an end this weekend and two will see a champion crowned, one of which will be done at night.

Mexican Grand Prix
The antepenultimate round of the 2016 Formula One season takes place at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton is fresh off his fourth victory at Circuit of the Americas and he looks to sweep the North American races after winning in Montreal in June. Hamilton decreased the margin to teammate Nico Rosberg in the World Drivers' Championship to 26 points as the German finished second after benefitting from being able to pit under the virtual safety car, jumping Rosberg ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. If Hamilton wins the final three races and Rosberg finishes second in each of the final three races, Rosberg would take the championship by five points. Rosberg won last year's Mexican Grand Prix with Hamilton finishing second. Rosberg could clinch the title with a victory and Hamilton failing to score any points.

Daniel Ricciardo could clinch third in the world championship at Mexico City. The Australia has 277 points, fifty clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. Barring either Kimi Räikkönen or Max Verstappen winning the Mexican Grand Prix, if Ricciardo scores one point more than Vettel this weekend third in the championship will be his, matching his best finish in the world championship, which occurred in 2014. Vettel has finished fourth in the last two races while Räikkönen and Verstappen both retired at Austin. Five points separate the Finn and Dutchman in the championship while Vettel is only seven points clear of his teammate.

Sergio Pérez heads home seventh in the championship on 84 points and has finished in the points in seven consecutive races. Pérez finished eighth in last year's Mexican Grand Prix. He is three points ahead of Valtteri Bottas and 30 points clear of his Force India teammate Nico Hülkenberg. Fernando Alonso's fifth-place finish in Austin jumped him ahead of Felipe Massa in the championship and is two points behind Hülkenberg. Massa is three points behind Alonso with 49 points.

Carlos Sainz, Jr.'s sixth-place finish at Austin has him on 38 points while Romain Grosjean has 29 points, four clear of Daniil Kvyat. Jenson Button's two points at Austin increases his total to 21 points. Kevin Magnussen has seven points. Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne are all tied on a point. Esteban Gutiérrez heads home and looks to score his first point since the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix. Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr are each still looking for their first points of the season. Esteban Ocon has not scored in his first six starts.

The Mexican Grand Prix will be held at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday October 30th.

Martinsville Raceway
NASCAR is down to its final four series in the Cup Series and eight drivers remain championship eligible.

Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano enter after winning the three races in the previous round. Johnson ended the second round on top of the points with 3,100 points. Kurt Busch was second in points, one behind the six-time champion. The 2004 champion has finished in the top ten in all even-numbered Chase races but his best finish in odd-numbered Chase races is 13th but his worst finish in the Chase is 15th. His fourth-place finish at Talladega was his best of the Chase and best since finishing fourth at Kentucky at July.

Logano was third in points, 11 points behind Johnson with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch rounding out the top five, a point and five points behind Logano. Kenseth and the defending champion Busch had finished in the top ten in all five Chase races prior to Talladega, where they and Carl Edwards rode at the back of the field. Harvick and Edwards ended tied on points with 3,082 points. Harvick has won two races in the Chase while Edwards has only two top ten finishes in the Chase. Denny Hamlin was the final driver to make the semifinal round after advancing on tiebreaker over Austin Dillon. His third-place finish at Talladega was his best finish of the Chase.

Johnson and Hamlin lead the Chase drivers in victories and average finish at Martinsville. Johnson has eight victories and an average finish of 7.5 while Hamlin has won five and an average finish of 9.5. Kurt Busch has two victories at Martinsville while his brother scored his first cup win at Martinsville in the spring and Harvick has one victory at the short track. The elder Busch brother has the worst average finish at the track of the Chase drivers at 21.2.

Jeff Gordon returns for his 47th Martinsville start substituting for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Gordon won for the ninth time at Martinsville last October and he has 29 top five finishes and 37 top ten finishes at the track. He is tied with Richard Petty for most top ten finishes all-time at Martinsville. Gordon has been running at the finish of all 46 of his Martinsville starts and has completed 22,769 of a possible 22,890 laps.

The 500-lap race from Martinsville will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday October 30th. 

Malaysian motorcycle Grand Prix
Two weeks after clinching his third MotoGP championship and one week after falling while leading at Phillip Island, Marc Márquez heads to Malaysia trying to get his sixth victory of the season. Márquez retired from last year's race at Sepang after contact with Valentino Rossi where the Italian was ruled to have intentionally knocked the Spaniard off his bike. In seven starts at Sepang, Márquez has two victories with one coming in his 2010 125cc championship season and the other in his 2014 MotoGP championship season.

Valentino Rossi is currently second in the championship and could cement himself as vice-champion this weekend. He has 216 points holds a 24-point advantage over his Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi has the most Malaysian Grand Prix victories with seven, six of which have come at Sepang. Jorge Lorenzo has never won in MotoGP at Sepang. His only victory at the track was in 2006 during his 250cc championship season.

After consecutive third-place finishes, Suzuki's Maverick Viñales sits fourth in the championship and is 11 points behind Lorenzo, the man he will be replacing next year at Yamaha. Viñales won at Sepang in 2011 in the 125cc class and won in 2014 in Moto2. The last Suzuki victory at Sepang was in 2000 by Kenny Roberts, Jr. Dani Pedrosa will miss this weekend's race due to a collarbone injury. It is his third consecutive race missed. Pedrosa had won three of the last four MotoGP races at Sepang and he is tied with Mick Doohan and Max Biaggi for second all-time in Malaysian Grand Prix victories with five. Hiroshi Aoyama substitutes in for the injured Spaniard.

After winning his second race of the season at Phillip Island, Cal Crutchlow sits on 141 points and is four points ahead of Andrea Dovizioso. Pol Espargaró has 117 points, 20 behind Dovizioso. Andrea Iannone is set to return after missing the last four races due to a fractured vertebra. Iannone has 96 points and is ninth in the championship. Héctor Barberá rounds out the top ten with 84 points, two ahead of Aleix Espargaró.

MotoGP's Malaysian Grand Prix will take place at 3:00 a.m. ET on Sunday October 30th.

The final round of the 2016 World Superbike season takes place at Losail International Circuit in Qatar. The championship will be one of the two Kawasaki riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes with Rea all but assured to take the title.

Rea leads Sykes by 48 points with 50 points left on the table. For Sykes to take the title he would need to sweep the weekend and have Rea fail to score two points or more. Rea holds the tiebreaker with nine victories to Sykes' five victories. Rea has 21 podiums from 24 races while Sykes has been on the podium on 19 occasions.

Ducati rider Chaz Davies enters the season finale having won the last four races and five of the last six. He has 15 podiums this season. Davies will finish third in the championship. Honda riders Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden are fourth and fifth in the championship. The Dutchman has 255 points to the American's 228 points. Hayden is the only non-British rider to win this season after he won in the wet at Malaysia. Ducati's Davide Giugliano sits on 197 points, two ahead of BMW rider Jordi Torres.

Qatar also marks the final round of the World Supersport season. Kenan Sofuoglu locked up the title with his victory at Jerez. Three riders are within seven points of second. Swiss Kawasaki rider Randy Krummenacher sits on 129 points, five ahead of MV Agusta's Jules Cluzel and seven ahead of Honda American rider P.J. Jacobsen. Krummenacher won the season opener at Phillip Island but only has two podiums since. The Frenchman Cluzel has won two races, at Buriram and Magny-Cours. Jacobsen has four podiums, including runner-up finishes at Donington Park and Misano. The quiet star of Supersport has been Finnish Yamaha rider Niki Tuuli, who has finished second-place in each of his three Supersport starts this season. He finished ninth in his Supersport debut last year at Donington Park.

The first Superbike race will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday October 29th. The Supersport finale will be at 12:15 p.m. ET on Sunday October 30th with the final Superbike race starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.

A dozen drivers are still alive for the Super Formula championship as the season heads to the season finale doubleheader at the Suzuka Circuit.

Yuhi Sekiguchi leads with 28 points after he scored his second victory of the season in the most recent round at Sportsland SUGO. Four and a half points behind Sekiguchi is Yuji Kunimoto, who won the second half of Okayama doubleheader. André Lotterer trails by six points but has only one podium this season, a second at Motegi. Two-time Super Formula champion Kazuki Nakajima sits on 20 points and has finished second at Fuji and Okayama.

Defending champion Hiroaki Ishiura and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne are tied on 19 points. Both drivers won at Okayama with Ishiura taking the rain-shortened race in May while Vandoorne won the first race of the doubleheader in September. Three and a half points behind the two Honda drivers is 2013 champion Naoki Yamamoto, who won the season opener at Suzuka. João Paulo de Oliviera has 12.5 points after a victory at Fuji but he has only finished in the points in two other races.

Tomoki Nojiri and James Rossiter are tied on 12 points. Koudai Tsukakoshi has 11 points and Daisuke Nakajima is alive on 10.5 points.

The first race of the doubleheader will be at 8:45 p.m. ET on Saturday October 29th with the final race of the 2016 season taking place at 1:45 a.m. ET on Sunday October 30th.

1. Over or Under: 19.5-point gap between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton after Mexico?
2. Over or Under: 250.5 laps led by Toyota drivers at Martinsville?
3. Over or Under: 28.5 points scored by British riders at Sepang?
4. Over or Under: 2.5 finishing position for Niki Tuuli in the Supersport race?
5. Over or Under: 2.5 drivers finishing with 30 points or more in the final Super Formula championship?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Six cars finished on the lead lap in the United States Grand Prix.
2. Over: Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell, Darren Turner, Alex MacDowall and Andrew Howard were all victorious at Estoril.
3. Over: Martin Truex, Jr. and Brad Keselowski both caused cautions for engine failures.
4. Under: There were 14 lead changes between the two Supercars races at Surfers Paradise.
5. Under: Nicky Hayden started seventh at Phillip Island.

1. A Ferrari driver finishes on the podium.
2. Jeff Gordon finishes ahead of at least two of his teammates.
3. A rider that hasn't finished on the podium in the last two races finishes on the podium at Sepang.
4. Neither Superbike race from Qatar features an all-British podium.
5. André Lotterer wins at least one of the two races.

Last Week's Predictions
1. Haas F1 scores points at its home race of Austin (Correct. Romain Grosjean finished tenth).
2. The #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan finishes ahead of the #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan in the race (Correct. The #38 Gibson won and the #47 Oreca finished ninth in class).
3. At least one driver outside the top twenty of the championship gets a top ten finish at Talladega (Correct. Brian Scott finished second and his teammate Aric Almirola finished eight).
4. Holden does not sweep the Gold Coast 600 for the third consecutive season (Wrong. The Red Bull Racing Australia Holdens of Shane Van Gisbergen/Alexandre Prémat and Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell split the Gold Coast 600).
5. A rider running in the top five falls in turn four at Phillip Island (Correct. Marc Márquez fell in turn five while leading the race).
Last Week: 4/5 Overall: 13/25