Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Five: Shanghai, Texas Tripleheader, Pukekohe

The first weekend of November marks the beginning of the end for many series. Penultimate rounds take place in China and New Zealand while all three NASCAR national touring divisions head to their antepenultimate round of the season at Texas Motor Speedway. Championship could be wrapped up in the eastern hemisphere.

6 Hours of Shanghai
The penultimate round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship takes place at the Shanghai International Circuit for the fifth running of the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

Four teams are still alive of the World Endurance Drivers' Championship with the #2 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas on top with 140 points despite having not finished on the podium since their dramatic Le Mans triumph in June. The #6 Toyota of Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi won at Fuji three weeks and they are 23 points back of the #2 Porsche after three consecutive podium finishes. The #8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loïc Duval are Audi's final hope to win a championship as the trio trails the #2 Porsche by 28.5 points with two races remaining. The defending champions of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard are still alive for the title and they trail their Porsche teammates by 46.5 points.

The FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers could be clinched this weekend. The #36 Signatech Apline-Nissan of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi led with 171 points and has a 38-point lead over the #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan of Filipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and Ricardo González. Signatech has finished on the podium in the last six races while the RGR Sport group has four consecutive podium finishes. A podium finish will clinch the championship for Signatech.

The GTE-Pro championship is wide open. The #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen lead with 119 points, nine ahead of the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird. Darren Turner trails his Aston Martin teammates by 15 points. Twenty-four points back is the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado, who have four consecutive podium finishes. Both Ford GTs are alive as the #66 Ford of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla sitting on 92 points with the #67 Ford of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell staying alive on 79.5 points after victory at Fuji.

Three teams are fighting for the FIA Endurance Trophy of GTE-AM Drivers. The #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas have 155 points after winning two races and having six podiums from seven races. Thirty-three points back is the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, who have won four races and have five podiums but have retired from two races this season. Khaled Al Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson are 41 points back and Patrick Long joins them in the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche.

The 6 Hours of Shanghai will begin at 11:00 p.m. ET on Saturday November 5th.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Jimmie Johnson clinched a shot at his seventh NASCAR Cup championship after winning at Martinsville and seven drivers look to join Johnson in the finale with a race to spare at Texas.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth are tied for second in points with 4,039 points. Their teammate and defending champion Kyle Busch is two points behind them in fourth. Joey Logano is the first driver on the outside looking in with 4,033 points. There is a sizable gap between Logano and Kevin Harvick in sixth as the 2014 championship is 12 points behind the Penske driver. Kurt Busch is two points behind his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate. Carl Edwards rounds on the top eight on 4,005 points.

Johnson heads to Texas having won five of the last nine Texas races including four consecutive victories in the autumn race at Texas. His average finish of 8.3 is the best among all active drivers with at least three starts at the track. Kenseth has the second-best average finish among active drivers at 9.5 with two victories but he has finished outside the top ten in the last three Texas races. Edwards has three Texas victories, the second-most at the track but he has not won there since 2008.

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch each have two victories at Texas. Since sweeping the Texas races in 2010, Hamlin has finished outside the top ten in eight of his last ten Texas starts. Kyle Busch won at Texas in April has finished in the top five in six of the last seven Texas races. Logano won at Texas in April 2014 but in his eight autumn race starts he has finished outside the top ten in six races with an average finish of 20.75. Kurt Busch won the 2009 autumn race at Texas and he has three top ten finishes in the last four Texas races. Harvick is the only Chase driver to have yet to win in the Cup series at Texas. He has seven top ten finishes in his last nine Texas starts.

The Cup race will be at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday November 6th.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
After two weeks off, the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action.

No driver has clinched a spot in the final race at Homestead as Kyle Busch won the race at Kansas. Elliott Sadler finished second at Kansas while Daniel Suárez finished third and the drivers are tied on 3,039 points. Seven points behind Sadler and Suárez is Blake Koch, who picked up his fourth top ten finish of the season with a ninth at Kansas. Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones are tied on 3,027 points for the final spot in the final race but Allgaier holds the tiebreaker after finishing 14th at Kansas, one spot ahead of Jones. Two points behind Allgaier and Jones is Ryan Reed with Brendan Gaughan sitting on 3,010 points and Darrell Wallace, Jr. a point behind Gaughan.

Jones leads all championship-eligible drivers with four victories but has only 17 top ten finishes. He is the only Chase driver to have won at Texas in the Xfinity Series as he took his first career victory at Texas in the spring of 2015. Sadler has three victories but leads all drivers with 27 top ten finishes from 30 races. Suárez has eight consecutive top ten finishes. Koch's best finish this season was eighth at Richmond in April and Bristol in August. Allgaier is tied with Suárez with 24 top ten finishes but Allgaier has only led 26 laps from 30 starts. Reed has started in the top ten in only four races this season. Gaughan heads to Texas coming off the heels of his worst finish of the season, 31st at Kansas. Wallace, Jr. has one top ten finish in the last seven races.

The Xfinity Series race will be at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday November 5th.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
After his victory at Martinsville, Johnny Sauter has clinched a shot at the championship at the final race of the season at Homestead as five drivers are vying for the final three spots. Sauter leads all drivers this season with 16 top ten finishes from 20 races.

Christopher Bell is second in the championship with 3,029 points and is one-point ahead of Timothy Peters. William Byron leads the Truck series with six victories but he is on the bubble with 3,025 points. Nine points behind Byron and the first driver on the outside looking in is two-time Truck champion Matt Crafton and has finished outside the top fifteen in the last two races. Ben Kennedy is ten points behind Byron after finishing 18th at Martinsville.

Sauter and Crafton lead all championship-eligible drivers with two Texas victories each. Crafton has five consecutive top five finishes at Texas and ten consecutive top ten finishes at the track. Byron won at Texas in June in what is his only start at Texas. In two Texas starts, Bell has finished eighth and 32nd after an engine failure on the first lap in June. Peters has finished sixth in the last two Texas races but he has only one top five finish and five top ten finishes in 17 starts at the track. Kennedy has three consecutive top ten finishes at Texas with his best finish being fourth this past June. Toyota has won five consecutive Truck races at Texas.

The Truck race will be at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday November 4th.

The penultimate round of the Supercar championship takes the series to the lone New Zealand round in the championship at Pukekohe Park Raceway. Five drivers are alive for the championship and a New Zealander leads the way.

Shane Van Gisbergen heads to his home country coming off his sixth victory of the season at Surfers Paradise and he finished on the podium in all four races in the Enduro Cup portion of the season. Van Gisbergen has 2,812 points, 148 points ahead of his Red Bull Racing Australia teammate Jamie Whincup. Whincup won the second half of the Surfers Paradise weekend. Craig Lowndes makes it a clean sweep of the top three for Red Bull Racing Australia but he has only won podium in his last six races. Volvo driver Scott McLaughlin is coming off a double podium weekend at Surfers Paradise and he trails his fellow New Zealander by 461 points. Bathurst winner Will Davison is the final driver mathematically eligible for the title but he trails by 577 points with only 600 points left on the table.

Holden and Ford have alternated winning the last seven races with Whincup winning two of the three races held at Pukekohe Park Raceway last year. This year's visit to Pukekohe will have four races. Whincup is tied for second-most victories at the track among active drivers with Garth Tander on three. Jason Bright leads all active drivers with four victories at the track. Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin each have a victory at their home track with McLaughlin winning there in 2013 and Van Gisbergen in 2014. Davison also won one of the three races at Pukekohe in 2013. Lowndes has never won at Pukekohe but has two runner-up finishes, four podiums, nine top ten finishes and 17 top ten finishes in 32 starts at the track.

Two races will be held on Saturday November 5th at 2:25 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. local time. The other two will be on Sunday November 6th at 2:25 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. local time. 

1. Over or Under: 12.5 laps between the LMP1 winner and LMP2 winner?
2. Over or Under: 0.5 Chase drivers finishing outside the top 25 of the Cup race?
3. Over or Under: 3.5 Chase drivers in the top five of the Xfinity Series race?
4. Over or Under: 62.5 laps lead by the Truck race winner?
5. Over or Under: 135.5 points between Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup after Pukekohe?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: The gap between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is 19 points.
2. Over: Toyotas lead 371 laps at Martinsville.
3. Under: British riders combined for three points at Sepang.
4. Over? Because Niki Tuuli didn't race.
5. Under: Yuji Kunimoto and André Lotterer were the only drivers to score 30 points or more.

1. The GTE-Am championship is not wrapped up at Shanghai.
2. Martin Truex, Jr. is one of the top three Toyota finishers in the Cup race.
3. The average speed for the Xfinity Series race will exceed 136 MPH.
4. A non-Chase driver wins the Truck race.
5. Craig Lowndes wins at least one race and is on the podium for at least one other at Pukekohe.

Last Week's Predictions
1. A Ferrari driver finishes on the podium (Wrong. You probably know the story by now).
2. Jeff Gordon finishes ahead of at least two of his teammates (Correct. Gordon finished sixth ahead of Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne).
3. A rider that hasn't finished on the podium in the last two races finishes on the podium at Sepang (Correct. Jorge Lorenzo finished third).
4. Neither Superbike race from Qatar features an all-British podium (Wrong. The second race was an all-British podium).
5. André Lotterer wins at least one of the two races (Wrong. Lotterer finished second in both races).
Last Week: 2/5 Overall: 15/30