Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Five: Austin, Kansas, Motegi, Autopolis, Surfers Paradise

Formula One is back in the United States and the drivers are being asked the tiresome question about why Formula One is not more popular in the United States. Meanwhile, NASCAR has reached another chopping block and the championship hopes of four more drivers will end. In Japan, there will be two events occurring simultaneously and the Supercars have its final endurance round of the season. A pair of world championships could be decided this weekend.

United States Grand Prix
The World Drivers' Championship could be clinched on American soil for the eighth time in Formula One history.

Lewis Hamilton heads to Austin with 331 points and he is 67 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel with 100 points left on the table. Hamilton will clinch his fifth World Drivers' Championship with a victory at Circuit of the Americas. If Hamilton finishes second, he would need Vettel to finish fifth or worse. The worst Hamilton can finish and clinch the title is sixth but he would need Vettel to finish outside the points in that scenario.

Hamilton has won the United States Grand Prix in six of seven starts and he is the all-time leader in United States Grand Prix victories. He has won at Circuit of the Americas in four consecutive years and in five of six trips to the Texas track. Vettel is the only other driver to win at Circuit of the Americas. He won the 2013 United States Grand Prix. No other active driver has won the United States Grand Prix.

Mercedes-Benz has won the last four races at Austin. Red Bull and McLaren are the only other manufacture to win at Austin. Ferrari has not won in the United States since the 2006 at Indianapolis. Ferrari has the most United States Grand Prix victories with nine with McLaren tied for second with Lotus on eight. Mercedes-Benz has the United States Grand Prix five times including the 1910 race with David Bruce-Brown winning at Savannah.

Valtteri Bottas is 57 points behind Vettel in third with Kimi Räikkönen 11 points back in fourth. Max Verstappen rounds out the top five on 173 points with Daniel Ricciardo on 146 points.

There is a three-way tie for seventh. Sergio Pérez, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg are all tied on 53 points with Fernando Alonso rounding out the top ten on 50 points. Esteban Ocon is a point behind Alonso.

Mercedes-Benz leads Ferrari in the World Constructors' Championship with 538 points to 460 points. Red Bull is third on 319 points. Renault is fourth on 92 points and is eight points ahead of Haas. McLaren is sixth on 58 points and, despite having to forfeit its points after entering administration Force India is up to seventh on 43 points. Scuderia Toro Rosso is on 30 points, three points ahead of Sauber. Williams rounds out the table with seventh points.

The United States Grand Prix will take place at 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday October 21st.

NASCAR Elimination Race from Kansas
Four more drivers will be eliminated from the NASCAR Cup championship this weekend at Kansas.

Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola have clinched spots into the next round with victories at Dover and Talladega respectively. Kevin Harvick has clinched a spot into the next round based on points.

Harvick leads the standings with 3,128 points with Kyle Busch in second on 3,111 points. Busch is 46 points to the good. Joey Logano is 39 points above the cutline with Kurt Busch 30 points up on the drop zone. Clint Boywer and Martin Truex, Jr. are the two drivers occupying the final two transfer positions with Bowyer 21 points to the good and Truex, Jr. up 18 points.

Brad Keselowski is the first driver on the outside, 18 points behind Truex, Jr. Keselowski's Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney is 22 points on the outside. Kyle Larson is 36 points back after losing an additional ten points during the week for a pit stop violation during the Talladega race. Alex Bowman cannot advance to the next round on points and he can only advance with a victory at Kansas.

Harvick and Jimmie Johnson lead all active drivers with three Kansas victories. Harvick has the best average finish amongst active drivers with at least three Kansas starts at 9.6. Harvick, Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch have combined to win the last five Kansas races and Truex, Jr. finished second to Harvick at Kansas in May. Busch has seven consecutive top ten finishes at Kansas and five of those are top five finishes.

In twenty Kansas starts, Boywer has two top five finishes and six top ten finishes. Head-to-head this season Truex, Jr. has finished ahead of Bowyer in 17 of 31 races. When both drivers finish in the top ten, Bowyer has finished ahead of Truex, Jr. on three occasions: At Atlanta, Bowyer finished third and Truex, Jr. finished fifth, at Martinsville when Bowyer won and Truex, Jr. finished fourth and the May Dover race when Bowyer finished second and Truex, Jr. finished fourth. Kurt Busch has started all 25 Kansas races and he has the most starts at the track without a Kansas victory.

Keselowski has the second best average finish at Kansas amongst the 12 remaining Chase drivers at 13.2 but his one victory came in June 2011 and he has only two top five finishes since that victory. Blaney has three top five finishes at Kansas, his most top five finishes at one track. Larson led 101 laps in the May race before finishing fourth. Bowman finished seventh in the 2016 autumn Kansas race and it is his only lead lap finish at Kansas. In this year's May race he got an 18th place finish.

The NASCAR Cup race will take place at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday October 21st.

Japanese Grand Prix
The World Drivers' Championship isn't the only world championship that could be decided this weekend. With four races to go, three riders remain alive for the MotoGP title heading to Motegi.

Marc Márquez enters with the championship lead on 271 points and 77 points clear of Andrea Dovizioso and 99 points ahead of Valentino Rossi with 100 points left on the table. Márquez and Dovizioso have both finished on the podium in five consecutive races and they have each won two of the last five races. Rossi has not finished on the podium in the last five races.

If Márquez holds serve over Dovizioso he will clinch the MotoGP title for the third consecutive season and fifth time in his career. Márquez could become the seventh rider to win at least seven world championships with Márquez having won the 2010 125cc title and 2012 Moto2 title. He would tie John Surtees and Phil Read for sixth most championships.

Dovizioso won last year's race at Motegi with Márquez finishing less than a quarter of a second behind the Italian. It was Ducati's first victory at Motegi since 2010. Ducati has not won consecutive races at Motegi since Loris Capirossi won three consecutive years from 2005 to 2007. Dovizioso's victory made it four different winners in the last four years at Motegi with Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Márquez having won the three prior years.

Rossi and Pedrosa are tied for the most Japanese Grand Prix victories amongst active riders with four. They are tied with Kevin Schwantz and Daijiro Kato for second most all-time in this event. Only Jim Redman has won the Japanese Grand Prix more with six victories. Lorenzo and Márquez each have three victories. Márquez is tied with his brother Alex, who has won twice in Moto3 and won in Moto2 last year and Alex will be competing in Moto2 this year.

The Japanese Grand Prix will take place at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday October 21st.

The penultimate round of the Super GT season will be a 300-kilometer race at Autopolis. 

In GT500, the #100 Team Kunimitsu Honda of Naoki Yamamoto and Jenson Button lead the championship fresh off its victory at Sportsland SUGO in September. Button and Yamamoto have 61 points and they only finished runner-up at Okayama and Suzuka. The pairing has a 12-point lead over the #8 ARTA Honda of Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Iwaza. 

The defending champions have not won a race this year but the #1 Lexus Team KeePer's Tom's Lexus of Ryō Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy are third in the championship with 47 points and the #1 Lexus has three podium finishes this season. The #17 Real Racing Honda of Koudai Tsukakoshi and Takashi Kogure has 40 points and is tied with Yuhi Sekiguchi of the #36 Lexus Team au Tom's Lexus. Sekiguchi's co-driver Kazuki Nakajima will not be at Autopolis as he has FIA World Endurance Championship commitments at Fuji. 

The GT300 championship is led by the #55 ARTA BMW of Shinchi Takagi and Sean Walkinshaw with 55 points after the duo swept the Fuji races. There is a tie for second between the #31 apr Racing Toyota 86 of Kohei Hirate and Koki Saga and the #0 Goodsmile Racing with Team Ukyo Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka. The #31 Toyota holds the tiebreaker with two runner-up finishes to the #0 Mercedes-AMG's one. The #65 K2 R&D LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG of Haruki Kurosawa and Naoya Gamou is fourth on 42 points. Rounding out the top five is the #11 Gainer Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Hironobu Yasuda on 37 points.

The Super GT race will be held at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday October 21st.

Gold Coast 600
With three rounds and six races to go, five drivers are mathematically alive for the Supercars championship.

Shane Van Gisbergen's championship lead is down to 19 points over Scott McLaughlin after the Bathurst 1000. McLaughlin finished third while Van Gisbergen finished fifth in The Great Race and it ended Van Gisbergen's streak of eight consecutive podium finishes. It was the first time McLaughlin finished ahead of Van Gisbergen in five races. Van Gisbergen has had 15 consecutive top five finishes.

Jamie Whincup trails his teammate Van Gisbergen by 404 points with Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes 489 points back. Bathurst pole-sitter David Reynolds rounds out the top five, 709 points behind Van Gisbergen.

In the Endurance Cup, Lowndes and Steven Richards leads with 558 points and they are 60 points ahead of Van Gisbergen and Earl Bamber and McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat. The pair of New Zealanders holds a tiebreaker with a second place finish at Sandown. Scott Pye and Warren Luff finished second at Bathurst for the second consecutive year and they are fourth in the Endurance Cup with 480 points. Whincup and Paul Dumbrell round out the top five on 456 points.

The first race of the Gold Coast 600 will take place at 12:25 a.m. ET on Saturday October 20th and the second race is scheduled for 12:25 a.m. ET on Sunday October 21st.

Over or Under?
1. Over or Under: 6.5 teams scoring points in Austin?
2. Over or Under: 2.5 finishes outside the top twenty for championship eligible drivers at Kansas?
3. Over or Under: 7.5 riders finishing within 30 seconds of the race winner at Motegi?
4. Over or Under: 1.5 non-Japanese drivers finishing on the GT500 podium?
5. Over or Under: 750.5 points for the Endurance Cup champions?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over or Under: 7.5 cautions in Petit Le Mans? (Under: There were six cautions)
2. Over or Under: 24.5 points covering the top three in the DTM championship? (Under: The top three were covered by 22 points).
3. Over or Under: 1.5 Toyotas finishing in the top ten? (Over: Two Toyotas were in the top ten at Talladega).
4. Over or Under: 0.5 non-points finish for one of the top five in the World Superbike championship this weekend? (Over: Chaz Davies retired from the first race from Argentina).
5. Over or Under: 1.5 podium finishes for British drivers at Fuji? (Over: Five British drivers finished on the podium across the four FIA World Endurance Championship classes).
Last Week: 2 Unders; 3 Overs. Overall: Unders 12; Overs 9

1. Haas F1 gets it best finish in the United States Grand Prix.
2. None of the four drivers on the outside advance but at least one finishes in the top five at Kansas.
3. One of Marc Márquez or Andrea Dovizioso finish on the podium but not both riders.
4. There will be a new winner in GT300 at Autopolis.
5. A driver with fewer than four podium finishes scores a podium finish in one of the two Gold Coast 600 races.

Last Week's Predictions
1. At least one class at Petit Le Mans is won by a team already mathematically eliminated from the championship (Correct! The #911 Porsche and #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari won in GTLM and GTD respectively).
2. Different manufactures will set the fastest lap in each race (Correct! BMW's Timo Glock set fastest lap in race one and Audi's Robin Frijns had fastest lap in race two).
3. Martin Truex, Jr. finishes in the top five (Wrong. Truex, Jr. finished 23rd.
4. A rider in his twenties finishes on the podium in one of the two races (Correct! Toprak Razgatioglu finished third in race one and he is 21 years old).
5. There will be a Toyota 1-2 finish (Correct! The #7 Toyota won and the #8 Toyota finished second).
Last Week: 4/5. Overall: 11.5/20

Thursday, October 18, 2018

IndyCar Wrap-Up: The Part-Timers' 2018 Seasons

We have reached the halfway point of the IndyCar reviews and the midway point looks at the part-time teams. The 2018 season saw new teams enter IndyCar and the grid grew a few entries with the introduction of the universal aero kit. It is a promising time after years of grid stagnation and teams are expanding their operations to IndyCar while also competing in the Road to Indy and sports cars.

Juncos Racing
The team climbed the ladder of the Road to Indy and after years in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Juncos Racing made it to IndyCar. The team was originally scheduled to run eight races but ended up competing in 12 of 17 races.

René Binder did not leave much of an impression on IndyCar
René Binder
The GP2 and Formula V8 3.5 Series experienced driver came to IndyCar and made six starts, four on street courses and two on road courses.

What objectively was his best race?
Binder finished 16th at Barber in a wet to rain delay to dry to wet race. Binder finished ahead of the likes of Gabby Chaves, Tony Kanaan and Zachary Claman De Melo while the Austrian kept the car on the road.

What subjectively was his best race?
He might have finished 21st at Mid-Ohio but he only finished one lap down, the only time he did not finish multiple laps down and he kept the car on the road and out of the barriers. We are grasping at straws here.

What objectively was his worst race?
He finished 22nd twice, St. Petersburg and the second Belle Isle race but we will put St. Petersburg here because it was his only retirement after he got into the barrier.

What subjectively was his worst race?
The entire Belle Isle weekend because for most of it he was not within 105% of the fastest time and arguably shouldn't have been on track. He wasn't going quick enough to get into an incident. In the first Belle Isle race, Binder was the only finisher not to finish on the lead lap and he finished three laps down in 21st. In the second race he finished fourth laps down. To be fair, he wasn't a hazard and didn't cause any headaches to the leaders.

René Binder's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 28th (61 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 0
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 22.1667
Average Finish: 19.833

Kyle Kaiser used his Indy Lights title to get to IndyCar but he could not stay in the series
Kyle Kaiser
The 2017 Indy Lights champion moved up to IndyCar with Juncos Racing, a team he has driven for since Pro Mazda in 2014.

What objectively was his best race?
The Californian's best finish was 16th at Long Beach and that was after Kaiser started 24th. He did finish one lap down.

What subjectively was his best race?
An honorable mention would be Kaiser's only lead lap finish of the season in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Nineteenth isn't much to brag about but he did lead two laps through a pit cycle.

What objectively was his worst race?
Unfortunately it was the Indianapolis 500 when the car broke down after 110 laps and placing him 29th. He started 17th for his first Indianapolis 500.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Let's cover all of Kaiser's races and mention Phoenix, where he started 14th, was running well and had a brush with the wall end his race after 174 laps.

Kyle Kaiser's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 30th (45 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 2
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 19.75
Average Finish: 21.25

Alfonso Celis, Jr. was the first driver to race in both Indy Lights and IndyCar in 2018
Alfonso Celis, Jr.
Celis, Jr. made two starts in Indy Lights at Barber and what was going to be a full-time Indy Lights program with Juncos Racing morphed into two IndyCar races and that was it.

What objectively was his best race?
Seventeenth at Portland.

What subjectively was his best race?
Seventeenth at Portland because it was a lead lap finish.

What objectively was his worst race?
Twentieth at Road America.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Twentieth at Road America and one lap down.

Alfonso Celis, Jr.'s 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 36th (23 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 0
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 22.0
Average Finish: 18.5

Meyer Shank Racing
After competing in last year's Indianapolis 500 in partnership with Andretti Autosport, Michael Shank took his team up to the next level. With a new partner and a new name, Meyer Shank Racing ran six races this season with the team eyeing full-time IndyCar ambitions in the near future.

Jack Harvey had some good days but the results do not show it
Jack Harvey
The twice vice-champion in Indy Lights got himself an expanded shot at IndyCar with Meyer Shank Racing. He ran last year's Indianapolis 500 as the driver of the Shank-Andretti partnership and he ran the final two races of 2017 driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

What objectively was his best race?
At Long Beach, Harvey finished 12th and he was on the cusp of the top ten for most of the race.

What subjectively was his best race?
It is Indianapolis and though he was fortunate to be running second with five laps to go, Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing had the car second with five laps to go. Don't hate the player. They did what they had to in positioning themselves for victory and in another world it might have been enough but when you are second with five laps to go in the Indianapolis 500 and for a matter of moments you have the world collectively trying to wrap their heads around the potential of Jack Harvey winning the Indianapolis 500 it is the greatest day of your life and Harvey's 16th place finish was probably the greatest 16th place finish of his career.

What objectively was his worst race?
Harvey had a hard accident at St. Petersburg and he was the first retirement of the season, finishing 23rd.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Portland felt like a missed opportunity because he started 13th and when four cars ahead of him were taken out in turn two and Scott Dixon was somewhere in the dust but no longer in the top ten it looked like Harvey was set up for a career day and a chance to stand out. Harvey was up to sixth at the end of lap one. He made his first pit stop and during the second stint he cycled into the top five but then made his second pit stop under caution and put himself in the back half of the field. He lost positions and what could have been a great day turned into a 16th place finish.

How about that? His subjective best and worst races of the season were 16th place finishes.

Jack Harvey's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 24th (103 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 0
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 19.333
Average Finish: 17.333

An Early Look Ahead
There is not much to tackle here. I think we saw what René Binder and Alfonso Celis, Jr. can do. Neither is bringing any additional attention of worth to the series. They had the money, got on track, were not terrible but there are definitely at least two-dozen drivers that make more sense being on the IndyCar grid than these two.

Where is Kyle Kaiser? The four-race Indy Lights championship scholarship is better than nothing but it isn't enough and it feels like Kaiser is going to fall into the boat of successful Indy Lights driver who got one crack at IndyCar for a handful of races and that was it. Spencer Pigot was fortunate that after his scholarship was up Ed Carpenter Racing had an open position. Kaiser did not have that luxury and it seems more likely than not his IndyCar career is over.

Juncos Racing is still pursuing IndyCar but full-time participation still appears to be off the radar. The team will be expanding to IMSA prototype competition full-time with a Cadillac DPi. At first it seems like the IndyCar program was dead because the team saw a more attractive route in IMSA prototypes but the team is still into IndyCar. It just appears the IndyCar program will be based on drivers with funding for a handful of races.

Meyer Shank Racing seems set with Harvey and will continue to build to a full-time program but that full-time program will not be in 2019. The talk has been about program expansion from six races in 2018 to ten races next season. The team has the right guy in Harvey. It was a bit disappointing he didn't have that standout race last year. Long Beach was close and Portland could have been it.

With both teams likely returning for a second year of part-time competition it will be interesting to see what the second year looks like for these teams. Can either become competitive to make it out of the first round of qualifying on road and street courses? Can either be competing for top ten finishes in races?

Shank has its driver but Juncos Racing's driver or drivers will remain a mystery for us to find out as the days become shorter and colder.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

IndyCar Wrap-Up: Dale Coyne Racing's 2018 Season

The fifth IndyCar Wrap-Up will be the lovable minnow Dale Coyne Racing. Again the team performed at an exceptional level with a fraction of the budget. While the team was not able to stay in the championship conversation for long, it put Sébastien Bourdais in the top ten and it gave three young drivers extended auditions in IndyCar.

Sébastien Bourdais had a seesaw season but end up in the top half of the championship
Sébastien Bourdais
The Frenchman returned to full-time competition after his 2017 season was interrupted due to injury. Bourdais was competitive once again but keeping up the pace for the entire length of the season proved to be difficult.

What objectively was his best race?
St. Petersburg. He won, from outside the top ten on the grid, again! This might have been the most fortunate victory of Bourdais' IndyCar career. For a man with 37 career victories, I am not sure he has had a victory gift-wrapped like this one. He was in the right place when Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi got together and the door opened for the Frenchman. He slid on pass the two and ended up on the top step of the podium and while it seems he backed into this one, he led 30 laps. Once again, he and Dale Coyne Racing played the strategy correctly and got the car in a position where Bourdais could he seized an opportunity when two drivers got together.

What subjectively was his best race?
Victory aside, it is Mid-Ohio, where Bourdais went from 24th, dead last on the grid, to sixth in a caution-free race. He picked people off with a three-stop strategy and he was a man on a mission. It had been a rough patch for Bourdais. The summer was not kind to Bourdais and when he needed a result the most he caused a red flag in qualifying, was forced to start shotgun on the field and it seemed Mid-Ohio was not going to be his race and he would head into the summer break continuing the slide. But Bourdais had the race of his year and he finished fourth at Pocono after that, Gateway didn't go his way but he ended the season with a third at Portland and sixth at Sonoma. He went from 11th in the championship entering Mid-Ohio to seventh in the final standings.

What objectively was his worst race?
Indianapolis. He retired after an accident when he started in the top five. Bourdais was in contention for a top ten finish. It was a missed opportunity after a year of waiting.

What subjectively was his worst race?
It is Indianapolis. Consider that he entered the race third in the championship and that accident dropped him to eighth. That took him out of the championship. It would have been difficult and a lot of things went against him in June and July but the double points nature and the timing of the Indianapolis 500 can really set up or breakdown a championship run.

A dishonorable mention is Phoenix, where Bourdais started on pole position and led the first 43 laps before he overshot his pit on the first stop and clipped a crew member, adding a penalty to his plate and Bourdais could not get back into the race and 13th was what he had to settle for.

Sébastien Bourdais' 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 7th (425 points)
Wins: 1
Podiums: 2
Top Fives: 5
Top Tens: 8
Laps Led: 108
Poles: 1
Fast Sixes: 4
Fast Twelves: 6
Average Start: 9.875
Average Finish: 11.117

Zachary Claman De Melo wasn't great but he was alright in 2018
Zachary Claman De Melo
The Canadian made his IndyCar debut in the 2017 season finale but 2018 was a larger opportunity for Claman De Melo and while his schedule did not go as planned; he adjusted and had a few good days.

What objectively was his best race?
He finished 12th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Claman De Melo was competitive for most of that race. He went from 19th to 11th in the opening lap after a handful of drivers got together and he was in contention for a top ten and was tenth but he had to save fuel and dropped to 12th.

What subjectively was his best race?
Others are going to say Barber because he was racy but he was also racy when two laps down and had nothing to lose. He set fastest lap but he really didn't have a choice. Everyone else was running for position while Claman De Melo had no other choice but to go all out and hope a few cautions got him back on the lead lap, which didn't happen.

The Indianapolis 500 wasn't a bad race for Claman De Melo. He held his own and led a few laps during a pit cycle but he finished 19th in car #19 completing 199 laps and that isn't bad for a rookie considering he did started 13th.

What objectively was his worst race?
Long Beach. Retired after an accident and was scored with a 23rd place finish.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Texas. Claman De Melo might have been overly aggressive that night and he got together with Will Power in what was more of a racing incident than anyone's fault but he didn't help himself. He stayed on the lead lap for most of this race and was in another fight for a top ten finish. The night didn't end the way he likely had hoped.

Zachary Claman De Melo's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 23rd (122 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 7
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 19.111
Average Finish: 17.777

Another famous name returned to IndyCar and Pietro Fittipaldi was not half bad
Pietro Fittipaldi
A last name linked to IndyCar success returned to the grid in 2018 and Emerson's grandson quickly found his footing in the series. It was going to be a multi-discipline year for Fittipaldi with an LMP1 sports car ride and Super Formula filling weekends when he was not in IndyCar but those plans were quickly altered when he was injured at Spa-Francorchamps at the start of May. The good news is he returned to IndyCar and still showed a bit of what he was capable of.

What objectively was his best race?
Portland! Fittipaldi started 16th but through Dale Coyne Racing strategy magic and a handful of cars getting taken out early he was fighting for a top ten and ended up finishing ninth. The entire Coyne team had shown pace that weekend and it didn't work out in qualifying for Fittipaldi but in the race he was able to make the most of it.

What subjectively was his best race?
Gateway. He had to start 21st because qualifying was rained out but he went off strategy and it got him some track position. More importantly though, Fittipaldi finally had a good race. His previous three starts were finishes of 23rd, 23rd and 22nd and two of those were retirements with 40 laps and six laps completed. He was still banged up from his sports car accident at Spa-Francorchamps. He needed a race where he not only completed laps but was fighting with other cars and Gateway was that race.

What objectively was his worst race?
He had two finishes of 23rd, Phoenix and Mid-Ohio. I will say objectively Mid-Ohio was worse because he started 22nd and finished 23rd though he completed 88 of 90 laps but this was his first race back after missing all of May, June and July due to injuries. It seemed like Fittipaldi was not fit for this race and he came back a race too soon.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Phoenix because Fittipaldi started tenth on debut and it was over after he brushed the wall exiting turn four on lap 40. And then he was out of the car until the final Sunday in July. He came in and was exciting and then went away for three months and was a bit of a forgotten man.

Pietro Fittipaldi's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 26th (91 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 1
Laps Led: 0
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 15.6
Average Finish: 17.333

Santino Ferrucci was a surprise of the 2018 IndyCar season
Santino Ferrucci
Ferrucci was not an expected member of the 2018 IndyCar grid but Fittipaldi's injuries open the seat for a few races and it allowed the Haas F1 development driver a chance to get a taste of IndyCar. Another cameo came later in the season after Ferrucci had a tumultuous end to his Formula Two career.

What objectively was his best race?
Ferrucci finished 11th at the Sonoma finale after he started 20th and he was in the same zip code as the other Coyne cars that weekend. He started a bit further down the order but he made some progress.

What subjectively was his best race?
I think Sonoma was subjectively his best race but I will mention Portland because he was running well before his car broke down. Portland was another weekend where he was on par with Bourdais and Fittipaldi and all three cars looked dangerously competitive. He had worked his way up to fifth before breaking down. I don't think he was going to finish in the top five but he could have snuck into the top ten.

What objectively was his worst race?
His debut, where an accident in the first Belle Isle race left him with a 22nd place result.

What subjectively was his worst race?
I am going with his debut again. Ferrucci was keeping up with Bourdais at Belle Isle and he was likely going to finish in the top 15 had it not been for his trip into the turn seven tires.

Santino Ferrucci's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 27th (66 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 0
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 17.25
Average Finish: 18.25

An Early Look Ahead
It appears this team will be Bourdais and Ferrucci next year.

We are going to tackle this head on: Ferrucci is not a popular guy after his Silverstone Formula Two debacle where he hit his teammate on a cool down lap, allegedly mocked his Formula Two teammate's accent, missed a drug test and then used his Italian heritage and the fiery personality stereotype to justify his actions. He came out of the entire ordeal looking like a schmuck and he is a bit of a schmuck.

With all that said, I think Ferrucci could be competitive with Coyne next year and he could be the teammate Bourdais has been looking for. I think he could be scoring top ten finishes on a frequent basis next year and he could easily be a driver that gets out of the first round of road/street course qualifying on five or six occasions. We don't know how he will do on ovals but I think he could mirror what Jordan King did last year on road and street courses. We had a sample of Ferrucci in IndyCar and he didn't look lost. He got a grasp on it quickly.

Does that mean you have to like the guy? No and I have said it before, there is room in IndyCar for somebody not to like.

Sidebar: The 2019 rookie class is setting up to be an intriguing battle with European developed drivers in Ferrucci and Felix Rosenqvist against Road to Indy graduates Patricio O'Ward and Colton Herta, though both O'Ward and Herta spent time in Europe, most of their development occurred in the Road to Indy. We could still have a few more rookies announced but it would not surprise me if Ferrucci finishes second among the rookies.

Bourdais is Bourdais. He is going to be fighting for victories every now and then and Coyne is Coyne and there will be a few races where the team is off. I think seventh in the championship is a great achievement for the team even though he was third in the title race for most of the first third of the season.

Can Coyne take that next step? It is difficult. Let's consider that since reunification the only teams to win the championship are Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport. If you extend that to since 2003 in this series the only teams to win the championship are Ganassi, Penske and Andretti. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was in the thick of the title fight in 2015 with Graham Rahal. Josef Newgarden had a slim shot at the title that year with CFH Racing as well. The year prior Simon Pagenaud had a slim shot at the title with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

It is not impossible for Bourdais and Coyne to make a title push but he has to be on it every week and cannot afford a string of bad results like we saw where he had one top ten finish in a seven-race stretch from the end of May to the middle of July.

As for the other two Coyne drivers, we aren't sure what their future's hold. Claman De Melo has kind of become the forgotten man of the 2018 season. I bet most people would not realize he made nine starts this season. His season was over in July. He is going to fall victim of being out of sight and out of mind. I am not sure where his place in IndyCar will be.

Fittipaldi on the other hand might be the sleeper free agent. He was quick and the last part of the season he was still hampered with injuries. We saw him 100% fit for one of his six starts. He got a handle on ovals out of the gate. There aren't many open seats left but I think Fittipaldi should be high on most teams' lists.

We are halfway through October, the offseason is only a month old and 20 seats for 2019 are filled. The only unconfirmed seats are the second Carlin entry, the second Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry with Robert Wickens' timetable for returning still unknown and the road/street course portion of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet but it seems like Ed Jones might have the ECR seat. Fittipaldi would fit all of those. A full-time seat will be hard to come by and that leads to the question will Fittipaldi run another partial season or will he look for a full-time ride elsewhere whether it is sports cars or touring cars on another continent? Fittipaldi has a lot of options.

Fittipaldi could turn out to be the free agent Dale Coyne Racing shouldn't have let get away.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: I Am Starting to Think IndyCar Should Have an All-Star Race

Ryan Hunter-Reay made history as the finish of Petit Le Mans had cars coughing to the line. Mercedes-Benz said farewell to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters but Aston Martin said hello. New track, new continental, same winner in the World Superbike championship. Stewart-Haas Racing dominated at Talladega and Aric Almirola got the victory with drivers running out of fuel coming to the final restart and on the final lap. Remember when the FIA World Endurance Championship was interesting? Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

I Am Starting to Think IndyCar Should Have an All-Star Race
One thing I have noticed when going over the results from this most recent IndyCar season is there were some really good drivers that did not win a race this season. Three of the top ten drivers in the championship did not win a race and it got me thinking: Maybe IndyCar should have an All-Star Race.

We have gone down this road before and nine times out of ten it seems like an all-star race is a bad idea and one that will not have the legs to justify its existence but let's consider it.

The only template we have for an all-star race is NASCAR, a race that sees all race winners from the previous season and the races leading up to that's years all-star race entered while the rest of the field competes for a handful of positions in a qualifying race and one driver voted in through a fan vote.

The one issue with the NASCAR All-Star Race is it has become a bit stale over the years. It has tried many different formats. It seems to be something different every year and it seems to be running out of tricks to get people's attention. They have tried every type of inversion, segment length, mandatory pit stop, elimination, bonus payout, double-file restart imaginable that in recent years NASCAR has had to bring in alternate tire compounds and changed the aero package to spice the race up. Hell, most of it goes from a one-time thing to a weekly spectacle in hopes the buzz of a Saturday night in May will turn people into passionate all season long.

When you see all that NASCAR has done and the subsequent disappointments of thinking the answers to season long problems is what is used in the All-Star Race it is easy to get turned off from IndyCar mimicking the exhibition event.

After all, IndyCar doesn't have the money for exhibitions. It doesn't have the money for a gargantuan payout, the teams do not have the money for an additional race plus the possible crash damage that could ensue and frankly the series doesn't have enough interest around to expect any more people will tune into an exhibition event when so few people tune in for 16/17ths of the races already held.

But let's have some fun. What could an IndyCar All-Star Race look like?

The problem with motorsports is the concept of an all-star does not fit an individual sport. In baseball, football, basketball, hockey and so on all-stars are a compilation of the best from each team. In motorsports there aren't teams in the same way and you cannot really bring together an all-star team. Any all-star race ends up becoming another race.

The NASCAR model of a "winners only" race is the best foundation we have and IndyCar has a fair collection of winners to start from. Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Sébastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato are the list of winners from 2018 and that is not a bad list but think about the names that are not there: Past champions Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti both finished in the top ten of the championship but did not win a race, Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot were two young drivers that had promising runs in 2018.

There is something that is enticing about a race that would decide the best of the rest. On paper, Simon Pagenaud should win and advance but can he? Could someone step up and exceed expectations? I want to see that.

Mirroring the NASCAR event, all race winners from the year before are in and then the top two from a qualifying race.

IndyCar has a location problem that NASCAR doesn't have. While some are tired of Charlotte hosting the NASCAR All-Star Race it kind of makes sense. After all, for a series that runs 33 oval races from a half-mile to 2.66 miles in length, a 1.5-mile oval is kind of the median. It makes sense and it also makes sense to host it in the backyard of the teams. On top of all that, we have gotten used to the race taking place in May. NASCAR has kind of handcuffed itself. IndyCar would have the luxury of hindsight but it would still have the problem of not knowing when or where this race should be held.

Is it a road course race or an oval? Which specific track would it be? There will be a large swarth of the congregation that would just say have it at Indianapolis and run it on Carb Day. Others would want it to be elsewhere at Texas or Iowa or Gateway. There will be those who would say a street course would be better because it would be easier to draw a crowd with an exhibition race held on a Saturday of a race weekend. The crowds at Road America and Mid-Ohio would make either an attractive option.

Adding it to an existing weekend makes more sense then having the race during the offseason. If the teams are going to pack up the trucks and head to a racetrack it better be for more than an exhibition race unless a load of money is on the line but maybe it could be a chance to do something different and more importantly go to places that aren't on the current schedule.

IndyCar has a long offseason even though it isn't quite as long as it has been in the last decade. A race sometime in early January sounds kind of nice. That limits where you could go in the United States but with teams already heading to Florida for testing and in past seasons heading to Arizona for testing maybe the all-star race could be tied in with a test session at a track.

Florida has a few options. Homestead has hosted IndyCar before and it could be an oval and/or a road course. The teams frequent Sebring but the track has never hosted an IndyCar race. There is always Daytona. IndyCar has run a test there before and in recent history. Non-Floridian venues include Fontana, Darlington, Las Vegas, now that Sonoma and Phoenix are off the schedule those could be possible venues. Road Atlanta might be too far north but that is another possible venue. Why not go to an off-the-wall place such as Kern County Raceway Park?

There would be some conflict over whether the race should be an oval or road course event and what would be a better race. An oval race presents more passing opportunities while a road course may be difficult for passing but allow for different strategies. The problem with a road course is you need a lot of laps for different strategies to play out and an all-star race would likely be an abbreviated affair.

Part of my mind has this wild idea where an all-star race doesn't have to be one race but a combination of things. It could be broken up into competitions. One could be a fuel mileage run where the cars are filled to the brim and the competition is who can go the furthest on one tank. Another competition could be a pit stop competition and the event includes the entire team. The final race could be a straightforward race. The standings through the first two events could set the grid for the final race. However, there is always the fact that the more convoluted you make it the less interested people will be in it.

The final hurdle is money. IndyCar pays $1 million to the champion. The NASCAR All-Star Race pays $1 million to the winner. I can't see IndyCar finding $1 million to pay the winner of an exhibition race and I think most of the field would rather see the championship pay more than having an exhibition race being an equal payout to the championship.

IndyCar doesn't need an all-star race. It wouldn't make a difference to the overall appeal of the series but it is fun to think about.

Champions From the Weekend

The #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr won the IMSA Prototypes championship with an eighth place finish at Petit Le Mans.

The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio García won the GT Le Mans championship with an eighth place finish.

The #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow won the GT Daytona championship with a third place finish.

Gary Paffett won the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship with finishes of fourth and third at Hockenheim. It is Paffett's second DTM title and his first since 2005.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Aric Almirola but did you know...

The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay won Petit Le Mans. The #911 Porsche of Patrick Pilet, Frédéric Makowiecki and Nick Tandy won in GTLM. The #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Cooper MacNeil, Gunnar Jeannette and Daniel Serra won in GT Daytona.

The #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López won the 6 Hours of Fuji. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Nabil Jeffri won in LMP2. The #92 Porsche of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre won in GTE-Pro. The #56 Team Project 1 Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti won in GTE-Am.

Timothy Peters won the NASCAR Truck Series race from Talladega, his third victory at the track.

René Rast swept the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters races from Hockenheim. Rast ended the season with six consecutive victories and seven total victories this season.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike races from Argentina and he has won ten consecutive races. Jules Cluzel won the World Supersport race, his second consecutive victory and fifth of the season.

Coming Up This Weekend
The United States Grand Prix.
MotoGP will be at Motegi.
NASCAR ends another round at Kansas.
The final endurance round of the Supercars season will be at Surfers Paradise.
There will be an eight-hour race at Laguna Seca to end the Intercontinental GT Challenge season.
This weekend will be the penultimate Super GT round at Autopolis after the WEC race moving pushed this race back a week.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Five: Road Atlanta, Hockenheim, Talladega, Argentina, Fuji

Two championships will be decided this weekend. One will be after an endurance race, the other after a doubleheader. There will be another endurance race held while a track makes its international debut and NASCAR making a trek to the largest track on the schedule.

Petit Le Mans
The ten-hour endurance race marks the end of the 2018 IMSA season and all three championships are still on the line.

In Prototypes, it is a three-horse race though two have already separated from the pack. The #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr lead with 254 points, four ahead of the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca-Gibson of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande have a shot to win the title but the duo must win the race from pole position and have the #31 Cadillac finish dead last in class, 14th, and have the #54 Oreca finish 11th or worse.

Curran and Nasr's only victory was at Belle Isle in June but the pair finished second at Daytona and had third place finishes at Sebring, Mosport and Road America. Bennett and Braun have two victories and have four consecutive podium finishes. Bennett and Braun won at Mosport and Road America and finished second at Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca. On top of that, the #54 Oreca finished third at Daytona.

Curran and Nasr will have Gabby Chaves as their third driver while Romain Dumas returns in the #54 Oreca. Dumas has run all North America Endurance Championship races this year while Chaves' only appearance was Watkins Glen as a substitute for the injured João Barbosa in the #5 Action Express Racing Cadillac.

Curran and Nasr lead the NAEC championship with 27 points with Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi are second on 21 points in the #5 Cadillac. Hélio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor are third on 20 points despite the best NAEC finish for the #7 Team Penske Acura being a ninth at Daytona.

Curran won the 2016 Prototype championship with Dane Cameron. Fittipaldi has won the NAEC championship for four consecutive seasons with Barbosa and Albquerque was apart of last year's winning effort as well. Bennett and Braun were the 2014 Prototype Challenge class champions.

It is also a three-horse race in GT Le Mans but it is a bit more spread out.

Jan Magnussen and Antonio García lead the championship with 299 points in the #3 Corvette and it has a nine-point lead over the #67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller have a shot at the title but like the #10 Cadillac in Prototypes, the #66 Ford GT has to win the race from pole position with the #3 Corvette finishing dead last in class, ninth.

Magnussen and García have not won a race this season but the Danish-Spanish duo has seven consecutive podium finishes and eight podium finishes from ten races. Briscoe and Westbrook won at Daytona, Mosport and Road America but has finished outside the top five in the last two races and their only other podium finish was second at Long Beach. Hand and Müller won at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock Park as well as finished runner-up at Daytona and third at Long Beach.

Magnussen and García are looking to successfully defend their title while both Ford team looks to get the manufacture its first title since returning to sports car competition in 2016.

Hand and Müller lead the NAEC title race with 33 points. The #911 Porsche of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet are second on 29 points and Briscoe and Westbrook are a point behind the Porsche.

Marcel Fässler is on the entry list for the #3 Corvette with Scott Dixon and Sébastien Bourdais entered for the #67 Ford and #66 Ford respectively.

GT Daytona has boiled the championship down to two parties but it is just as tight as the others.

Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow lead the championship in the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini with 303 points while Katherine Legge six points back in the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura. Legge won her second race of the season at Laguna Seca last time out with the other victory coming at Belle Isle. The #48 Lamborghini won at Sebring and Lime Rock Park earlier this season. If it comes down to a tiebreaker Legge has the advantage with three runner-up finishes to the one for Sellers and Snow.

Álvaro Parente and Trent Hindman are in the #86 Acura with Legge. Parente missed the Belle Isle and Virginia International Raceway rounds due to scheduling conflicts. Corey Lewis is back in the #48 Lamborghini. Lewis was apart of the Sebring winning effort.

In the NAEC title race the #33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Mercedes of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Luca Stolz lead with 31 points, two ahead of Legge and Parente and Sellers and Snow are third on 26 points.

The 21st Petit Le Mans begins at 11:05 a.m. ET on Saturday October 13th.

DTM Finale
Three drivers are each fighting for their second Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters title this weekend with the Hockenheimring hosting the finale.

Paul di Resta enters with 229 points, four ahead of fellow Brit and Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett. Defending champion René Rast of Audi has an outside shot at the title with the German 30 points behind di Resta with 56 points left on the table.

Paffett and di Resta won the DTM championship in 2005 and 2010 respectively. Each driver has three victories this season with Paffett having won the opening race of the season from Hockenheim followed by successes at Lausitz and Zandvoort. Di Resta has not won in Germany this season with his victories coming at the Hungaroring, Brands Hatch and Misano. Rast has won four consecutive races as he swept the Nürburgring and Red Bull Ring rounds and he also won the second Zandvoort race.

Rast is attempting to become the first driver to successfully defend a DTM title since Timo Scheider in 2007 and 2008. Rast could also extend the streak of German drivers winning the championship. German drivers have won six consecutive titles, the longest streak in series history including the original Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft.

Paffett has five victories at Hockenheim but only one of those have come in the autumn event and that was in 2009. Di Resta has won at the track twice, the 2010 autumn race and the second race of the 2016 spring weekend. Rast has not won a Hockenheim in six starts but his best finish was second to Marco Wittmann in last year's season finale.

The DTM races will be held at 7:10 a.m. ET on Saturday October 13th and 7:10 a.m. ET on Sunday October 14th.

NASCAR Cup race at Talladega
Six races remain in the NASCAR Cup series season and it is the final trip to a restrictor plate track this season and it will be the 99th NASCAR Cup series race held at Talladega Superspeedway.

Chase Elliott locked himself into the next round of the Chase with his victory at Dover last week. Elliott has the third best average finish amongst active drivers with at least three starts at the track at 13.2. He finished fifth in the May race and Elliott has started in the top five in four of five Talladega starts with his worst starting position being eighth.

Kevin Harvick leads the championship with 3,101 points and holds a five-point advantage over Kyle Busch. Martin Truex, Jr. sits on 3,069 points with Joey Logano at 3,064 points and Elliott rounding out the top five on 3,056 points.

Team Penske has won six of the last eight Talladega races with Brad Keselowski and Logano having three victories apiece. Keselowski is tied for sixth on 3,054 points with Kurt Busch. Ryan Blaney sits on the bubble spot with 3,043 points.

Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer are both ten points on the outside with Kyle Larson 12 points out. Alex Bowman brings up the rear, 34 points behind Blaney.

Keselowski leads all active drivers with five Talladega victories while Logano has won three times including the May race. Bowyer has won twice but those were consecutive autumn races in 2010 and 2011. Kyle Busch won the spring 2008 race and Harvick won the spring 2010 races.

Larson has only two top ten finishes in nine Talladega starts while Bowman has one top ten finish after he finished eighth in the spring race. Almirola has four consecutive top ten finishes but has only led 15 laps in 17 Talladega starts and he has never led more than eight laps in a Talladega race. Truex, Jr. has four consecutive retirements at Talladega. Kurt Busch leads all active drivers with 19 top ten finishes at Talladega and he is tied with Jamie McMurray for most top five finishes at Talladega amongst active drivers with eight.

The NASCAR Cup race will take place at 2:05 p.m. ET on Sunday October 14th.

Circuito San Juan Villicum
The World Superbike championship has been decided but the series still has two rounds to go and the penultimate round of the season is the debut for a new venue. Argentina's Circuit San Juan Villicum hosts its first World Superbike weekend and it is the first World Superbike round to take place in South America.

Jonathan Rea has locked up the title but he has won eight consecutive races and 14 total races this season. Rea has 19 podium finishes from 22 starts. Chaz Davies has a healthy gap over Michael van der Mark for second in the championship. The Ducati rider has a 335 points and a 29-point lead over the Dutch Yamaha rider. Both Davies and van der Mark have won twice this season. Tom Sykes is fourth on 273 points with Marco Melandri 23 points back in fifth. Melandri swept the season opening round at Phillip Island while Sykes' only victory came at Assen in May. Alex Lowes is sixth in the championship on 213 points. Lowes is the only other race winner this season. He won the second race at Brno.

The first race will take place at 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday October 13th with the second race taking place on Sunday October 14th at 3:00 p.m. ET.

6 Hours of Fuji
The fourth round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Fuji and Toyota heads into its home event with the championship lead.

The #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso won the first two races of the season at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans but were disqualified from first position at Silverstone. Both Toyotas were disqualified at Silverstone for underfloor skid blocks failing the deflection test in post-race inspection.

The disqualification gave the #3 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13 of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes the Silverstone victory and the #3 Rebellion is second in the championship, two points behind the #8 Toyota, which has 65 points. The #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López is third on 46 points. André Lotterer and Neel Jani finished second in the #1 Rebellion at Silverstone and they are fourth in the championship on 36 points.

In LMP2, the #36 Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and André Negrão lead with 72 points after finishes of second, first and third at Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans and Silverstone. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stéphane Richelmi has been the top LMP2 championship eligible entries at Spa and Silverstone and trail the #36 Alpine by four points. The sister #37 Oreca for Jackie Chan DC Racing of Jazeman Jaafar, Nabil Jeffri and Weiron Tan are third on 61 points after finishes of third, second and second through the first three races.

The #92 Porsche of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre have a comfortable lead in GTE-Pro. The Danish-French pair have 71 points after finishes of second, first and third. Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla won the season opener at Spa and the drivers of the #66 Ford GT trails the Porsche drivers by 14 points. Silverstone winners James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi are third on 43.5 points in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche leads the GTE-AM championship with Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer on 76 points after winning the last two races in the #77 Porsche. The #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Matt Griffin, Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa are second on 43 points with the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti on 41 points. The Spa-winning #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda are on 37 points.

The 6 Hours of Fuji starts at 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday October 13th.

Over or Under?
1. Over or Under: 7.5 cautions in Petit Le Mans?
2. Over or Under: 24.5 points covering the top three in the DTM championship?
3. Over or Under: 1.5 Toyotas finishing in the top ten?
4. Over or Under: 0.5 non-points finish for one of the top five in the World Superbike championship this weekend?
5. Over or Under: 1.5 podium finishes for British drivers at Fuji?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over or Under: 3.5 Fords in the top ten? (Under. Three Fords finished in the top ten).
2. Over or Under: 2.5 Renault powered cars finishing in the points? (Over. The two Red Bulls and Carlos Sainz, Jr. scored points in Japan).
3. Over or Under: 19.5 finishers in the Thailand Grand Prix? (Over. There were 22 finishers).
4. Over or Under: 125.5 laps led combined for Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott? (Under. They led a combined 11 laps, all by Elliott).
5. Over or Under: 4.5 points scored by British drivers? (Under. British drivers scored zero points).
Last Week: 3 Unders; 2 Overs. Overall: Unders 10; Overs 6

1. At least one class at Petit Le Mans is won by a team already mathematically eliminated from the championship.
2. Different manufactures will set the fastest lap in each race.
3. Martin Truex, Jr. finishes in the top five.
4. A rider in his twenties finishes on the podium in one of the two races.
5. There will be a Toyota 1-2 finish.

Last Week's Predictions
1. There will be a first time winner in the Bathurst 1000 (Wrong! Craig Lowndes won his seventh and Steven Richards his fifth).
2. None of the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull teammates finish within a position of each other (Wrong! Mercedes 1-2, Ferrari 3-4, Red Bull 5-6).
3. A Ducati rider picks up fastest lap in the race but does not start on pole position (Wrong and Correct. Marc Márquez won pole position and had fastest lap).
4. A championship ineligible driver finishes in the top five at Dover (Correct! Denny Hamlin was the runner-up finisher).
5. Ford drivers win at least six stages (Wrong! Sébastien Ogier won Wales Rally GB but Ford drivers only won four stages).
Last Week: 1.5/5. Overall: 7.5/15

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

IndyCar Wrap-Up: Ed Carpenter Racing's 2018 Season

The fourth IndyCar wrap-up looks at Ed Carpenter Racing. The Chevrolet team had a new face but results were difficult to come by. There were a few positive days but the team struggled to string together consistent results.

A few bright spots stood out in Spencer Pigot's first full IndyCar season

Spencer Pigot
After two years in a part-time role for Ed Carpenter Racing, 2018 marked the year Pigot became the team leader and full-time driver in the #21 Chevrolet. With the new role, Pigot visited five ovals for the first time in an IndyCar.

What objectively was his best race?
Second at Iowa! It was a podium finish and while there was a fluky nature to the end of that race that led to Pigot's runner-up result but he was one of the four or five best cars all race. Pigot was fast and overcame from an 18th place starting position. Josef Newgarden was running away with this race but in the second green flag run of this race he was keeping up with the big boys. He might have been fortunate that a pair of drivers made pit stops late and the race didn't go green but he deserved this podium finish.

What subjectively was his best race?
It is Iowa but let's shout out Portland, where Pigot went from 17th to fourth. He benefitted from the first lap incident but Pigot was making passes and it was an encouraging performance. It was exciting. It reminded me of the performances Pigot had in 2017 when he was driving through the field and passing past champions in the process. It was another glimpse of what Pigot could be.

What objectively was his worst race?
He saved his worst for last although it was his gearbox that let him down at Sonoma and he ended the season with a 24th place result.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Can I say the first five races of the season? Here were his finishes: 15th, 14th, 15th, 15th, 15th.

There are a few other candidates.

Indianapolis. He started sixth and had an early pit lane speeding penalty ruin his race. He went a lap down and ended the race in 20th.

He was having a good day at Toronto and then hit the barrier exiting the final corner.

There wasn't a day where everything went against Pigot but there were plenty of races where one thing went wrong and then we never heard from him again and he would inevitably finish 15th.

Spencer Pigot's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 14th (325 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Top Fives: 3
Top Tens: 5
Laps Led: 4
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 2
Average Start: 14.875
Average Finish: 13.529

This year left Ed Carpenter with something to smile about
Ed Carpenter
For the fifth consecutive season, Carpenter took the role as oval specialist for his own team in the #20 Chevrolet. The prior three seasons had seen disappointing for the part-timer but 2018 proved to be one of Carpenter's best partial seasons yet.

What objectively was his best race?
Second at Indianapolis! This was Carpenter's year. His third pole position was his best performance in the race he holds so near and dear to his heart and he was at the front but didn't have enough to beat Team Penske's Will Power. Of the 65 laps Carpenter led in this year's Indianapolis 500, only two were laps after the halfway point. He was there but that wasn't going to be enough to defeat Power.

What subjectively was his best race?
It is Indianapolis. There really wasn't another race that came close.

What objectively was his worst race?
Texas. He and Robert Wickens got together when Carpenter was already a lap down and he was classified as 20th. It wasn't a great race to begin with for Carpenter and made even worse that his contact took out one of the best cars in this race.

What subjectively was his worst race?
He really only had one bad race and four mediocre races and then Indianapolis, likely the only race that Carpenter gives a damn about.

I don't think Carpenter gives a damn about any race other than Indianapolis.

Ed Carpenter's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 20th (187 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 4
Laps Led: 66
Poles: 1
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 11.4
Average Finish: 10.1667

Jordan King turned some heads with his pace but couldn't turn it into results
Jordan King
After spending three seasons in GP2/Formula Two, the Englishman moved to America and took over in the #20 Chevrolet for the road and street course races. King had previously been a teammate in GP2 to Alexander Rossi. Other previous teammates from King's career in Europe include Ed Jones, Daniil Kvyat, Harry Tincknell and Antonio Giovinazzi.

What objectively was his best race?
His 11th place finish at Toronto after he started eighth but between qualifying and the race he hit the barrier in the morning warm-up and he came back and got a respectable result.

What subjectively was his best race?
Similar to Max Chilton, when you do not have a top ten finish it is hard to take many positives. He went from 25th to 13th at Sonoma. That's good, not great, but good.

What objectively was his worst race?
He finished 24th at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in a race where he had an incident in turn two that beached him in the gravel after starting fifth. It put him a lap down and he never recovered.

What subjectively was his worst race?
It is a toss up between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and St. Petersburg. Jordan King made the first lead change of the season and he did it under green flag conditions! Let that sink in. Jordan King made the first pass for the lead in the 2018 IndyCar season. He started fourth in the season opener and was leading. He took the lead from Robert Wickens. Then he lost the lead, he smacked the barrier and that killed any hope of a good result on debut. He finished 21st.

Jordan King's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 22nd (175 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Laps Led: 10
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 2
Fast Twelves: 5
Average Start: 13.181
Average Finish: 15.181

An Early Look Ahead
It feels like the season Zach Veach had was the one we expected Spencer Pigot to have in 2018. This was not the first full-time season Pigot needed or at least we hoped for. He was really inspiring in 2017 and the results that went against him last year were forgivable because of what he did in those races before things went wrong.

I think Pigot has something and Carpenter is keeping him for another year. It is easy to say this is the same thing that happened with Josef Newgarden. Newgarden's rookie season was not great. He didn't have a top ten finish but he had special moments. Pigot is getting time but results have to follow. There has to be an improvement and I am not sure Pigot has done enough that if Carpenter decided to move on after 2019 another team would take a shot on him.

I feel like every year I write something along the lines of "I don't know what Carpenter wants out of the road/street course driver" because I don't know what Carpenter wants out of the road/street course driver. He has run the gamut of drivers in that seat.

He had the veteran IndyCar driver and all-around talent in Mike Conway.

He brought in the European junior single-seater veteran that could not break into Formula One despite victories and beating other top drivers in Luca Filippi.

He hired an Indy Lights champion hoping to use this seat to get a full-time ride in Pigot

He hired a young European junior single-seater driver who was likely not going to make it to Formula One but is a good driver in King.

I think all Carpenter needs is an 18-year-old driver that finished fifth in a Formula Three series that featured fewer than eight cars and has a father with $650 million in the bank and has a connection to a human rights violation for a bingo.

Is King going to stay on for another partial season? Is Carpenter going to search for another driver who wants a yearlong audition?

The same way I keep writing about my uncertainty over what Carpenter wants from its road/street course driver I will keep writing that the best thing for this team might be a second full-time driver that can work with Pigot on a regular basis and compete for the championship. There are plenty of capable drivers out there and King might be it. King was quick. It was exciting to watch him because he was a wild card every week. He seemed like he was always going to make it out of the first round of qualifying and at that point you are a race contender. Unfortunately for King his qualifying pace never transferred over but we know he has it and if he can channel it in the race Ed Carpenter Racing might have a British-American duo that will shake up IndyCar.

A few years ago this team was competing for championships with Josef Newgarden. It has the capability to compete with the best in IndyCar but it has to make a few difficult decisions to reach that next level.