Monday, December 10, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: This is Dangerous

Let's go around the world: There was a shootout for a scholarship to U.S. F2000 with drivers from every corner of the globe competing for the prize. Meanwhile, there was one final endurance race of the year from Fuji. In France, there was a race on ice and snow cut the weekend in half. IndyCar drivers had their final test of 2018, including Marcus Ericsson getting his first taste of the DW12 chassis with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Furniture Row Racing's charter has been purchased and it is sports agency that has bought it and will start a new team in NASCAR. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

This is Dangerous
This is the end of the year. We have had a lot great moments in motorsports. Great drivers have added to their legacies. Budding stars have continued to blossom. There were plenty of times we were left in awe of races and had plenty to be joyous about. 

But 2018 reminded us motorsports is dangerous. 

The most memorable moments of this year were the accidents that involved Robert Wickens at Pocono and Sophia Flörsch at Macau. 

Memorable doesn't mean good. It doesn't mean positive. It doesn't mean we can have a laugh about it. Memories are bad and good and sometimes the bad linger longer. 

These two moments will last as long if not longer in our minds than Will Power's Indianapolis 500 victory, Sebastian Vettel going off at Hockenheim and handing a victory to Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota and co-drivers Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. 

Both incidents left an imprint on the mind of the motorsport's world. 

For Wickens, it was a flight into the catchfence, skimming the top of Ryan Hunter-Reay's car, a hole torn in the barrier separate the beasts from the spectators, a two-hour delay, a confirmation that Wickens was alive and the resumption of a race while praying we could get through it and make it to another day. 

For Flörsch, it was the shock. The abrupt flight caught on the cell phones of spectators turned amateur cameramen that left everyone stunned but kept everyone rolling. It was a missile that cleared the park, taking down the fence that was meant to keep the monsters contained and putting marshals and photographers in danger. 

Both drivers broke backs. Both are on a long road to recovery. Robert Wickens is fighting just to walk again. It is weekly updates of physical therapy, a man with withered legs doing all he can to become partial again let alone whole. Wickens has returned to the state of a toddler, just trying to take one step at a time. If he gets back to walking on his own with any assistance from a cane or walker I don't care if he ever gets in a race car again. That is enough of a victory. 

Flörsch may not have the same climb to make as Wickens but she will be sidelined for a while. She also has many years left of her prime. She just turned 18 years old. Motorsports has flexibility. Nobody wants her to be out for a lengthy period of time but she could take a year or two or three to heal and get her strength back and return in sports cars or touring cars and have a lengthy career. 

In the wake of these accidents, it is natural for people to look for solutions and not all proposed solutions are popular. With Wickens' accident, the old tune returned of people screaming for IndyCar to not race on ovals. The call for a better alternative to the current catchfence sprang up again. Some blasted IndyCar for not having implemented the halo, though the halo in no way was going to keep Wickens from the injuries he suffered. Flörsch's accident has some concerns over the next generation of the Formula Three cars at Macau. There are plenty of people thinking about how to slow the cars down on the narrow street circuit. 

We can make motorsports safer. We can have a better catchfence. We can do more to protect drivers. But this is a dangerous sport and just like any sport you cannot completely prevent injuries. 

Think about motorsports for a second and what happens. You have drivers going 200 MPH, sometimes faster than that. Even if it isn't 200 MPH, it is 150 MPH, 130 MPH, 115 MPH! All speeds most do not have the stomach to imagine doing in a street vehicle while on the way to work or to drop the kids off at school. If we get into an accident at those speeds, we will likely get hurt. 

In a race car, there are additional safety devices to make sure a driver doesn't get hurt and most times a driver does not get injured, at least not to the extent we would in a street vehicle. Drivers walk away most of the time, even at the accidents over 200 MPH but there is still a chance a driver will not be so fortunate. 

When you are going that fast and something goes wrong there is a chance you will get hurt. It is the same way in hockey when you are skating after a puck, there is a chance a player could be checked into the board and suffer an injury or in football a player could be hit legally and still be taken out. Think about Alex Smith of Washington and his gruesome broken leg. We have seen some horrific leg injuries in basketball over reason years from Kevin Ware at Louisville, Paul George when practicing with the United States national team and Gordon Hayward in the opening minutes of his first game with the Boston Celtics. 

When athletes push the limits they are pushing their bodies to the point of breaking and things can go wrong. The same is true for motorsports. Unlike football or basketball or hockey where a body can break just as bad with a non-contact injury as one with contact with a fellow player or surface, injuries in motorsports are contact injuries and the contact is severe at times. 

No one wants drivers to get hurt but it has to be acknowledged that it is a real possibility in every race. Some injuries are not that bad. There are plenty of broken wrists and bruises but we should not think the bad injuries should never happen. 

It is a better time for motorsports. This isn't the 1960s when fatalities happened on a monthly basis. We see more drivers and even riders in motorcycle racing complete a full season than before. It is safer and safety can improve but it is still dangerous and injuries will still occur. 

It is important to remind ourselves of what we are watching and what can occur. It can be difficult to swallow what could happen. While inspirational, watching Robert Wickens have to learn to walk again and thinking about how great he was this season and how basic daily tasks are now challenges is tough to handle. But like all sports one day you can be on the mountaintop and the next it could be over. 

Motorsports is safer than it was and more can be done and should be done to make it safer for the drivers, crews and spectators at the event. We have to remember even with all these improvements it does not mean injuries and even fatalities can be eradicated from the sport. Sometimes every preventive step possible can be done and it still not be enough. 

When you go the speeds these men and women reach sometimes the results of an accident is out of our control. 

Winners From the Weekend

The #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier-Judd of Andrea Pizzitola and Harrison Newey won the 4 Hours of Fuji. The #3 United Autosports Ligier-Nissan of Matthew Bell, Kay Van Berlo and Christian England won in LMP3. The #11 CarGuy Racing Ferrari of James Calado, Kei Cozzolino and Takeshi Kimura won in GT fir the second consecutive race.

Aurélien Panis won the Andros Trophy race from Val Thorens. The second race was cancelled due to a snowstorm.

Hunter McElrea won the Road to Indy Shootout, earning him a $200,000 scholarship to race in U.S. F2000 in 2019. McElrea was the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Series champion.

Coming Up This Weekend
The Formula E season opener from Saudi Arabia. 

But this is the final Musings From the Weekend until New Year's Eve! There will be a Formula E preview later this week. Next week will be the seventh For the Love of Indy Awards. After that it will be time for predictions and of course we will have our annual Christmas list. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

2018 Sports Car Predictions: Revisited

Our final set of predictions to revisit is the sports car predictions and it is an odd time for a few sports car series. Series are in transition; other series are rebranding. It seems to be a time of movement. Manufactures are stepping up their commitment to series. Teams are moving classes. Some series are trending up; others are trending down. Let's look back on 2018.

1. IMSA: Cadillac does not win more than 50% of the races
Correct! Cadillac won four of ten Prototype races in 2018. The #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac won at Daytona with Filipe Albuquerque, João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi and Albuquerque and Barbosa got their second victory at Long Beach. The championship winning #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran won at Belle Isle. Cadillac did not win again until the season finale of Petit Le Mans with the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay getting the victory.

2. At least two new teams pick up victories in Prototypes
Correct! Three new teams picked up victories in 2018. The first is no surprise, Acura Team Penske! The return of the team and manufacture saw victory come in the fourth race of the season at Mid-Ohio with Ricky Taylor and Hélio Castroneves. The next winner was a bit of a surprise and in a surprise race. JDC-Miller Motorsports won at the 6 Hours of the Glen with Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller. CORE Autosport won the next two races after Watkins Glen with Colin Braun and Jon Bennett.

I think the shocking portion is two of the three teams were global LMP2 cars. Acura was going to be competitive with Team Penske but Mazda fell short and the LMP2 cars, which seemed to have no hope at the start of the season who plenty of races and CORE Autosport was fighting for the championship in the finale. I think Balance of Performance worked in 2018 for the Prototype class.

3. No GTLM team successfully defends a class victory
Wrong! The #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner won at Long Beach for the second consecutive year.

Were any other entries close to successfully defending a class victory? The #66 Ford of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais were runner-up finishers at Daytona. Outside of that, no winning entry from the year before finished on the podium at that track in 2018. That is peculiar. You would have thought a few teams would finish third a year after winning but that is not the case.

4. WEC: Toyota wins the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans but does not sweep the overall podium
Correct! The #8 Toyota of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso won the race and the #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finished second but those were the only two Toyota entries and Rebellion Racing took the final podium spot.

5. Gianmaria Bruni wins more races than Ferrari in 2018
Wrong! Bruni did not win a race in 2018 while Ferrari won once at Silverstone. Bruni was the runner-up finisher at Le Mans and at Shanghai.

6. Less than 50% of the races in 2018 feature a British winner in GTE-Pro
Correct! The only race of five to have a British winner was Silverstone where James Calado won with Alessandro Pier Guidi.

7. ELMS: Each class champion has more than one victory
Wrong! The GTE championship winning #88 Proton Competition Porsche won only once out of six races. GTE had five different winners in six races. The only entry to win multiple times was the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Alex MacDowell, Liam Griffin and Miguel Molina, which won at Circuit Paul Ricard and Silverstone. The #88 Porsche beat the #66 Ferrari for the championship by 7.5 points.

8. There will be fewer victories by American drivers
Correct! There were two American victories in 2018 after five in 2017 and both victories occurred in the same race! John Falb won in the LMP3 class at Spa-Francorchamps in the #2 United Autosports Ligier with Australian Scott Andrews. In GTE, Bret Curtis won in the #80 EbiMotors Porsche with Fabio Babini and Riccardo Pera.

9. A French driver wins at least once in the GTE class
Wrong! There were no French winners in GTE. In fact, in only two races was there a French driver in GTE and it was Raymond Narac, who ran the first two rounds at Circuit Paul Ricard and Monza with EbiMotors. Of course, EbiMotors would win the fifth round of the season at Spa-Francorchamps but American Bret Curtis had taken over for Narac at that point! It was close to happening and yet wasn't close at all!

10. PWC: American automobiles win more GT races than they did in 2017
Wrong! No American manufacture won a GT race in 2018 and mostly because the Callaway Corvette withdrew after one round and worse than that the operation was cut from two to one cars before the season even started, leaving PWC veteran Michael Cooper out of job. This program disintegrating before the start of the season was a big disappointment and blow to the series.

11. The average number of GT entries in SprintX is down by at least two cars
Correct! And it was much worse than I feared. The average number of GT entries for SprintX rounds in 2018 was 14.4 entries, down 10.6 entires from 2018. Yikes!

12. The top five drivers in the GTS championship each win at least one race
Correct! James Sofronas won the overall GTS championship and swept the sprint and SprintX titles in the category. Sofronas won twice in GTS SprintX. Harry Gottsacker was vice-champion in the overall GTS championship and he won twice in SprintX. Ian James won six races, three in each sprint and SprintX and yet he only finished third in the overall GTS championship. Jade Buford was the only other driver besides James to win in each sprint and SprintX with victories at Austin, Portland and Watkins Glen. Lawson Aschenbach won four of the first five GTS sprint races in 2018.

Final Words
IMSA is a deep series. Consider that the champions were Felipe Nasr in his first year and Eric Curran, who is a competent driver and previous champion but I am not sure he would be a top fifteen pick if the prototype drivers were in a draft. Meanwhile, Wayne Taylor Racing does not win until final round and still finishes third in the championship and JDC-Miller Motorsports finishes fourth ahead of the two Team Penske entries and the Daytona winning Mustang Sampling Racing entry and we still have not mentioned the factory-supported Mazda or Nissan efforts.

And that is just Prototype! GT Le Mans has eight entries and eight entries could win in every race. Every GTLM race has the every car on the lead lap for what seems like 90% of it. If you keep running you have a shot at victory in that class. One error could be the difference between a victory and a sixth place finish.

And to round it out is GT Daytona, which will have nine manufactures in 2019! It is a Pro-Am class and it gets the least attention of the three but it is equally as thrilling as the two professional categories.

The only concern for this series is the split of DPi and LMP2 into separate class and what could be a non-existed LMP2 class. There were four LMP2 entries in 2018 and CORE Autosport is taking over the Nissan DPi program and JDC-Miller Motorsports will run two Cadillacs. I am not sure if we will see any LMP2 entries and if we do I think we are looking at something similar to the final year of Prototype Challenges with two or three entries. That isn't a good thing. It is a good thing that CORE and JDC-Miller were able to purchase DPi chassis and can move up to the top class but it doesn't look good when you create a class and no one is there to play.

The World Endurance Championship is in an unfamiliar spot of being in a midseason break in December and not the offseason. This is the transition season and in future years this break will not be as long but it is hard to gauge where the championship is even with three races to go. The battle between the Toyota entries seems closer than most expected. The GTE-Pro championship seems wrapped up with Porsche. Team Project 1 is in prime position for the GTE-Am title after the Dempsey-Proton Racing forfeiture of points after the team was found to have manipulated refueling times, which should be a bigger story than it has been.

LMP2 is the one close championship battle with multiple teams with the two Jackie Chan DC Racing entries split with the Signatech Alpine entry second in the championship.

European Le Mans Series is doing fine. I feel like every year we rehash the fact that it wasn't that long ago the European Le Mans Series was only getting about a dozen entries, had to cancel multiple rounds due to lack of entries and made Petit Le Mans its de facto season finale. The series has come a long way in a short period of time.

Heading in the opposite direction of ELMS, or at least it feels that way, is Pirelli World Challenge or what will be Blancpain GT World Challenge America in 2019. I feel like Pirelli World Challenge completely neglected its identity and it kind of sucks that it has been rebranded with the somewhat sterile Blancpain GT World Challenge moniker.

I am not sure what the series wanted to be but the single driver sprint race format is going to be missed. I don't think this series had to completely shed its sprint race format. I understand why SprintX was introduced and has become the format for the entire series. SprintX races have been enjoyable but I fear this series thinks it is bigger than it is with the decision to have all its races be standalone events and not partner with series such as IndyCar. Things will only get worse before they get better.

That is a bleak note to end on but it is a concerning time for this series.

A positive: Seven-for-twelve on predictions again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 Et Cetera Predictions: Revisited

We are rounding out the year and we have a few more series to look at when it comes to predictions. Unfortunately, with so many great series and so little time for writing a few have to be condensed to one prediction in one post. Fortunately, 12 series is quite a lot and it can provide for a varied selection of predictions. Today we look back on series from around the world, big and small, domestic and international and see how many we hit on and how many we missed.

1. MotoGP: There are at least three races decided by a pass on the final lap
Wrong! There were only two races decided with a pass on the final lap. Jorge Lorenzo passed Marc Márquez on the final lap at the Red Bull Ring. Márquez passed Andrea Dovizioso on the final lap at Buriram. Despite all that, there were some really great races in MotoGP, as there always are. 

2. Indy Lights: Carlin does not win an oval race
Correct! But sadly it is because Carlin did not field an entry in Indy Lights this season. This isn't one correct prediction to feel good about. It would have been one thing if Carlin fielded two cars and Andretti Autosport and Juncos Racing were just better on the ovals.

Carlin's Indy Lights absence may be temporary and the team may plan on returning to Indy Lights in 2019 after stepping away to focus on the new IndyCar operation this past season but Indy Lights is still in a vicarious position even with Carlin on the grid. It may be an additional two cars but the series needs at least eight to ten entries to feel comfortable. 

3. Supercars: At least three full-time drivers who didn't win a race in 2017 win in 2018
Correct! Craig Lowndes, Scott Pye and Rick Kelly all won a race after not winning as full-time drivers in 2017. Pye was the first of the three to win and he did it at Melbourne during the Australian Grand Prix weekend in March. It was Pye's first career victory and it came in his 171st start. Lowndes won in the following round at Symmons Plains and he would win his seventh Bathurst 1000 later in the season. Kelly won at Winton Motor Raceway in May. It was Kelly's first victory since 2011.

4. World Superbike: P.J. Jacobsen finishes better in the championship than all Honda riders did in 2017
Wrong! Jacobsen's World Superbike season ended prematurely with two rounds to go and he finished 19th in the championship, six positions off where he had to finish.

5. World Supersport: Kenan Sofuoglu clinches the championship before the season finale
Wrong! Unfortunately, injuries forced Sofuoglu to retire during the season. He was a fantastic talent and he will be missed. 

6. Blancpain GT: At least two different non-European drivers win races overall and at least one of those races do not come in a qualifying race for a sprint weekend
Wrong! The only non-European winner was Kelvin van der Linde in the second race of the season in the Blancpain Sprint Series race from Zolder. 

7. Asian Le Mans Series: Harrison Newey's ALMS success leads to starts in either WEC or ELMS
Correct! Newey got to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. He drove for SMP Racing and he and his co-drivers Viktor Shaitar and Norman Nato finished 14th overall and tenth in LMP2. 

8. Super Formula: A rookie does not finish in the top four of the championship
Correct! The top four in the championship were Naoki Yamamoto, who was in his ninth season and won the title in 2013, sophomore Nick Cassidy, double Super Formula champion Hiroki Ishiura and Yuhi Sekiguchi, who was in his third season. 

9. Super GT: Jenson Button has at least two podium finishes
Correct! Button and co-driver Yamamoto had four podium finishes, including a victory at Sportsland SUGO and the pairing won the GT500 championship! 

10. DTM: A non-German driver wins a race in that driver's home country
Correct! Paul di Resta won at Brands Hatch.

11. World Touring Car Cup: WTCC race winners in 2017 win more races than 2017 TCR International Series race winners in 2018
Correct! WTCC winners edged out TCR winners six to five.

Here are the 2017 WTCC winners that won in 2018: Esteban Guierreri, Thed Björk, Norbert Michelisz, Rob Huff, Yann Ehrlacher and Mehdi Bennani.

Here are the 2017 TCR International Series winners that won in 2018: Gabriele Tarquini (though his victory did not count toward the points because he was a guest driver), Pepe Oriola, Jean-Karl Vernay, Norbert Michelisz and Rob Huff.

Ironically, Tarquini won the championship a year after running a handful of rounds in each sires and Yvan Muller was vice-champion after spending most of 2017 in retirement and only running the final WTCC round in 2017.

By the way, here is Muller's championship finishes since he joined WTCC in 2006: fourth, second, first, second, first, first, third, first, second, second, second, 15th after only running one round in 2017 and second. That is not a bad record. Not as good as his Andros Trophy record but very good considering those results are for a world championship.

12. WRC: The champion will not be named Sébastien
Wrong! Sébastien Ogier won his sixth consecutive championship despite having Theirry Neuville lead with two rounds remaining and Ott Tänak was the first driver to win four rallies this season. That is 15 consecutive years with a Sébastien as World Rally champion. It is bound to end but after this year it feels like it never will. 

Final Words
Where to begin? What has been left unsaid?

MotoGP should be interesting with Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo paired at Honda. Lorenzo has earned a reputation of a team-wrecker of sorts and butted heads with Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso. Now he is up against the man currently in the throne. Let's see how this goes. It will not end well. This might be Honda beating itself with Márquez and Lorenzo opening the door for Dovizioso and Ducati to take the title in 2019 or Márquez will ascend to a new level, one no one else can get close to reaching.

Supercars has set up an interesting two-horse battle between DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight Race Engineering. With Craig Lowndes retiring from full-time competition both teams will have two drivers and it feels the next generation is here for Supercars. Jamie Whincup is still around but Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen and two young champions and went toe-to-toe for all of 2018. If it isn't those three battling for majority of race victory than I will be surprised.

World Superbike has become the Jonathan Rea show and that doesn't appear to be changing with Rea going for a record fifth title in 2019. Rea will have a new teammate at Kawasaki with Leon Haslam moving over after winning the British Superbike Championship. Haslam is no stranger to World Superbike and he was vice-champion in 2010. A lot of riders are moving around in World Superbike with Chaz Davies having Álvaro Bautista join him at Ducati, Marco Melandri moving to Yamaha with World Supersport champion Sandro Cortese moving up to team with Melandri and Tom Sykes leaves Kawasaki to join BMW with Markus Reiterberger as his teammate.

On to Japan and the rise of Jenson Button. I did not expect this. I thought he would do well. I didn't think Honda would let him down and have him run 12th every race but to win the championship in his debut season is impressive. Honda has had its struggles in Super GT and Lexus and Nissan have traded titles in recent years. More impressive was Yamamoto, who swept titles in Super GT and Super Formula. We hear about the challenges when it comes to driving single-seaters versus a car with fenders and the fact that a driver can get the best out of both while competing full-time in the same year is something few can accomplish.

Let's end with the DTM and the new horizon for the series. Mercedes-Benz exits with the championship and with the loss of the manufacture means the end for champion Gary Paffett, who moves to Formula E along with Pascal Wehrlein and Edoardo Mortara. Paul di Resta is still a free agent and could remain in DTM but di Resta has been running more sports car races. The good news is Aston Martin steps into the series and keeps DTM at three manufactures. The entrance of Aston Martin coincides with the introduction of the "Class One" regulations, which see turbocharged 2.0 L inline-4 engines replace the naturally aspirated 4.0 L V8 engines used since the re-introduction of the series in 2000. It feels like the series has found some new life and it will be interesting to see how Aston Martin does in year one against the established efforts of Audi and BMW.

Seven-for-twelve on the predictions.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: Head-to-Heads

December has begun and there was some racing after all. I completely forgot about the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, which reminds me that the Gulf 12 Hours is coming up. Besides that endurance race, there was a dirt race inside a dome in St. Louis and it attracted a few notable names. Meanwhile, NASCAR had an award show. Lewis Hamilton had an accident on a motorcycle at Jerez. Tom Kristensen and Johan Kristofferson will team up for the Race of Champions. Scott Dixon has a mustache. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

This May saw a monumental decision in the United States when the Supreme Court ruled a federal ban on sports betting violated the rights of the states open the door for sports gambling to be legalized across the country. A few places were quick to legislate the practice. Delaware and New Jersey both signed bills within a month of the Supreme Court decision. Mississippi and West Virigina followed in August with New Mexico joining the club in October. The first legal sports books in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island opened in November.

Sports betting has not spread like the wildfire many thought it would. Many states are still working on legislation. Some states will be tougher to budge and Utah will never budge. More states will legislate it over 2019 and it will become more common across the country.

With the legalization, many people in many sports thought this is what it will take to get more viewers. Football's popularity is not just because of the cultural tie to the United States but because of gambling. It is spreads, money lines, teasers, parlays and prop bets. It is taking eight games and putting them on a ticket. Not everyone is a degenerate but enough tie their interest to the sport with money on the line.

If it works for football, other sports are thinking why couldn't it be the same for them and motorsports was no different then soccer, hockey, baseball and even golf in hoping gambling would bring interested eyes in finding a place to make money.

How were the first few months of legalized gambling for motorsports? It doesn't appear to have done much but there was one bright spot. The week of the Dover NASCAR race saw $52,629 wagered on NASCAR in Delaware compared to $53,286 from June 5th-September 30th. Not big numbers in terms of the four months leading up to the race but when it came time for the race itself, people opened up their wallets. It is not clear how the last two months did but I am sure many within and around motorsports wants to see the amount of money wagered to go up in 2019.

There is a problem with motorsports: It is not gambling friendly right now.

The one issue is when it comes to talking about motorsports gambling everyone looks to the odds for victory. It makes senses, who is going to win? Who are you going to put your money on to win? The problem is you aren't likely to win an outright bet on the winner. In NASCAR, it is one driver out of 40 that wins. In IndyCar, it is one of maybe two-dozen drivers. The odds are not in your favor and even if you spread the money around over four or five drivers the payout might not be high enough to make all your money back.

Motorsports can be friendlier to gamblers and the casual fan. There has to be more options than just betting on the overall winner and there are.

Motorsports is built for prop bets. An over/under can be set on number of cautions, number of caution laps, lead changes, longest green flag run, cars on the lead lap and so on. All those categories would keep people interested from start to finish. You don't know how many cars will finish on the lead lap until the checkered flag. What happens if the over/under was 15.5 and the leader ran out of fuel with half a lap to go and let five cars get back on the lead lap and brought the total to 16 lead lap finishers? What if the over/under on cautions as 5.5 and there is a spin on the final lap and the sixth caution comes out? Those with money on it would stick around. They aren't going to turn away and think it is money in the bag. Gamblers will watch until they know they definitely are a winner or loser.

But there has to be more than prop bets. Prop bets are the additional side bets. There needs to be bets that take into account the race itself and if betting on the overall winner is too unfavorable then there has to be an alternative and I think that is head-to-head betting.

Head-to-head betting takes one race and turns it into ten or a dozen or twenty different battles to keep an eye on. Instead of having to pick one winner, you could pick five or nine or 15 winners. Instead of picking one or two or five drivers and have them run eighth, 12th, 20th and the rest retire from the race, that battle for 12th could matter.

I think head-to-head betting is what could increase interest from gamblers and potentially increase viewing and I think the series should get on board and provide the match ups themselves. Instead of having the casinos set the match ups, a series could do it each week and in a crazy way turn a race into like other sports where we know the match ups going into a Sunday. These match ups could be weekly talking points.

The way I envision it is a series, whether its NASCAR or IndyCar, would have to set a schedule before the first race of the season and make it a random draw. The problem is drivers can rotate so these would have to be based on entrant and likely for these series, the entries remain pretty consistent week to week. With the charter system in NASCAR, we know 36 teams that will be there each week. In IndyCar, the leader circle program means about 20 teams are going to be there every week. What some fans view as a problem for both series could be beneficial when it comes to setting head-to-head match ups.

The match ups might have to be limited to those entries but it would provide for a season-long system.

Let's use IndyCar as the example...

Let's say there are 20 leader circle entries, those 20 entries could be drawn against each another at the start of the season and each weekend would have a different match up. It could be set up so every race has a different match up before hand or it could be structured like other sports with a regular season and then a playoff with a bracket and all.

The IndyCar schedule is 17 races and it could be broken into a 14-race regular season with the final three weeks used for a playoff system. The 20 entries could be broken down into two groups of ten and every entry could race each other once with five entries competing twice or five interdivisional match ups and the top four from each division would advance to the playoffs or it could be one table for 20 entries with everyone facing a different entry over the first 14 races and the top eight after 14 races advance to the playoffs.

The same thing could happen in NASCAR. With 36 charters it is possible that each team could get each other once and the final race of the season could have the top two entries paired to decide a champion or NASCAR could break the entries up into two groups of 18 and have every entry face each other twice and the top two from each group could meet in the semifinal in the 35th race and the 36th race would be the final.

There are plenty of ways to do this but if the series jumped on board and made it a thing it could bring in a new type of fan. Imagine if you knew at the start of the season that two entries were going to be meeting in a head-to-head match up weeks in advance. It would be different and you could watch a race differently.

This proposal seems revolutionary but we could have our cake and eat it too. We could keep the traditional model of a points system and the race winner gets the most and keep that championship structure but simultaneously we could have another format and have a championship within a championship if you will and it could be one that is promoted.

Each race could have its own bit of drama different from the one before it and it could give us something to look forward to beforehand. Imagine if we knew going to Road America it was Will Power vs. Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi vs. Josef Newgarden. What if in NASCAR we knew it was going to be Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick heading into Bristol or Joey Logano vs. Martin Truex, Jr. heading into Dover?

I think the series need to get on it and promote head-to-head betting because I do not think casinos will go out of their way to do it each week. It is easier to set the odds for the overall winner and take most of the money because there will only be one winner each week but if head-to-head match ups were already provided for the casinos and they didn't have to create them then it would be simple for them and all that would have to be done would be to set a money line or even a spread with one entry being a 6.5-position favorite or another being a two position underdog.

It would give people a new way to watch a race and in a way could make it more fun for viewers. Instead of focusing on the leader, the focus could be on the battle for eighth or it could come down to whether a driver could overcome a 9.5-position spread and need to make up that one more position. We would still have the race itself but also have these individual match ups to keep an eye on.

For the last decade, motorsports has lost fans. I don't know if it is because of NASCAR's constant changes or IndyCar's rough television deal or a cultural change and youths not being interested in cars because the automobile has become an appliance and costs for insurance, gas and so on have made it unappealing to a younger generation that can piss in a breeze and hit 25 other cheap thrills that do not need the use of an automobile but this emphasis on head-to-head match ups could be the change needed without changing the structure of a race at all. Instead of adding stages, playing with aero packages and tweaking the championship structure so the title is not decided until the final race the one thing that could be done is take what already exists and accentuate it with additional things to watch for besides the race for P1.

If legalized gambling is where motorsports series think they can attract more attention and grow the fan base then the potential lays at the feet of these series to be different but at the same time maintain its identity.

Winners From the Weekend

The #74 Toyo Tires Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek, Wolf Henzler, Justin Marks, Charlie Hayes and Andy Wilzoch won the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.

Christopher Bell won the Gateway Dirt Nationals midget race. Bobby Pierce won the late model race and Mike Harrison won the dirt modified race.

Coming Up This Weekend
The Asian Le Mans Series has its second round of the season at Fuji.
The Andros Trophy season kicks off from Val Thorens.

Friday, November 30, 2018

This Month in Motorsports Headlines: November 2018

We have reached the final day of November and it is time to look back at the headlines of the month. What was being said in the final days of the Formula One and NASCAR season? What about MotoGP? Formula E always has something to say. The year is ending and we are getting more reflective while also focusing on the season next to come.

Once again, this is just for fun. In case you are new, this is my gut reaction to headlines without reading the article. Of course, the gripes I have may be answered in the article.

Lewis Hamilton says 'decisions outside the cockpit' cost Fernando Alonso more F1 titles
Hamilton is spot on about this. I am not sure anyone is more to blame for Alonso's lack of titles than Alonso himself. He scorched the earth with his first stint at McLaren. It was pretty toxic between him and Hamilton. He had to return to Renault the following season and he spent two years in a bit of Formula One purgatory before he could head to Ferrari.

Pit strategy in the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix cost him the title that year. That is as outside the cockpit of a decision you can get. For the better part of four years Alonso was fighting uphill with Ferrari and getting respectable results and he nearly won the title in 2012, which seems more staggering the further we get away from it.

The one thing that appears consistent in Alonso's career is he made the wrong move at the wrong time. He went to McLaren when he should have gone to Ferrari the first time around. He stuck with Ferrari maybe two years too long and simultaneously left Ferrari at the wrong time to return to a sinking ship in McLaren. It is a perplexing career. Not Jacques Villeneuve level of perplexing but ten years from now we will still be trying to understand how Alonso was as successful as he was and still not more successful.

Jackie Stewart says 4-time F1 champ Sebastian Vettel is past his prime
Ok... I did not see this coming. The one thing to take away from this season is Vettel was matching blows with Hamilton and it all went wrong when Vettel went off the road in a light rain shower while leading in Germany. He won one race from that point on and he finished ahead of Hamilton in two of the final ten races.

I don't know if Vettel is past his prime but he is 31 years old and he has already won four consecutive championships. I am not sure he is going to have a better record in his next 11 seasons than he did in his first 11 full seasons.

Russell made "PowerPoint presentation" in Williams 2018 bid
And now he will be in Formula One. So kids, if you want to make it to Formula One, sharpen up your PowerPoint skills... and win the Formula Two championship.

Silverstone "the only place" that can host the British GP
It is not the only place that can host the British Grand Prix but it is the one venue suitable for the British Grand Prix.

On paper, the British Grand Prix could return to Brands Hatch, we can figure out paddock spaces and noise restrictions later but Brands Hatch could host the race. Donington Park could host the race. It nearly did about eight years ago.

And that is about it when it comes to venues that could host the British Grand Prix. I don't want to see Silverstone lose the race. I don't want to see some street course in London take over hosting the British Grand Prix but Silverstone isn't the only permanent facility that could host the British Grand Prix.

Kubica's return proves he'd have been F1 world champion
No, no it doesn't. I get what the author is getting at and Robert Kubica's return to Formula One is a great story of dedication and perseverance but it doesn't prove he would have been world champion.

I have written before about the great talent that Kubica showed in his short time in Formula One and what he was possibly capable of but looking at where he was in terms of Renault when he suffered his injuries and looking at how everything played out with the rise of Red Bull and the five-year Mercedes stranglehold we are currently living in, where was Kubica going to win a title?

Red Bull was set with Vettel and Mark Webber. Mercedes has been set with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Where was Kubica going to fit in? Would Ferrari have given him a shot? Possibly but how was he going to win a world championship? I am not sure he would have been able to do what Alonso fell one position short of in 2012.

I struggle anytime anyone says a certain driver or rider would have been world champion, especially when a career is cut short because of injury or death. There are too many variables at play and while I understand the sentiment behind the comments and they are meant to compliment the ability of that competitor I do feel it can be an overstatement. We have no clue what would of happened and sometimes it feels like people say it because in motorsports there is nothing nicer to say about a person than they had the capability to be the best in their category.

Looking back, I did say Kubica could have been world champion but there is a big difference between "could have" and "proves he'd have been." He was a talented driver and one of the best during his first stint in Formula One but to say his comeback proves he would have been world champion negates the many other factors that decide who wins the title outside of talent and determination.

On to MotoGP!

How Marquez is usurping Rossi's 'GOAT' status
By winning races and world championships. It is as simple as that.

Morbidelli: First Yamaha experience "like riding on butter"
I don't... I am... is that a good things? That sounds awfully messy. I wouldn't want to ride butter. How would one ride butter? How much butter would you need? Think about the size of the average human being and now thing about how much butter you would need to constitute a human riding butter. That has to be at least 20-25 pounds worth of butter. And you would ruin whatever pants you had on if you decided to position yourself on it like you were on a motorcycle.

How would Franco Morbidelli know what its like to ride butter? Never mind, I don't want to know.

That's it... I have decided this is not a good thing.

What did Formula E have to say?

Buemi: Software now the FE equivalent of F1 aero
And that is a good thing?

People hate the Formula One aero regulations. People can barely stand Formula E. Is Sébastien Buemi trying to make Formula E even less likable? Granted this seems like a rare Formula E story of substance and not some garbage about how polar bears are grateful for the series or it is the friendliest series to those ages nine and under and how every capital city in every country is lining up to host a race.

Next is one driver with an honest and accurate assessment of his season...

Green says 2018 DTM season the "worst" of his career
This is a factual statement.

Jamie Green finished 18th in the championship and his previous worst championship finish was 11th. He scored 27 points, which matches his previously lowest points total but he scored 27 points in 2009 with the prior points system and that got him seventh in the championship. He also did not have a podium finish this season and he had at least one podium finish in every one of his prior 13 seasons in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.

The good news for Green is he can only go up from here.

Moving to NASCAR...

Cindric not rushing a move to Cup
Take your time kid; no one thinks you are ready anyway. Besides, you are with Team Penske. Roger Penske doesn't just throw guys into the Cup series and you could make a career out of racing in NASCAR's second division if you keep it clean and occasionally win. The longer you can stay with Penske even if it isn't in a top series the better.

'I was rooting for' Kurt Busch - Hamlin
And you still got into at Phoenix. This is also setting aside the conflict of interest in rooting for one driver who is not on your team meanwhile your teammate is in a situation where it would be very beneficial to win the race and guarantee his spot in the final race. It was a very sappy thing to say.

CRANDALL: Well, we got that wrong...
Yeah we did. And now we have to live with Joey Logano being a NASCAR Cup Series champion.

NASCAR Roundtable: Will the Mustang slow Ford down in 2019?
No but the new aero regulations and tapered space will.

NASCAR: Harvick infraction "as black and white as it gets"
Hence why it wasn't noticed until the Tuesday after a race. It was so black and white that it wasn't found at the track in post-race inspection and we went two full days believing everything was rosy.

We are going to something a bit different next month with December but do not worry. We will be back and I am sure there will be plenty to say.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

2018 Formula One Predictions: Revisited

Formula One season is over and we can look back on the predictions made nearly a year ago. What was on the mind when Lewis Hamilton was just a four-time world champion, Williams did not have its driver line-up set and we had yet to have a race with the halo?

1. The record for youngest pole-sitter is broken
Wrong! Max Verstappen was the favorite to take this record but the closest he got was in Mexico and it seemed through three practice sessions and two rounds of qualifying that Verstappen would get his maiden pole position. Of course, he lost too much time on his final hot lap and had to start second next to Daniel Ricciardo. Mexico was one of two front row starts for Verstappen, he started second to Lewis Hamilton in Singapore but Mexico was the one that slipped through his fingers.

This will be one record Verstappen will not hold. No big deal. Life will move on and so will his career. The more important thing for Verstappen is he finished fourth in the world championship and he did it with five consecutive podium finishes to close out the season and seven podium finishes from the nine races after the summer break. To put it other terms, Verstappen scored the second most points in the final nine races with 144 points, 13 more than Sebastian Vettel, 29 more than Valterri Bottas, 39 more than Kimi Räikkönen and 92 more than his teammate Ricciardo. He was still 51 points off Hamilton but Verstappen ended 2018 in a good position.

Pole positions will come for Verstappen but he is trending in the right direction heading into 2019.

2. Fernando Alonso gets a podium before his 301st start
Wrong! This was way too ambitious of a prediction and the switch to Renault engines did not do wonders for McLaren. The team was better but still not great.

3. Ferrari does not win the French Grand Prix
Correct! It was Mercedes-Benz taking the victory with Lewis Hamilton leading all 53 laps from pole position. Sebastian Vettel would get into Valtteri Bottas at the start, damaging both race cars and taking each out of contention for the victory. Kimi Räikkönen was never a threat and finished third.

4. Brendon Hartley ends the 2018 season with the fourth-most points for a New Zealand driver
Wrong! Hartley finished the 2018 season with four points and that is fifth-most for a New Zealander in Formula One. He fell two points short of fourth-most. I didn't think Hartley was going to light the world on fire but I thought Toro Rosso would have a few races where both cars were hooked up and both would get points. The biggest missed opportunity was Japan where Hartley started sixth but dropped and finished 13th.

I don't know where Hartley goes from here. Toro Rosso distanced itself from him during the season it felt like. Hartley chose Toro Rosso over the Ganassi IndyCar program and Ganassi might have kicked Hartley to the curb anyway after 2018 once Felix Rosenqvist became available but there is no vacancy in IndyCar. The only LMP1 seats worth a damn are Toyota and with the super-season, we are in the middle of the season and not the offseason and I am not sure how many seats will be changing but nothing points to Toyota shaking up its driver line-ups.

Hartley is kind of hitting restart on his career. He might have to go back to LMP2 rides and that sucks when you consider the big step back he took going from Red Bull development driver to Daytona Prototypes with Scott Mayer as his co-driver. I hope he finds something but I am having trouble locating a suitable landing spot. 

5. Williams has its worst finish in the Constructors' Championship with Mercedes engines
Correct! Williams finished dead fucking last in the Constructors' Championship with seven points and 26 points off Toro Rosso. It was always going to be a difficult year and I am not sure it would have mattered if the team had two veterans opposed to pubescent Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin. 

6. Mercedes becomes the fifth manufacture to win 100 pole positions
Correct! Mercedes scored its 100th pole position in Brazil and for safe measure it picked up its 101st pole position at Abu Dhabi. This is a bit more impressive when you take into consideration the team had only won two of the first seven pole positions to start the season meaning it had to go ten for 14 to reach before the season was out. Mercedes needs seven pole positions to surpass Lotus for fourth all-time amongst constructors. 

7. Haas F1 moves to sixth all-time in most race starts without a podium finish
Correct! Haas F1 did not finish on the podium in 2018 and it has started 62 races in its short history in Formula One. The only constructors with more grand prix started and not finished on the podium are Minardi, Ostella, Ensign, ATS and Marussia. Marussia could be overtaken in 2019, as the team did not score a podium finish in 73 races. 

8. Force India reaches 1,000 points before winning a race
Correct! Force India surpassed 1,000 points with Sergio Pérez finishing third in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it had not stood on the top step of the podium before that race. 

9. Every team scores at least ten points
Wrong! Williams fell three points short. 

10. Stoffel Vandoorne is the top championship finisher out of the last three GP2/Formula Two champions
Wrong! Vandoorne was the worst of the three drivers with Charles Leclerc scoring 39 points, Pierre Gasly scoring 29 points and Vandoorne on 12 points.

McLaren needed more than Renault to pick up the results and Vandoorne's team seemed to be the most lost on the entire grid. I am not sure there was greater discrepancy between teammates this year than Alonso and Vandoorne. Alonso wasn't great but he was competitive and in those same races Vandoorne was swimming with a 25-pound weight around his neck.

I kind of hate Formula One because in four years Vandoorne has gone from stud who cannot be passed up and scoring on his Formula One debut to a driver that most people think is trash. Need I remind everybody that Vandoorne won the GP2 Series championship by 160 points over Alexander Rossi and anyone who follows IndyCar knows Rossi is a supreme talent. Vandoorne hasn't completely lost it nor were his Formula Reanult 3.5 Series and GP2 results flukes. The man got in to Formula One with the wrong team at the wrong time and now he is off to Formula E. I hope he likes Kool-Aid. 

11. Both Alfa Romeo Sauber drivers have at least two finishes of ninth or better
Correcet! Not only did Charles Leclerc score 39 points as a rookie but his first points finish was sixth in Azerbaijan and he closed out the season by finishing in seventh position in four of the final six races. Marcus Ericsson got a bit of his mojo back. He finished second in Bahrain and he would get two more ninth-place finishes in Germany and Mexico.

Ericsson's results were not stellar but he doubled his career points total this season and he is heading to IndyCar with positive momentum. Ericsson was encouraging and he gave off the right vibe the last few races. It sounds crazy but losing his Formula One ride might have been the best confidence boost for him and I think he will do well in IndyCar. I am not sure if he is going to match what Robert Wickens did and I am not sure he will win rookie of the year but I expect a few weekends where it clicks for Ericsson and he qualifies in the top ten and runs in the top ten and might break into the top five in what was a competitive outing that involved a handful of overtakes. 

12. Antonio Giovinazzi makes more starts in sports cars than in Formula One
Correct! Sports car starts: One; Formula One starts: Zero. Scoreboard. I have to admit it was a lot closer than I thought it was going to be. Next year, the result will be different. Giovinazzi will team with Kimi Räikkönen at Sauber. 

Final Words
Is there any reason not to expect Lewis Hamilton winning his sixth World Drivers' Championship and another ten races in 2019?

Who is going to beat him?

Ferrari might have had the best car in 2018 but Sebastian Vettel found ways to lose races and in turn hand the championship to Hamilton. Can Vettel correct his mistakes? Vettel is a four-time champion. Yeah, he should be able to improve Mercedes found something in the second half of the season and Vettel may improve but it might not be enough to challenge Hamilton.

Hamilton had one retirement, 17 podium finishes and 20 top five finishes this season. Vettel had one retirement, 12 podium finishes and 17 top five finishes. Hamilton's worst finish when starting on pole position was third. Vettel had two victories, a fourth, an eighth and a retirement from his five pole positions. There is a big gulf Vettel has to overcome and I do not see Mercedes or Hamilton falling back to Vettel and Ferrari. Marginal gains will not be enough.

Outside of Hamilton and Vettel, I think Valtteri Bottas will win a race. He had too many slip away from him in 2018 and I think he will have his day but he will still be fighting for third in the world championship.

Vettel has a new teammate in Charles Leclerc and the 21-year-old's rookie season was encouraging. Can Leclerc be to Ferrari what Daniel Ricciardo was to Red Bull in 2014 and stun everyone and top Vettel in year one? I think that is a lot to ask but Ferrari would not have moved Leclerc up from Sauber just to have him settle in the role of wingman. If that is what the Scuderia wanted it would have kept Kimi Räikkönen for another season. I think Leclerc will be competitive and I think a race victory might be asking a lot from the Monegasque driver but he is young enough not to know better and could put himself in a position to get a victory.

If there is one driver that can challenge Hamilton and Vettel, it is Max Verstappen. We already covered how he finished 2018 and if Red Bull gets off to a good start not only do I think Verstappen will finish third but he could make a push for second. Pierre Gasly falls in a similar boat as Leclerc but Gasly does not have the promising results to fall back on.

The one concern with Red Bull is the switch to Honda. Toro Rosso went from seventh in the constructors' championship and 53 points to ninth and 33 points after switching from Renault to Honda. McLaren went from ninth on 30 points to sixth on 62 points after dropping Honda for Renault. I would feel better about the switch had Toro Rosso not lost ground in 2018 from its 2017 results. The Honda experiment has yet to breakthrough and yield the desired results and nothing points to Honda having it figured out in 2019. This could be a wasted few seasons for Max Verstappen. If Honda causes Red Bull to fall further behind Mercedes and Ferrari and bring the team down to the level of Renault, Haas and Force India, this will inevitably lead to Verstappen's exit from the team.

Outside of the top three teams, I worry we will lose Daniel Ricciardo's best seasons to Renault. In the same way we should expect Hamilton to win another championship, why should we expect Renault or any other manufacture to leap into the fight with the top three teams? Outside of Williams in 2014 and 2015, we have not had another manufacture mixing it up at the front. Ricciardo is a talented driver but all the talent in the world isn't going to take Renault much further up the grid.

There is no reason to be confident that McLaren is going to turn it around, Haas will get a podium finish, Sauber will climb to new heights with Räikkönen or that any of the four Honda-powered Red Bull-owned cars will be competitive. With Red Bull switching to Honda I think it is more likely that Formula One goes from three power teams to two and third in the constructors' championship will be even further off than Red Bull was after 2018.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all broke 400 points this year and Red Bull was still over 200 behind Mercedes and over 100 behind Ferrari. Renault was fourth on 122 points. We might see a new team finish third in the constructors' championship but if that happens it is more likely that third, fourth, fifth and possibly sixth all score over 100 points but none break 250 points and Mercedes and Ferrari are both clear of third by over 200 points.

I do not expect much to change in 2019 for Formula One, at least not at the very top. Where the fight might get tighter is for fifth and sixth and that is not where the increased tension is needed.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: The Captain vs. Il Commendatore

November closed with a handful of season finales and one season opener. One championship had a post-race penalty play a significant role. In Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton had a false flag in an engine issue. Daniel Ricciardo said goodbye to Red Bull. Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergey Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson said goodbye to Formula One. Esteban Ocon is taking a sabbatical but not of his choosing. Robert Kubica is back! Meanwhile, there was a dirt race on Thanksgiving and another endurance race in China. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

The Captain vs. Il Commendatore
This year might have been the year of Roger Penske. What year hasn't been the year of Roger Penske in the last three decades? The man has created a motorsports empire and this year the man we call The Captain has reached new heights.

Where do we begin? The month of May. It is really the only place we can start for Roger Penske. Plenty of Penske's milestone moments have occurred at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but this was not the 500-mile race. Penske's 200 IndyCar victory came in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis with Will Power. Power started on pole position but had a battle with Robert Wickens after the two went separate ways on tire strategy. Wickens had a stronger second stint but Power reclaimed the advantage on the third stint and pulled away.

Two weeks later, Power was back in victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the Indianapolis 500. It was Penske's 17th victory in the event and Power was the 12th driver to win the event for The Captain. It was a dominant day for Power. He did not lead the most laps but he led 59 laps, the second-most in the race.

Once the team reached 200 IndyCar victories and picked up its 17th Indianapolis 500 victory, the focus turned to 500 victories as an organization and it was a full court press from around the world. From IndyCar to NASCAR, Supercars to IMSA, the team was gunning for 500. It was the modern-day legends such as Hélio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Brad Keselowski fighting for the esteemed responsibility of the 500th victory along with the still budding careers of Josef Newgarden, Austin Cindric and Scott McLaughlin.

It was not a matter of if but when the 500th victory would come and some weekends the team has as many as six cracks at victories. The team never swept a weekend but someone seemed to always find a way to the top step. Summer was coming to a close and the 500th victory was a bit elusive. Keselowski won the Southern 500 and Brickyard 400, Penske's second and first victories in those respective events.

The pivotal weekend was the final Sunday of summer: NASCAR was in Las Vegas, IndyCar had its finale in Sonoma and Supercars had its first endurance race of the season in the Sundown 500. There was also the possibility the 500th victory could come in NASCAR's second division. That didn't happen and the Supercars team would have the first crack on Sunday. Triple Race Engineering swept the podium and Scott McLaughlin finished fourth with co-driver Alexandre Prémat.

Come Sunday afternoon, the NASCAR Cup race started and a handful of cautions had Keselowski in front with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney each in the top ten. Keselowski fended off the field for four restarts and handed Penske its 500th victory with Logano in fourth and Blaney in fifth. The Captain celebrated on a pit stand in Sonoma with the IndyCar race coming to the green flag.

Autumn saw more monumental moments for the Penske organization. Blaney won the Charlotte roval race. Logano won at Martinsville and won the NASCAR Cup championship at Homestead, his first title and Penske's second Cup title. Two weeks after taking the Cup crown, Team Penske earned its first drivers' championship with the Supercars operation as Scott McLaughlin won the first race from Newcastle and finished second in the finale to seal the title.

McLaughlin has 17 victories in two years with the team, ninth all-time within the organization. Logano's two victories took him passed Rick Mears for sixth all-time on 31 victories. Keselowski's victory at Las Vegas tied him with Mark Donohue for most in Team Penske history with 59 victories.

Penske earned its 33rd and 34th championships this year and it ends with 505 victories. More will come in 2019. The team could win another 50 races and another five championships in 2019 and none of us would be surprised.

Where does this team stand? Where does Roger Penske stand?

This team has won a lot. Not everything but enough. The 17 Indianapolis 500s are one thing but add to it 15 IndyCar championships, two Daytona 500 victories, two Can-Am championships, two United States Road Racing Championships, two Trans-Am championships, three American Le Mans Series championships, an overall victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona, an overall in the 12 Hours of Sebring and a victory in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix.

There are plenty events the Penske organization has not won but he has won enough to know he stands on his own and not many can hold a candle to The Captain's accomplishments.

No other active person in motorsports has as an accomplished and as a diverse résumé as Penske. The only man I can truly think of in the history of motorsports that rivals Penske is Enzo Ferrari.

Ferrari is synonymous with Formula One but while the Prancing Horse is arguably bigger than Formula One, the manufacture has roots that go beyond the single-seater series. On top of Ferrari's 15 World Drivers' Championship and 16 World Constructors' Championships, Ferrari won the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times and the 24 Hours of Daytona five times. In recent years, Ferrari has found success in the GT ranks of sports car racing with seven championships with AF Corse.

Ferrari's success has extended three decades after the passing of its founder and the legacy of the manufacture extends far beyond the racetrack. It is the dream car of millions around the world, from Italy to the United States, China to the United Arab Emirates, Australia to Austria and so on.

Penske is a worldwide name. Penske has his fingerprints around the globe but the Penske name does not adore the walls of 12-year-old boys in Sweden. Penske does not sell a commodity that is as cherished as Ferrari. In turn, few dream of driving for Penske even though if you end up driving for Team Penske not only are you great but you are bound to take ascend to another level in motorsports lore.

The two names are at another level. They will be talked about for the next 100 years. They will be held in high-esteem for generations. Many will be chasing the legacy of these two men. Only time will tell if anyone joins them in the pantheon of motorsports greatness.

Champions From the Weekend

Scott McLaughlin clinched the Supercars championship with a victory and a second place finish to David Reynolds at Newcastle.

Anthonie Hubert clinched the GP3 Series championship with a third place finish in the first race from from Abu Dhabi.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Scott McLaughlin and David Reynolds but did you know...

Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his 11th victory of the season.

George Russell and Antonio Fuoco split the Formula Two races from Abu Dhabi. Leonardo Pulcini and Nikita Mazepin split the GP3 Series races.

The #8 Spirit of Race Ligier-Nissan of Pipo Derani, Côme Ledogar and Alexander West won the 4 Hours of Shanghai. The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier-Nissan of Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe won in LMP3. The #13 CarGuy Racing Ferrari of James Calado, Kei Cozzolino and Takeshi Kimura won in GT.

Christopher Bell won the Turkey Night Grand Prix for the third time and the second consecutive year.

Coming Up This Weekend
Uh... not much...
It is pretty much an off weekend.
Go Christmas shopping.
Go get a Christmas tree.
Or go see a movie.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday Five: Newcastle, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai

Thanksgiving is behind us and a handful of season finales are in front of us this weekend. Two championships are still to be decided and two have already been claimed. Meanwhile, one series is about to get started.

Newcastle 500
This weekend marks the final round of the Supercars season and it is a two-horse, all-New Zealander battle between DJR Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin and Triple Eight Race Engineering's Shane Van Gisbergen.

McLaughlin enters with a 14-point lead over Van Gisbergen. The drivers split the most recent round at Pukekohe and each driver had a second-place finish in their home country. McLaughlin has eight victories to Van Gisbergen's seven and McLaughlin holds the advantage in podium finishes with 19 to Van Gisbergen's 17.

This is the second Newcastle round. In last year's inaugural race, McLaughlin took the race victory and championship lead from Jamie Whincup after Whincup finished 13 laps down in 21st. In the second race, McLaughlin would be handed three penalties and finish 18th while Whincup won the race and the victory vaulted him back to the top and Whincup's final margin in the championship being 21 points. Van Gisbergen finished 16th in the first race last year from Newcastle but he bounced back in race two and was runner-up to Whincup.

McLaughlin is attempt to get DJR Team Penske its eighth drivers' championship and its first since 2010 with James Courtney and it would only be the second drivers' title to a Ford driver since 2010. He would also be the 25th different champion in series history and he could be the fourth New Zealander champion. Van Gisbergen could become the 13th driver with multiple Supercars championships and he could join Jim Richards as the only New Zealanders with multiple championships. It would be Triple Eight Race Engineering's ninth drivers' title and all coming since 2008.

Whincup is back and he is third in the championship and 58 points ahead of teammate Craig Lowndes. This will be Lowndes' final round as a full-time driver. The 44-year-old driver won three championships while he has made 650 starts, with 107 victories. David Reynolds rounds out the top five of the championship ahead of Chaz Mostert and Fabian Coulthard.

The 30th race of the Supercars season will be held at 11:45 p.m. ET on Friday November 23rd and the finale is scheduled for 11:0 p.m. ET on Saturday November 24th.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton will look to close his world championship season with his 11th victory of the season. He and 2018 vice-champion Sebastian Vettel are the only drivers with multiple victories at Abu Dhabi with each having won three of the previous nine editions of this race. Hamilton is one podium finish away from matching his single season high of 17. Vettel is looking for his sixth victory of the season. The only other times Vettel has won more than five races in a season was when he won 11 races in 2011 and 13 races in 2013.

Kimi Räikkönen's three consecutive podium finishes have him third in the championship on 251 points and 14 points ahead of Valterri Bottas. Bottas has finished fifth in three consecutive races. Bottas is the defending Abu Dhabi race winner. He won from pole position and scored fastest lap while leading 52 of 55 laps.

Max Verstappen's fourth consecutive podium finishes has him three points behind Bottas for fourth in the world championship. If he finishes fourth in the world championship it would be Verstappen's best championship result. Regardless of what happens Sunday, Daniel Ricciardo will finish sixth in the championship. This will be Ricciardo's 100th and final grand prix with Red Bull Racing.

Nico Hülkenberg sits on 69 points, 11 points ahead of Sergio Pérez and 14 points ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Fernando Alonso rounds on the top ten on 50 points with Esteban Ocon one point outside the top ten. Carlos Sainz, Jr. is on 45 points, ten ahead of Romain Grosjean and 12 ahead of Charles Leclerc. Pierre Gasly is 15th on 29 points.

Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson enter their final grand prix with 12 points and nine points respectively. Lance Stroll is on four points, Brendon Hartley on two points and Sergey Sirotkin will enter his final grand prix on one point.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will finish first, second and third in the World Constructors' Championship. Renault has 114 points and a 24-point cushion over Haas. McLaren is on 62 points. Force India sits on 48 points and has a six-point gap over Sauber. Toro Rosso sits on 33 points with Williams on seven points.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place at 8:05 a.m. ET on Sunday November 25th.

Formula Two at Yas Marina
This is the final round of the Formula Two season takes place this weekend.

Future Williams F1 driver George Russell has clinched the championship and he has won six races this season. The ART Grand Prix driver has won six races this year. DAMS driver Alexander Albon is second in the championship and he has a 14-point gap over Carlin and future McLaren driver Lando Norris. Albon has won four races but Norris has not won since the first race of the season. Albania has been linked to Toro Rosso for 2019.

Nyck De Vries is fourth on 184 points and he is 18 points ahead of Artem Markelov and Sérgio Sette Câmara is two points behind Markelov. Antonio Fuoco is on 120 points with Luca Ghiotto on 94 points and Nicholas Latifi on 91 points. Jake Aitken and Louis Delétraz are tied on 62 points.

In the Teams' Championship, the Carlin duo of Norris and Câmara are on top with 361 points with ART Grand Prix's Russell and Aitken on 310 points and DAMS drivers Albon and Latifi have combined for 302 points.

The first race will take place at 9:40 a.m. ET on Saturday November 24th and the final race of the season will be at 4:35 a.m. ET on Sunday November 25th.

GP3 Series at Yas Marina
The GP3 Series championship is still up for grabs but it is in the hands of ART Grand Prix's Anthoine Hubert.

The Frenchman has scored 199 points and he has a 32-point lead over teammate Nikita Mazepin with 48 points left on the table. Hubert has won twice and he has ten podium finishes while Mazepin has three victories and seven podium finishes. Callum Ilott makes it three Carlin drivers in the top three with 147 points. Ilott has won twice but has not scored points in the last three races. Leonardo Pulcini is fourth on 131 points and David Beckmann rounds out the top five on 119 points.

Pedro Piquet sits on 106 points with Giuliano Alesi on 92 points. Jakes Hughes has scored 67 points and American Ryan Tveter is ninth on 61 points.

The GP3 races will take place at 3:30 a.m. ET on Saturday November 24th and 3:10 a.m. ET on Sunday November 25th.

4 Hours of Shanghai
While four series are closing out, one is starting this weekend with the Asian Le Mans Series back in business for the first of four rounds this season. Eight cars are entered in LMP2 with ten LMP3 entries and nine GT entries.

Harrison Newey is back to defend his championship in LMP2 but he has moved to Algarve Pro Racing and he will drive a Ligier-Judd with Ate de Jong and Andrea Pizzitola. Algarve Pro Racing will have a Ligier-Nissan entered for Mark Patterson, Anders Fjordbach and Chris McMurry. Jackie Chan Racing x Jota is back as the defending championship winning team and it will run its all-Malaysian World Endurance Championship lineup of Jazeman Jaafar, Nabil Jeffri and Weiron Tan in a Oreca-Nissan.

United Autosports has two Ligier-Nissans entered with one drive lineup featuring Patrick Byrne, Guy Cosmo and Salih Yoluç and the other will be an all-British lineup with Phil Hanson and Paul di Resta.

Pipo Derani leads an effort for Spirit of Race in a Ligier-Nissan with Côme Ledogar and Alexander West.

United Autosports has two Ligiers entered in LMP3. Matt Bell, Jim McGuire and Kay Van Berlo will be in one car with Garett Grist, Wayne Boyd and Chris Buncombe in the other. Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota has one LMP3 entry with Hugo de Sadeleer, Josh Burdon and Neric Wei. Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing has two entries. Colin Noble and Anthony Wells will be in one car and Nick Adcok will share the second car with Christian Stubbe Olsen. Inter Europol will have Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe in its entry.

Spirit of Race will have a Ferrari for Alessandro Pier Guidi, Oswaldo Negri and Francesco Piovanetti and James Calado will drive a Ferrari for CarGuy Racing with Kei Cozzolino and Takeshi Kimura. Two Audis have been entered with Dries Vanthoor leading one effort with Chinese drivers Chen David Weian and Dennis Zhang and Rob Huff will lead the other with Max Wiser and Xu Wei. TF Sport have entered an Aston Martin with Johnny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes.

The race will start at midnight on Sunday November 25th.

Over or Under?
1. Over or Under: 6.5 average finish for Craig Lowndes at Newcastle?
2. Over or Under: 49.5 laps led by the winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
3. Over or Under: 1.5 podium finishes for non-European drivers in Formula Two?
4. Over or Under: 3.5 drivers ending the season with more than 150 points?
5. Over or Under: 2.5 British drivers winning a class at Shanghai?

Last Thursday's Over/Unders
1. Over or Under: 4.5 average finish at the end of the stages for champion? (Under: Logano's average finish after the stages was 2.667).
2. Over or Under: 301 miles completed at the time of the checkered flag? (Under: 300 miles were completed).
3. Over or Under: 144.5 combined age of the top five finishers? (Under: The combined age was 135).

Last Week's Over/Unders 
1. Over or Under: 188.5 laps completed by the 6 Hours of Shanghai overall winner? (Under: 113 laps were completed).
2. Over or Under: 3.5 riders in the top ten of the championship improving their championship position after Sunday's race? (Under: Only Jorge Lorenzo improved a championship position).
3. Over or Under: 15.5 points for Brad Binder this weekend?  (Under: Binder retired).
4. Over or Under: 3.5 seconds covering the top five of the Moto3 race? (Over: 14.375 seconds covered the top five finishers).
5. Over or Under: 0.5 Australians scoring points in Rally Australia? (Over: Steve Glenney finished ninth).
6. Over or Under: 2.5 total championships between WTCC/TCR for this year's World Touring Car Cup champion after Sunday? (Under: This was Gabriele Tarquini's second WTCC/WTCR/TCR title).
7. Over or Under: 1.5 teams on the podium of the Macau Grand Prix? (Over: Motopark and Carlin had podium finishers).
8. Over or Under: 1.5 manufactures on the podium of the FIA GT World Cup? (Over: BMW and Mercedes-AMG had podium finishers).
Last Week: 7 Unders; 4 Overs. Overall: Unders 33; Overs 25

1. At least one of the championship contenders finishes behind a teammate in one of the two Newcastle races.
2. Lewis Hamilton finishes at least four positions better than his starting position.
3. No driver has two podium finishes this weekend in Formula Two.
4. There is a first time winner this weekend in GP3.
5. Three different teams finish on the overall podium at Shanghai.

Last Thursday's Predictions
1. There is one caution that involves one of the championship-eligible drivers (Wrong! There were no such cautions).
2. Cole Custer does not win the championship and leads fewer than 75 laps (Half-Correct! Custer was not champion but led over 75 laps).
3. The champion wins the Truck race (Correct! Brett Moffitt won the race and championship).

Last Week's Predictions
1. Nothing controversial, such as a disqualification from a session, happens to a Toyota entry (Correct! The Toyotas had a 1-2 finish).
2. Jorge Lorenzo gains at least one position in the championship (Correct! Jorge Lorenzo moved up to ninth in the championship).
3. A ride that is not heading to MotoGP in 2019 wins the Moto2 race (Wrong! Miguel Oliveira won the Moto2 race).
4. An Italian wins the Moto3 race (Wrong! Turkish rider Can Oncu won the race).
5. The WRC champion does not win Rally Australia (Correct! Jari-Matti Latvala won the race and Sébastien Ogier won the championship).
6. Rob Huff wins a race but only one race from Macau (Wrong! Huff did not win a race).
7. Dan Ticktum does not repeat in the Macau Grand Prix but he finishes in the top five (Wrong! Ticktum did repeat).
8. A new manufacture wins the FIA GT World Cup (Correct! BMW's Augusto Farfus won there race).
Last Week: 5.5/11. Overall: 30/53

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

IndyCar Wrap-Up: Chip Ganassi Racing's 2018 Season

We have done it! We have reached the final IndyCar Wrap-Up and it is the champions! It is Chip Ganassi Racing. The team shrunk to two cars after seven years running a four-car operation and it worked. A familiar face was responsible for bringing the hardware back to Chip Ganassi Racing for the team's 12th IndyCar championship.

The picture says it all
Scott Dixon
It was another year in which Scott Dixon ended as champion. It was a difficult fight but Dixon never seemed to lose his grip once he took the championship lead for the entirety of the second half of the season. Along the way, Dixon moved his name up the record book in multiple categories and he continues to cement himself as one of the all-time greats in motorsports let alone IndyCar.

What objectively was his best race?
Dixon added another three victories to his decorated IndyCar career and in doing so he has moved to third all-time with 44 victories behind only A.J. Foyt's 67 and Mario Andretti's 52. The first victory came at the first Belle Isle race. He ran on the back of Marco Andretti for the first stint and ran better in and out laps to get the lead. The first caution erased the challenge of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was on a three-stop strategy, and Dixon had control from there on out.

The following week, Dixon ran strong at Texas and he was going all-out on a four-stop strategy while some tired to stretch it on three stops. Timely cautions killed any reason to conserve fuel and Dixon had put a fair amount of the field a lap down and had clean air to work with on the restart. He pulled away again while Alexander Rossi battled Simon Pagenaud and took the championship lead with this victory.

At Toronto, Dixon was running second and Josef Newgarden brushed the barrier on coming to a restart allowing Dixon through. From there, Dixon took another convincing victory and on that day it became clear Dixon was likely going to win the championship. He had a 62-point lead with five races to go and Toronto was a race where his four biggest championship challengers all had issues. Rossi got into Will Power. Hunter-Reay got into the barrier all on his own when he locked up the brakes in turn three. Power had a second accident. Newgarden brushed the barrier while leading. Every other driver showed their flaws and it was clear they were not going to have enough to defeat Dixon.

What subjectively was his best race?
Portland! It is the race where he finished fifth after coming out of a cloud of dust without any damaged and four wounded racecars, two to his left and two to his right. Dixon made mistakes during that race. The first lap accident wasn't one of them but even being at the wrong place at the wrong time didn't get him. Dixon had everything go against him in that race and he shot himself in the foot with a pit lane speeding penalty but timing was in his favor. A caution occurred after Dixon's pit stops and Alexander Rossi was caught out. Rossi shuffled to the back, Dixon slid up to the front and what was going to be a 72-points swing in the American's favor turned out to be a day where Dixon added some insurance heading into the finale. Portland was the day when it became clear the title was going to be Dixon's.

What objectively was his worst race?
His worst race was 12th at Iowa. It was his one bad day. He started sixth and fell back to 12th. His only other result outside the top ten was 11th at Long Beach, where he was in contention for a podium finish but a caution caught him out. He made it to pit road but not before the caution and he had to serve a penalty. Despite the set back, he fought back to finish 11th.

What subjectively was his worst race?
When you win a championship, is there really a worst race? Unlike every other driver that can look back at points lost over the course of a season, the champion didn't lose points. Dixon can look back and think he could have finished fourth at Portland but it would have been another three points to his championship total.

He could look back at Gateway and say he should have won that race after starting on pole position and leading 145 of 248 laps but finished third. It doesn't matter. Enough was done. You can always want more but Dixon did what Dixon does. He ended the season with six consecutive top five finishes and 12 top five finishes in the final 13 races. He did what was needed to get his fifth championship.

Scott Dixon's 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 1st (678 points)
Wins: 3
Podiums: 9
Top Fives: 13
Top Tens: 15
Laps Led: 357
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 4
Fast Twelves: 8
Average Start: 8.0
Average Finish: 4.235

There were a lot of pluses and minuses for Ed Jones in 2018
Ed Jones
The sophomore season for Ed Jones saw him move from Dale Coyne Racing to Chip Ganassi Racing. Jones improved in the championship but the results were not good enough. His best days could not cover up his shortcomings and his tenure with the team lasted one season.

What objectively was his best race?
Jones had two podium finishes; both third place finishes at Long Beach and the second Belle Isle race. Long Beach was a race where he benefited from a caution that took him from the back half of the top ten to the podium but it was not a cakewalk. Zach Veach put up a challenge for third and Jones held on.

What subjectively was his best race?
The second Belle Isle race was the only race Jones started in the top ten and finished in the top ten and better yet, he started in the top five and finished in the top five. Jones started fourth and finished third and he held off Dixon for that final podium position.

What objectively was his worst race?
Because there are 33 cars at the Indianapolis it makes it more likely a driver's worst finish will occur in that race and sure enough, Jones' worst result was 31st in the Indianapolis 500 after an accident exiting turn two after 57 laps.

What subjectively was his worst race?
Jones was going to finish on the podium at Phoenix but he had an accident and instead of finishing second, the marbles caught him out and ended what could have been a remarkable result in his second start with Chip Ganassi Racing. Instead, he pretty much ended his Ganassi career before it even got started. It didn't help that Jones was always the third choice for the team and when he could have won the team over and maybe saved any hope of a second season at Ganassi he only set the dominos in motion to justify his removal after 2018 and sure enough he is gone.

Ed Jones' 2018 Statistics
Championship Position: 13th (343 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 2
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 8
Laps Led: 1
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 4
Average Start: 13.1875
Average Finish: 13.294

An Early Look Ahead
Ed Jones is out and Felix Rosenqvist is in and it is one of the most anticipated rookie of the year campaigns in IndyCar in recent memory. Though Rubens Barrichello was not classified as a rookie, I think this addition to the grid matches the level of interest when Barrichello came in but in two different respects.

With Barrichello, we wondered how the most experienced driver in Formula One history not only would do in IndyCar but how would he adapt to the differences and Barrichello seemed to fit right in. He didn't dominate but he had respectable results and he seemed to fit in. For Rosenqivst, he has been a highly touted prospect for over six years and he seems to fit the quintessential European driver that has the talent but not the budget to move up to Formula One and no Formula One snagged the kid while they could.

Rosenqvist beat many on the current Formula One grid whilst in Formula Three. In 2012, he beat teammate Pascal Wehrlein and Carlos Sainz, Jr. while finishing third in in the championship. The following year he topped Alex Lynn, Harry Tincknell and Jordan King and was vice-champion. He dropped to tenth in 2014 but was the 2015 European Formula Three champion ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll and George Russell and all four of those drivers will be in Formula One next year.

The Swede has found success everywhere he has gone. After Formula Three, he won three Indy Lights races in ten starts. He was competitive in Formula E from the drop of the hat. He had three podium finishes in Super Formula and he finished on the podium last year in Super GT while scoring points in six of seven starts.

I am not worried about off the track for Rosenqvist. He ran Indy Lights, he understands the American scene a bit and after watching him in Indy Lights and Formula E he seems like a flexible guy and I don't think he will suffer a culture shock in the paddock. I look at Rosenqvist and after the season Robert Wickens had I think that is not an unrealistic bar for Rosenqvist. He has some experience when it comes to the tracks but plenty will be new to him and the car is different. He will not necessarily be Juan Pablo Montoya but I do not expect him to be lost every weekend. He is the early favorite for rookie of the year.

It would be easy to say Scott Dixon has nothing to work on because every year he seems to do the same old thing and at worst he finishes fourth in the championship. Dixon has pretty much had a championship-caliber every year since 2006 it is just some years another driver was slightly better. But this level of consistency has not been matched by anybody and that is how Dixon has won five championships.

Dixon has never gone more than five seasons without a championship. He won titles in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2018. We can pencil him in for another title by at least 2023 at this rate and it would not surprise anybody if he would three titles in the next five years.

Dixon finished the year with 678 of a possible 1,026 points, 66.0818% of the maximum and this is the third consecutive seasons the champion has scored over 60% of the maximum points total after four consecutive years scoring below 60%. This is the second-highest percentage of the maximum points Dixon has scored in his five championships. In 2008, he scored 646 of 901 points, 71.698%, the last time a champion has scored over 70% of the maximum points.

This was the second consecutive season the champion had nine podium finishes but Dixon's 13 top five finishes and 15 top ten finishes gave him in the highest percentage in each category since Dario Franchitti achieved both totals in 2011. Dixon had top five finishes in 76.47% of the races and top ten finishes in 88.235% of the races.

Where could Dixon improve? Qualifying? I guess he could have a Will Power-esque qualifying record but he has been pretty damn successful without qualifying on the front row in 14 races.

Dixon is going to be at the top of championship and I think Rosenqvist will be better than Jones. How much better? I think he will be in the top ten and we will see where he goes from there.