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 8

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