Friday, October 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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