Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday Five: Three in Texas, Three in Sepang, Two in Pukekohe

We have reached the first weekend of November and we are down to the final few rounds in a handful of series around the world. A few titles could be wrapped up this weekend but at least three will go down to the wire because that is what NASCAR has manipulated to happen. There is so much happening that we need to look at seven series.

NASCAR Cup Series
Joey Logano's victory at Martinsville has locked him into the final four for the third time in his career.  It was Logano's first Martinsville victory. In 2014, Logano finished fourth in the championship after a bad pit stop took him out of contention late and he was runner-up in the championship in 2016. Logano has fared well in the autumn Texas race with four top ten finishes in ten appearances in the race. In his career at Texas, Logano won the spring 2014 Texas race and in his 11 Texas starts with Team Penske he has seven top five finishes and nine top ten finishes including five consecutive top ten finishes.

With Logano locked in, Kyle Busch tops the championship standings with 4,104 points and he is 46 points above the cut line. Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick are tied and are 25 points to the good with Truex holding the tiebreaker after his runner-up finish at Martinsville while Harvick finished tenth. Kurt Busch is the first driver on the outside, 25 points back. Chase Elliott dropped from three points above the drop zone to 31 points on the outside after Martinsville. Clint Bowyer is 42 points back while Aric Almirola rounds out the top eight, 50 points on the outside.

Kyle Busch has three Texas victories while the only other championship-eligible drivers with Texas victories being Harvick and his brother Kurt. Kyle Busch won at Texas in the spring while Harvick won last year's autumn race. Kyle Busch also won the spring race in 2013 and 2016 and he has finished in the top five of the autumn race six times. Kurt Busch's only Texas victory was the autumn 2009 race.

Truex, Jr. had a tire failure in the spring race and that snapped a string of six consecutive top ten finishes at Texas. He had also led a lap in five consecutive races prior to the spring race, including 107 laps before finishing second to Harvick. Elliott's 11th place finish in the spring was the first time he did not finish in the top ten at Texas in his Cup career. Elliott has started outside the top ten in his last four Texas starts with two of those coming from outside the top thirty.

Bowyer finished ninth in the spring and it was his first top ten finish at Texas since the spring of 2014. He has only three top five finishes in 25 Texas starts with his most recent being a runner-up result in the spring 2011 race. Almirola's only top ten finish at Texas was seventh in the 2013 spring race. Despite the poor results, this year's spring race was Almirola's first retirement at the Texas.

Of the non-championship drivers, Jimmie Johnson is the all-time leader in Texas victories with seven. Denny Hamlin has won twice at the track while Ryan Newman has one victory. Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski both have five top five finishes at the track but neither have a Cup victory. Truex, Jr.'s 14 top ten finishes are the most for an active driver without a Texas Cup victory.

Four consecutive Texas races have had eight cautions while the pole-sitter has not won at Texas in the last ten races.

The Cup race will be held at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday November 4th.

NASCAR Grand National Series
Things are a bit tighter in NASCAR's second division and no driver has punched a ticket to the Homestead finale.

Elliott Sadler leads with 3,058 points he is 14 points above the drop zone. Daniel Hemric is a point behind Sadler after he lost ten points due to a technical infringement after Kansas. Tyler Reddick is 11 points to the good while Christopher Bell is one point above the cut line. Matt Tifft is the first one out on 3,044 points. Justin Allgaier is five points on the outside after being caught in a first lap accident at Kansas with Bell and Austin Cindric among others. Cole Custer is 23 points outside and Austin Cindric brings up the rear trailing by 43 points.

Sadler and Custer have the most top ten finishes this season with each driver on 23. Bell leads in victories with six and top five finishes with 17. Allgaier is second to Bell in each category and he is behind the Oklahoma by one in each. Sadler has not won a race in the last 69 races. Hermic is still looking for his first career victory and this will be his 64th career start. Tifft is in the same boat as Hemric, looking for his maiden victory, and this will be his 75th career start. Cindric sits on zero victories and will make his 32nd career start.

None of the drives entered for Texas have won at Texas in this series. Sadler won the 2004 spring Cup race and Bell won the 2017 June Truck race. Sadler has six consecutive top ten finishes at Texas and nine top ten finishes in the last ten races. His best finish at the track was second in 1998 to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., his current car owner. It was Earnhardt, Jr.'s first victory in the Grand National Series. Sadler started on pole position for that race.

Bell has finished sixth and second in his two Texas starts in this series. Custer has finished fifth, fifth and fourth in his three Texas starts. Cindric made his Texas debut in the spring and he finished ninth. Tifft has four top ten finishes in five starts at the Texas with his career best sixth coming in the spring. Hemric had his best Texas finish in the spring when he came home in third.

Allgaier has seven top ten finishes at the track but he has never finished in the top five and he has finished outside the top ten in three consecutive Texas races. In Reddick's two Texas starts he has finished 33rd and 23rd.

This Grand National Series event is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday November 3rd.

NASCAR Truck Series
Johnny Sauter will be guaranteed a chance to win his second Truck series title after he won the Martinsville race. Since the Truck series adopted this championship format, Sauter has made it to the final race every year. He finished second last year in the championship to Christopher Bell. In Sauter's nine seasons as a full-time Truck series driver, he has finished in the top five of the championship seven times with his other championship finishes being sixth and ninth.

Noah Gragson is 24 points to the good with Brett Moffitt 15 points above the drop zone. Grant Enfinger is two points ahead of the cut line. Justin Haley is the first driver on the outside with 3,049 points and Matt Crafton is on the outside by ten points.

Sauter is second all-time in Texas victories with five, one behind Todd Bodine. He has won the last two Texas races and three of the last four. Crafton is the only other championship-eligible driver to have won at Texas. He won twice in June 2014 and June 2015.

Enfinger and Haley are tied for the best average finish at Texas amongst active drivers at 4.7. Both drivers have two top five finishes and three top ten finishes in three starts. Gragson has finished in the top ten in all three of his Texas starts but he has never finished better than seventh and his starting position in each race is first, second and third. Moffitt made his first Truck start at Texas this past June and he finished 18th.

The Truck series will race under the lights at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday November 2nd.

Malaysian Grand Prix
Marc Márquez suffered his first retirement of the season last week at Phillip Island after contact with Johann Zarco entering turn one. It snapped Márquez's streak of three consecutive victories and nine consecutive podium finishes.

Andrea Dovizioso heads to Sepang looking for his third consecutive victory in Malaysia. No rider has won the Malaysian Grand Prix in the top class in three consecutive years. Dani Pedrosa had won three of the four races prior to Dovizioso's streak with Márquez taking victory in 2014.

Dovizioso is 15 points ahead of Valentino Rossi. Rossi has seven Malaysian Grand Prix victories, the most all-time and five of those are in the top class, tied with Mick Doohan for most in that category. Rossi has not won at Sepang since 2010. Maverick Viñales got Yamaha on the scoreboard last week with his victory in Australia and he trails his teammate by 15 points. Viñales won at Sepang in 125cc in 2010 and Moto2 in 2014.

Cal Crutchlow is fifth in the championship on 148 points but he will miss Malaysia due to injury and Stefan Bradl will replace him. Danilo Petrucci is 11 points back but he has not finished in the top five in the last five races. Zarco and Andrea Iannone are tied on 133 points after Iannone finished second to Viñales in Australia. The injured Jorge Lorenzo has dropped to ninth on 130 points and Álex Rins rounds out the top ten on 129 points.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is scheduled for 2:00 a.m. ET on Sunday November 4th.

The Moto2 championship could be claimed this weekend at Sepang.

Italian Francesco Bagnaia leads with 288 points and he is 36 points ahead of Miguel Oliveira. Bagnaia will lock up the title with a podium finish. Prior to Australia, Bagnaia had won the previous two races and four of the prior five while having finished on the podium in six consecutive races. Oliveira has two victories this season, the most recent being Brno in August.

Both Bagnaia and Oliveira will be moving up to MotoGP next season. Bagnaia will be Jack Miller's teammate at Pramac Racing Ducati. Oliveira will be on a Tech3 KTM with Hafizh Syahrin as his teammate.

Brad Binder's third victory of the season has him third in the championship on 193 points. Binder's victories are his only podium finishes this season and his fourth place finish at Buriram and fifth place finish at Motegi are his only other top five finishes this season. Binder has finished in sixth position seven times this season.

Lorenzo Baldassarri is fourth in the championship on 152 points and his only victory was at Jerez in April. Joan Mir is three points behind Baldassarri with Álex Márquez a point behind Mir. Both Mir and Márquez have yet to win this season.

The Moto2 race will be held at 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday November 4th.

Three riders are still alive for the Moto3 championship with two rounds to go.

Jorge Martín has 215 points and leads Marco Bezzechi by 12 points with Fabio Di Giannantonio 20 points back. Martín could lock up the title if he outscores Bezzechi by 13 points this weekend and Di Giannantonio by five points.

Martín leads Moto3 with six victories this season while Bezzechi has won three times and Di Giannantonio has won twice. Bezzechi won at Motegi and finished second at Aragón but he has failed to score in the other three races in-between. Martín has finished three victories, five podium finishes and seven top five finishes in the last nine races. Di Giannantonio won at Buriram and finished second at Phillip Island while he has four top five finishes in the last five races.

Enea Bastianini and Lorenzo Della Porta round out the top five on 150 points and 131 points respectively. Both riders have one victory this season. Arón Canet has four runner-up finishes and he is sixth on 128 points. Canet has not finished second since Brno. Gabriel Rodrigo and Jakub Kornfeil are on 116 points and 115 points respectively. Albert Arenas picked up his second victory of the season last week and he rounds out the top ten on 94 points.

The Moto3 race will be at midnight ET on Sunday November 4th.

The penultimate round of the Supercars season takes the series to New Zealander Pukekohe Park Raceway and four drivers are fighting for the title. It is an uneven fight with one DJR Team Penske driver taking on all three drivers from Triple Eight Race Engineering.

With four races to go, Scott McLaughlin leads the championship with 3,368 points and he is 14 points ahead of fellow New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen. In 17 Pukekohe starts, van Gisbergen has won three races, nine podium finishes and 15 top ten finishes. His average finish of 4.9 is best all-time at the track in Supercars. McLaughlin has the fourth best average finish all-time at 7.0. He won on his Pukekohe debut in 2013 but he has not won since. He does have 13 consecutive top ten finishes at the track including three consecutive podium finishes.

Jaime Whincup's hopes for an eighth title remain alive but the six-time winner at Pukekohe trails McLaughlin by 433 points with 600 points left on the table. Whincup has won two of the last three races at this track and six of the last nine. Craig Lowndes is 443 points back in the championship and Lowndes has three consecutive podium finishes. In 38 Pukekohe starts, Lowndes has never won at the track but he has 11 top five finishes and 21 top ten finishes. He has finished in the top ten in last four Pukekohe races.

The first race from Pukekohe will be at 11:10 p.m. ET on Friday November 2nd with the second race of the weekend scheduled for 11:10 p.m. ET on Saturday November 3rd.

Over or Under?
1. Over or Under: 0.5 cautions involving Joey Logano and/or Martin Truex, Jr.?
2. Over or Under: 35.5 caution laps?
3. Over or Under: 4.5 championship-ineligible drivers finishing in the top ten of the Truck race?
4. Over or Under: 3.5 riders within ten seconds of the MotoGP race winner?
5. Over or Under: 2.5 Spaniards in the top five of the Moto2 race?
6. Over or Under: 2.5 riders in the top ten of the championship not scoring points at Sepang?
7. Over or Under: 113.5 being the sum of the winning cars at Pukekohe?

Last Week's Over/Unders - Thursday
1. Over or Under: 556.5 points for Jonathan Rea after the Losail weekend? (Under. Read scored 545 points).
2. Over or Under: 0.5 non-Yamaha riders on the World Supersport podium? (Under. Yamaha swept the podium).
3. Over or Under: 6.5 cars on the lead lap in the 4 Hours of Portimão? (Under. Five cars were on the lead lap)
4. Over or Under: 1.5 drivers finishing the Super Formula season with at least 30 points? (Over. Two drivers scored at least 30 points, Naoki Yamamoto scored 38 and Nick Cassidy scored 37).
5. Over or Under: 1.5 German cars on the overall California 8 Hours podium? (Over. Two Audis and a Mercedes were on the podium).

1. Over or Under: 2.5 race leaders of the Mexican Grand Prix? (Under. Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel led the Mexican Grand Prix).
2. Over or Under: 10.5 points for Álvaro Bautista? (Over. Bautista scored 13 points).
3. Over or Under: 75.5 caution laps? (Under. There were 68 caution laps at Martinsville).
4. Over or Under: 10.5 points for Sébastien Loeb this weekend? (Over. Loeb scored 28 points).
5. Over or Under: 0.5 victory for Honda at Suzuka? (Under. Alfa Romeo, Volkswagen and Hyundai split the races).
Last Week: 6 Unders; 4 Overs. Overall: Unders 21; Overs 14

1. There will be more than 16 lead changes.
2. A championship-eligible driver that is not Christopher Bell wins the race.
3. The Truck series race winner is under the age of 30.
4. Valentino Rossi gets back on the podium.
5. The pole-sitter finishes the race but does not finish on the podium.
6. The final lead change does not come on the final lap of the Moto3 race.
7. Craig Lowndes gets a victory.

Last Week's Predictions - Thursday
1. The Superpole winner finishes on the podium in both races (Correct, though there was only one race and Tom Sykes started first and finished second).
2. Jules Cluzel finishes better than Sandro Cortese but does not win the championship (Incorrect. Cortese finished second and Cluzel retired from the race).
3. Both championship leaders entering Portimão win the title but neither takes a class victory in the race (Correct! The #15 RLR Sport Ligier won the LMP3 title and finished fifth in the finale while the #88 Proton Competition Porsche won the GTE title and finished third).
4. At least three drivers that did not score points at Okayama score points at Suzuka (Correct! Naoki Yamamoto, Kazuki Nakajima, Nobuharu Matsushita and Koudai Tsukakoshi all scored points after not scoring at Okayama).
5. The GT4 class winner finishes worst than 11th overall (Correct! The GT4-class winning #625 Rearden Racing Audi finished 16th).

1. Kimi Räikkönen does not finish on the podium (Wrong! He finished third).
2. Three different manufactures finish on the podium (Correct! Yamaha, Suzuki and Yamaha all finished on the podium).
3. Less than six championship-eligible drivers finish in the top ten (Wrong! Seven title contenders finished in the top ten at Martinsville).
4. Sébastien Ogier retakes the championship lead (Correct! Ogier leads Neuville with 204 points to 201 points).
5. There is at least one French driver winning a race (Wrong! Italians Kevin Ceccon and Gabriele Tarquini and Brit Rob Huff won at Suzuka).
Last Week: 6/10. Overall: 20.5/35