Saturday, November 30, 2013

Toyota Wins At Bahrain

The #8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin won the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship season finale at the Bahrain International Circuit, the #8's first win of the season. After their teammate #7 Toyota and LMP1 championship winning #2 Audi of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval had mechanical issues, it was smooth sailing for the #8, winning by over a minute ahead of the #1 Audi of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer.

The #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan of Mike Conway, John Martin and Romain Rusinov won the LMP2 class for the fourth time in 2013 and finished third overall at Bahrain. The #24 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Oliver Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson finished second in the class and second in the LMP2 championship to their teammates Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo González who finished fourth in class at Bahrain. The #41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan of Björn Wirdheim, Wolfgang Reip and Jon Lancester finished third in class.

By winning the race Gianmaria Bruni won the World Cup For GT Drivers by ten points over his Ferrari teammate Giancarlo Fisichella and gave Ferrari the GT Manufactures' title over Aston Martin. Bruni came from behind to beat the Aston Martin pair of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner for the title after their Vantage V8 retired. Bruni won the race pair with Finn Toni Vilander. The Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet finished second in class with Fisichella and Kamui Kobayashi rounding out the GTE Pro podium.

In GTE Am, the All-Danish Aston Martin of Christoffer Nygaard, Kristian Poulsen and Nicki Thiim won the final race of what has been a roller coaster season for the team. The team won the first race of the season at Silverstone with Allan Simonsen being the third Dane along side Nygaard and Poulsen. Simonsen would succumb to injuries suffered in an early accident during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team would recover and win at the rain-shortened Fuji event with Bruno Senna as third driver. This is Nicki Thiim's first win in WEC and ends what has been a very successful season for the Dane as he won the 2013 Porsche Supercup Championships.

The Ferrari 458 Italia of the American 8 Star Motorsports finished second in class with Rui Águas, Enzo Potolicchio and Davide Rigon. By finishing second, 8 Star Motorsports wins the GTE Am Team championship over Aston Martin. It is the second consecutive season with an American team taking a title. Starworks Motorsport won the LMP2 championship in the 2012 season. The #61 Ferrari of François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Matt Griffin finished third.

Despite winning the team title, the 8 Star Motorsport drivers fell one point short of the GTE Am drivers championships. The Aston Martin pair of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall won the title by one point over the Venezuelan Potolicchio and Portuguese Águas. They finished fifth at Bahrain.

The 2013 season ends as does the month of November. One month to go in this calendar year with the first event of the 2014 WEC season taking place April 20, Easter Sunday at Silverstone.

What American Racing Fans Missed Over Thanksgiving

You were hopefully away from your laptop and tablet and the wonderful worlds of the internet and Twitter most of Thanksgiving and spending time with family and friends. Some have probably been away from the internet longer than other depending on travel schedules. In case you have, here is a run down of what you missed.

A lot of Formula One news but we will start with FIA World Endurance Championship and USAC.

In Bahrain, the #7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid of Alexander Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima won pole position for the second consecutive WEC event and Toyota's third of the season. In doing so they picked up an extra championship point. The pole sitters of the other three classes were the #49 PeCom Racing Oreca-Nissan of Luíz Pérez Companc, Pierre Kaffer and Nicolas Minassian in LMP2; Porsche drivers Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz won pole in GTE Pro and the #95 Astson Martin all-Danish team of Christoffer Nygaard, Kristian Poulsen and Nicki Thiim took pole in GTE Am.

As of two hours and fifteen minutes into the WEC season finale, the #8 Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin lead the #1 and #2 Audis respectively. The #7 Toyota is 11 laps down, 17th overall.

In LMP2, the #49 PeCom Racing entry leads the the #24 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan and #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan. The LMP2 point leaders, the #35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo González is sixth in class, ninth overall.

In GTE Pro, the #51 Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander lead class over GT championship leaders, Aston Martin drivers Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner. Porsche drivers Patrick Pilet and Jörg Bergmeister are third. The pole sitters of Lieb and Lietz are sixth in class are contact early in the race with one of the LMP2 Lotus entries.

In GTE Am, the #95 Aston Martin leads over the American entry, #81 8 Star Motorsports Ferrari of Enzo Potolicchio, Rui Águas and Davide Rigon. The #76 Porsche of Jean-Karl Vernay, Raymond Narac and Markus Palttala are third and, if the results hold, would win the GTE Am drivers championship by a point over the 8 Star drivers Potolicchio and Águas and Aston Martin drivers Jaime Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall who sit seventh in class.

From Bahrain to California and the dirt of Perris Auto Speedway where Dave Darland won the 47th Turkey Night Grand Prix. It is Darland's second win of the Thanksgiving classic and in doing so Darland became the third driver to win the race on both pavement and dirt joining Mel Kenyon and Stan Fox as the only drivers to accomplish such a feat. Brad Sweet finished second with Caleb Armstrong rounding out the podium.

In the final standings for the 2013 USAC National Midget Dirt Championship, rookie Christopher Bell defeated Bryan Clauson by 117 points with Darren Hagen in third. Tracy Hines and Rico Abreu rounded out the top five.

Now on to Formula One. It was reported during the FIA WEC coverage of the Bahrain race that 70 light poles have been installed at the Bahrain International Circuit and that this weekend's event will be used as preparation for the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix being a night race, the third such race on the Formula One schedule.

The FIA has suggested creating a trophy for the driver who wins the most pole positions during a season. It has also been suggested a championship point be award toward the fastest qualifier. An award is already given to a driver who sets the most fastest laps during a season and is sponsored by DHL. Sebastian Vettel won the DHL Fastest Lap Award for the second consecutive season and third time in his Formula One career after having seven fastest laps in 2013. Kimi Räikkönen won the first two editions of the award in 2007 and 2008. Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber have each won the award previously.

A proposal has been made to introduce two mandatory pit stops to each Formula One race. Starting in 2014, each team would not be allowed to use the primary tire for more than fifty percent of a race while a team could not use the option for more than thirty percent of the race. The teams will vote on whether or not to accept the rule next month.

There have been talks of teams allowing drivers to start using permanent numbers in 2014. Three questions about the proposal are how will numbers be allocated? Will drivers been allowed to choose the numbers? Should the number be specified on a drivers' super license? The drivers would only change their number if they were to win the world championship. There has been a request for larger numbers and drivers names to be displayed on the cars.

Permanent numbers are not new to Formula One except they were previously tied to teams and not drivers. For example, when not using the numbers 1 and 2, Ferrari used the numbers 27 and 28 from 1981-1995 and prior to that used 11 and 12. Tyrell used 3 and 4. Lotus used 5 and 6 before going to 11 and 12 in 1980. McLaren used 7 and 8.

Pastor Maldonado will be joining Romain Grosjean at Lotus in 2014. Maldonado scored one point in 2013 when he finished tenth in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Unofficially there remains five open seats for the 2014 season. Two at Force India though Adrian Sutil and Nico Hülkenberg were reportedly close to deals with the team, one at Caterham, one at Marussia and one at Sauber. Sauber has Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin signed for 2014 but he has yet to receive an FIA Super License. If he were not to be awarded one than both seats at Sauber would be open.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being Thankful

With tomorrow being Thanksgiving in the United States I thought I'd reflect on what I am thankful in racing.

I am thankful for all the men and women who risk life and limb going out to race, whether it be two wheels or four, Sunday afternoon or Friday night. The mechanics and crews who spend countless hours working on the car, getting it from track to track and never receiving enough praise for what they do.

I am thankful for the manufactures and sponsors who decide to spent their money on this sport even though it is expensive to support series, drivers, teams, etc. 

I am thankful for all the television partners who show races, qualifying and practice and do there best to show all sessions live.

I am thankful for NBC's Formula One broadcast team. They constantly sent tweets out letting fans know when and where practice, qualifying and the races will be shown and sadly get slaughtered on Twitter when a handful of fans aren't responsible in taking note when and where practice, qualifying and races are.

I am thankful that Dario Franchitti is choosing health over racing. I'd rather see him healthy for the next thirty years than injuries again in three.

I am thankful Justin Wilson wasn't more seriously hurt at Fontana and should be able to return for the start of 2014. At the same time I am thankful that the steps are being taken to find out why Wilson got hurt and what can be done to prevent that injury from happening in the future. 

I am thankful NASCAR and Formula One racing go so late into a calendar year and I am thankful their is a World Endurance Championship race this weekend as well. 

If you really think about it, racing is all year round. There are very few down times. Sure the major series take longer breaks but you have WEC this weekend, V8 Supercars the weekend after that and then the Race of Champions. After a few weeks off AMA Supercross season gets under way and goes from January to May. The Dakar Rally lasts most of January and once that ends the 24 Hours of Daytona is on our doorsteps with the Daytona 500 close behind. There is plenty of racing going on if you are to open your horizon.

I am thankful MotoGP comes to the United States twice even though it stinks Laguna Seca is off the schedule. Once again, some of the best racing you will see anywhere. You could race MotoGP in your basement and they would still put on a great show.

I am thankful manufactures such as Audi, Toyota and Nissan are developing new technologies in racing. From diesel hybrids to hybrid electric, the future of racing is bright and unknown but intriguing.

I am thankful for drivers making time for autographs, teams allowing fans to look over their shoulders an hour before a race to see what is going on and get as close to physically touching the car without laying a finger on it.

I am thankful sports car racing is unified in the United States. It may take a few years to perfect the series but all involved are doing their best to make the Tudor United SportsCar Championship work.

I am thankful to all those who read this blog and make my time and effort worth something. To all those on Twitter for engaging in racing discussions and sharing the love of the sport. 

Despite the negativity we can get caught up in, there is plenty to be thankful for. There is plenty of good going on. We just have to open our eye and celebrate it from time to time. We just have to breathe. Sure, somethings won't go the way we'd like to see them but for the most part they do work for the better. There will be scheduling conflicts but those aren't always avoidable. There will be boring races but not everyone can be a nail-bitter. For the most part there will be more good races than boring ones. Sponsors and manufactures come and go but it's a cycle. Some cycles are longer than others but you just have to remain positive.

Series officials may aggravate some but it isn't an easy job. I am sure if we were in their position, we'd be ridiculed just as hard by the fans even though we are trying our best to give what everyone wants. 

Let's be thankful for what we have. Instead of being too caught up in what is wrong, reflect on what is good and there is plenty of good out there. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

WEC Finale In Bahrain

While many series have started their winter breaks, the FIA World Endurance Championship will be closing out their season this Saturday at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Audi has already clinched the Manufactures' Championship over Toyota and the trio of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval have already clinched the Drivers' Championship. Now McNish, Kristensen and Duval look to wrap most wins in the season by getting their fourth in Bahrain. They are tied with their Audi teammates André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer with three wins apiece this season.

Toyota took the victory at the rain-shortened round at their home track Fuji and will enter two cars for the third consecutive event. The part-time entry of Alexander Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre won at Fuji and finished second at Shanghai after winning pole position. Kazuki Nakajima will rejoin Wurz and Lapierre in the #7 TS030 Hybrid after missing the Shanghai round due to Super Formula commitments. In the last two rounds the full-time #8 Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin have finished fifteenth and retired at Shanghai.

The LMP2 title appears to be in the hands of OAK Racing the only question is which team takes home the title? The #35 of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo González lead their teammates the #24 of Alex Brundle, David Heinemeier Hansson and Oliver Pla by fifteen points. The #35 has won two rounds this season including Le Mans while the #24 has finished runner-up in class on four occasions. The #26 G-Drive Racing entry of Mike Conway, John Martin are third in points and still mathematically eligible for the title after having won three of the last four rounds. The #26 is 22.5 points back of the #35 OAK Racing entry. The #26 originally finished third in the 24 Hours of Le Mans but were disqualified after having an illegal sized fuel tank. Had their third place finish stood, the #26 would be leading by 7.5 points.

In GT, Aston Martin drivers Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner has won the last two rounds and leads the Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni by 5.5 points however the Italian pair will be split for the season finale. Fisichella will be paired with Kamui Kobayashi in the #71 Ferrari 458 Italia while Bruni will be joined by Toni Vilander in the #51.  Porsche drivers of Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz trail the pairing of Mücke and Turner by 15.5 points and their only podium this season was their victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the GT Manufactures' Championship Aston Martin leads Ferrari by 17.5 points.

In GTE-Am, the Aston Martin pair of Jaime Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall lead by five points over Le Mans class winners, IMSA Performance Porshce of Jean-Karl Vernay and Raymond Narac. American 8 Star Motorsports Ferrari drivers Rui Águas and Enzo Potolicchio trail by nine points and are coming off class victory at Shanghai.

Practice for the final round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship begins Thursday at 7:15 a.m. ET with second practice at 11:30 a.m. ET. Final practice will take place Friday at 2:25 a.m. ET with qualifying following at 7:45 a.m. ET. The final race of the 2013 season will take place at 7:00 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nine Straight Wins For Vettel

Sebastian Vettel went nine-for-nine after the Formula One summer break, winning every race from the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps to the season finale Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. He ends the season with 397 points, a new record for points in a season, 13 wins in a season, tying the record set by Michael Schumacher in 2004, 16 podiums, good enough for the second most in a season. Top that off with 9 pole positions and 7 fastest laps to wrap-up his fourth championship season.

Not to forget mentioning the career totals. Vettel ends 2013 with 39 victories, two behind Ayrton Senna for third all-time. Forty-five pole positions has Vettel third all-time, twenty behind Senna for second and twenty-three back of Schumacher for the all-time record. He has 62 podiums, 22 fastest laps, 1,451 career points and he doesn't appear to be slowing down.

Second place was Mark Webber in his final start. Webber ends his career with nine wins, 42 podiums, 13 pole positions, 19 fastest laps and 1,047.5 career points. The Australian moves pass Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen in the final point standings to finish third on the season behind Vettel and Fernando Alonso who finished third in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Webber moves back to the top-flight of sports car racing and will be driving for Porsche as they enter LMP1 racing to take on the stalwarts Audi and join Toyota as they look to dethrone Audi at Le Mans and around the world.

Jenson Button finished fourth, McLaren's best finish of the 2013. It is the teams first season without a podium since 1980 when John Watson and Alain Prost were their drivers. Nico Rosberg finished fifth and in doing so earned enough for Mercedes to hold off Ferrari in the battle for second in the constructors' championship. Sergio Pérez finished sixth in his final start for McLaren. Danish driver and 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnuseen will be replacing the Mexican in 2014. Pérez's plans for 2014 are still unknown. Felipe Massa's career at Ferrari ends with him taking home a seventh place finish in his home race. Massa will move to Williams F1 in 2014.

Nico Hülkenberg finished eighth in what appears to be his final race with Sauber. The German is rumored to be heading back to Force India where he would form an all-German pairing with Adrian Sutil. Lewis Hamilton recovered from a flat tire after contact with Valtteri Bottas and a drive-through penalty for said contact to finish ninth ahead of Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian Ricciardo will replace fellow Aussie Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014.

As stated above, Sebastian Vettel ends the 2013 season with 397 points, a new record for most in a season. Fernando Alonso finished second, 155 points back of the German. Mark Webber finishes with 199 points, ten ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Räikkönen finished fifth in the standings despite missing the final two rounds after having back surgery. Nico Rosberg finishes sixth ahead of Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Nico Hülkenberg. Eight other drivers scored points in 2013: Sergio Pérez, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Éric Vergne, Esteban Gutiérrez, Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado.

In the constructors' championship, Red Bull scored 596 points, defeating Mercedes by 236 points. Ferrari finishes third to the Silver Arrows by only six points. Lotus-Renault finish fourth with 315 points. McLaren-Mercedes finish fifth ahead of Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams. Marussia and Caterham both finished with zero points but Marussia finish tenth in the final standings thanks to a thirteenth place finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix by Jules Bianchi.

As we look to 2014, the calendar still needs to be finalized, driver line-ups still have to be finalized and the new 1.6 liter turbocharged engines still have to be tested. Vettel will enter another season as defending champion but now with a new teammate. Mercedes will look to continue on their successful 2013 season and look to make a dent into Red Bull's dominance. Ferrari will employ two world champions in Alonso and Räikkönen as they look to win their first constructors' title since 2008.

Lotus needs money as Grosjean appears likely to stay. McLaren will be in their final season with Mercedes in 2014 with Honda returning the Formula One and the famed constructor in 2015.

Williams looks to recover after only scoring five points in 2013. Toro Rosso brings in rookie Daniil Kvyat to join Jean-Éric Vergne. Sauber reportedly have their own Russian, Sergey Sirotkin but he still needs a Super License to be allowed to compete in 2014.

Meanwhile a great cast of drivers are on the outside looking in. Nico Hülkenberg appears to have a seat but nothing has been confirmed. Sergio Pérez looks to continue his Formula One career after a cup of tea at McLaren. Pastor Maldonado will be looking for a new home for his Venezuelan oil money.

Paul di Resta may be left without a ride and may be moving to IndyCar. Will Heikki Kovalainen return to Caterham? If he does, who is the second driver: Pic or van der Garde? Or does Caterham hire Swede Marcus Ericsson from GP2? Does Marussia keep Chilton or do the bring in someone new to join Bianchi?

Do any other new drivers enter Formula One? Does GP2 champion Fabio Leimer get promoted or will he be forced to look for a reserve role like 2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi? Does Sam Bird finally move up or will he be stuck in GP2 for another year?

We haven't even mentioned the calendar in-depth. Does Korea return? Do New Jersey, Mexico and Russia happen? Does the season end in Abu Dhabi or does the season finale remain at Interlagos?

There are many questions as we enter the winter break and their is one answer for all of them: 2014 cannot come soon enough.

Friday, November 22, 2013

IndyCar Silly Season In Full Swing

A week until Thanksgiving and IndyCar teams are making moves.

Tristan Vautier is out at Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing after one season and will be replaced by 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 champion, Russian Mikhail Aleshin. Aleshin tested for the team last week at Sebring.

In his one season of IndyCar, Vautier had one top ten at Barber Motorsports Park and finished twentieth in points while winning rookie of the year as he was the only rookie to compete in the full slate of races.

Aleshin has spent six of the last eight seasons competing in Formula Renault 3.5. In his championship season of 2010 he defeated Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Guerrieri for the title. In 2009 he finished third in the Formula Two championship behind Andy Soucek and Robert Wickens. Aleshin will become the second Russian driver to start an IndyCar race. Baron de Rachewsky made one start in 1926 at a board track in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Racer Magazine's Marshall Pruett is reporting Tristan Vautier is still working on options to stay in IndyCar in 2014 as well as expanding his driving to sports car racing including pursuing a ride in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Carlos Muñoz has been confirmed as a fourth driver at Andretti Autosport. The Colombian driver competed in Indy Lights the past two season finishing fifth and third in the points each season and collected six wins in twenty-four starts. Muñoz made three IndyCar starts in 2013 which saw him start and finish second in the Indianapolis 500 and taking home the honor as Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. He also started race two at Toronto substituting for Ryan Briscoe after he broke his wrist in race one. He also substituted for an ill EJ Viso at Fontana where he was running after front before having an accident end his day.

At Ed Carpenter Racing, Mike Conway will run the road and street course in the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium entry while Ed Carpenter will run the oval events. Last year Conway competed in seven races in 2013, six for Dale Coyne Racing and one for Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing. He picked up a win and a 3rd at Belle Isle, two sevenths at Toronto and a ninth in race two at Houston. In the six oval races in 2013, Carpenter had three top fives, five top tens and won pole position for the Indianapolis 500. Carpenter finished sixteenth in the final point standings ahead of race winner Takuma Sato and both Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan drivers Graham Rahal and James Jakes.

In other news, Arie Luyendyk, Jr. tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring last week and Francesco Dracone will best testing for the team in December. Mikaël Grenier tested with KVSH Racing and Sébastien Bourdais at Sebring earlier this month.

Speaking of Sébastien Bourdais. He will be sponsored by Mistic E-Cigs in 2014.

Panther Racing announced a partnership with Charter Media. Charter specializes in cable television advertising, marketing production and research.

I already wrote about twelve candidates to consider to replace Dario Franchitti at Chip Ganassi Racing. Paul di Resta said he is interested in the vacant seat while Sergio Pérez is open to IndyCar and another driver I did not mention, Nico Hülkenberg is a fan of IndyCar but is focused on Formula One and isn't keen of ovals.

Mentioned on this week's edition of Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee, Lazier Partners Racing are interested in expanding their operation in 2014.

Still a lot rides open and there are still a little over four months until the start of the 2014 season.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Formula One Season Finale

The 2013 Formula One season comes to a close this weekend at Interlagos. The World Drivers' championship and the Constructors' championship have already been decided but there are still plenty of story lines leading into this race and plenty of story lines that carry over to 2014.

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull not only look to extend their winning streak to nine consecutive races to close out what has been a dominating year for the team but Vettel also looks to tie Michael Schumacher's record of thirteen wins in a season. The bigger story out of the Red Bull camp is the final race for Mark Webber as he will be leaving the team to race Porsche's LMP1 efforts in the FIA World Endurance Championship and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Entering his final Formula One race, Webber has 9 wins in 214 starts, all coming with Red Bull. He scored on debut driving for Minardi in his home Australian Grand Prix in 2002. After two seasons at Jaguar, Webber was able to get his first career podium at Monaco driving for Williams where he spent another two seasons. Webber joined Red Bull in 2007 as a teammate to David Coulthard but it wasn't until his third year with the team and first with Vettel as teammate that Webber finally found the results all young drivers dream about. He scored his first career pole and first career win at the 2009 German Grand Prix and would cap his season with a win in Brazil.

In 2010, Webber found himself in the thick of the championship battle. He won four races including the Monaco Grand Prix and was second to Fernando Alonso entering the season finale at Abu Dhabi, only eight points back of the Spaniard. But as we all know by now, that 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the beginning of the Sebastian Vettel reign as he took the race win and the title, something he hasn't relinquished since. Webber ended 2010 third in the standings and he would finish third again in 2011 where his lone win was the season finale in Brazil. Last year, Webber joined the likes of Senna, Hill, Schumacher, Prost, Moss, Stewart, Fangio, Trintignant, Lauda, Scheckter, Coulthard and Alonso as multiple time winners of the Monaco Grand Prix. He also picked up a win at Silverstone after making a late charge pass the two-time champion Alonso.

Now the Australian's Formula One career appears to be coming to a close (barring a comeback after Porsche). Just like 2011, his teammate has the championship locked up, Webber has yet to win a race and the series is heading to Brazil. Webber has finished on the podium in three of the last four races and has started on pole for two of them. Webber also needs just three points to jump the injured Kimi Räikkönen for fourth in the championship.

Webber's career Formula One will be remember for him being talented but stuck in sluggish rides the first half of his career before finally catching a break but catching a break at the exact time one of the best drivers in the history of Formula One was coming into bloom. Now Webber will return to Le Mans after a Mercedes that had a tendency to get airborne cost him a shot in the French classic fourteen years ago.

Brazil will also be the final race for Felipe Massa driving for Scuderia Ferrari. He joined Michael Schumacher as teammate in 2006, replacing fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello at the team. Massa picked up two wins in his first year with the team at Turkey and at Interlagos, becoming the first Brazilian to win the Brazilian Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna in 1993. Massa was world champion for about 30 seconds in 2008 after winning his home Grand Prix for the second time in three years but a pass in the penultimate corner by Lewis Hamilton around Timo Glock crushed the joy of the Brazilians as the rain started to fall harder.

Since that day, being left standing in the rain having done all he could but still coming up short, Massa has yet to stand on top of the podium again. A dog of a car in 2009 and the emergence of Brawn and Red Bull crushed the first half of Massa's season but a podium at Silverstone appear to be a sign of good things to come for the Brazilian. Until a stray piece of suspension damper hit Massa in the head at the end of the second round of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix not only ended Massa's season but nearly his life.

But Massa returned and returned with a bang. He qualified ahead of his new teammate Fernando Alonso in the 2010 season opener at Bahrain but finished behind directly behind the Spaniard in the race as Alonso took the win and Massa made it a Ferrari 1-2. At the following race in Australia, Massa finished third ahead of Alonso but the rest of the season went into favor of the Spaniard. Massa would pick up three more podiums in 2010 but no wins. In his final three seasons with Ferrari, Massa has accumulated just three podiums including a third at Interlagos last year and a third at Barcelona this year but his final three years with the Scuderia are much different from his first three.

Only three podiums in the last three years, no pole positions, two fastest laps, both coming in the 2011 season and his best finish in the championship is sixth. The three years at Ferrari saw Massa score eleven wins, fifteen pole positions, eleven fastest laps and never finished worse than fourth in the championship and of course, was world champion for about thirty seconds.

After eight years with the team, Massa will head to Williams where he looks to rejuvenate not only his career but that team which has only scored five points in the 2013 season.

After the feel good stories of Webber and Massa, the rest of the stories involved question marks and revolve around 2014 but before we get to those, what about the questions that directly concern the season finale?

Who will finish second in the Constructors' championship?

Mercedes leads Ferrari by fifteen and Lotus by thirty-three heading into the season finale.

Can McLaren get a podium?

Forget a win. In what looks to be the team's first winless season since 2006, the team wants to avoid it's first podium-less season since 1980 when John Watson and a young Alain Prost were drivers. Maybe a podium is even a stretch for this team as the best finish Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez have mustered this season is fifth on two occasions (Button in China and Pérez in India).

Can someone end Vettel's streak?

Depending on who you talk to, Vettel either set the record for consecutive race wins at Austin and is looking to extend it at Interlagos or he is looking to tie the record at Interlagos. Either way, can anyone stop Vettel from winning nine in a row? Does Webber have a 2011 performance in him? Can Massa steal one before leaving Ferrari? What about Ferrari in general? They haven't scored a podium since Singapore. Can Mercedes stop him? Could Romain Grosjean pick up his first career win? The Frenchman has been on fire in the second half of the season but can he translate that into a win?

When the rain come, who will shine?

Let's face it, we are going to Brazil, rain is bound to happen. In 2009, rain extended qualifying to nearly a three hour session. In 2010, Nico Hülkenberg stole pole position in his Williams and last year driving for Force India he finished ahead of Vettel and Schumacher in fifth in what was a race that saw on and off showers. Could he find his way onto the podium if it rains? Jean-Éric Vergne finished eighth from seventeenth on the grid last year, Vitaly Petrov finish eleventh in a Caterham and Charles Pic twelfth in a Marussia.

In a wet qualifying session at Spa earlier this year, Giedo van der Garde was third after Q1 when he took a gamble on slicks and three of the four cars from Caterham and Marussia advanced to Q2. Paul di Resta made the right call to use the intermediate tires at the beginning of Q3 and appeared he was going to score his first career pole before Mercedes and Red Bull caught a the track at the right time as it was drying out ending the Scots hopes for pole. But di Resta did out qualify both Lotus drivers which occupied row four and the Ferraris which occupied row five.

And then there are the questions over 2014.

Who is going to Lotus? Who is going to Force India? Who is going to Sauber?

Where does Hülkenberg land? Does Pérez stay in Formula One? Does di Resta stay in Formula One?

Where does Maldonado take his money? Does Sergey Sirotkin get a super license? Who else moves up into Formula One? Does Fabio Leimer have any shot after winning the GP2 title?

Of course this will be the final race of the V8-era in Formula One. Next year, brand new 1.6 liter, turbocharged V6 engines will be in each car not the grid and be produced by Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari.

This will be the last race for Cosworth after their return in 2010. In their final four seasons, Cosworth powered Williams, the once-Team Lotus (now Caterham), HRT and Virgin/Marussia. They had zero wins in those four seasons, scored a total of 74 points (all coming from Williams when they ran the engine from 2010-11) and their best finish was fourth in the 2010 European Grand Prix with Rubens Barrichello driving a Williams.

After this race, the month of December will be a week away. The winter break will begin and the teams will head back to winterizing Europe, leaving the comfortable conditions of late spring in Brazil and 2013 behind.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Dozen Candidates For The #10

As you all should know by now Dario Franchitti has announced his retirement, leaving his #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry vacant. A seat of this magnitude does not become available often and rarely does it become available without a lead candidate that has been pursued for months by the team to fill the void.

Teams have already started testing and though the season opener for 2014 is four months away, Ganassi will probably want to have a driver decided on by Christmas. Here is what we do know: Ganassi wants experience but is open to younger options.

I have amassed a list of a dozen candidates for the #10 and reasons why they could land in #10 and reasons why they won't. Some are in IndyCar, others from other disciplines. Let's start with the obvious.

Justin Wilson
Reasons why: You put Justin Wilson in the #10 and he will be a championship favorite immediately. He has improve greatly on ovals since reunification in 2008. He very well could go out and win the first four races of 2014 driving for Ganassi. Not to mention moving to Ganassi gives Wilson a great outlet when he wants to run sports cars.
Reasons why he won't: It seems absurd to think Wilson wouldn't be the first candidate for Ganassi but we can't rule anything out. Wilson has shown loyalty to Dale Coyne Racing the last few years but now that his long-time engineer Bill Pappas has moved to Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing, Wilson may also be looking elsewhere and more specifically RLLR to join Pappas. Let's not forget that Wilson has had a long relationship with Michael Shank who he has run for on numerous of occasions for in Daytona Prototypes.

Ryan Briscoe
Reasons why: Briscoe has had a long relationship with Ganassi and drove for him just last year in the Indianapolis 500. Briscoe was a free agent at the beginning of 2013 before sharing the #4 Panther Racing entry with Oriol Servià after JR Hildebrand was fired after Indianapolis.
Reasons why he won't: It appeared Briscoe and Panther Racing were to the point of dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's" on a deal for 2014 a month ago and if he is signed, forget him returning to Ganassi. But with recent reports Panther Racing will be losing National Guard sponsorship to RLLR, that could mean Briscoe is back on the market. Briscoe also raced for Level 5 Motorsports in the American Le Mans Series in 2013 and it hasn't been ruled out him returning to the team as that team could be running FIA World Endurance Championship in 2014.

Alex Tagliani
Reasons why: He substituted for Franchitti at the season finale at Fontana and was running at the front until he spun. Tagliani is experienced and has a good relationship with Scott Dixon. Tagliani also could go back-and-forth to sports cars with Ganassi.
Reasons why not: Tagliani is 40. How many years does Ganassi think he has left? Not to forget mentioning Tagliani has one win in roughly fourteen years of IndyCar competition and that win came at Road America in 2004. Can Tagliani run up front consistently? He had one good showing at Fontana but hasn't had a podium since Surfers Paradise in 2006. Is this really the type of driver Ganassi is looking to hire?

Oriol Servià
Reasons why: Constantly quick regardless who he is driving for. Was teammates with Dixon back at PacWest Racing.
Reasons why not: This will sound a lot like Tagliani. Servià is 39. How many years does Ganassi think he has left? Has only one care win at Montreal in 2005 but unlike Tagliani, Servià has run more consistently at the front of the field and finished fourth in the championship standings driving for Newman-Haas Racing in 2011 where he had three podiums and six top fives.

Simona de Silvestro
Reasons why: Had a great end to 2013 by collecting five consecutive top ten finishes including her first career podium at Houston and first career top ten on an oval at Fontana. Her and Tony Kanaan worked well together in 2013 and throwing her into Ganassi with Dixon as an additional teammate will only help her even more.
Reasons why not: Despite showing progress in the final two oval races of 2013, de Silvestro is still trying to get a better hold of them and has to put together oval performances where she is constantly up front.

Josef Newgarden
Reasons why: In his first two seasons, Newgarden has shown fabulous pace on ovals, road and street courses. In 2013, Newgarden improved vastly over his rookie season, nearly winning at São Paulo and Baltimore with other impressive performances at Texas and Pocono. He is a young driver but has more seat time in the DW12 than all other 22 year olds.
Reasons why not: Has a deal with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing for 2014 and has been very loyal to her and Newgarden doesn't appear to be the type of guy to leave Fisher hanging in the wind.

JR Hildebrand
Reasons why: Despite getting fired after Indianapolis last year, Hildebrand was the top Honda for majority of the Fontana season finale driving for Bryan Herta Autosport. He clearly has pace and, as we have seen with the talent set of drivers to pass through Panther Racing, that team hasn't always complimented a drivers' skill set, especially on road and street courses.
Reasons why not: Panther may not be a good team but regardless, Hildebrand did not get the results that warrant a promotion. One podium, five career top fives and twelve career top tens in thirty-eight races isn't enough of a reason for Ganassi to hiring the former Indy Lights champion.

Luca Filippi
Reasons why: Showed a lot of speed at the end of 2013 driving for Bryan Herta Autosport. Ganassi would be a better option to learn ovals than Herta. Ganassi has a good track record with hiring Italian drivers. Filippi is good enough to be in Formula One and would fit in well with Dixon, Kanaan and Kimball.
Reasons why not: Appears to have a deal with Herta for 2014. As I mentioned before, doesn't have any oval experience and will need to learn the ropes.

Conor Daly
Reasons why: Limited IndyCar experience but has shown pace in every series he has been in, from once-Star Mazda to Indy Lights to GP3 to GP2, Daly has found a way to the front. He is the type of young driver Ganassi is talking about. Ganassi isn't going to sign a Sage Karam or Gabby Chaves. If he is signing a young driver, he is signing Conor Daly. Or... wait for the next candidate.
Reasons why not: If Daly gets funding for GP2, I expect him to be in GP2. Or if Daly gets a testing role with a Formula One team (maybe Force India), he may take it over a IndyCar ride. If Ganassi doesn't sign him, it could because he wonders how committed Daly would be to IndyCar, knowing he is so close to Formula One.

Sam Bird
Reasons why: Finished second in GP2 in 2013. Test driver for Mercedes. Is talented enough to be in Formula One. Has shown pace in Formula Three, Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2. Bird is the type of young driver Ganassi built his empire on in the late 1990s, early 2000s when he hired Montoya, Junqueira and Minassian (Minassian of course not as successful as Montoya and Junqueira but talented nonetheless).
Reasons why not: No oval experience. Same as Daly, how committed would he be to IndyCar knowing how close he is to Formula One?

Sergio Pérez
Reasons why: Has been competitive in Formula One. Has a common supporter with Ganassi in Telmex and Carlos Slim. A Mexican driver would be a welcome sight, completing the trifecta of North American countries represented on the IndyCar grid.
Reasons why not: No oval experience. Has plenty of talent and funding to stay in Formula One.

Paul di Resta
Reasons why: Has been successful in every series he has been in from Formula Three to DTM to Formula One. Has a good letter of recommendation from his cousin, Dario Franchitti. Appears to share the same love and appreciation for all forms of motorsports that he cousin is known for. Despite no oval experience, di Resta appears open and not anxious about ovals.
Reasons why not: He is in Formula One and has done nothing wrong to not be in Formula One in 2014. If his chooses are between Force India and Chip Ganassi, he is taking Force India.

With all these candidates thought out, I'd say the top echelon of candidates is made up of Wilson, Briscoe, Tagliani and Daly. The next level is Bird, Newgarden, di Resta and de Silvestro with the bottom tier being Pérez, Filippi, Servià and Hildebrand.

This has been an interesting offseason and we're still a little over four months away from St. Petersburg. Whoever ends up at Ganassi will have a fast car and will be expected to be competing for wins each week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jimmie Johnson: Six-Time Champion

While Denny Hamlin ended his 2013 season on a high note with a much needed victory, Jimmie Johnson won his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Only one behind the all-time record of seven championships set by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Johnson struggles for the respect from the fans and media.

Is it because of the Chase format which has now existed for a decade?

Is it because his rise to the top came out of nowhere?

Is it because of who he drives for, who his teammates are and where he comes from?

Perhaps it's a mix of all of the above.

While the system has been different for the last decade, it's not like Johnson wrote the rulebook into his favor. NASCAR made the change and Johnson and the #48 crew have capitalized on it. I don't think any of us can say that the reset of points with ten races to go hasn't helped Johnson with a few of his championships. But that has been the case for nearly every Chase.

2004: Kurt Busch went from 293 back after Richmond to 30 back.
2007: Jeff Gordon had a 312-point lead over Tony Stewart after Richmond. When all was reset, Johnson was leading the points by twenty over Gordon while Clint Bowyer was 670 points back in ninth after Richmond and was able to finish third in the final point standings.
2008: Kyle Busch led by 207 points over Carl Edwards after Richmond. Jimmie Johnson was 302 points back. After the reset, Edwards was 30 back and Johnson 40 back. In the end, Johnson was champion, Busch finished tenth while Greg Biffle went from eighth, 598 points back after Richmond to third in the final standings.
2009: Tony Stewart led by 179 points over Jeff Gordon, 272 over Johnson. Mark Martin was fifth, 515 back. When the points were reset, Martin led Johnson and Stewart by 10 points.
2010: Kevin Harvick led Kyle Busch by 228 points with Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart rounding out the top five. Johnson was in sixth, 306 back and Denny Hamlin was ninth. 381 back. When the points were reset, Hamlin led, Johnson was ten back, Harvick was third, Kyle Busch fourth while Stewart fell to seventh and Gordon ninth.
2011: With the new points system, Tony Stewart was 102 points back after Richmond. Kyle Busch led Johnson by three but after the reset Harvick and Kyle Busch were tied with Johnson tied for fifth, nine back and Stewart tied for ninth, twelve back. In the end, Stewart and Carl Edwards ended tied for the title.
2012: Greg Biffle led Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by twelve points after Richmond but the reset Denny Hamlin went from eighth, 64 back to the lead, three up on Johnson, Brad Keselowksi and Stewart. Keselowksi ended up champion, 39 ahead of Bowyer and 40 ahead of Johnson.

The Chase hasn't just benefited Jimmie Johnson. It has benefited a plethora of drivers but Johnson has taken charge and capitalized the most.

As I said earlier today, NASCAR needs to make changes. A decade in and the Chase has produced ten years of championship coming down to the final race but not a better product on track. The product in the final races is manufactured. There is nothing naturally about the final race of the NASCAR season. It was manipulated back in September.

With all that said, Johnson's accomplishments are still a remarkable feat. Six titles in eight years will likely never be seen again in NASCAR. He has been able to dominant the system despite it's existence to curtail dominance. We might not agree with the system but it what is in place. I am sure there are drivers on the grid who disagree with the system but that can't stop them from competing and trying to win a title.

I feel bad for Jimmie Johnson because he has to deal with critics saying his titles are not equal to those pre-2004 because NASCAR decided to change the system, something out of his control. Johnson's success unfortunately will not be appreciated for sometime.

Sebastian Vettel Wins 2013 United States Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel picked up his eighth consecutive victory and twelfth of the season at the Circuit of the Americas as the German looks to tie the record for most wins in a single season next week at Interlagos. 

Vettel's first win in the United States comes from pole position ahead of Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber. Vettel also set fastest lap with a time of 1:39.856 seconds on lap 54. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth, his worse career finish in the United States. Hamilton had won his previous two USGP starts. Fernando Alonso finished fifth after a tough battle with Nico Hülkenberg. Sergio Pérez finished seventh in the closest race to his homeland of Mexico. 

Valtteri Bottas finished eighth and scored his first career points. It's Williams F1's second points-paying finish of the season. Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button rounded out the points. Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne finished eleventh and twelfth ahead of Felipe Massa in thirteenth. Esteban Gutiérrez spun on the final lap of the race but finished fourteenth ahead of Hekki Kovalainen in his first start of the 2013 season filling in for the injured Kimi Räikkönen. Paul di Resta was the last car on the lead lap in sixteenth. 

Pastor Maldonado was the first car a lap down ahead of Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic. Max Chilton finished two laps down. Adrian Sutil was the only retirement after making contact with Maldonado on lap one which brought out the safety car. 

Vettel's victory for Red Bull is the first for a constructor not named McLaren or Ferrari in the United States Grand Prix since Alan Jones won for Williams in 1980 at Watkins Glen. 

Sebastian Vettel extends his championship margin to one-hundred and forty-five points over Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton is forty back of Alonso in third. Kimi Räikkönen fell to fourth after missing the race. He is two points ahead of Mark Webber and twenty-two ahead of Nico Rosberg. Romain Grosjean is seventh with Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta rounding out the top ten. 

In the constructors' championship, Red Bull's margin over Mercedes to two-hundred and five points. Ferrari trails Mercedes by fifteen points with Lotus another eighteen behind Ferrari. McLaren is fifth with Force India in sixth. Sauber and Toro Rosso are seventh and eighth with Williams ninth. Marussia is tenth ahead of Caterham in eleventh. Neither has scored yet in the 2013 season.

Next week, the final round of the Formula One season takes place at Interlagos as the Brazilian Grand Prix closes out another season. 

NASCAR Needs To Make A Change

Two champions have been crowned this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and between them they had one combined championship eligible win in the 2013 season.

Matt Crafton and Austin Dillon, the 2013 Truck Series and Nationwide Series champions combined for one win in their respective championships. If this isn't a cry for change then I do not know what else will cause change.

Maybe the fact that only four of thirty-three Nationwide Series races were won by drivers eligible for the Nationwide Series championship. Maybe the fact that second place in the Nationwide Series championship, Sam Hornish, Jr. beat champion Austin Dillon in majority of the statistical fields.

Hornish: 1 win, 16 top-fives, 25 top-tens and 603 laps led.
Dillon: 0 wins, 13 top-fives, 22 top-tens and 557 laps led.
Let me not forget to mention that Hornish finished ahead of Dillon in eighteen of thirty-three races including last night at Homestead.

It's not Dillon's fault he won the title without winning a race. It is the system. Forcing drivers to choose only one championship to be eligible for has not solved the problem.

Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano won a combined twenty-two of thirty-three Nationwide races in 2013. Two-thirds of the schedule. Sure you can say admire their love for racing and just bringing back the steering wheel but it ruined the championship.

As for the Truck Series, they were a little luckier. Fifteen of twenty-two races were won by championship eligible drivers with Kyle Busch winning five of the seven races won by championship ineligible drivers. Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon won the other two.

Overall, things have to change. There is no reason for Kyle Busch to compete in twenty-six Nationwide Series races. And while this appears to be mostly a problem because of Kyle Busch, it isn't. He is doing nothing against the rule. He's just racing like he is allowed to do but changes should have been made seven years ago after Kevin Harvick won the then-Busch Series championship while also competing as a full-time Cup Series driver.

Don't get me wrong, I think Cup drivers should be allowed to compete in Nationwide and Truck races but on a much more limited basis. I think it's cool when you see a driver decide to run the Bristol Truck race or Darlington Nationwide Series race. It does add something but they don't need to run majority of the season.

My first proposal would be to change the point system in all NASCAR series. Personally, I am fond of the 9-6-4-3-2-1 system Formula One used for thirty seasons because it only rewards the top six and there are no bogus bonus points. You want to score points; you finish in the top six. No riding around in tenth and calling it a good day. No staying out under caution to lead a lap and get a point either.

That likely won't happen but I want to see some changes to the points system. A one-point interval between each position isn't enough, especially when you give points to everyone who starts a race. Scoring points (in all forms of motorsports, not just NASCAR) should be something earned. Not handed to you because you started the race.

Second proposal: Limit the amount of races championship ineligible drivers can compete in.

The Cup Series can be open to all championship ineligible drivers to compete as much as they want. If a driver wants to run 36 Cup races and not get points for any of them, I say let them. They likely won't be a factor in most races.

As for the Nationwide Series:
1. All the standalone Nationwide Series races are off limits to championship ineligible drivers. That would be six races in 2014 (Iowa in May, Road America in June, Chicago in July, Iowa in August, Mid-Ohio in August and Kentucky in September).

2. I'd also make the following races off limits as well: Bristol spring race, Indianapolis, Richmond in September and the final three races at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

Why these races?

Bristol and Richmond because they are short tracks and will give these young drivers a chance to shine and race hard for a win.

Indianapolis because if you are a Cup driver, you shouldn't be dropping down to run the Nationwide Series race in hopes of winning at Indianapolis. That's like Sebastian Vettel running GP2 to try and get a win at Monaco. It's wrong.

And the final three races to give championship eligible drivers a chance to battle for the championship on the track with no interference.

3. I still think Cup drives and other championship ineligible drivers should be allowed to run some Nationwide Series races. There are twenty-one races remaining after the twelve races I have made off limits. Championship ineligible drivers can run in those but there is a quota for where they can run and how many times.

Championship ineligible drivers are limited to seven races and their seven starts are limited to certain track types. Each championship ineligible driver can run:

Two restrictor plate races.
Two races on short tracks (under a mile and a half in length).
Two races on intermediate tracks (a mile and half in length or greater that aren't restrictor plate races).
One road course.

This forces a driver to choice their events wisely. If they choose not to run any restrictor plate races than the most Nationwide starts they can make are five. If they choose not to run any restrictor plates races and choose not to run a road course, the most starts they could make is four.

If a driver runs Las Vegas and Texas in the beginning of the year than he has met his quota for the season on intermediate tracks. If a driver runs Phoenix in March and Darlington in April, then he has met his quota for short tracks and can't run any short track until the following season.

This would keep championship ineligible drivers from running majority of the schedule but also force them to run a variety of tracks as well.

As for the Truck Series, since they only run twenty-two races I won't make any races off limits but there will be a similar quota system.

Championship ineligible drivers are limited to seven starts on the follow tracks:

One restrictor plate race.
Two pavement short track races (under a mile and half in length).
Two races on mile and a half tracks.
One non-restrictor plate race on an oval over two miles in length (So either Michigan or Pocono).
A drivers' seventh start can either be Eldora or Mosport but not both.

Same as the Nationwide Series. Championship ineligible drivers couldn't run majority of the races and they would be forced to run a variety of tracks.

Cup drivers and other drivers would still get a chance to move around the three national touring divisions but would be limited to seven starts in championships they are ineligible for and can only run certain tracks so often. It would give the championship eligible drivers more of a chance to race other drivers eligible for the championship on track without being surrounded by Cup drivers who are only racing for the win and the paycheck and make the championship (especially the Nationwide Series) more genuine.

Changes have to be made by NASCAR. Otherwise look forward to more winless champions in the future.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Formula One at Austin, NASCAR at Homestead, WRC in Wales and Macau

Red Bull continued their dominance as they were 1-2 in Friday second practice at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Sebastian Vettel led his Australian teammate Mark Webber who will be competing in his penultimate Grand Prix this weekend before moving to Porsche to drive their LMP1 entry next year in the World Endurance Championship.

Pairs were the theme of the day in Austin. After the Red Bull's 1-2, Mercedes were 3-4 with Nico Rosberg ahead of his world champion teammate and winner of the last two United States Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton. Just behind Hamilton was a former McLaren teammate and it wasn't Fernando Alonso or Jenson Button. It was Heikki Kovalainen as the Finn substitutes for fellow Finn Kimi Räikkönen as he will miss the final two rounds of the season due to back surgery. Sixth and seventh were the pair of Saubers with Nico Huülkenberg leading Esteban Gutiérrez in what is the closest thing to a home race for the Mexican driver. Romain Grosjean was eighth with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso rounding out the top ten.

In Friday first practice, American Alexander Rossi took part driving for Caterham. His fastest lap was a 1:41.399 second lap, 3.056 seconds off the faster time from that session, set by Fernando Alonso but was faster than his Caterham teammate Charles Pic by 0.655 seconds.

Qualifying for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix takes place today at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on CNBC.

Matt Kenseth is doing all he can do to win the championship but he will need some help if he is to beat Jimmie Johnson for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Kenseth won pole position for Sunday's Ford EcoBoast 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jimmie Johnson will start seventh. Kenseth needs Johnson to finish twenty-fourth or worse to have any shot at the title. The other driver still eligible for the title is the most recent winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Kevin Harvick. He starts sixth.

Sunday's race can be seen at 2:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The Nationwide Series title will be decided today. Austin Dillon leads Sam Hornish, Jr. by eight points but has trailed the Ohioan in each practice session. In first practice Kyle Larson was fastest with Hornish fourth and Dillon fourteenth. In final practice Regan Smith was fastest with Hornish tenth and Dillon seventeenth. Qualifying for the Nationwide Series race will take place at 1:05 p.m. ET today followed by the race at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Kyle Busch won the Truck Series season finale last night over Ryan Blaney, Jeb Burton, Brendan Gaughan and Ron Hornaday, Jr. By starting the race Matt Crafton won the 2013 Camping World Truck Series Championship. He finished twenty-first in the race.

The final margin in the 2013 championship was Crafton forty points ahead of Ty Dillon with 2012 champion James Buescher third, forty-three back. Johnny Sauter was fourth, seventy-two back of his teammate with Jeb Burton finishing as the top rookie in fifth, seventy-three back. Rounding out the top ten are Ryan Blaney, Brendan Gaughan, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Miguel Paludo and Timothy Peters.

In Wales, the 69th Wales Rally GB is taking place as the World Rally Championship closes out another season. Through fourteen stages, the 2013 World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier leads his Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala by 17.1 seconds. Thierry Neuville is third 1:16.5 back.

In other news, the 60th Macau Grand Prix is this weekend. British driver Alex Lynn will start on pole ahead of Felix Rosenqvist, Raffaele Marciello, António Félix da Costa and Piop Derani.

For the World Touring Car Championship season finale, Guia Race of Macau, 2013 champion Yvan Muller has won pole position. Formula One podium finisher Tiago Montiero will start second with Gabriele Tarquini, Robert Huff and Norbert Michelisz rounding out the top five.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Ode to Dario

Dario Franchitti has nothing left to prove.

Three Indianapolis 500 wins, four IndyCar championships, thirty-one IndyCar wins in all, Dario Franchitti will go down as one of the all-time greats. Despite the split, despite an era of spec cars, despite IndyCar's fall from grace, Franchitti will forever be in the discussion with AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Rick Mears just to name a few.

Had he been born thirty-five years earlier, Dario Franchitti would have probably joined a long line of Scots dominating the world of motorsports in the 1960s. He would have gotten to race in Formula One, something the modern-era of motorsport kept him from accomplishing. He would have raced head-to-head with his idols Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart and he probably would have broken through and gotten wins across the pond and at Indianapolis as well.

Franchitti's accomplishments outside of IndyCar can't be forgotten either. He won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, arguably the highest honor for any young British driver and an honor he shares with David Coulthard, Oliver Gavin, Jenson Button, Gary Paffett, Alex Lloyd, Paul di Resta and Stefan Wilson. He finished fourth in British F3 with Jan Magnussen taking the title but Franchitti did beat Pedro de la Rosa and some guy named Christian Horner in that championship.

Prior to coming Stateside, he was in the original DTM and the succeeding ITC where he teamed with the legendary Bernd Schneider. He picked up wins at Mugello and Suzuka and finished in the top five in each of his two seasons in the championship. He was apart of the winning team that got Acura their first win in LMP2 at the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring, where the ARX-01 won in it's inaugural event with Franchitti sharing the driving duties with his friends Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta.

Sure, Franchitti's NASCAR endeavor wasn't pretty. Best career finish of twenty-second. Jim Clark's best finish was thirtieth at Rockingham in 1967. It was his only career NASCAR start and he and Jochen Rindt were suppose to share the ride but the car broke before Rindt ever got the chance to get behind the wheel. Franchitti did win a pole and get a top five in the Nationwide Series and he did win the 24 Hours of Daytona driving with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2008.

Franchitti rarely put a wheel wrong. He was so smooth in a car. Other than forgetting how laps were remaining and running over the back of Kosuke Matsuura at Kentucky, Franchitti was near perfection behind the wheel of a car.

You can't blame people for speculating who replaces Franchitti if Chip Ganassi does decide to run the #10 in 2014. It's natural. It comes from the dark part of all of us that realize what can happen in motorsports. One major shunt can open the door to a bright career for another driver. It's apart of the game. None of us like it but it's reality. A major ride like this only becomes available once in great while. There are a dozen drivers I could list who would succeed out of the gate in the #10 but I won't list them here. I'll save that for a rainy (or snowy) day around the corner.

Dario Franchitti can retire with his head held high. Though the injuries he suffered from his accident at Houston last month end his career, they didn't kill the Scotsman and now Franchitti can pursue another career of excellence in another field. Whether it be broadcasting, safety development, agent; whatever Franchitti will do now that he is retired, he will succeed in.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The End of Eras at Homestead

When the checkered flags flies at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday night it will not only signal the end of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season but possibly the careers of a few notable drivers.

Eight years after initially announcing his retirement while driving the #6 Viagara Ford for Roush Racing, Mark Martin finally appears to be entering his final Cup series race.

Martin has really had two careers. After nineteen seasons with Roush Racing, Martin had a wonderful burst of success as he moved from Ford to Chevrolet and even a few races for Toyota. He has added the names Earnhardt, Hendrick, Waltrip, Gibbs and Stewart to the list of owners he has driven for but unfortunately did not add a championship or Daytona 500 victory to his résumé but he sure came as close as anyone to both. A memorable second place in the 2007 Daytona 500 to Kevin Harvick, a second-place finish in the 2009 championship with four wins to his name after two years of running a part-time schedule and not to forget mentioning finishing second in the championships at the age of 50.

Let's not forget Martin's 49 Busch Grand National/Nationwide Series wins, still good for second all-time behind Kyle Busch, 7 Truck Series wins and is the all-time leader in the the dearly missed International Race of Champions in wins with thirteen and championships with five, including three in a row from 1996-1998.

Martin's career ends driving as a substitute for the injured Tony Stewart. He came close to winning the Daytona 500 again this year finishing third. He has four other top tens this year but it feels as if Martin's career is ending on a much quieter note than it should and may that is the right thing. Eight years ago he was getting retirement presents. He could've ended on a high note after 2009 or after he left Hendrick in 2011. But the other reason Martin's career ends almost without a sound is the fact it is ending not because of his choice. Martin can't find a ride for 2014. Eight years ago, Roush still wanted him. Four years ago Hendrick wanted him. Now, no contender wants him. It's not that Martin can't drive anymore, everyone is ready to move on.

Don't get me wrong, I would not be surprised if Martin was at Daytona in February giving the Daytona 500 one final shot. But as of now, the best way for Martin to end his career with a bang would be to get the win at Homestead.

It's been twenty-two years since Ken Schrader took his fourth and so far final career Cup win at Dover driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Now it appears Schrader will be making his final career start at Homestead. Schrader hasn't gotten a top ten since 2006, a top five since 1998 and both those results came at Richmond. The last twenty plus years of Schrader's Cup career has seen him land rides with Andy Petree, MB2, BAM, the Wood Brothers and he even made a start with Richard Childress. Now Schrader ends with FAS Lane Racing, a team whose best finish is fifteenth.

While Schrader hasn't been successful in Cup, he did win two ARCA races this year and seven in the last ten and won pole position for the first ever Truck Series race on dirt at Eldora earlier this year. Even though Schrader is nearing sixty, he can still find the speed to compete on a competitive level on the short tracks and dirt. Hopefully Schrader will be able to continue racing in late models and ARCA which I am sure we'd all like to see.

When the announcement was made on July 9, 2006 that Juan Pablo Montoya was leaving McLaren F1 midseason and would be running stock cars for Chip Ganassi full-time in 2007 my jaw was on the floor. Seven years later, Montoya is making his final start for Ganassi and probably in NASCAR as a whole as he will be returning to IndyCar to driver for Roger Penske. He didn't light the world on fire but Montoya did have his success, scoring two career Cup wins, a Nationwide Series win and a career best eighth place in the Cup Series standings in 2009.

While he hasn't had great success in the standings, since 2007 Montoya has just as many Cup wins as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., just as many as Martin Truex, Jr., just as many as Brian Vickers and more than Bobby Labonte, all drivers who competed regularly against Montoya in Cup and have won Busch/Nationwide Series championships, proving how difficult it is to win in Cup, even for the talent drivers coming from a stock car background.

Speaking of Bobby Labonte, it appears the 2000 Cup Series champions Cup career may have ended a race earlier than the rest. Labonte is not on the entry list for Homestead and just like Mark Martin, Labonte does not have a ride for 2014.

Labonte's career hasn't been the same since leaving Joe Gibbs Racing. He hasn't won since Homestead in 2003 and has been stuck driving for mediocre teams since 2005. From Petty Enterprises when they were the low-man on the totem pole with Dodge to Hall of Fame Racing to The Racer's Group foray into NASCAR to JTG Daugherty. It hasn't all been bad. In his three seasons with JTG, Labonte did amass four top tens, including a fourth in his first career start with the team in the 2011 Daytona 500.

Labonte has said he is open to full-time Nationwide and Truck Series rides. If Labonte does run Trucks, he would have a shot to become the first driver to win a championship in all three NASCAR national touring division, with his 1991 then-Busch Grand National Series and 2000 Cup titles (and before I go on, let's not forget Labonte won the 2001 IROC championship). So the end of Labonte's Cup career could open the door to history.

And finally there is Jeff Burton. Burton, just like Martin and Labonte doesn't have a ride for 2014. The last few years have seen a decline from Burton. He has not won since 2008 but had many good chances in 2009 and 2010 but the last three years have seen Burton slide from a top ten driver in the points to a driver barely inside the top twenty. He has only seven top fives in the last three seasons driving for Childress and appears to be out the door with the arrivals of Ryan Newman and promotion of Austin Dillon.

Burton, just like Martin and Labonte has seen their fair amount of success in the Cup Series. While Martin has 40 wins and over 400 top tens, Labonte and Burton both have 21 wins and over 200 top tens. Labonte's Nationwide Series numbers are currently at the nice round numbers of 10 wins, 100 top tens and 10 poles while Burton has 27 Nationwide Series wins.

For twenty seasons, Mark Martin, Ken Schrader, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton have been staples on the Cup Series grid. And now that appears to be coming to an end. All four of them and Montoya appear to be done in Cup but they still appear eager to stay in racing and compete. How comforting? After all these years, these guys still have the fire and love of racing inside of them. I wish them all the best in their future endeavors and wish them all the best at Homestead.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Should Be The Least Of Everyone's Worries

With a shorten season, proposed international winter series that currently has no legs, no title sponsor,  low television ratings, modest attendance figures and a few other more pertinent issues, Indianapolis 500 qualifying changes are the last thing the people at 16th and Georgetown and IndyCar has to worry about.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the proposed switch of bump day to Saturday and pole day to Sunday but it's a change that would produce a minuscule change in results if any changes at all.

I get the switch. You have the field set on Saturday and give people a reason show up Sunday. But even that won't guarantee more people coming through the gates. Some people only care about the pole and if you set the field Saturday, they are only going to show up Sunday.

Regardless if bump day is Saturday or Sunday, what makes bump day something worth watching is WHEN THERE IS BUMPING! What a crazy thought. When only 33 cars show up, bump day is worthless. This year there was 34 entries but it became clear halfway through the day that the #17 of Michel Jourdain, Jr. wasn't going to come close to bumping his way into the field.

Want to make bump day a reason for people to show up: Make sure there are 36-40 cars trying to make the field of thirty-three. Plain and simple.

As for pole day, a lot people mention the fact that the cars aren't close to breaking the track record as the reason for low attendance. That might be the case. I'm not saying the cars have to be breaking the track record every year but the possibility of going to the track and seeing history is the intriguing part that draws people in. With the current car, the possibility of a track isn't there. If you had cars flirting with four-lap averages of 233 mph, you may turn a few heads but nothing is a guarantee for success. Remember, after Arie Luyendyk's track record of 236.986 mph, the second fastest four-lap average is a 233.718 mph set by the late Scott Brayton. So it's not like averages in 233 mph range should be that disappointing.

But Indianapolis 500 qualifying should be the least of everyone's worries. Changing it isn't solving any of the other problems listed above. It's a distraction from all the other problems IndyCar has to take care of. We all know there are bigger fish to fry.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts Before Austin and Homestead

With this upcoming weekend arguably being one of the biggest race weekends in the United States, I have a few thoughts before Formula One runs the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas and NASCAR wraps up their three national touring divisions seasons at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

1. With Formula One coming stateside, I can't fail to express how grateful I feel for having Formula One back in the States. After four years without a race, last year's race was comforting to know Formula One has a nice home in Austin. I won't be there but I am still grateful. Formula One belongs in the United States and the race should be supported by everyone. It is unfortunate the USGP and the final NASCAR race fall on the same weekend. More should be done to make sure the Formula One race is run unopposed by any other major American series.

In essences, the USGP should be the grand finale to the American racing season. After the NASCAR, IndyCar, sports cars and NHRA seasons have all concluded, the final event being the most-known series in the world would be a nice way to end the year.

2. While Formula One is going to Austin, Kimi Räikkönen will not be going to Austin or São Paulo after deciding to have back surgery. This will ends Räikkönen's two-year tenure at Lotus with two victories, fifteen podiums and four fastest laps to his name.

Davide Valsecchi is the likely replacement for Räikkönen. Valsecchi won the 2012 GP2 Series championship and won the 2009-10 GP2 Asia Series championship before becoming a Lotus test driver this year.

While Valsecchi will likely be in the car, I'd propose American Alexander Rossi to drive at Austin. Rossi had a decent season in GP2 and won at the final round at Abu Dhabi. Rossi is scheduled to drive Friday first practice for Caterham, his third with the team in the last two seasons, but I think it would be beneficial for this race if an American were to be on the grid.

If not Rossi, why not Conor Daly? Daly finished third in the 2013 GP3 Series final standings and scored points in GP2 at Malaysia, the only GP2 round he competed in 2013. Daly also competed in the Indianapolis 500 this year where he started thirty-first and finished twenty-second, two laps down. 2013 GP3 Series champion Daniil Kyvat will be making the jump to Formula One in 2014 driving for Toro Rosso. Why couldn't Daly make the jump for this one Formula One race? Not to forget mentioning the team Daly competed for in GP3, ART Grand Prix was by Lotus in 2011 and 2012.

I'm sure obtaining a FIA Super License would be an issue for both Rossi and Daly not to forget mentioning both have limited to no experience in a Formula One car. It would be wonderful to see either Rossi or Daly competing for Lotus at Austin but I can resign with the fact Valsecchi will finally get the opportunity he deserves to compete in Formula One.

3. NASCAR heading to Homestead and the three championships are in three different scenarios. All Matt Crafton has to do is start at Homestead and the championship is his. Austin Dillon leads Sam Hornish by eight in a battle that should come down to the final lap. Jimmie Johnson leads Matt Kenseth by twenty-eight points and Kevin Harvick by thirty-four in what appears to be Johnson's championship to lose with Kenseth and Harvick both in a must-win situation.

4. I was thinking, what if they made the final race at Homestead a winner-take-all event where the winner of the race would get the maximum 48 points and the remaining 42 drivers got naught? If that were the case, Johnson, Kenseth and Harvick would still be the only drivers eligible to win the title it's just Johnson can't rely on finishing twenty-third or better to win the title because if either Kenseth or Harvick were to win, they would become champion. Johnson couldn't just ride around, trying to avoid harms way, he would have to run at a comparatively more competitive pace.

I think it would be an interesting way to decide a championship not to forget mentioning it could  increase viewership if people knew the winner of the race could be the champion, regardless of where everyone else finished.

While it would be different from other races in that only the winner would get points, the winner of Homestead wouldn't be getting anymore points than any other winner during the season. In that sense it is fair with the only difference being second, third, fourth and so on down to forty-third would be worth nothing.

The amount of drivers mathematically eligible to win the title wouldn't change. It not's like all of sudden drivers who would not have been eligible after Phoenix would become eligible. So even if Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon won at Homestead, they wouldn't become champion, the best they could do would finish second in the standings.

5. Why couldn't IndyCar race as a support race to Formula One at Austin? I know this question has been brought up many times especially when the USGP was at Indianapolis and there are many reasons against it. But let's put aside the idea that it would be a sign of inferiority for IndyCar and that Formula One cars would be faster. It could make financial sense for IndyCar. Instead of running by themselves at Austin with possibly the other three divisions of the Road to Indy, IndyCar would be with Formula One and a race that drew over 250,000 people over the course of three days.

The IndyCars will be slower but slower does not necessarily mean the racing will be worse. I am sure there have been plenty of GP2, GP3 or Formula Renault 3.5 races that have been better races then the Formula One race they are the undercard to and if you compare the speeds IndyCars and stock cars run at Texas, Pocono and Fontana, the IndyCars are fasters, and arguably have put on the better racing, but NASCAR draws a crowd three times larger than IndyCar at those three tracks.

The same goes with Interlagos. Why couldn't IndyCar also join Formula One in Brazil? IndyCar is losing the São Paulo street race but wants to be in Brazil. Austin and Interlagos both have very few support events. Austin has Ferrari Challenge and two vintage car races. Other than that, their is plenty of  track time to make it happen. Bringing an established series such as IndyCar would give the tracks an event that may draw more people for Friday and Saturday. I am sure paddock space may be an issue but I am sure that can be worked out. If they can make Monaco work with F1, GP2, FR3.5 and Porsche Supercup, Austin and Interlagos can run F1 and IndyCar together.

I would have no problem if IndyCar ran Saturday after Formula One qualifying. Now there is a University of Texas football game next Saturday and hopefully in the future the track and the university can communicate with one another dates to avoid a game from happening race weekend. The main issue is Formula One Management and IndyCar. I am sure the fans wouldn't mind these two series running the same weekend together. This all comes down to the men in suits and them being able to put their differences aside.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Harvick Wins, Sixth Title In Sight For Johnson

For the fourth time in 2013, Kevin Harvick is a winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the Californian keeps his championships hopes alive heading into the season finale next week at Homestead.

Harvick passed Carl Edwards coming to the white flag as Edwards ran out of fuel. Kasey Kahne finished second ahead of teammate Jimmie Johnson who will have a twenty-eight point lead over Matt Kenseth entering Homestead. All Johnson will have to do is finish better than twenty-third and he will have his sixth championship.

Kenseth was leading the point standings at one point during this race but a sloppy pit stop cost him and the 2003 Cup Series champion never recovered, finishing one lap down in twenty-third.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five with Juan Pablo Montoya finishing sixth in his penultimate round with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing as he will be heading to IndyCar to drive for Roger Penske. Kyle Busch was the top Toyota in seventh, ahead of Martin Truex, Jr. and the top Ford of Joey Logano in ninth. Ryan Newman finished tenth in his penultimate round for Stewart Haas Racing as he will be heading to Richard Childress Racing in 2014.

Johnson leads Kenseth by twenty-eight and Harvick by thirty-four entering Homestead. These are the final three drivers mathematically eligible for the championship. Kyle Busch is fourth in the standings with Earnhardt, Jr. in fifth. Jeff Gordon is sixth, three points ahead of Greg Biffle with Clint Bowyer in eighth. Logano and Kurt Busch round out the top ten. Kurt Busch is twenty-six points ahead of Ryan Newman. Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards round out the final two Chase positions.

Of the three championship contenders, Kenseth is the only one with a victory at the track in the Cup Series. He won the 2007 season finale. Kenseth won the Nationwide Series race at Homestead in 2006 and Harvick won the 2004 Nationwide Series race and 2009 Truck Series race at Homestead.

Johnson's average career finish at Homestead is 15.33 with four top-fives and seven top tens but has finished thirtieth or worse at Homestead three times. Kenseth's average career finish at Homestead is 17.61 with one win, three top-fives and five top-tens. Harvick's average career finish at Homestead is 7.91 with five top-fives and ten top-tens with his worse finish at the track being twentieth.

Márquez and Viñales Win World Championships

Jorge Lorenzo did all he could to win his second consecutive MotoGP title but it wasn't enough as rookie Marc Márquez was able to hold off his fellow Spaniard to become the youngest world champion and first rookie world champion since Kenny Roberts in 1978.

Lorenzo took the lead from the pole-sitting Márquez at the start as Márquez fell to third by the end of the opening lap. Márquez's Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa was second and put the pressure on Lorenzo for the lead and got it only to have slight contact with Lorenzo while battling for the position forced both to run wide and let Márquez through to the lead.

Lorenzo would quickly catch Márquez and retake the lead but he needed Márquez to finish at least fifth to have any shot at the title. Pedrosa fell to fifth after running wide but would work his way back around Valentino Rossi and Álvaro Bautista and eventually by Márquez to finish second.

Márquez would finish third, his sixteenth podium of the season and that would be enough to win the world championship by four points over Jorge Lorenzo. At 20 years, 266 days old, Márquez is the youngest world champion. He has won a title in three of the last four season, one in each class of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing. Márquez's final scoreline for his championship season will be six victories, sixteen podium, nine pole positions and an average finish of 1.55.

In Moto3, Maverick Viñales made a final corner pass for the victory and the championship as Viñales beat German Jonas Folger and fellow Spaniard Álex Rins. Viñales held off Rins by twelve points for the title. Pre-race championship leader Luis Salom fell while leading Viñales and Rins and could only recover to finish fourteenth and slip to third place in the final championship standings, twenty-one back of Viñales, who will be his teammate in Moto2 in 2014.

In the Moto2 season finale, 2013 Moto2 champion Pol Espargaró fell while leading and could only finish twenty-ninth while Nicolás Terol took his third win of the season over fellow Spaniard Jordi Torres and Frenchman Johann Zarco. Second place in the championship Scott Redding finished fifteenth after racing with a wrist injury. Both Espargaró and Redding will be graduating to MotoGP for 2014. Espargaró will be going to Tech3 Yamaha and team with Bradley Smith while Redding will run the "open" entry for Gresini Honda.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Audi Wins, Márquez on Pole, Crafton's Title

The #1 Audi of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer may have won the penultimate round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship in Shanghai but it wasn't enough to stop their teammates Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval from clinching the title with a third place finish.

The win is the #1 Audi's third of the season, leveling them with their teammates however a fifth at Le Mans and a twenty-sixth at Fuji gave the #2 Audi the upper hand in the championship. The Toyota of Alexander Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre finished second after winning the Fuji round three weeks ago. The second Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin retired after one-hundred and forty-three laps.

In LMP2, #26 G-Drive Racing team of John Martin, Mike Conway and Romain Rusanov picked up their third win in four races and sit third in the standings, 22.5 behind the class leading #35 OAK Racing team of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo González. The #24 OAK Racing entry of Alex Brundle, David Heinemeier Hansson and Olivier Pla finish second in class, ahead of their teammates in the #35 and now trail the #35 by fifteen.

Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner are now GT points leaders as they won from pole position and led an Aston Martin 1-2 with their teammates Pedro Lamy, Bruno Senna and Richie Stanaway in-tow. The Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet finished third in class. Mücke and Turner owned a 5.5 point lead over the Ferrari pairing of Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni. Porsche drivers Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz are third in the standings, 15.5 back.

The American 8 Star Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia won in GTE Am with drivers Enzo Potolicchio, Rui Águas and Davide Rigon ahead of the Porsche of Jean-Karl Vernay, Raymond Narac and Markus Palttala. The Aston Martin of Jamie Campbell-Walter, Stuart Hall and Jonathan Adam rounded out the podium.

Campbell-Walter and Hall owned a five point lead in GTE Am over Vernay and Narac and a nine point lead over Potolicchio and Águas.

The final round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship will take place three weeks from today, November 30th from Bahrain.

Marc Márquez set the MotoGP track record at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia with a lap of 1:30.237 seconds, over three-tenths faster than his championship rival Jorge Lorenzo in second. Lorenzo had broken the previous track record held by Dani Pedrosa on his first lap of qualifying. Pedrosa rounds out the front row for tomorrow's race. Valentino Rossi starts fourth on an all-Yamaha second row as he is joined by Tech3 teammates Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith. This is Crutchlow's final race for Tech3 as he will move to the factory Ducati team for 2014.

The customer Hondas of Álvaro Bautista and Stefan Brandl will start on row three along with Andrea Dovizioso. Nicky Hayden will start tenth in his final race for Ducati. He will be moving to the "open" class Aspar Racing Team for 2014. Italians Andrea Iannone and Danilo Petrucci round out row four.

In Moto3, the top three in the championship will start in the first three positions. Third in the championship, Álex Rins will start on pole ahead of points leader Luis Salom and second in points Maverick Viñales. Should they finish in the positions they are starting in, Rins would win the Moto3 title on tiebreaker over Salom. Both would have seven victories but Rins would win by having five second place finishes to Salom's three.

Fox Sports 1's coverage of the MotoGP season finale will be shown live at 8:00 a.m. ET while the Moto3 and Moto2 races can be seen tape-delayed at 3:00 p.m. ET and 4:00 p.m. ET respectively.

All Matt Crafton has to do to win the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship is start the final race at Homestead next Friday night. By finishing fifth, Crafton holds a forty-six point lead over second place Ty Dillon who finished fourth. Crafton has one win this season, coming back in the fourth round of the season at Kansas and three career Truck Series wins.

In the race, Erik Jones became the youngest winner in Truck Series history as he managed to lead 84 of the 150 laps. Jones was 17 years, five months and nine days old when he won last night. Ross Chastain finished second with Brendan Gaughan finishing third.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Toyota on Pole in Shanghai, Márquez Fastest in Valencia, Johnson on Pole in Phoenix

For the second time this FIA World Endurance Championship season, Toyota will be starting from pole positions as Fuji winners Alexander Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre beat the Audi team of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer by 0.089 seconds The second Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin were only 0.681 back as the LMP1 point leaders Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval were just 1.160 seconds back in fourth. Rebellion Racing starts fifth.

John Martin, Mike Conway and Romain Rusanov start on pole in LMP2 ahead OAK Racing's #24 entry of Alex Brundle, Olivier Pla and David Heinemeir Hansson and Greaves Motorsports #41 of Björn Wirdheim, Eric Lux and Mark Shulzhitckiy. LMP2 points leaders of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo González start fourth in class.

The Aston Martin of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner start on pole in GTE Pro with their teammates Pedro Lamy, Bruno Senna and Richie Stanaway starting second in class. Second in GT points, Porsche drivers Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz start third with the Ferrari of Kamui Kobayashi and Toni Vilander in fourth and the Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet round out the top five. GT points leaders Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni start sixth in class.

Aston Martin also took pole in GTE Am with the all-Danish team of Kristian Poulsen, Cristoffer Nygaard and recently crowned 2013 Porsche Supercup champion Nicki Thiim. The two GTE Am championship contending teams will start fifth and sixth respectively with the trailing pair of Jean-Karl Vernay and Raymond Narac along with Finn Markus Palttala starting ahead of the GTE Am leaders Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall who are joined this weekend by Brit Jonathan Adams.

The penultimate round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship can be seen at 10:00 p.m. ET on

In Valencia, points leader Marc Márquez was the fastest in both practice sessions as the rookie looks to win the MotoGP title this weekend. Márquez was only 0.066 seconds faster than his Repsol Honda teammate, fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa and his championship rival Jorge Lorenzo was third. Tech3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow was fourth with Valentino Rossi rounding out the top five.

Customer Honda riders Stefan Brandl and Álvaro Bautista were sixth and seventh ahead other the Tech3 Yamaha of Bradley Smith with the factory Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden rounding out the top ten. Pramac Ducati rider Andrea Iannone and Ducati Test Team rider Michele Pirro were eleventh and twelfth ahead of the CRT bikes of Aleix Espargaró, Claudio Corti and Colin Edwards.

Qualifying for the final round of the MotoGP season will be tomorrow at 8:10 a.m. ET with the race Sunday and can be seen at 8:00 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Jimmie Johnson won pole position for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. Johnson leads Matt Kenseth by six points entering Phoenix. Kenseth starts in fourteenth. Denny Hamlin joins Johnson on the front row with Joey Logano in third. Six of the remaining seven top ten spots are occupied by Chase drivers led by Kyle Busch followed by Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. Martin Truex, Jr. rounds out the top ten.

ESPN's coverage of Sunday's race begins at 2:00 p.m. ET.