Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Five: São Paulo, Valencia, Phoenix, Motegi, Marrakesh

Two series end their 2016 seasons this weekend and one still has champions to crown with a doubleheader deciding it. Two series head to their penultimate rounds of 2016 and one could crown a champion this weekend while the other will wait until next week. Not all championships are putting a bow on there season. One is just getting started and makes a historical trip this weekend.

Brazilian Grand Prix
The penultimate round of the 2016 Formula One season takes place at Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo. Nico Rosberg could clinch the World Drivers' Championship with a victory. The German driver has won the last two races at Interlagos. No driver has ever won the Brazilian Grand Prix in three consecutive years. Outside of those victories, Rosberg's best finish at Interlagos is fourth. With 349 points, Rosberg is 19 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton has never won at Interlagos and has three podiums and has finished second the last two years. Hamilton could join Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, David Coulthard and Jenson Button as Brits to win at Interlagos.

Daniel Ricciardo has clinched third in the World Drivers' Championship with 242 points. He has finished third in the last two races after Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel were both penalized for cutting the circuit and blocking respectively. Vettel is fourth in the championship on 187 points, nine ahead of his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Verstappen is ten points behind Vettel. Ferrari has the second-most Brazilian Grand Prix victories with ten, trailing only McLaren on 12 but Ferrari hasn't won in Brazil since Felipe Massa's bittersweet triumph in 2008.

Sergio Pérez and Valtteri Bottas are tied for seventh in the championship on 85 points with the Mexican driver holding the tiebreaker with two third-place finishes to Bottas' one third-place finish. Pérez has eight consecutive finishes in the points. Nico Hülkenberg sits on 60 points with Fernando Alonso rounding out the top ten on 52 points, one ahead of Felipe Massa, who is entering his final Brazilian Grand Prix. Massa's 2008 victory at Interlagos is the most-recent victory of his career.

Carlos Sainz, Jr. has 38 points, nine points ahead of Romain Grosjean. Daniil Kvyat is four points behind Grosjean and Jenson Button is four points behind Kvyat. Kevin Magnussen has seven points with Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne are all on one point. Esteban Gutiérrez. Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr and Esteban Ocon are all looking for their first points of the season.

The Brazilian Grand Prix starts at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday November 13th.

Valencia Community Grand Prix
The final round of the 2016 MotoGP season takes place at Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. Marc Márquez clinched the title at Japan but since then he retired in Australia and fell at Malaysia to drop him to 11th. Márquez has won twice at Valencia, in Moto2 in 2012 and in MotoGP two years ago.

Valentino Rossi has finished second in the last two races and he has clinched second in the championship with 236 points, 28 points ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. This will be Lorenzo's final race with Yamaha after nine seasons. Lorenzo has won the last three of eight Valencia starts but has retired from the last two Valencia races in even years. Rossi has not won at Valencia since 2004.

Maverick Viñales trails Lorenzo by 17 points as Viñales enters his final race with Suzuki before replacing Lorenzo at Yamaha. Andrea Dovizioso's victory at Sepang lifted him to sixth in the championship with 162 points. He is seven points ahead of Dani Pedrosa, who will return to competition at Valencia after missing the previous three races due to a collarbone injury. Cal Crutchlow sits on 141 points in seventh. Pol Espargaró is eighth with 124 points and he has scored points in 15 of 17 races this season with one retirement and one did not start after an accident at Silverstone. Héctor Barberá and Andrea Iannone round out the top ten on 97 and 96 points respectively.

The Valencia Community Grand Prix will take place at 8:00 a.m. ET on Sunday November 13th.

Phoenix International Raceway
The penultimate round of the NASCAR Cup season takes place at Phoenix International Raceway and two drivers are locked into the finale at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards clinched shots at the championship and will be joined by two other drivers.

Johnson is tied for the lead on points in this round with Joey Logano and Kyle Busch on 4,074 points. A point behind those three is Matt Kenseth and two points behind the three-way tie at the top is Denny Hamlin. Kevin Harvick is 18 points behind the leaders with Edwards following him, 25 points off the top. Kurt Busch rounds out the top eighth, 34 points back.

Harvick enters having won six of the last eight Phoenix races and has nine top five finishes in the last 11 Phoenix races. All-time, Harvick has eight victories in 27 Phoenix starts and has an average finish of 10.3. Johnson leads in average finish all-time at Phoenix with 7.8 and has four victories, 15 top fives and 19 top tens in 26 starts. Johnson trails only Harvick in laps led at the track with 977 laps led to Harvick's 1,484 laps.

Edwards has two victories at the track with the Busch brothers, Kenseth and Hamlin each having one victory at the track. Logano is the only Chase driver to have not won at Phoenix and he has the second-worst average finish at Phoenix among the final eight at 14.0 ahead of only Kenseth, whose average finish is 16.3.

The 500-kilometer Phoenix race will take place at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday November 13th.

Twin Ring Motegi
The finale of the 2016 Super GT season will be a doubleheader at Twin Ring Motegi after the Autopolis round was cancelled due to the Kumamoto earthquake in April. Both races will be 250-kilometers in length. Forty-two points are still on the table in both GT500 and GT300. Sixteen teams are still alive in GT500 championship while 14 teams are still alive in GT300.

Twenty points cover the top six teams in GT500. The #1 NISMO Nissan GT-R of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli lead with 56 points as they look to take their second consecutive title. They won the first two races of the season but haven't been on the podium since. Despite their lack of podiums, Matsuda and Quintarelli lead the #6 Lexus Team LeMans WAKO's of Andrea Caldarelli and Kazuya Oshima by ten points. Caldarelli and Oshima's best finish was third at Buriram in the most recent round. Suzuka 1000km winners the #38 Lexus Team ZENT Cerumo of Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Tachikawa and the #39 Lexus Team SARD of Heikki Kovalainen and Kohei Hirate are tied on 46 points. Kovalainen and Hirate finished runner-up in two races this season.

The #19 Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh of Yuji Kunimoto and Yuhi Sekiguchi won the most recent race at Buriram and trail the #1 Nissan by 15 points. The #12 Team Impul Nissan of João Paulo de Oliveira and Hironobu Yasuda are 20 points back and won at Fuji earlier this season but has finished outside the points in three of six races this season.

After winning the Buriram round, the #25 VivaC team Tsuchiya Toyota 86 of Takamitsu Matsui and Takeshi Tsuchiya with 54 points. Matsui and Tsuchiya have three podiums from six races this year. The #3 NDDP Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 of Jann Mardenborough and Kazuki Hoshino are second with 49 points despite having a victory, a runner-up finish and having scored points in all six races this season. A point behind the #3 Nissan is the #55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 of Takashi Kobayashi and Shinichi Takagi. Suzuka 1000km winners, the #61 R&D Sport Subaru BRZ of Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi sit on 47 points. Rounding out the top five, ten points behind the GT300 championship leaders is the #31 apr Toyota Prius of Yuichi Nakayama and Koki Saga.

The first race of the weekend will take place at 11:10 p.m. ET on Friday November 11th. The final race of the 2016 Super GT season begins at 11:30 p.m. ET on Saturday November 12th.

Marrakesh ePrix
While most series are coming to an end, the 2016–17 Formula E season has just begun and the series will make history this weekend as the second round of the season will take place on the streets of Marrakesh, the first time the series has visited the continent of Africa.

Defending champion Sébastien Buemi of Renault e.dams won the season opener at Hong Kong and with 25 points he leads the championship over defending vice-champion Lucas di Grassi on 18 points. The ABT Audi Sport driver has a three point cushion over Mahindra's Nick Heidfeld. Nicolas Prost trails his teammate by 13 points. The Andretti Autosport drivers António Félix da Costa and Robin Frijns sit on ten and eight points respectively. Dragon Racing's Jérôme d'Ambrosio has six points

NextEV NIO's Oliver Turvey has four points and he is a point ahead of teammate Nelson Piquet, Jr., who picked up the three points for pole position at Hong Kong. Maro Engel scored two points on his debut with Venturi Grand Prix and his teammate Stéphane Sarrazin rounded out the points in tenth at Hong Kong. Felix Rosenqvist finished 15th at Hong Kong but the Mahindra driver picked up the bonus point for fastest lap.

Jaguar Racing missed out on points in its debut weekend but Adam Carroll finished 12th while Mitch Evans retired. DS Virgin Racing also failed to score points at Hong Kong with Sam Bird following Carroll in 13th and José María López retiring on his debut. Other drivers who have yet to score are Dragon's Loïc Duval, ABT Audi Sportline's Daniel Abt and the Teechetah drivers Jean-Éric Vergne and Ma Qing Hua.

The Marrakesh ePrix will be taking place on Saturday November 12th at 11:30 p.m. ET.

1. Over or Under: 1.5 rounds of qualifying where Mercedes don't take the top two spots?
2. Over or Under: 3.5 retirements at Valencia?
3. Over or Under: 129.5 laps led by Kevin Harvick at Phoenix?
4. Over or Under: 73.5 points for the GT500 champion?
5. Over or Under: 25.5 points scored by American teams at Marrakesh?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: The gap between the #1 Porsche and #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan was 15 laps.
2. Under: Zero Chase drivers finished outside the top 25 of the Cup race. Kurt Busch finished 20th, the worst of the remaining eight drivers.
3. Under: Only two Chase drivers finished in the top five of the Xfinity Series race.
4. Under: Johnny Sauter led six laps in his winning effort at Texas.
5. Over: Shane Van Gisbergen leads Jamie Whincup by 191 points after Pukekohe.

1. Felipe Massa finishes ahead of Valtteri Bottas and finishes in the top six.
2. The pass for the victory comes within the final five laps at Valencia.
3. Kevin Harvick doesn't win at Phoenix.
4. At least one winner in GT300 is a first time winner this season.
5. At least two drivers finish on the podium that didn't finish on the podium at Hong Kong and at least one of the two are in the bottom half of the championship.

Last Week's Predictions
1. The GTE-Am championship is not wrapped up at Shanghai (Correct. The #98 Aston Martin is alive by a point to the 83 AF Corse Ferrari).
2. Martin Truex, Jr. is one of the top three Toyota finishers in the Cup race (Correct. He finished third and was the second best Toyota).
3. The average speed for the Xfinity Series race will exceed 136 MPH (Correct. The race average was 140.992 MPH).
4. A non-Chase driver wins the Truck race (Wrong. Johnny Sauter won again).
5. Craig Lowndes wins at least one race and is on the podium for at least one other at Pukekohe (Wrong. He neither won nor finished on the podium in one of the four races).
Last Week: 3/5 Overall: 18/35