Friday, September 29, 2023

Best of the Month: September 2023

Summer has become Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Days are growing shorter. Nighttime is overtaking daylight. Simultaneously, championships are wrapping up. Some have already put a bow on 2023. We are getting 2024 calendars at a regular rate. Before we get to the future, let's stay in the past for one more moment.

IndyCar Tidbits
It has only been a few weeks, but it feels like the IndyCar season has been over for quite some time. It is amazing how quickly September moves. We have had a few minutes to process this past season, and we ave even had a few minutes to process next season, but we close this September taking the time to comb over what happened in 2023.

We take a look at some of the finer details to the season and place them into historical context. 

The Champion
Álex Palou had a historic IndyCar season. Palou became the first driver to win a championship with races in hand since Sébastien Bourdais' 2007 championship. Palou won five times. He had ten podium finishes with 14 top five results. His worst finish was eighth.

That alone should be enough to tell us how great Palou's season was, but let's go deeper than that. 

Palou scored 656 points, 78 points more than his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in second. There were a maximum 929 points on the table this season, 54 points in 16 events with a maximum of 65 points available in the Indianapolis 500, 50 for victory, one for leading a lap, two for leading the most laps and 12 points for pole position. 

Palou scored 70.613% of the maximum possible points. Palou was the first driver to score more than 70% of the maximum points since Scott Dixon in 2008. Breaking 70% of maximum points was common in both the Indy Racing League and CART/Champ Car during the split, it happened ten times over the 24 seasons that took place during the split. In the first 17 seasons of CART, it only happened twice, Johnny Rutherford in 1980 and Rick Mears in 1981.

Five victories do not sound like many, but it is a tougher total to reach than you would think. Palou became just the fourth champion since reunifcation in 2008 to have at least five victories. His 29.411% winning percentage was the best since Dario Franchitti had the same in 2009. Palou's ten podium finishes were the most for a champion since Franchitti in 2010. 

Fourteen top five finishes were the most since Dixon's 14 in 2008. With a top five finish percentage of 82.352%, this was just the tenth time the champion finished in the top five in at least 80% of a season since 1979. 

But standing out even more is Palou finished in the top ten of every race. Since 1979, Palou is only the fourth champion to finish in the top ten of every race. Other include Rick Mears (1979), Rick Mears (1981) and Tony Kanaan (2004). 

The Locals
This was a strange year for the Americans. 

Americans combined for six victories, the seventh consecutive season American drivers have combined for at least five victories, but there were only two American winners. For all the American drivers in the series, it has been a long time since there was a great variety of American winners. 

This was the 13th consecutive season where at least two American drivers but no more than three American drivers won an IndyCar race. The last season with at least four American winners remains the 2003 Indy Racing League season when five American drivers won a race. 

Josef Newgarden led the way in victories with four and he was the top American in the championship in fifth. Americans did take three spots in the championship top ten, but two of those drivers did not win a race, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta. Kyle Kirkwood won twice, and ended up 11th in the championship. 

Graham Rahal's best finish was second in the second Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race, the only winless American to finish second, but seven of the eight full-time American drivers finished on the podium this season. 

Newgarden's Race to 30
Though the season ended on a bit of down note, Josef Newgarden had a strong season in 2023. Newgarden won four races, including the Indianapolis 500. This was the fifth time in the last seven seasons Newgarden has won at least four races. Just doing the math, at least four victories in five seasons is a minimum of 20 victories. That is pretty good, and it is better than that. 

Newgarden ended 2023 with 29 career victories. How historic is that? He is tied with Rick Mears for 13th all-time. One more victory and Newgarden will be just the 12th driver to reach 30 victories in IndyCar history. Three more victories and Newgarden will take over sole possession of tenth all-time. 

For a driver who debuted in 2012, it is remarkable that in 12 seasons he is on the verge of entering the top ten all-time in victories, and he only turns 33 years old this December. He easily has another 12 seasons in him. 

As Newgarden approaches 30 career victories, he is approaching another milestone. The Tennesseean ended this season on 198 starts, two starts away from becoming the 29th driver to reach 200 IndyCar starts. With these two milestones in sight, it must be asked, how many drivers had 30 victories by their 200th start? Well...

Career victories at 200 IndyCar starts:
A.J. Foyt - 43
Sébastien Bourdais - 37 
Will Power - 35 
Al Unser - 34
Mario Andretti - 33 
Michael Andretti - 31

That's it. That's the list. Newgarden will have two shots to join this group.

Dixon's Unprecedented Accomplishment
Scott Dixon has accomplished a lot in his IndyCar career. 

Some things Dixon has done no one had ever done before. It is no longer surprise, but it is still remarkable nonetheless. This season was no exception. 

Through the first 13 races, Dixon had only led 13 laps this season. Then Dixon pulled off one of the most stunning fuel conservation drives after being caught in an opening lap accident in the second Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race to hold off Graham Rahal for victory. Lost in that victory was Dixon started 15th. This wasn't a case of Dixon clearly had a stellar car and had the pace to overcome the incident. He was solidly in the middle of the field at the start and still pulled off a mind-boggling strategy to win. 

At the next race, Dixon had to take a nine-spot grid penalty, knocking him down to 16th on the grid for Gateway. This car might have been better than his IMS road course car, but it would be difficult to comeback from the middle of the grid at Gateway. Yet, Dixon did it again! He again ran a three-stop race, conserving fuel and making time with one fewer pit stop. 

Forget winning consecutive races through pit strategy, Dixon won consecutive races while starting both from outside the top ten. 

How many times has a driver done that? 

The answer would be zero! It had never been done before! And of course, Scott Dixon was the first to accomplish it. 

However! Dixon wasn't done yet! He won Laguna Seca from 11th starting position, his third time winning from outside the top ten and his eighth time winning from outside the top ten in his career. No other driver has won from outside a top ten starting position more than four times, and Dixon has won double that total! 

But, not everything Scott Dixon does is historic. You may be thinking if no other has won more than four times when starting outside the top ten then nobody must have won three times from outside the top ten in a single season.

You would be wrong! 

Dixon is the second driver in IndyCar history to win three times from outside the top ten in a single season. Who was the first?

Dan Wheldon!

Wheldon won three times in 2005 when starting outisde the top ten. He opened the season with a victory from 11th at Homestead. Then he won from 16th in the Indianapolis 500 and the third was winning from 11th at Pikes Peak!

How many other times has a driver won at least two races in a season?

Johnny Aitken - 1916 (Cincinnati and Sheepshead Bay)
Jimmy Bryan - 1955 (DuQuoin and Phoenix)
Alex Zanardi - 1998 (Long Beach and Gateway)
Adrián Fernández - 2000 (Rio de Janiero and Surfers Paradise)
Ryan Hunter-Reay - 2014 (Indianapolis and Iowa)
Mike Conway - 2014 (Long Beach and Toronto)
Graham Rahal - 2015 (Fontana and Mid-Ohio)
Marcus Ericsson - 2021 (Belle Isle and Nashville)

Eight other times, plus Wheldon and Dixon, means on ten occasions in IndyCar history has a driver won multiple races from outside a top ten starting position in a season.

Power's 5,000 Laps Led
Laps led can be lost in the clutter of the season, especially because those milestones can be exceeded easily. A driver could enter a race six laps from a milestone, lead 200 laps at Iowa and then it doesn't look like he was ever close to that milestone mark.

In the case of Will Power, he surpassed the 5,000 laps led milestone in the second Iowa race. 

That makes Power the seventh driver to reach 5,000 laps led joining Mario Andretti, Scott Dixon, Michael Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Hélio Castroneves and Al Unser. 

I thought it would be fun to look at when Power reached certain laps led milestones on his way to 5,000 laps led. 

First lap led: 2006 Surfers Paradise Lap 1
100th lap led: 2007 Toronto Lap 67
500th lap led: 2010 Iowa Lap 20
1000th lap led: 2011 São Paulo Lap 52
2000th lap led: 2013 Fontana Lap 241
2500th lap led: 2014 Milwaukee Lap 154
3000th lap led: 2016 Toronto Lap 76
4000th lap led: 2019 Mid-Ohio Lap 7
5000th lap led: 2023 Iowa Lap 20

Quite interesting that Will Power's 500th lap led and his 5,000th lap led both occurred at Iowa on lap 20 of an Iowa race over 13 years apart. That's something.

Two Victories, Two Top Five Finishes
Kyle Kirkwood made his only little bit of IndyCar history with his first career victory at Long Beach. 

As touched upon in June, Kirkwood joined Buddy Lazier as the only drivers to have their first career IndyCar victory come in their 20th career start or later and have zero top five finishes prior to that victory. 

You would think that would be the only bit of history Kirkwood would make this season, but then he won at Nashville. Ten races after he stood on the top step of the podium in California, Kirkwood was on the top step of the podium in Tennessee, but the history was not made because of what Kirkwood did in the Music City. The history was what he did not do in that nine-race interim. 

After his victory in Long Beach, Kirkwood did not finish in the top five against until he won at Nashville.

Which begs the question, how many drivers have their first two top five finishes be race victories? 

Unlike the exclusive company Kirkwood joined with Lazier, there are a few more members of this club, but it is still an eclectic group nonetheless. 

Harvey Herrick
Dario Resta
Jack McGrath
Jim Hurtubise
Juan Pablo Montoya
Sébastien Bourdais

How about that for a collection of drivers?

Herrick won his first two career starts. He won on July 4, 1911 in Bakersfield, California. His next start was just over three months later. Herrick won on October 14, 1911 on the Santa Monica road course.

Just under four years later, Resta won his first two career starts. These races were held a week apart, both in San Francisco. Resta won the American Grand Prix on February 27, 1915. A week later, he won the Vanderbilt Cup race.

It would then be another 35 years until a driver had both his first two top five finishes be victories. McGrath won at Langhorne on June 25, 1950, his eighth career start. Two starts later, on September 9, 1950, McGrath picked up his second career top five finish, a victory in Syracuse. 

Almost a decade later, Hurtubise became the fourth driver to accomplish this. He won the 1959 season finale at Sacramento on October 25. It was Hurtubise' third career start. However, it would be nearly another eight months until that second top five finish, another victory occurred. This one was at Langhorne on June 19, 1960. 

It would be nearly 39 years until the fifth driver achieved this. Montoya did many historic things in his first stint in IndyCar, but he upped the game even here, because not only did Montoya have each of his first two top five finishes be victories, Montoya's first three top five finishes were victories, and they were consecutive victories at that. 

After finishing tenth and 13th in the first two races of his career, Montoya won at Long Beach, Nazareth and Rio de Janiero. In less than a month, from April 18 to May 15, Montoya did something no driver had ever done before in IndyCar history. 

Remarkable, right? How could anyone follow that?

Well... just over four years later, Bourdais had his first three top five finishes be victories. The Frenchman had a feast or famine start to his IndyCar career. After finishing no better than 11th in his first three career starts, Bourdais won at Brands Hatch and the Lausitzring. First two victories and first two top five finishes. In the next three races, Bourdais was ninth, 17th and 14th. What did he do on the night of July 5, 2003 from Cleveland? Bourdais won the race, his third career victory and his third career top five finish.

Kirkwood has another level of history he could make, and we should keep it in mind when the 2024 season commences.

Castroneves' Teammates
There was something that caught my attention when Linus Lundqvist made his IndyCar debut. Hélio Castroneves did have that many teammates in his IndyCar career. I didn't know the number when Lundqvist was announced as the driver of the #60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda at Nashville, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized Castroneves did not have many teammates, and Lundqvist was about to become his third new teammate in as many races. 

Driver turnaround was not a big thing during Castroneves' time at Team Penske. Counting in my head, there weren't many drivers who were his teammate, but I figured I would go through Castroneves' career, especially as he entered his second retirement from full-time IndyCar competition. How many teammates did Castroneves have in a career that dated back to 1998? 


Who were they?

Luiz Garcia, Jr. (1999)
Castroneves' first teammate came in his sophomore season at Hogan Racing in 1999. They were teammates for five races, only three of which Garcia, Jr. started. Those three races were Mid-Ohio, Vancourve and Laguna Seca. Garcia, Jr. did not join his fellow Brazilian on the grid at Chicago and Houston. 

Gil de Ferran (2000-03)
Switching to Team Penske for the 2000 season, Castroneves got another Brazilian teammate. This time it was Gil de Ferran, who joined Team Penske in 2000 from Walker Racing. For four seasons, de Ferran and Castroneves were teammates, starting 71 races together. 

Max Papis (2002)
Though de Ferran was Castroneves' teammate for four years, de Ferran did miss the 2002 Indy Racing League finale at Texas Motor Speedway after suffering a concussion at Chicagoland Speedway. Not cleared to race, Team Penske put Papis in the #6 Dallara-Chevrolet for the Texas finale. Papis suffered an engine failure and was classified in 21st.

Alex Barron (2003)
Another thing you may have forgotten happened in IndyCar history. Alex Barron raced for Team Penske. He made two starts during the ill-fated 1999 season, Michigan and Fontana, but Barron's final Penske start was at Twin Ring Motegi in 2003 after de Ferran suffered a back injury in practice. Barron was 17th after an accident. 

Sam Hornish, Jr. (2004-07)
After de Ferran retired, Team Penske did what Team Penske could do and hired the best driver on the grid not employed by Team Penske. Hornish was already a two-time champion when Penske hired him. In his four seasons as Castroneves' teammate, Hornish won another championship and Indianapolis 500, two things Castroneves did not do during that 64-race timeframe.

Ryan Briscoe (2008-12)
When Hornish, Jr. moved to NASCAR, Briscoe moved from the Porsche Penske American Le Mans Series program back to IndyCar. Briscoe and Castroneves would be teammates in 82 races.

Will Power (2009-20)
If it wasn't for Castroneves' tax problems, he and Power may have never been teammate. Power drove the #3 Penske entry for one race. Once Castroneves was acquitted, Castroneves moved back into the #3 entry while Power moved to the #12 entry. Power would become Castroneves' most frequent teammate, starting 144 races together. 

A.J. Allmendinger (2013)
After being left without of a NASCAR Cup ride when he was suspended for a failed drug test, Allmendinger got a chance to return to open-wheel racing. Allmendinger made six starts as Castroneves' teammate with his best finish being seventh in the Indianapolis 500.

Juan Pablo Montoya (2014-17)
In a stunning hire, Team Penske expanded back to three cars as Montoya returned to IndyCar for the first time in 14 years. The Colombian-Brazilian pair were teammates for 52 races. 

Simon Pagenud (2015-20, 22-23)
The only driver to be teammates with Castroneves at multiple teams, Pagenaud joined Team Penske in 2015. After three seasons together as full-time teammates, Castroneves was a one-off for three more years. After one season not together, Pagenaud and Castroneves reunited at Meyer Shank Racing, as Castroneves returned to full-time IndyCar competition. However, due to Pagenaud's injury at Mid-Ohio this year, their partnership was cut shots at 79 races together. 

Oriol Servià (2016)
Yep! Servià and Castroneves were teammates. Remember that race Will Power missed St. Petersburg due to an inner ear condition, and possibly also a concussion? Servià was the replacement for that one race. 

Josef Newgarden (2017-20)
Team Penske wasn't going to wait another moment and signed Newgarden to replace Montoya for the 2017 season. It paid off as Newgarden immediately won the championship. It was the only full season where Newgarden and Castroneves were full-time teammates. They spent 22 races together. 

Patricio O'Ward (2020)
Another one you may be going "oh, yeah!" about is Patricio O'Ward. Because Castroneves' first race after Team Penske was not his 2021 Indianapolis 500 victory with Meyer Shank Racing. It was the Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2020. Castroneves filled in for an injured/mishandled Oliver Askew. Castroneves topped O'Ward in the first race, 20th to 22nd, but O'Ward was fifth in the second race while Castroneves was 21st. 

Jack Harvey (2021)
Now, onto Meyer Shank Racing. Harvey was waiting for Castroneves as Castroneves took a part-time role. Their partnership lasted six races. 

Conor Daly (2023) 
The first of three new teammates Castroneves had in 2023. Daly's first start was at Mid-Oho, the day after Pagenaud's accident. Daly returned for the Iowa doubleheader. 

Tom Blomqvist (2023)
Blomqvist made his IndyCar debut in Toronto, and in doing so, he became the first driver to make his IndyCar debut while teammates with Castroneves. Blomqvist would be back for two more races, Portland and Laguna Seca.

Linus Lundqvist (2023)
Three races after Blomqvist made his IndyCar debut as Castroneves' teammate, Lundqvist became the second driver to do it at Nashville. Lundqvist would run at the second IMS road course race and Gateway as Castroneves' teammate.

Castroneves may be stepping back from full-time IndyCar competition again, but he will still be making new teammates. Felix Rosenqvist is lined up to be #18 next May. 

Debutant Fastest Lap
Speaking of Linus Lundqvist, he made quite an impression in his first cameo in IndyCar race. Those three races earned him a ride with Chip Ganassi Racing for 2024. Before he even makes his first start with Ganassi, Lundqvist already has a piece of history. 

The Swede's first IndyCar start at Nashville edid not go the distant, but prior to Lundqvist hitting the barrier on exit of the final corner of the track, he ran a lap quick enough to earn him fastest lap on debut.

Who was the last driver to win fastest lap on debut?

Would you believe it was Hideki Mutoh in the 2007 Chicagoland Indy Racing League season finale, the final IRL race before reunification? Because that is the answer. Mutoh did it driving the #60 Formula Dream Dallara-Honda for Panther Racing. Mutoh skipped the Indy Pro Series finale at Chicagoland to run the IRL race because he was miles behind champion Alex Lloyd but could not be caught for second.  

How many other drivers have scored fastest lap on debut? Well, despite being a category that is listed in every box score and something that is promoted as being important, fastest lap is one of those things where record keeping is spotty. IndyCar doesn't even acknowledge who has the most fastest laps all-time. There isn't a fastest lap category in the record book to keep track of who stands where all-time. 

The best I could do was look through and find fastest lap for every race since the start of the 1993 season, and this is what the last 30 years tells us when it comes to debutante fastest laps.

Nigel Mansell - Surfers Paradise 1993
Buzz Calkins - Orlando 1996
Greg Moore - Homestead 1996
Sébastien Bourdais - St. Petersburg 2003
Hideki Mutoh - Chicagoland 2007
Linus Lundqivst - Nashville 2023

So the list of drivers to do it is Nigel Mansell, the winner of the inaugural Indy Racing League race, Greg Moore in the first CART race after the split, the only driver to win four consecutive IndyCar championships, Mutoh and Lundqvist. 

Talk about a selection of drivers. But do you know what Lundqvist has on all of them? Two starts later, he had fastest lap again! This time at Gateway. That is a category that belongs to Lundqvist on his own. However, Lundqvist's historic standing is going to face its first test early in 2024.

Tomas Scheckter didn't get his first fastest lap until the third start of his career, but Scheckter had three fastest laps in his first five starts. Scheckter had seven fastest laps in his first 12 career starts. That is the next measuring stick for Lundqvist. 

Good luck!

No Repeat Finishes?
Last year, I went all-in focusing on whether or not somebody could have a different finishing position in every race of the season, and it happened. Alexander Rossi had 17 different finishing positions in 17 races last season. 

In June, through the first eight races, six drivers had yet to repeat a finish:

Scott McLaughlin (13th, sixth, tenth, first, 16th, 14th, seventh, eighth)
Kyle Kirkwood (15th, 27th, first, 12th, 14th, 28th, sixth, ninth)
Felix Rosenqvist (19th, 26th, seventh, ninth, fifth, 27th, third, 20th)
Rinus VeeKay (21st, 11th, 26th, 16th, 13th, tenth, 18th, 12th)
Graham Rahal (sixth, 24th, 12th, 17th, tenth, 22nd, 25th, 11th)
David Malukas (tenth, fourth, 20th, 19th, 26th, 29th, 23rd, 27th)

How did it turn out? 

They all made it through nine races, but we lost three in Toronto. McLaughlin was sixth, VeeKay was 13th and Malukas was 20th. 

That left Kirkwood, Rosenqvist and Rahal. 

They all made it through Iowa, but Kirkwood then had to go out and win Nashville as we covered earlier and that took him out. That left Rosenqvist and Rahal standing with four races remaining. 

In the next race, Rosenqvist was 27th on the IMS road course. The Swede had been 27th at Indianapolis in May, but in the Indianapolis 500. 

Rahal was the last driver standing as second in that August IMS road course race was his 13th different finish. So how much longer could he go? 

Well, Rahal was 20th in the next race at Gateway, matching his 20th in the second Iowa race.

Nobody went 17-for-17 in 2023, but Rahal went the furthest, going 13 races without a repeat finish.

Guess Who Didn't Win? 
There are only 17 chances to win in an IndyCar season. With 27 drivers competing in each race, at best only ten or so drivers will end the season disappointed, but it isn't practical to think we will get 17 different winners. A vast majority of the drivers that compete in any given season will end winless. 

This year, there were a few notable names. But we aren't here to talk about them. We aren't here to speak about Will Power's first winless season since 2006 or Alexander Rossi or Colton Herta falling short. This isn't about Graham Rahal not over six years removed from his most recent victory and this isn't about what Romain Grosjean didn't do this season.

Did you notice who else didn't win this season? Look close at the record book. You are probably looking for a driver, maybe even a team. You are racking your brain trying to think of a strategist, chief mechanic or sponsors, but it is none of those things. 

But the answer is right there. 

Last season, the second starting position produced seven race winners, the most in the 2022 IndyCar season. How many winners started second this season?


We went from second being the most prolific position on the grid to one of 23 different starting positions that didn't win this season. But how did second go from on top to not even registering on the scoresheet? 

There isn't an obvious answer. It is not uncommon. Second didn't produce any winners in the 2015 season either, a year where the front row won only one race and the final 11 races of that season saw the winner never start better than eighth. Heck, second on the grid didn't produce any winners in 2014 either. 

The second starting position had a 52-race winless streak from the middle of 2013 through July 2016. Fittingly, Iowa was the location of the victory of second's last victory in 2013 before its next victory in 2016. 

Entering 2024, second will be 20 races removed from its most recent victory, a long way from that 52-race drought, but it will inch closer the longer this drought continues. 

October Preview
The IMSA GTP class has its top three cars covered by five points entering the Petit Le Mans season finale from Road Atlanta on October 14. Thirty-eight points cover the top four. Seventy-three points cover the top five, and 139 points cover the top seven teams. With 385 points on the table, all seven teams have a shot of winning the championship. 

The #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims leads the championship despite having only won the 12 Hours of Sebring and having only three podium finishes this season. The #31 Cadillac has 2,460 points, three more than the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura, which has yet to win this season and has only three podium finishes. Winning the most recent IMSA race at Indianapolis has the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport entry of Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet in third, five points off. The #6 Porsche is one of two cars to win multiple races this season. 

The #25 BMW Team RLLR entry of Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly has the most podium finishes this season, five with a victory at Watkins Glen, but the #25 BMW is 38 points back. The #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport entry of Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr has finished on the podium in the last two races, and it won at Road America, but Campbell and Nasr are 73 points back. 

Meyer Shank Racing is the other team with multiple victories this season, but the team's 200-point penalty for data manipulation found after the #60 Acura's victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona has Colin Braun and Tom Blomqvist sixth in the championship, 127 points off the championship lead. The #60 Acura's four podium finishes is also second most this season. Without the 200-point penalty, the #60 Acura would be leading the championship by 73 points entering the Petit Le Mans season finale.

Chip Ganassi Racing has an outside chance at the championship. The #01 Cadillac of Sébastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande is 139 points back. The highlight for the team is a Laguna Seca victory, but that is the team's most recent podium finish and it happened five races ago. 

GTP isn't the only close championship in IMSA. 

In LMP2, Mikkel Jensen and Steven Thomas have a 20-point lead over Paul-Loup Chatin and Ben Keating. Ben Hanley and George Kurtz are 100-points back in third. 

However, some championships are decided or practically decided already.

Gar Robinson should clinch his second LMP3 championship by simply starting Petit Le Mans. 

Due to the lack of GTD Pro entries, the #14 Lexus of Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth will clinch that championship once the green flag waves at Road Atlanta. The #14 Lexus has two victories, nine podium finishes and its worse finish is fourth this season. 

Paul Miller Racing has already clinched the GTD championship. Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow has a 405-point lead over Roman De Angelis and Marcos Sørensen with one race remaining. Sellers and Snow have won five races this season.

Other events of note in October:
Formula One will make a stop in Qatar before visiting North America. 
MotoGP continues hoping around the Asia-Pacific region.
Petit Le Mans isn't the only endurance race. There is the Indianapolis 8 Hours, Bathurst 1000 and a pair of European Le Mans Series races from Portimão to close that season. 
The World Superbike title will be decided at the end of the month. 
At the end of this month, we will know which four drivers could win the NASCAR Cup Series championship.