Hamilton USGP M45705 D328567

Formula One United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
A Hamilton-Rosberg one-two finish keeps both drivers’ championship hopes alive

Oct. 23, 2016: Lewis Hamilton, who came into the Austin race trailing Nico Rosberg in the championship standings by 33 points, did everything possible to keep his championship hopes alive. He won the pole and he won the race comfortably by a five-second margin – but Rosberg came home in second place. The points gap was reduced to a 26-point margin, but, even if Hamilton wins every one of the remaining three races, two seconds and a third would be good enough to deliver the championship to Rosberg – a prospect that must be viewed as highly favourable to Rosberg’s chances.

In qualifying, Hamilton found more speed than his teammate and he clinched the pole with Rosberg second fastest. The two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen made up the second row while the Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel comprised the third row, Vettel nearly nine-tenths of a second off Hamilton’s pace.

In contrast to last year’s rainy weekend which resulted in poor crowds, this year the grandstands and grassy general admission areas were well filled – a good sign for the future of Grand Prix racing at this venue.

Hamilton made a faultless start but Ricciardo was able to get up alongside Rosberg and hold on through the first two corners, taking over second place. Behind them, Räikkönen passed Verstappen for fourth. That pretty much set the stage for the rest of the race.

That order was maintained though the first round of pit stops except for Verstappen moving up to fourth ahead of Räikkönen.

Then, in a move that surprised everyone, Verstappen came into the pits on lap 27 catching his pit crew totally unprepared. They jumped to their feet and serviced the car quickly but Verstappen had dropped to seventh place when he emerged from the pits. Apparently he had mistakenly thought that he had been called in to the “box” when he had not. All this soon became redundant when his car had a transmission failure which left him idling around back to the pits. Eventually he had to stop and the locked transmission prevented the marshals from pushing the car behind the barrier, forcing the race officials to call for a Virtual Safety Car while this was cleaned up.

This VSC played into Rosberg’s hand. He made his second pit stop during this yellow period and it gave him about a ten or fifteen second advantage over pitting under green. Otherwise he would have come back out still behind Ricciardo – but now he was up in second ahead of the Australian’s Red Bull – and Rosberg was able to maintain that position to the end of the race.

Räikkönen was still running in fourth when he came in for his third pit stop. Unfortunately, the nut on his left rear wheel became cross-threaded and the crewman was unable to fix this before Räikkönen was sent out. He didn’t get far before he was told to stop and that was the end of his race.

This left the order behind third-place Ricciardo as Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Felipe Massa, and Fernando Alonso with just about 15 laps left to run. In the closing laps Alonso made a pair of brave moves to barge past the two cars in front of him to move up to a fifth-place finishing position behind Vettel. Only six cars finished on the lead lap.

The American Haas team had something to cheer about. Romain Grosjean finished tenth winning a championship point. His teammate Esteban Gutierrez did not fare so well, retiring early.

The next round of the Formula One series will be held next Sunday (Oct. 30) in Mexico City.

Talladega2 NSCS Logano Scott Hamlin 102316

NASCAR Sprint Cup Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
Logano wins in overtime to stay in the Chase

Oct. 23, 2016: The Penske Fords were fast at Talladega on this day. Brad Keselowski was having a dominant run and looked set to be the winner – and, hence, earn promotion to the next round of the Chase – but his engine blew, knocking him out of the race and ending his hopes of continuing in the Chase. His teammate Joey Logano, who was also in jeopardy of being eliminated, took over the mantle and he led the final 45 laps of the race. The race was originally scheduled to run for 500 miles/188 laps until a late race unassisted spin by Alex Bowman sent the race into overtime – but on the restart xLogano had no trouble maintaining his hold on the lead and the winner’s trophy.

Brian Scott in the Front Row Ford was second with Denny Hamlin third, Kurt Busch fourth and Ricky Stenhouse fifth. Only one of that group, Denny Hamlin, was in contention for the Chase when this race started and Hamlin was only able to beat out Austin Dillon to move on to the next round of the Chase by virtue of this third-place finish – a third-place finish won at the finish line by a matter of only a few centimetres over Busch.

Logano’s day got off to a bad start when he left the pits after his first stop with the jack jammed under his car. It stayed there all the way around the long Talladega lap and he pitted to have it removed – and, of course, he received a stop-and-go penalty for it, dropping him far back in the field. At the same time Hamlin got a penalty for speeding in pit lane, a penalty he could ill afford. But it was early in the race and both of them were able to recover from these setbacks.

Pole-sitter Martin Truex’s TRD Toyota engine blew up ending his race on lap 41 and ending his hopes of continuing in the Chase despite his championship performance all season up to then. That a driver who has performed so well this year could be so summarily eliminated is the cruelty of the Chase elimination concept.

Keselowski had taken the lead from Truex on the first lap and he stayed in the lead or close to the lead from then on. That is, until his engine blew up on lap 145 ending his day. Another cruel turn of fate as another championship calibre driver was so quickly eliminated. It must be said that his bad finish last week at Kansas played its part in his elimination from the Chase as well.

The race played out without any of the usual big multi-car crashes and, once Keselowski was out, Logano had taken command and was cruising home to the win until that final caution – but he had no problem converting the final restart into a rout and a solid berth In the next round of the Chase.

There must be something in the water they drink over at Stewart-Haas. Stewart has been pretty grumpy lately and this time it was Kevin Harvick, who finished seventh, who was mad at his teammate Kurt Busch, who finished fourth, but only after a little side-by-side rubbing between the two.

This race was the third and final race in the Chase’s Round of 12. Four drivers were eliminated at the end of this round – Truex, Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott. Going into this race, Elliott knew he had to go for the win if he had any hopes of avoiding elimination. Early on he was running near the front and he even led the race briefly three times, but, in the end, he finished back in 12th place and out of luck.

The drivers going forward into the three-race Round of 8 are the three race winners Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick, plus Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and the two Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle. Four of these eight will be eliminated after Phoenix at the end of this three race elimination round with the remaining four going forward to the shoot-out finale at Homestead.

The next race, the first race in the Round of 8, will be run next Sunday afternoon (Oct. 30) at Martinsville Speedway.

Talladega2 NCWTS Enfinger Sticker 102216

NASCAR Camping World Trucks fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway
Rookie Grant Enfinger beats the Chase hopefuls for the win

Oct. 22, 2016: The trucks came to Talladega to run on Saturday as the opening act for Sunday’s Sprint Cup feature. A relatively unknown driver, Grant Enfinger, won the race after leading for 45 of the race’s 94 laps (250 miles) while the Chase contenders fought it out behind him. This was only Enfinger’s seventh start in this year’s truck series. In each of the previous two years he ran the full ARCA schedule winning six races both years and the championship in 2015.

Enfinger was driving for the Gallagher team and the other GMS drivers finished in second (Spencer Gallagher), fifth (Ben Kennedy) and seventh (Johnny Sauter) behind him. Two drivers who were involved in the almost inevitable “Big One” pulled off good finishes. Timothy Peters brought the Red Horse entry home in third place after leading 14 laps during the race while Rico Abreu was fifth.

This was the third race in the first elimination round for the truck drivers with two of the eight Chase contenders due for elimination. John Hunter Nemechek came into this race at the bottom of the list of hopefuls and his chances blew up in a cloud of smoke from a broken engine just 13 laps into the race.

Daniel Hemric who also started behind the eight ball, saw his hopes pretty much evaporate when he was caught up in a big wreck on lap 43 which saw his truck sustain extensive damage to the right rear corner. After that his crew worked hard to keep his hopes alive but he was involved in another crash and a spin which saw him finishing in 11th place and eliminated from the Chase.

The “Big One” came on lap 60 when Ben Rhodes, who was running close to the front, lost control and bounced off the outside wall. Fourteen trucks were caught up in this melee and a number of them ended up bunched up together in a big ball. Among those involved where pole-sitter Cole Custer, Hemric, points-leader William Byron, Timothy Peters, Tyler Reddick, and Rico Abreu. Surprisingly NASCAR did not call for a red flag while this mess was cleaned up and eight laps later the racing resumed.

Some of these trucks were unable to continue while others were able to get back into contention.

Defending series champion Matt Crafton had engine trouble and retired after 88 laps which left him in a 22nd-place finishing position, but he came into the race with so many points that he was in no danger of facing elimination from the Chase.

Next week’s race at Martinsville (Oct. 29) is the first of the three races in the truck series’ Round of Six. The six drivers still contending for the championship are: Byron, Christopher Bell, Peters, Crafton, Kennedy and Sauter.

Photo Credits:

F1: Steve Etherington © Daimler AG
NSCS: Patrick Smith/Getty Images/NASCAR
NCWTS: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images/NASCAR