Welcome to week 38 – four races this weekend. F1 goes to the Sochi Autodrom in Russia; Moto GP is at Motegi in Japan; NASCAR starts their “Contender” round at the intermediate oval in Charlotte, with 12 drivers remaining in the Chase for the Cup (I have narrowed the pick list to these 12); WEC is at the Mt. Fuji circuit in Japan. Picks can be made at: http://www.roadracetracks.com/motorracinggame.shtml.
Scores from week 37:
WRC Corsica, NASCAR Dover, USCC Road Atlanta:
Torrential rain in Corsica caused the cancellation of two stages in the WRC Tour de Corse due to flooding and mud-slides, and provided tricky conditions which led to many drivers being ultra-cautious. Along with gearbox failure on Friday for Sebastien Ogier, it left Elfin Evans as the surprise leader at the end of Friday. But Evans’ performance was no fluke. While he was unable to hold off Jari-Matti Latvala, who went on to win the event, he did manage to hold off the charging Andreas Mikkelsen, enabling Evans to take second and his best result in the WRC. Kris Meeke drove cautiously for the entire event, enabling him to secure fourth place. Haddon Paddon was racing on tarmac for the first time in WRC, so surprised everyone with a solid fifth place. Dani Sordo was the early pace setter (after two stages) until he had to change a wheel mid-stage after a puncture, which dropped him well down the order – he recovered to sixth. With Ogier’s gearbox failure, he had to return on Saturday under Rally 2 with a 10-minute penalty; he recovered to 15th by setting a number of fastest stage times. Thierry Neuville was a victim of the slippery conditions when he hit a bridge and broke the car’s suspension just a few corners into the event. He also restarted on Saturday under Rally 2, but could progress no further than 23rd.
Reigning NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick was going to be out of the race for the Cup without a win at Dover. The reason he is reigning champion and the best driver so far this year was clearly shown when he did indeed win the Dover race – an ominous sign for the rest of the drivers still in contention. So he moves on to the “Contender” round with 11 other drivers. Not so for the four drivers eliminated: Jimmie Johnson who suffered from a broken rear-axle seal that left him with a 41st place finish; Clint Bowyer whose 14th place finish was not enough; Paul Menard who finished 25th; and Jamie McMurray who finished 4th behind Dale Earnhardt Jr., whom he had to beat to stay in. Kyle Busch also needed a high-placed finish to stay in the Chase, and second place was good enough. Matt Kenseth’s place in the next round was already secure with his win at New Hampshire – he finished 7th this week at Dover. Brad Keselowski finished 16th, but by staying out of trouble in the previous two rounds, and with reasonably decent results, he also stays in the Chase. So, the full list of drivers still in the Chase are: Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kevin Harvick.
The USCC had their final race of the year at Road Atlanta – the Petit LeMans. The flooding from torrential rain in the south-east of the U.S. was decisive in the race. The track was so water-logged that the race had to be cut short by two hours. It also meant that all the cars suffered from aquaplaning, except apparently the GTLM #911 Porsche, which seemed to be able to drive away from the rest of the field with ease, and ended up beating all of the Prototype cars to win the race. The #24 GTLM BMW also mastered the conditions, and when the #31 Action Express Corvette came into the pits for a routine stop just before the race was prematurely ended, the #24 inherited second place, which became the final result. The pit stop by the #31 proved costly, as the lost positions while in the pits – dropping them to 5th – meant that the championship went to the 3rd place finishing #5 Action Express Corvette. The #01 Ganassi Ford finished 4th. There was another GTLM car that finished on the lead lap – the #4 Corvette Racing car – and ahead of the #10 Wayne Taylor prototype Corvette in 7th. The #90 Visit Florida Corvette had a spin in the poor conditions that put them 2 laps down, and a 12th place finish.
Congratulations to Greased Lighting and his eighth win of the year with one tie. His pick of Kyle Busch seemed to make the difference, and it also puts him back ahead of Drewe in the season-long standings. With USCC wrapping up their season, it was me who ended up the best at picking USCC cars.