Welcome to week 35 – four races this weekend. F1 is at the street circuit of Marina Bay in Singapore; NASCAR starts their “Chase” for the cup at Chicago Land’s intermediate oval; WEC and USCC are together at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. For NASCAR I have reduced the picks to the 16 drivers who start in the chase for the Sprint Cup. After this week at Chicago Land, next week in New Hampshire, and in two weeks in Dover, 8 of these 16 drivers will be eliminated. The three (or fewer) drivers who win these three races are guaranteed to stay in the Chase, so there will be plenty of pressure to win. Picks can be made at: http://www.roadracetracks.com/motorracinggame.shtml.
Scores from week 34:
WRC Australia, Moto GP Italy, NASCAR Richmond:
During the first two days of racing at Rally Australia the championship leading Volkswagens had to run first and sweep the roads of the loose gravel. This seemed to nullify their power and handling advantage since there were a few different leaders, and mid-way through Saturday the top 5 were still only separated by less than 10 seconds. But Saturday afternoon’s repeat of stages, on now swept roads, handed the advantage back to the VWs, with Sebastian Ogier grabbing the top spot at the end of the day, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala. Kris Meeke in the Citroen was the VW spoiler, managing to stay ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen. Sunday was a short day, so unsurprisingly there were no further changes in the order by the end of the event. It gave Ogier and VW the World Championship titles with three races still to go. Hyundai had taken a chance on Haddon Paddon by promoting him to the lead team to try and gain some extra points, demoting Dani Sordo to the number two squad. With Sordo leading the event after three stages, it looked like it might have been a bad decision, but Paddon proved himself to be quick by staying in touch with the top four all the way through to the end and a fifth place finish, while Sordo faded to 8th with mechanical problems. Ott Tanak was the next best, finishing sixth, but with a lackluster opening day, he finished the event more than 40 seconds adrift of Paddon. As was blogged late last week but before the deadline, Mads Osberg did not race due to cracking two ribs in a recce accident, so no points for picking him.
Moto GP was in Italy and a mid-race heavy rain shower mixed things up considerably. Most riders went in for a new bike with wet tires, and after the shower had gone and the track started to dry, they had to come in again to go back to the slicks. The combination of good rain riding and the timing of the bike swaps proved to be key, with Marc Marquez doing both better than anyone and winning the race. Bradley Smith, Scott Redding, and Loriz Baz also excelled at both tasks, and duly took the next three positions. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo left their second bike change too late, and rejoined the racing behind the top four. While Rossi then held fifth through the end, Lorenzo took a tumble on his first lap back on slicks, and that left him classified 23rd. Danilo Petrucci had a great ride on his non-factory Ducati to finish just behind Rossi and ahead of the next three factory riders who all suffered from bad timing of their bike swaps: Andrea Iannone in 7th, Andrea Dovizioso in 8th, and Daniel Pedrosa in 9th.
NASCAR had their final “regular” race of the year at Richmond. While there was some chance that some of the top 16 coming into the race would lose a spot to an “outsider”, all the drivers held firm and did enough to take a Chase spot. That made the event a bit of a sleeper, more so because Matt Kenseth looked like the dominant driver all night, and duly won. His teammate Kyle Busch finished second, and Joey Logano who started on pole, rounded out the top three. Brad Keselowski finished 8th, and Kevin Harvick had a poor race finishing 14th and a lap down.
Congratulations to me and my twelfth win of the year with one tie. Solid picks in the WRC while the usually consistent Moto GP was thrown into chaos with the rain in Italy, made the difference. No changes in the standings, but Drewe took more points out of greased lightning with a combination of a strong result – missing out on the win by just 5 points – and greased lightning’s unfortunate pick of Mads Osberg, which he could not remedy in time …