Championship Roundup – One Down, Four Underway
The 2016 major league racing season continues to grind toward its conclusion, with one crown decided, one playoff in motion, two playoff grids set to go, and one seesaw points race unfolding. There’s a lot going on, so here’s a brief summary of where things stand as we head into the fall of the year.
With Simon Pagenaud at the wheel, Team Penske locked up its 14th IndyCar title at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. It was Pagenaud’s fifth win of the season and Team Penske’s tenth, and it came in dominating fashion. The French driver, starting from the pole, led 76 of the 85 laps en route to a 3.3 second win over runner-up Graham Rahal in a race that only saw one caution. The average speed on the Sonoma 2.303 mile road course was 101.181 mph.
For 79-year old team owner Roger Penske, himself a talented and decorated race car driver (he was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Driver of the Year” and New York Times “North American Driver of the Year” in 1962), it was his 50th year at the helm of a racing dynasty that has amassed championships in both NASCAR and IndyCar. In winning the title, Team Penske drivers accomplished the incredible feat of taking all three podium spots for the season, with Will Power nailing down second spot and Helio Castroneves finishing third. The three Penske drivers combined to lead one third of all laps run in the season’s 16 events. Check out the final standings for the 2016 IndyCar season here…
NASCAR Sprint Cup
Martin Truex Jr. nabbed an overtime win on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, overcoming a flat tire that put him down a lap early in the race. A caution with four laps to go wiped out a somewhat comfortable lead held by Chase Elliott, giving Truex the chance to restart with fresh tires from the outside of row 2. He moved to the front with relative ease, while Elliott was committed to traffic on the inside lane that hampered his momentum. Joey Logano finished second with Elliott third, Ryan Blaney fourth, and Brad Keselowski completing the top five.
Truex’s win advances the Furniture Row No. 78 team to the second round (the Round of 12), while the remaining 15 Chase competitors need to search for a win first at New Hampshire on 9/25 and then at Dover on 10/2. Both upcoming events are on one-mile tracks, but the similarities end there. New Hampshire is relatively flat, while Dover’s high banks make for higher-speed action. Right now, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, and Chris Buescher sit in the bubble seats, although this is likely to change as the next three events unfold. The full points standings for the Sprint Cup series can be accessed here…
Erik Jones nailed down the win in the final regular season Xfinity Series event for his fourth win of the year. With no new winners going into the Chase Grid, the final nine spots were set by points, with Jones grabbing top seed with four wins on the season, Elliott Sadler second seed with two wins, and Daniel Suarez third with one win. The entire Xfinity Chase Grid can be accessed here…
The Xfinity series moves to Kentucky Speedway September 24 for the first of its “Round of 12” events, and from there to Dover 10/1 and Charlotte 10/7. As in the case of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a win in any of the first three events will advance the driver to the next round (the “Round of 8”), with the field being reduced to eight drivers based on points.
Camping World Truck Series
Kyle Busch won at Chicagoland in the final regular season Camping World Truck Series event, so the final two spots in the first playoff segment (“The Round of 8”) were decided on the basis of season points. Daniel Hemric and Timothy Peters joined the grid in seventh and eighth spots, with William Byron taking top seed on the basis of his five wins this year. Matt Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek are seeded second and third based on their two wins, while Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, and Ben Kennedy are seeded fourth, fifth, and sixth with one win each. The Camping World Truck Series Chase begins 9/24 at New Hampshire, and from there heads to Las Vegas 10/1 and Talladega 10/22 in the first round.
The entire Camping World Truck Series Chase Grid can be accessed here…
The two-horse race that is Formula 1 took another step closer to its finale last weekend, with Nico Rosberg capturing the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix by nearly a half second over Daniel Ricciardo. It was Rosberg’s eighth win in the 15 F1 events run this year, and it pushed him to an eight-point lead over teammate Lewis Hamilton in the race for the 2016 crown. Hamilton, of course, has won six of the season’s events, with Max Verstappen the only other series competitor to log hit the winner’s circle. Hamilton finished third Sunday, a full eight seconds behind the leader.
Rosberg and Hamilton have separated from the pack of two dozen drivers by virtue of their dominant number of wins and podium finishes. Together, the pair have won 14 poles in their 15 attempts, and have led an astounding 82% of the total laps run. Rosberg’s average finish of 3.6 fares a fraction better than Hamilton’s (3.7), although his average starting position (1.8) is a clear indicator of the Mercedes AMG Petronas team’s superiority.
With only six races to go in the 2016 season, all indications are that either Rosberg (shooting for his first F1 championship) or Hamilton (shooting for his fourth) will prevail. In the meantime, check out the official Formula 1 standings here…