Race Weekend Review: Nov. 4-6

Written by George Webster on .

Ford GT 2016-6-Heures-de-Shanghai-Adrenal-Media-GT7D4258.JPG hd 

World Endurance Championship 6-Hours of Shanghai at the Shanghai International Circuit
Porsche wins to clinch the 2016 World Endurance manufacturer title; Ford GTs dominate LMGTE Pro

Nov. 6, 2016 – For the the fourth time this year, a Porsche entry has won a WEC title race, this win in China making Porsche the manufacturer’s champion for 2016. The winning No. 1 Porsche 919 was driven by Timo Bernhard/Mark Webber/Brendon Hartley. This car had started from the pole and set the pace throughout the six-hour race.

The No. 6 Toyota TS050 of Stéphane Sarrazin/Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi finished second, 50 seconds behind the winning Porsche. The sister car, the No. 5 Toyota of Anthony Davidson/Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima also finished on the lead lap another seven seconds back. The Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb No. 2 Porsche finished fourth, the only other car to finish on the lead lap.

The No. 2 Porsche had battled for second place with the pair of Toyotas. The second -place Toyota lost time when it suffered two punctures.

Despite this result in China the drivers of the No. 2 Porsche still have a 17-point lead in the the drivers’ championship over the drivers of the No. 6 Toyota with one more race to go. (A win is worth 25 points.)

In LMP2, the No. 26 ORECA 05-Nissan driven by Roman Rusinov/Will Stevens/Alex Brundle won the class, finishing eighth, 15 laps behind the race winner. The No. 36 Alpine A460-Nissan of Gustavo Menezes/Nicolas Lapierre/Stéphane Richelmi finished fourth in class but it was good enough to clinch the LMP2 championship for them.

For a second race in a row, the LMGTE Pro Ford GTs dominated their class, finishing one-two in class, in 17th and 18th places overall. The No. 67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell finished ahead of the No. 66 team car of Stefan Mücke/Olivier Pla. The No. 66 car suffered a slow puncture mid-race and slid back as far as fourth for a while as a result.

Once again Toronto’s Paul Dalla Lana teamed with Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy to win the LMGTE Am class in their No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8.

The final race of the 2016 World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday, Nov. 19.

NSCS Edwards TMS 110616 10 

NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Edwards ekes out a win in rain-shortened race

Nov. 6, 2016 – Carl Edwards was a “must win” coming into the Texas race if he was to have any hope of making it into the final four championship elimination at Homestead – and win he did. With Johnson having assured himself of a spot in the final four by winning last week at Martinsville, this leaves only two more slots available for the other six Chase contenders who hope to be among the four contesting the championship at Homestead in two weeks time.

At first it looked like the race would be run on schedule Sunday afternoon but just before the “start your engines” command it began to rain. Although the rain soon let up, it was to be a six hour delay before the cars took the green flag – making the afternoon race into a night race. When the race did start it was in front of a sparse crowd – but even at the time of the scheduled start well over half the seats on the front stretch were empty – and they never opened the back stretch seats at all. So much for the Chase working to build fan interest in the late-season races.

Austin Dillon was the surprise pole-sitter but it was Joey Logano and Martin Truex who held the lead for most of the race. Logano led for 178 laps of the first 188 of the scheduled 334 laps. Then Truex took over and led except when Chase Elliott took the lead for two laps during an green-flag series of pits stops, a total of 66 laps for Truex.

While everyone agreed that Edwards was toast unless he won this race, his ninth-place starting position did not augur well for this result. He made it up into the top five after about 50 laps and then he ran in third and then in second after that. When the sixth caution flew on lap 257 he managed to come out of the pits in the lead over Truex. But there were still 74 laps and another round of pit stops to go before the scheduled 334 laps were completed – could Edwards hold onto he lead through all that?

However, even as this round of yellow-flag pit stops was competed, everyone was checking out the weather radar and the skies because it was beginning to look like the rain might come back soon – and that would end the race whenever it rained.

Before long, Truex came up alongside to challenge for the lead but he dropped back and then Logano made a run at him. We will never know how these challenges might have played out had the race gone full distance because the rain drops started to fall on lap 291 and NASCAR sent out the pace car to slow the field. Before long they brought the cars down pit lane and parked them. Strangely NASCAR never declared this stoppage to be a red flag but it was. After a few minutes while they sent out the pace car to check the conditions, the rain started to come down heavier and they declared it a race and Edwards the winner.

Logano was awarded second ahead of Truex while Chase Elliott was fourth. Kyle Busch had started in 24th place after wrecking his primary car in practice and it he struggled to work his way back up towards the front – but he was rewarded with a good fifth-place finish which kept him in the top four of the Chase standings behind this round’s two previous race winners Johnson and Edwards plus Logano. JGR Teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin are just one and two points behind Busch in the standings – so it is still very tight going into Phoenix next week.

The Phoenix race on Sunday Nov. 13 is the final race in the elimination round. Johnson and Edwards are already locked into the final four group of championship contenders at Homestead, leaving the other six contenders in this round fighting it out for the other two open spots.

NXS Larson TMS 110516 11

NASCAR Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway
Larson leads a trio of Cup drivers overshadowing Xfinity Chase drivers behind them

Nov. 5, 2016 – Just a week after NASCAR created a rule that will bar Cup regulars from competing in the Chase races of the junior touring series, the Xfinity race at Texas demonstrated why they needed to make this rule. NASCAR has adopted a modified Chase format to determine the champions in each of the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck series, presumably to engage fans in the cliffhanger steps towards the championship that the elimination method of the Chase produces. In Saturday’s race any uptick in interest that the Chase format might have produced was squandered when a trio of Cup regulars dominated the race and relegated the ‘real’ contenders to fourth-place finishes or worse – beyond the sight lines of the fans who were engaged in watching their familiar Cup drivers hog the spotlight.

Cup driver Kyle Larson led a trio of Cup regulars – all Cup Chase contenders this year – to the checker in this Xfinity Chase race. Cup veterans Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick finished second and third. Behind them in the next three positions were three of the Xfinity drivers this particular version of the Chase is supposed to be highlighting – Erik Jones, Daniel Suárez and Elliott Sadler – all favourites to win the Xfinity championship at Homestead this year.

No wonder NASCAR, in their wisdom, has decided to eliminate the Cup drivers from the Xfinity Chase races next year so that the fans will not be distracted in their focus on the drivers who are battling for the series championship. Unfortunately, NASCAR was too conservative in their rule-making, only excluding drivers with at least five years of full-time Cup experience from double-dipping in the junior NASCAR touring series. Larson, who is only in his third year as a Cup regular, will still not come under this ban even next year.

The 200-lap race was dominated by Keselowski and Larson, who led for 145 and 30 laps each respectively. Xfinity contender Erik Jones did lead the first 23 laps of the race before Keselowski took over the lead ahead of his challengers, Larson and Jones. In the second half of the race, Larson passed Keselowski for the lead and then Harvick, driving the No. 88 Hendrick entry, moved up to displace Jones back to fourth. Despite a final caution on lap 167, which might have shuffled things a bit, the order as established continued to the finish.

The final race of this round, at Phoenix on Saturday, Nov. 12, will eliminate four of the current list of eight Chase contenders. The top four after Texas are Suárez, Sadler, Jones and Blake Koch. Justin Allgaier, in fifth place, is just one point behind Koch so he still has hope of displacing Koch from the final four. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Homestead battle a week after Phoenix will likely come down to a shootout between Suárez, Sadler and Jones but, of course, the Chase format was created to make unforeseen circumstances a major element in deciding the championship.

 NCWTS Sauter TMS 110416 13

NASCAR Camping World Striping Technology 350 at Texas Motor Speedway
Sauter holds off Crafton to take his second straight victory

Nov. 4, 2016 – Johnny Sauter, who won last week’s truck race at Martinsville, won the race off pit road during the final caution but Matt Crafton took the lead on the restart on lap 129 of the 147-lap race. Crafton led the next 15 laps but then Sauter, who had dropped to third on the restart, passed Daniel Hemric and then challenged Crafton side-by-side, jumping ahead into the lead with just three laps remaining. Crafton tried to stay with him but Sauter held on to take the checker by a eight-tenths of a second margin over Crafton.

Sauter had already won his spot in the final-four truck championship shootout at the Homestead finale. Crafton, last year’s champion, ended up on the bubble, fourth in the Chase standings just one point better than Timothy Peters. After next week’s race at Phoenix, two of the current six Chase contenders will be eliminated, with only four going forward to the shootout at Homestead. Had Crafton won here he would have been assured of his spot as one of those four. Now he is facing the prospect that Peters might score a couple more points than him next week and eliminating him from the championship shootout.

Hemric finished in third place with his Brad Keselowski teammate Tyler Reddick fourth. Daniel Suárez, who is ineligible for the truck championship because he is a full-time Xfinity competitor, was fifth. William Byron, who has been a favourite to win the championship because he had already won six truck races this season, was a disappointing sixth – but he is still second in the Chase standings behind Sauter. Now, if he were to win the championship after his somewhat lackluster recent performance, it would feel like an upset.

This was an unusual race in that all three of the race’s cautions came as a result of the “caution clock”. Presumably, without this rule which was introduced for the 2016 season, the race would have run the full distance without a yellow and, perhaps, the competitors might have made the race’s 220 mile distance with only one pit stop – or, at most, two. Who kows how this might have affected the race’s final result.

Christopher Bell who, like Byron, drives a Kyle Busch entry, kept his championship hopes alive with an 11th-place finish after an “oops” encounter with Cameron Hayley late in the race which pushed him up into the wall.

Spencer Gallagher, who drives for the eponymous GMS team, had to be the most disappointed competitor. He started from the pole and was able to hold the lead for 88 laps, but on every one of the race’s three artificial cautions, he failed to come back out of the pits in the lead. On the third caution, a slow pit stop actually dropped him to seventh place for the restart – and he was never able to make up this lost ground, having to settle for a seventh-place finish. Perhaps he could take some solace from the fact that his teammate Sauter had won the race and that this was the third win in a row for a GMS-entered truck.

The next race is on Friday, Nov. 11 at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway. This is the third race in the truck series’ second elimination round. The top four Chase challengers coming out fo Phoenix will go forward to the elimination finale at Homestead. At the moment, the top four of the current group of six are Sauter (with his two wins in this round), Byron, Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton.

Photo Credits:

WEC: © Gabi Tomescu - AdrenalMedia.com
NSCS: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR
NSX: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
NCWTS: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images

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