MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Spanish GP

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The European portion of the 2014 Formula 1 season gets underway this weekend in Spain, and Mercedes is chasing a fifth straight win. Just four points separate its drivers in the championship, but the momentum unquestionably lies with Lewis Hamilton after three successive victories.

However, this race presents the first chance for teams to introduce significant upgrades for their cars, and this could once again reshuffle the pack. F1 has a habit of never making things easy for us at MotorSportsTalk…

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. I’ve been a bit critical of Lewis over the years, but he finally appears to be in a good place with Mercedes. Three wins on the bounce, and barring a car problem or a bit of stupidity, he’s my tip to make it four.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. Lotus hasn’t earned much sympathy from me over the past year or so, but RoGro’s retirement in China was disheartening after such a tough pre-season. Let’s hope he finally reaches the top 10 this weekend.

Most to prove: Sauber. The Swiss team has been awful so far this year, but the C33 has gone on a diet and is considerably lighter this weekend, so results need to follow. Just lay off the paella, lads…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. When you’re hot, you’re hot. He’s never had the chance to win four in a row before and a race where he was poised to capture the win last year before tire issues, I think he’ll bounce back.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari should have made car improvements and Kimi, who insists he’s still plenty motivated, seems due for a bounce back. He hasn’t even cracked the top five yet but I think that changes this weekend.

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. Seems weird to say that given he’s the points leader, right? Three consecutive second-place finishes to his teammate have not only given Hamilton the on-track edge, but the mental and psychological edge as well. Another race of losing to his teammate will do Rosberg no favors; he must respond this weekend.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. After three straight defeats, his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, will be bent on getting one over on him. But until either he or someone else takes him down, Hamilton’s gotta be the favorite.

Surprising finish: Pastor Maldonado. Lotus has shown some good signs lately and with engine partner Renault promising “significant improvements,” keep an eye out for the Venezuelan, who scored his lone Grand Prix win two years ago in Barcelona.

Most to prove: McLaren. They’ve been saying that they have a plan to pull themselves back to the front. Now, the time has come for Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen to make it work.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has had a great season thus far, the highest-ranking non-Mercedes driver (currently third). There’s no better place for him to win his first race of 2014 than on Spanish home turf.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. What has happened to JB this season? Eighth place in the standings, 46 points behind series leader Nico Rosberg? If he has another bad race – or finally breaks through with a decent run – either one will be a surprise finish.

Most to prove: Kimi Raikkonen. While his Ferrari teammate Alonso is riding high in third place, Raikkonen continues to have a disappointing season, when he was expected to have a great 2014. Four races into the schedule, he needs to make a big move upward in the standings, lest he be eliminated before the midpoint of the season.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”