Title drama occurs in penultimate Porsche Supercup race at Austin

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AUSTIN – Nicki Thiim (Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup) and Mark McKenzie (Ferrari Challenge) have taken the victories in the first of each of their two races during the United States Grand Prix weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

But the story was behind Thiim in the Porsche race, as last-lap contact between the two Porsche Supercup title contenders – Kuba Giermaziak and Earl Bamber – will have serious championship implications.

Giermaziak had fallen from second down to fourth during the race. When attempting to defend against Bamber on exit to Turn 11, Giermaziak was to the outside with Bamber on the inside. The two made it about halfway down the straight before Giermaziak’s car was turned around into the outside retaining wall.

Bamber made it home in fourth, while Giermaziak slipped to 11th. Photos below from Will Santiago in the stands, who did a great job to capture the drama as it happened.

The Pole had been poised to close what had been a five-point deficit to the New Zealander (123-118) heading into the race. But unofficial projections now have Bamber 14 points up (137-123) after the contact.

Such a gap can be overcome if Giermaziak was to win (20 points) and have Bamber end 10th or worse (6 points). Giermaziak has three wins to Bamber’s two this year, so would have the tiebreaker.

The task for Giermaziak is made all the more difficult because Bamber has the pole for Sunday’s second race, courtesy of a 2:08.508 set in the morning qualifying session, the top second fastest lap in the field. Ammermuller and Thiim start second and third; Giermaziak starts fifth.

Thiim’s win in the 14-lap Supercup race was a flag-to-flag drive from pole position, and good for his second win this season (Hockenheim in Germany). Michael Ammermuller was second with Klaus Bachler third, the latter up from sixth on the grid.

Bamber was fourth with Phillip Eng rounding out the top five.

Americans struggled in the race with Sean Johnston best of the lot in 12th, one spot behind Giermaziak. Madison Snow suffered a spin at Turn 11 and wound up 26th; IMSA Porsche GT3 USA champ Colin Thompson suffered either a brake failure or stuck throttle as he lost control of his car on the run to Turn 12, and ran straight into Pepe Massot at the corner. Heavy damage took both cars out of the race.

The Ferrari Challenge race saw McKenzie pass polesitter Ricardo Perez on Lap 6 and hold the lead for the remainder of the race through to the checkered on Lap 10. Gregory Romanelli was third and Scott Tucker, making his first overall race start of any kind since this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, finished fourth.

In the CS class, James Weiland won from Robert Herjavec and Ross Garber. Garber, an Austin local, set the fastest lap in his class and was also a supporter of NBCSN’s Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash Thursday night. The trio finished seventh through ninth overall.

Second races for both series are Sunday morning, at 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. (Ferrari Challenge) and 11:15 to 11:50 (Porsche Supercup) local time, respectively.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).