It’s starting to feel inevitable now.
Lewis Hamilton picked up his fifth consecutive Grand Prix victory yesterday in Austin at the United States Grand Prix, and in doing so, his grip on this year’s World Championship has tightened even further.
Only two things are keeping the battle between Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg alive – the fact that double points will be on hand for the season finale in Abu Dhabi and the potential for another reliability issue from Hamilton’s powerful-but-not-bulletproof Mercedes W05.
Additionally, Hamilton’s second career win in Austin also enabled him to create more history for himself, as he broke Nigel Mansell’s record and became the all-time wins leader among British F1 drivers at 32 (and likely counting).
MotorSportsTalk colleagues Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno were on the ground all weekend at the Circuit of the Americas, and had everything covered from there. You can see all of their reports linked in the following Paddock Notebooks from the past few days.
Another race, another rumble.
The hyper-intense atmosphere around the Chase for the Sprint Cup and an aggressive late move by Brad Keselowski triggered the second post-race fight in four weeks, this time involving Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.
While Jimmie Johnson celebrated his fourth win of the season following a pair of green-white-checkered attempts, Gordon sought out Keselowski in the pits afterwards following contact the two made during the first of those GWC runs. The run-in caused Gordon to fall back before he suffered a tire failure and spun out; he ended up finishing 29th.
Then, while Gordon expressed his displeasure at third-place finisher Keselowski, runner-up Kevin Harvick then pushed Keselowski in the back, which led to Gordon lunging for and grabbing Keselowski’s collar. As Harvick backed away, the brawl began and a crew member for Kasey Kahne (one of Gordon’s teammates) appeared to get several punches in on Keselowski before it was all over.
Keselowski said he didn’t want to wreck Gordon but would not back down from his aggressive ways. Gordon called Keselowski a “dips—“ and wondered aloud how the Team Penske driver had ever managed to win a championship. And Harvick, seemingly the instigator in all of this, declared that if Keselowski was going to race as hard as he did, he’d better be ready to “man up.”
It bears noting that the Texas fracas came at the end of Keselowski’s four-race probation stemming from his role in last month’s post-race fight at Charlotte.
That opens the question of whether NASCAR will hammer Keselowski after this episode or if they’ll go with another option – which could mean penalties for everyone involved (including Gordon, Harvick, and the Kahne crew member) or nothing at all.
The madness overshadowed another big shift in the Eliminator Round going into its final race next weekend at Phoenix. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin had to fight hard for their respective finishes, but they’re now sitting atop the Chase Grid.
Meanwhile, things are getting tighter behind the cutoff. Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are both one point behind Gordon for the last advance position, while Keselowski and Harvick’s finishes enabled them to pull within five and six points respectively.
And with a chance to race for the championship on the line next weekend in Arizona, things are likely to get even more nuts.
Much like Hamilton in F1, Chase Elliott has been putting a stranglehold on the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. That continued Saturday at Texas.
Elliott was unable to replicate his inaugural NNS victory there from the spring, but he really didn’t have to. Another steady race from the 18-year-old yielded a fourth-place finish and helped him extend his already commanding lead in the standings even further to 48 points; he can now clinch the title in the penultimate race of the year next weekend in Phoenix.
Barring mechanical disaster for Elliott in the final two races, he will become the first rookie ever to claim the NNS championship.
And to be truthful, that outcome has seemed inevitable (there’s that word again) since Kansas. If you recall leading up to that race, Elliott had been continually putting small amounts of points between himself and teammate Regan Smith.
Then, in the Heartland, Smith suffered a broken sway bar arm and was relegated to a 22nd place finish that stretched his deficit behind Elliott from 26 to 38 points (Elliott finished 10th that day).
You can’t help but think that it was “game over,” then and there.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s race was decided between the two teams that are still battling for the NNS owner’s championship. In the end, Kyle Busch, driving the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, defeated Joey Logano in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford to capture the 100th NNS victory for JGR and pull the No. 54 within 26 points of the No. 22 for the owner’s title.
Other cool stuff
Kyle Busch was able to rally late and win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Texas, while Matt Crafton’s fifth-place finish helped push his lead in the series championship to 23 points…Toyota was triumphant in Shanghai, going 1-2 in the World Endurance Championship’s six-hour race there…Del Worsham took down the legendary John Force in the Funny Car finals as part of the NHRA’s next-to-last race of the season in Las Vegas. Force, who will have sponsorship from PEAK Antifreeze next season, is trying to chase down Matt Hagan in a bid to win his 17th Funny Car title; he’ll face a 21-point deficit to Hagan at the season finale in Pomona, California from Nov. 13-16.