Weekend wrap: Lewis Hamilton captures USGP; Chase tempers boil over again in Texas

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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.

But while Hamilton can’t clinch the title next weekend at Interlagos, it’s looking more and more like he’ll vanquish his German rival and capture his second world championship trophy.

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.

MORE: USGP Friday Paddock NotebookUSGP Saturday Paddock NotebookUSGP Sunday Paddock Notebook

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.”

Now, NASCAR has yet another mess to deal with.

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.

MORE: Clint Bowyer fills in for sick Elliott Sadler, finishes ninthSadler jumping to Roush Fenway for 2015 season

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.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage