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


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.

Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale