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United States GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

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AUSTIN, Texas – Friday at the United States Grand Prix, edition 2015, is in the books.  Unfortunately the fans who were dedicated and hearty enough to come out to the track only got one session’s worth of running, with some decent action in free practice one occurring before a deluge occurred to wash out free practice two.

As such, it’s hard to glean too much from today’s times this morning, but it is important to note how long some of the runs were on Pirelli’s intermediate tire.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was what was unexpected, when Lotus F1 Team CEO Matthew Carter said during the FIA Friday Press Conference that the team’s second driver would be named within the hour. Soon enough, there was confirmation of Jolyon Palmer alongside Pastor Maldonado for 2016.

Here’s a roundup of today’s posts, features and analysis from Friday at Circuit of The Americas:

SESSION REPORTS

PADDOCK NEWS AND FEATURES

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Eeny, meeny, miny, Renault?

Just as the old children’s song had four possible choices, so too does Red Bull in regards to its 2016 engine situation. Excuse the creative liberty as I opted to swap “Renault” in for “moe” – it rhymes and it also seems to be the most realistic option as it stands. Except if it isn’t.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner made the media rounds today, first telling Sky Sports tongue-in-cheek that there was a 25 percent chance of choosing Honda next year. Then he spoke to NBCSN’s Will Buxton during the rain-canceled FP2, saying, “Of course there’s a lot of speculation. This week it’s Honda. It was Ferrari last week. Renault before that. There’s a lot of conversation in the background.”

Finally in the FIA Friday Press Conference, Horner reiterated his goal is to keep Red Bull not just afloat but competitive in the future – that is his clear objective – but whether that is with or without the blessing of his ultimate boss, Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz, still remains to be seen.

The saga that seems to have no end date in sight needs a resolution soon, as several in the room noted the urgency of getting something sorted sooner rather than later.

Another engine option for 2017? 

Late word came in Friday night, via Auto Motor und Sport and Motorsport.com, that the FIA may push a concept of a low-budget power unit, rumored to be a 2.2L twin-turbo V6 engine – the same engines you see in IndyCar – for 2017. Watch this space to see if or how it develops.

Palmer’s graduation after grad school

Lotus reserve and third driver Jolyon Palmer has made it to Formula 1 after winning the GP2 Series championship after all – just a year late. The Englishman was confirmed late Friday afternoon to join the team for 2016, replacing Haas-bound Romain Grosjean.

Palmer’s appointment isn’t necessarily a surprise – he’s driven or been scheduled to drive in 11 free practice sessions this season – but the timing is. Earlier this month, Pastor Maldonado said he had no preference over a a teammate, but just in the last week or so, said he’d prefer a teammate with experience. Now, he doesn’t have one, as Palmer will find his footing in his maiden Grand Prix season.

Interestingly, poor Palmer has had a rough go of things in his most recent practice sessions. After banking a wealth of laps in seven of his first eight outings, he’s only had nine total laps in his last three, in the Russian Grand Prix FP1 session that barely had any running. At both Suzuka and now today in Austin, Palmer’s been nominated to drive but hasn’t completed any laps.

Rain reigns, part one, with Saturday timetable TBD

The expectation was that FP1 wouldn’t see much running, but it did. Meanwhile FP2 was entirely washed out, with torrential rain then sweeping through the paddock only about five minutes after 2 p.m. CT and local time, when the session was scheduled to start. It marks yet another Friday where there hasn’t been proper running in at least one of the two sessions for the field.

The question, of course is how whatever rain is leftover and hits central Texas stemming from Hurricane Patricia – the Category 5 hurricane which is well on its way to Mexico – will affect the timetable for Saturday’s running. It may be a case where Saturday becomes a complete washout.

The thoughts, prayers and concerns are with those neighbors to the south first, given what by all accounts is shaping up to be a monster of a storm.

“How you doin’?”

On a much lighter note, I don’t know if he got TV time today, but I managed to spot Matt LeBlanc at the Lotus F1 Team garage just before FP2. The former Friends and current Episodes star has been to each of the three previous USGPs at Austin, and kept his streak alive by showing up today – we can only assume he took shelter shortly after this shot.

Lotus paid tribute to LeBlanc’s appearance with an excellent play-on-words of Friends episode titles. Each Friends episode begins with the words, “The one where…,” and so Lotus rather astutely called its social media recap of free practice two, “The one where we didn’t actually have FP2…”. Top job, lads.

***

Join us tomorrow for all of the action from Austin on NBC Sports Live Extra (FP3 at 11 a.m. ET), with NBCSN coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. ET. FP3 will be shown, and will lead straight into LIVE qualifying, projected to start at 2 p.m. ET. For more information on the broadcasting options for the United States GP, click here.

More tomorrow from what is bound to be another abnormal day at the office.

Supercross: Tomac, Roczen square off in Arlington; Webb gives chase

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The Monster Energy Supercross championship battle remains tight after Eli Tomac took the lead from Ken Roczen just last week at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Now the series heads to Arlington, Texas, and the AT&T Stadium for Round 8. (Watch on NBCSN or stream live.)

Tomac’s third win of the 2020 season and Roczen’s third-place finish at Tampa gives Tomac a four-point advantage in what is essentially a wide-open title fight with three races on tap in Arlington.

And while it is still much too early to call this a two-man battle, Cooper Webb is 11 points back with Justin Barcia 20 points out and Adam Cianciarulo 27 points in arrears – and all three cannot afford to lose any ground this week.

Tomac has the momentum. He allowed the field to get a jump after finishing seventh at Anaheim in the season opener, but finished fourth or better in the remaining events.

Roczen also got off to a slow start in Anaheim 1 with a sixth-place finish. He seemed to have a firm grasp on the red plate with four consecutive podium finishes until he slipped to sixth for a second time at San Diego.

Webb is coming into his own with three consecutive podiums in the last three events. If not for a 12th at St. Louis, he would be in immediate contention for the red plate.

This week is the second Triple Crown race of the season and Roczen hopes he has the same success as he did at Glendale. He won all three Mains that weekend and easily walked away with the overall victory. Tomac finished 2-2-3 for second overall. It is going to be imperative that a rider takes the early lead.

Blake Baggett qualified for last week’s Main, but chose to sit it out after experiencing sever muscle spasms. He will ride in Arlington.

Henry Miller will return to riding at Arlington after breaking a scapula in Australia.

Subscribe to the Supercross Pass for complete qualification and race coverage of the 2020 season.

For the third time in his career, Shane McElrath started the season with a victory. He won the season-opener in 2017 and 2018 in the West division at Anaheim, but failed to lock down a 250 title. His seventh career win moved him to 25th on the chart, however, with Travis Pastrana, Trey Canard, and a host of others.

Chase Sexton got his title hunt off to a strong start last week as well. He finished second to earn his 10th podium in 19 starts, but he will be hungry for a win. Despite the fact that he won last year’s 250 West championship, he has only one race victory to his credit.

Last week, Jeremy Martin looked like he had not been off his bike for more than a year. Returning from a 2018 injury, Martin snagged a podium finish in his first race back.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac beat Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen in the 450 class.
Shane McElrath beat Chase Sexton and Jeremy Martin in the 250 class.

Last Dallas race (February, 2019):

Cooper Webb beat Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner beat Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Eli Tomac (155)
Ken Roczen (151)
Cooper Webb (144)
Justin Barcia (135)
Adam Cianciarulo (128)

250 West:
Dylan Ferrandis (135)
Justin Cooper (128)
Austin Forkner (122)
Brandon Hartranft (110)
Alex Martin (98)

250 East:
Shane McElrath (26)
Chase Sexton (23)
Jeremy Martin (21)
Garrett Marchbanks (19)
Jordon Smith (18)

Wins

450

(3) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2, Oakland and Tampa)
(2) Ken Roczen (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)
(1) Cooper Webb (San Diego)

250 West

(3) Dylan Ferrandis (Anaheim 2, Oakland, and San Diego)
(2) Austin Forkner (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath (Tampa)

Top-5s

450

(6) Eli Tomac
(6) Cooper Webb
(5) Jason Anderson
(5) Ken Roczen
(5) Justin Barcia
(3) Adam Cianciarulo
(2) Zach Osborne
(2) Blake Baggett
(1) Justin Hill

250 West

(5) Dylan Ferrandis
(5) Austin Forkner
(5) Justin Cooper
(4) Michael Mosiman
(4) Brandon Hartranft
(3) Alex Martin
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Jett Lawrence
(1) Jacob Hayes
(1) Luke Clout

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath
(1) Chase Sexton
(1) Jeremy Martin
(1) Garrett Marchbanks
(1) Jordon Smith

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