Photo: Tony DiZinno

SEMA, GRC Las Vegas week notes, musings, observations

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LAS VEGAS – While endurance races for sports car racing generally don’t take place in November, the week that is SEMA Show week in Las Vegas is still something of a marathon. And with most of this only being written on Thursday, there’s still a day to go (today).

Anyway, this is a bit of a different week in terms of motors coverage, because while there’s plenty of drivers from the worlds of NASCAR, IndyCar, drag racing and sports cars present, it’s primarily an industry-focused event.

Some thoughts and observations from the week, then:

  • Logano’s graciousness. In series you cover full-time, you may occasionally take interviews for granted. You know the key players, stakeholders and manufacturers – or at least you should, otherwise you’re in an abnormal position. So in my case, yesterday’s NASCAR Talk interview I did with Joey Logano at the Whelen display was only the second time I’d ever interviewed him (January for an MST preseason piece, prior to NASCAR Talk site launch). And all things considered, I was expecting a “no comment” or something similar considering my colleagues Nate Ryan and Dustin Long – both of whom were huge helps on the story – are the primary NASCAR writers and know Logano, and his team, far better. So when Logano not only gave the interview, but then proceeded to be as candid as he was, I was both relieved and a bit stupefied, to be honest. Ordinarily you don’t get that kind of quality content on a whim, but after waiting the better part of an hour considering Logano was there for a Whelen appearance and to sign autographs, it was all-too-kind of him to provide the three minutes and change. It’s the things like that you don’t necessarily see from the outside that go into a story, but helps create the content. Say what you will about what he said, but the fact he said anything, I’m hugely appreciative of.
  • Sheer size and volume. If you’ve never been to SEMA, you need to plan for several things: time management, a heck of a lot of walking and even more pre-planning. Mapping out schedules, appointments, locations and where in what part of the Las Vegas Convention Center (it’s four giant halls, with tens of thousands of booths) is a job in-and-of itself. Preparation for this event is the single most important part of making a productive SEMA week. In just three days, I think I’ve banked close to 60,000 steps and nearly 30 miles of walking in-and-around Las Vegas between the SEMA Show and the Red Bull Global Rallycross event.
  • Red Bull Global Rallycross is quirky but cool. I think I’ll put together a separate column on my thoughts on Red Bull Global Rallycross likely for next week, and will also have an interview with the series’ newly crowned champion Scott Speed out next week. Initial thoughts after finally attending my first race? It’s certainly different than what I’m used to, but the format seems to appeal to a younger generation, which is the goal. There seems enough positivity in the paddock of optimism for a better 2016 to build on this year. Flexibility is something required in spades, given how frequently the schedule can and does change. But the racing’s generally fun, and that’s important. The cars, as I found out thanks to a ride-along the other day, are fantastic.
  • Sports car odds and ends. A lot of would-be, potential and eventual 2016 programs seemed to come out of the woodwork this week – all at once – and I’d refer you to more sports car-focused sites for more details on what they were. I spent a lot of time talking with various drivers, all of whom were here in some capacity either chasing deals, asking about programs or some combination of both. Busy times, especially as the IMSA series has a test in two weeks and Pirelli World Challenge confirmed several news items during its “State of the Series” presentation on Tuesday.
  • Respectable IndyCar presence for both. I imagine the Verizon IndyCar Series will have a greater presence at next month’s PRI show in Indianapolis, but it was well-represented out in Las Vegas. There were two cars (Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden’s respective cars, the latter adorned in a special GoPro livery) on display at SEMA, and Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Gabby Chaves, Stefan Wilson and Anders Krohn were among the IndyCar crowd at the GRC race. It was good to see that bit of cross pollination, especially as so many IndyCar teams have GRC programs.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toby Price win Dakar Rally

Dakar.com, Frederic le Floc'h / DPPI
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Driving a safe final stage that placed him 12th across the line, Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed his third Dakar Rally victory on Thursday. Toby Price claimed his second Dakar win in motorcycles after winning the final stage.

Al-Attiyah could afford to play it safe since he entered the stage with a 51-minute advantage over the field. Price barely had a minute to spare and was forced to push hard through the short 112-kilometer course.

Price’s victory was all the more dramatic in light of his riding the entire rally with a pin in his wrist from a broken scaphoid bone.

In the Quads class, Nicolas Cavigliasso showed his dominance by winning nine of the 10 stages.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Last year’s overall class winner, Carlos Sainz finally earned a stage win, but it was too little, too late. … Sebastien Loeb challenged for the class win throughout the stage and finished less than one minute back. … Cyril Despres rounded out the top three. … Nani Roma finished sixth, four minutes behind the leader, but less than five minutes ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah won his third Dakar by a margin of 46:42 over Roma and one hour, 54:18 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Toby Price saved the best for last. He won his first stage of the rally and secured the class win. … His victory came with a margin of 2:21 over Jose Florima. … Matthias Walkner enter entered the stage with an opportunity to take the overall lead. His third-place finish was not bad, but it came with his principal rival finishing first. … Pablo Quintanilla took a fall early in the stage and injured his foot. Riding hurt, he finished the stage 22nd – nearly 20 minutes off the pace. … American Andrew Short finished seventh for his eighth top 10 of the rally.

Class Leaders: Price ended the rally with the biggest advantage of the year. He beat Walkner by 9:13. Sam Sunderland finished third, 13:34 behind the leader.

In side by sides, Reinaldo Varela won his second consecutive stage and third overall. … He had a comfortable margin of 3:39 over Cristian Baumgart and 6:10 over Francisco Lopez Contardo.

Class Leaders: Contardo’s third-place finish in the stage was more than enough to secure the class victory over Gerard Farres Guell, who finished one hour, 2:35. Varela finished one hour, 5:19 behind in third.

In quads, In a show of utter dominance, Nicolas Cavigliasso won his ninth stage of the year. … Alexandre Giroud stood on the podium for the fourth time this year. While he didn’t win a stage, he never finished worse than sixth. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso won by an advantage of one hour, 55:37 over Ferioli and two hours, 11:38 over Gustavo Gallego

In trucks, Ton Van Genugton rebounded from a poor Stage 9 in which he finished 12th to win his second stage of the rally. … Ales Loprais scored his first podium of the rally; his previous best finish was fourth in Stage 9. … Dmitry Sotnikov stood on the final rung of the podium.

Class Leaders: Eduard Nikolaev finished sixth in the stage, but won with an advantage of 25:36 over Sotnikov and one hour, 34:44 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4), Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6), Michael Metge [1] (Stage 9) and Toby Price [1] (Stage 10)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [9] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [3] (Stage 1, 4 and 9), Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7) and [1] Carlos Sainz

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [3] (Stage 1, 9 and 10), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2, and 9), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Ton Van Genugton [2] (Stage 5 and 10), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8), and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

For more watch the daily highlight show on NBCSN. Click here for the complete schedule.

Or check out the streaming show at 8:30-9 p.m. by clicking this link.