Watkins Glen weekend, Thursday and Friday notes

Photo: LAT Photographic U.S. for Verizon
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Notes from load-in day and the first official on-track day from the Verizon IndyCar Series’ INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi, below:

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES

Hitachi has been named presenting sponsor for Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series race from Watkins Glen (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). So the official race name is the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi.

“Hitachi is very excited about INDYCAR’s return to Watkins Glen International for the first time since 2010 and for the opportunity as the presenting sponsor for this weekend. As the primary sponsor of the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, driven by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Hitachi is proud to be part of this experience at one of the most prestigious tracks in North America,” said Robert Sharpe, senior vice president, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc.

Castroneves and Munoz. Photo: IndyCar
Castroneves and Munoz. Photo: IndyCar

Both throttle and mechanical issues sabotaged the second practice session for Charlie Kimball in the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet, and ended his session early. He was 18th. A spot ahead of him in 17th was Conor Daly, whose Dale Coyne Racing team repaired the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda to get him back out after his morning incident.

The third installment of Verizon’s Lunch with Legends took place Friday at the track (see photo at top of post), featuring Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Bobby Rahal, hosted by NBCSN contributor Robin Miller.

A good time was had by all with banter throughout, as Rahal shared his history of Watkins Glen, and Franchitti and Castroneves reflected on the recent races here. Both participated in all events from 2005 to 2010, with the exception of Franchitti in 2008 in his one-year stock car sojourn. Franchitti noted though “I loved this place in a stock car, which is hard to achieve!”

More will follow from this event next week.

Graham Rahal’s media availability was, as usual, insightful. It’s been an emotional, roller coaster week for the driver of the No. 15 Mi-Jack/RLL Honda who won at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night, then found out in the whirlwind hours later his father Bobby’s mom (so his grandma) passed away, then was named as a a junior partner in a new Honda dealership with father Bobby in State College, Penn.

Rahal expressed relief that he finally broke through, as much for him as his team. He’s also felt a greater confidence in his team’s baseline setup for road courses, and that’s contributed to his success in both qualifying and the races thus far this year. Rahal ended seventh on the combined sheets today.

Kyle Larson’s win last week at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Michigan means Chip Ganassi Racing Teams has won in all six series it competes in this year (Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series, Red Bull Global Rallycross, FIA World Endurance Championship, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship).

All six series will be in action on the Sept. 17-18 weekend, all in the U.S. IndyCar is at Sonoma, with both NASCAR series in Chicagoland, Red Bull GRC at Seattle, and FIA WEC and IMSA both in Austin at Circuit of The Americas.

As some IndyCar crew members for Ganassi also work on the IMSA Ford GT program, it will be interesting to see who goes where on that crazy weekend.

Speaking of Ganassi, its rookie Max Chilton pays tribute to James Hunt this week with a tribute helmet to his countryman, the 1976 World Champion, who would have turned 69 years old on August 29. The helmet comes after Chilton, 25, asked the James Hunt Foundation for permission.

Hunt, 40 years ago, came to Watkins Glen and stuck his McLaren on pole, won the Grand Prix, and set fastest lap.

The driver of the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet premiered the helmet on Thursday, with the MAX CHILTON letters in all white caps on the black background, a la Hunt in the past.

James Hunt of Great Britain drives the #11 Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford V8 during the Grand Prix of Monaco on 30 May 1976 on the streets of the Principality of Monaco in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Tont Duffy/Getty Images)
James Hunt of Great Britain drives the #11 Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford V8 during the Grand Prix of Monaco on 30 May 1976 on the streets of the Principality of Monaco in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Tont Duffy/Getty Images)

Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi has joined the TAG Heuer family as a Brand Ambassador. See a couple social posts below.

Spencer Pigot has a new livery and sponsor on his No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing which was revealed Friday, in the form of Samsung.

We caught up briefly with Rising Star Racing principal Art Wilmes, who noted this effort has taken nearly a year to pull together. It appears set to be a “toe in the water” effort ahead of a possible greater run in 2017.

We did the track walk yesterday (well, sort of… we filmed a track lap on a golf cart). The notes? The elevation change is insane and the cornering speeds are also insane.

Scott Dixon estimated cornering G-loadings in the 5 to 6 G range for the weekend, and seemed out of breath on Friday when speaking to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis after first practice.

Here’s the first tweet and the last tweet from the @IndyCaronNBCSN Twitter account; the rest are in between on the overall thread.

Before Watkins Glen this week, Takuma Sato in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda made a pit stop to the U.S. Open tennis tournament. “I had an opportunity to visit the US Open after Texas. Kei Nishikori, the best Japanese tennis player who collected a medal at the Olympics, and I knew of each other through a mutual friend who is a professional tennis coach who comes to see me race in St. Pete every year.

“After Kei and I missed meeting each other a couple of times, I was finally able to see him this week and we had a great dinner together in N.Y. I watched his first match in the US Open and he won. I was inspired a lot from all the professional tennis players and very motivated for this weekend. It was a great way to relax and but also get back to business.”

Sato’s teammate Jack Hawksworth is good to go this weekend following his accident at Texas. Hawksworth was actually the top Honda in second practice, albeit only sixth overall.

A possible third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry for Watkins Glen did not materialize. Per a couple sources, while not officially ruled out for Sonoma, it’s doubtful at this stage whether a third car will appear for the season finale, either.

INDY LIGHTS PRESENTED BY COOPER TIRES

SAP joins Felix Serralles’ efforts this weekend on his No. 4 Carlin Dallara IL-15 Mazda, and seems likely continue at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next week.

The six-pack of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title contenders all met the media today. We will have more on this session in an Indy Lights wrap for the day.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Cooper Webb

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For the fifth time in 10 rounds of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, the three riders at the top of the championship standings shared a podium and while those points tell one story, the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit tell a slightly different tale.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Detroit
Cooper Webb is peaking at the right time. – Feld Motor Sports

Chase Sexton has been all but perfect during the past 45 days with podium finishes in each of his heats and Triple Crown features. His only stumble during this period was a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis Main. Last week, Sexton was perfect with wins in both his heat and the feature, although he needed a little help from an Aaron Plessinger mistake to take the top spot on the podium at the end of the night.

Cooper Webb finished fifth at Houston and was beginning to worry ever so slightly about his position in the points. Prior to the race in Tampa, he told NBC Sports that it was time to win and like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, Webb went out and captured it. Following that race, Webb has swept the podium and earned the red plate two weeks ago in Indianapolis. At Detroit, he added two more points on Eli Tomac as the season begins to wind down.

Tomac struggled with a stiff neck at Indianapolis and after a modest third-place showing in Detroit, he revealed he was still suffering a little. Webb and Sexton have been able to close the gap on Tomac in the past 45 days, but one of the main reasons he is so close in the points was a pair of wins that started the year. Seattle is going to be important for the defending champion because Tomac cannot afford to lose any more momentum with seven rounds remaining.

MORE: Chase Sexton inherits the win in Detroit

It appeared Jason Anderson was turning things around. He earned his fifth heat win at Detroit, which was also his sixth consecutive race (including features) in which he scored a top-five. A fall in the Detroit Main dropped him a lap off the pace and sent him home with a season-worst finish of ninth, causing a ripple effect in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Justin Barcia was a huge part of the show last week in Detroit. He swapped positions with both Webb and Tomac in the middle stage of the race, which allowed Sexton to close the gap. Barcia finished fourth in that race to earn his third consecutive top-five. He’s been outside the top 10 only once in the first 10 rounds.

Adam Cianciarulo had a great start to the Main. He led a couple of laps before losing a lap and slipping back to eighth in the final rundown. That run was strong enough to elevate him three positions in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Percentage
Points
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Chase Sexton
[2 Main, 6 Heat wins]
87.00 1 0
2. Cooper Webb
[2 Main, 1 Heat win]
86.71 2 0
3. Eli Tomac
[5 Main, 6 Heat wins]
84.57 3 0
4. Jason Anderson
[5 Heat wins]
80.71 4 0
5. Ken Roczen
[1 Main, 1 Heat win]
80.50 5 0
6. Justin Barcia
[1 Heat win]
79.07 7 1
7. Aaron Plessinger 77.14 6 -1
8. Adam Cianciarulo 69.75 11 3
9. Christian Craig 68.86 10 1
10. Justin Cooper 63.90 9 -1
11. Justin Hill 58.57 15 4
12. Dean Wilson 51.50 12 0
13. Colt Nichols 51.25 13 0
14. Shane McElrath 46.86 17 3
15. Josh Hill 46.79 16 1
16. Benny Bloss 45.31 18 2
17. Jared Lesher 39.00 NA
18. Joey Savatgy 38.63 14 -4
19. Cade Clason 37.50 21 2
20. Grant Harlan 35.54 23 3

Supercross 450 Points


The NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings look at the past 90 days in the 250 class in order to have a balanced comparison between the East and West divisions and Hunter Lawrence has been all but perfect this year. At Detroit, he earned his fifth win of the season and kept alive a streak of podium finishes in six rounds. He tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 250 wins one week before the West riders take to the track for back-to-back races at Seattle, Washington and Glendale, Arizona.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Detroit
Nate Thrasher is settling into a comfortable role as ‘best in class’. – Feld Motor Sports

The Lawrence brothers are dominating the points in each of their respective divisions, which means the remainder of the field is battling to be best in class.

In the East, that rider is Nate Thrasher, who beat Hunter in a head-to-head matchup in their heat only to finish second in the main when the majority of points were awarded. Thrasher seems to have accepted his position in the championship standings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying for wins.

Haiden Deegan showed a lot of aggression in his heat last week. He threw a couple of block passes at his teammate Jordon Smith and set up a series of events that kept Smith from making the big show while Deegan settled into second in the preliminary. Deegan was unconcerned about how he raced his teammate and would not let a little controversy keep him from celebrating his second career podium in Detroit.

Supercross 250 Points

Jeremy Martin just keeps clicking off solid results. He won his heat last week by making a pass on Deegan and Smith while they were in the heat of their battle. Martin finished fourth in the Main, which means he continues to have only one finish worse than sixth in any of the features or mains.

Smith fell one position in the points standings, but the damage was even worse in SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit. Crash damage in his heat contributed to a last-place finish in that race, for which he earned minimal points. He was not able to advance from the Last Chance Qualifier after stalling his bike in heavy traffic.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Hunter Lawrence – E
[5 Main, 5 Heat wins]
90.43 1 0
2. Jett Lawrence – W
[3 Main, 3 Heat wins]
90.30 2 0
3. Nate Thrasher – E
[1 Main, 3 Heat wins]
84.00 5 2
4. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat win]
79.80 9 5
5. Haiden Deegan – E
[1 Heat win]
78.21 7 2
6. Jeremy Martin – E
[2 Heat wins]
78.00 8 2
7. Jordon Smith – E
[3 Heat Wins]
76.77 4 -3
8. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main]
75.30 3 -5
9. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 75.20 11 2
10. RJ Hampshire – W
[4 Heat wins]
74.50 17 7
11. Max Anstie – E 74.43 6 -5
12. Tom Vialle – E 72.07 12 0
13. Max Vohland – W 71.56 10 -3
14. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
69.22 14 0
15. Chris Blose – E 67.43 18 3
16. Chance Hymas – E 67.10 15 -1
17. Enzo Lopes – W 66.00 20 3
18. Michael Mosiman – E 65.80 16 -2
19. Pierce Brown – W 65.78 13 -6
20. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 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 for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage