Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull GRC: Speed, Keyes win Saturday races in LA

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Editor’s note – there’s been a late add to the programming schedule with today’s first Red Bull Global Rallycross Supercars race airing tonight at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on NBCSN. Coverage continues as scheduled on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT on NBC. Full recaps from today’s races are below:

LOS ANGELES – Scott Speed (Supercars) and Alex Keyes (GRC Lites) have claimed victories in the second-to-last races of Red Bull Global Rallycross’ 2016 season at the Red Bull GRC Los Angeles presented by Honda.

Both drivers dominated their races from pole, but that did not mean both races were lacking in action. It was far from it in both categories.

Speed, who entered 13 points behind Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammate Tanner Foust entering the weekend (465-452) launched off the line and was well clear of Foust, with both of the #PinkBeetle cars running away from the rest of the field.

Foust’s best chance to overtake him came when he took the Honda Joker Lap on the 12th and last lap of the final.
Although that cut the deficit significantly once Foust took the Joker, he was unable to overcome the deficit Speed had built up in his No. 41 Beetle GRC the rest of the race. The win is Speed’s fourth this season.

Steve Arpin launched from the fourth and final row of the grid, 10thh place, up to fifth by the end of the first lap in his No. 00 Ford Fiesta ST for Chip Ganassi Rallycross. Only a couple laps later, he was up to third, where he ran for the remainder of the race.

The most dramatic moment of the race came when Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE’s Joni Wiman and Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins actually collided in mid-air going over the jump on Lap 5 when engaged in a battle for fifth place. Wiman went to Higgins’ inside and his right rear tire of his No. 31 Honda Civic Coupe hit the No. 75 Subaru WRX-STi, which punctured it. Wiman limped around from there and ultimately retired. Brian Deegan leapt to fourth in his No. 38 Ganassi Ford behind the top three.

The final battle in the race occurred for fifth, with Wiman’s teammate Sebastian Eriksson prevailing in a last-lap scrap over Patrik Sandell of Bryan Herta Rallysport. However, after the race, Eriksson was dropped to ninth place for aggressive driving, with a five-second penalty assessed.

Higgins was seventh ahead of teammate Chris Atkinson, who had a miserable start and spent the race recovering, with Supercars debutantes Mitchell DeJong (Honda) and Tanner Whitten (SH Rallycross/DRR) completing the top 10. Wiman and Austin Dyne retired from the race.

In GRC Lites, Keyes took his No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry to an early lead over points leader Oliver Eriksson (No. 16 Olsbergs MSE X Forces), teammate Miki Weckstrom (No. 45), Colin Braun (No. 54 CORE autosport) and Travis PeCoy (No. 3 AF Racing).

Weckstrom used the Honda Joker Lap to get past Eriksson and Braun into second before the drama intensified behind them.

Braun darted to the inside of Eriksson into the left-hander before the jump, which knocked Eriksson off the road and out of the race.

Keyes won from Weckstrom, Braun, Cabot Bigham and Christian Brooks on the road. Braun was disqualified from the race after the contact with Eriksson, and that brought everyone from Bigham in fourth up one position.

Points standings will follow in due course ahead of tomorrow’s season finales, when the championships will be determined.

Today’s first Supercars race will air tonight at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on NBCSN, a bonus broadcast. Full coverage from the weekend airs Sunday at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT on NBC.

F1: Lewis Hamilton chases history at US Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton is closing in on the F1 championship. Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — From New York to Texas, Lewis Hamilton returned to the United States this week with yet another Formula One championship ready for the taking.

Finish off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel once and for all at the U.S. Grand Prix this weekend and the British driver would climb another step among racing’s greatest drivers. A fifth season championship would tie him with Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio for second all-time behind only Germany’s Michael Schumacher, who won seven.

Hamilton storms into what could be a chilly, rainy Texas weekend with a commanding 67-point lead over Vettel heading into the last four races of 2018. If Hamilton wins Sunday, Vettel has to finish no lower than second to keep the championship going another week to Mexico City. Any Hamilton finish that leaves him eight points or more clear of Vettel clinches the title.

Yet facing constant reminders of what’s at stake, Hamilton refused to get dragged into talking about his place in F1 history.

“None of us are saying how cool it would be. We are not focusing on `ifs.’ We are focusing on making sure we deliver,” Hamilton said Thursday. “We expect Ferrari to punch back hard here this weekend.”

Others were happy to do it for him.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, sitting next to Hamilton in the drivers’ news conference, ranked Hamilton among his top five champions in F1 history, no small compliment considering Alonso won championships in 2005 and 2006.

“Lewis showed talent from day one fighting for the championship his rookie year, then winning in 2008,” Alonso said. “He was able to win races when the car deserved to win it, but he was able to win races in seasons when the car wasn’t in top form … It’s impressive.”

If he’s feeling any pressure about the weekend, Hamilton isn’t showing it.

He spent the first part of the week in New York with an appearance on “Good Morning America” and a trip to Times Square to see his image on one of the towering video boards. On Thursday, he cracked jokes about fictional NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby from the movie “Talladega Nights,” quipped about his love of American pancakes and talked up a Circuit of the Americas track that brings out his racing instincts.

“They really don’t make tracks like they did in the old days. Some of the new tracks really aren’t that good. This is one that is,” Hamilton said. “You can actually race here. I’ve had the chance to race here. Real races.”

Hamilton has dominated this track since it opened in 2012, winning five times and starting from the pole or second each time he won. He won the inaugural race with McLaren and his victory in the rain with Mercedes in 2015 clinched the season championship (his third). He comes back to Austin having won six of the last seven races this season, a streak interrupted only by Vettel’s victory in Belgium back on Aug. 26.

With 100 points still available, Vettel is still mathematically alive in the championship but would need a run of Ferrari victories and a historic collapse by Hamilton and Mercedes to win it. And it has to start this week.

The German is the only driver to beat Hamilton in Austin. That came in 2013 during his dominant season with Red Bull that won Vettel his fourth championship. Last year, Vettel led after the start but Hamilton easily reeled him in and passed on lap 14 and the Ferrari never threatened an easy Hamilton victory.

The circuit won’t quite be the same. Race officials installed new kerbs on turns 1, 16 and 17 to keep the cars from running off track. Vettel snatched the lead at the start last year when Hamilton forced him left but he was able to cut the corner and head downhill.

The 2017 race ended in controversy when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen passed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen around turns 16 and 17 on the final lap to finish third. Race officials determined it was an illegal overtake because all four of Verstappen’s wheels left the track and a 5-second penalty knocked him off the podium.