Formula 1 - Portuguese Grand Prix
Sunday, October 25th - 8 a.m. ET - ESPN
The Algarve International Circuit at Portimão will make its surprising Formula 1 debut this weekend, and the race could be a date with destiny for Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton reached 91 wins in the most recent grand prix, tying Michael Schumacher's record for most all time. A win today puts Hamilton in sole possession of first all time, and, with every other task left to accomplish complete, begins his seemingly inevitable march to 100 grand prix wins. It also puts him even further in control of the championship fight, bringing him another step closer to tying Schumacher's record seven World Driver's Championship titles.
Hamilton will start from pole (his record-extending 97th) after this exceptional lap, but he beat teammate Valtteri Bottas by just 1/10th of a second. Max Verstappen slots in at his now traditional third place, while a strong drive in the struggling Ferrari lands Charles Leclerc in fourth. Leclerc's teammate, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, will start eleven positions behind in fifteenth.
IndyCar - Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Sunday, October 25th - 2:30 p.m. ET - NBC
It all comes down to this for Scott Dixon. The five-time series champion is seeking his sixth title, and all he has to do Sunday is finish better than ninth or hope that rival Josef Newgarden does not win. It seems easy enough on paper, but Dixon has struggled the past few rounds , with his average finish in the past four races actually being just below ninth.
If Dixon is able to take the title, he will have done it as the leader of the championship since the end of the first race. He began the season with three consecutive wins on three very different tracks, and he surely has no interest in ending such a successful year as a runner-up.
All eyes not on Dixon will be trained on the only other New Zealander in the field, the debuting Scott McLaughlin. The Australian Supercars superstar has just come off yet another series championship with Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske, and Roger Penske announced just yesterday that both he and McLaughlin will be leaving the series to focus their efforts instead on a full-time IndyCar entry, Penske's fourth. The young driver was a shocking fourth in the weekend's only practice session, an incredible run for someone who has never competed in open wheel racing at this level and has not been in an IndyCar since his last pre-season test with the team before the pandemic struck. An impressive run for McLaughlin tomorrow sets the new Penske driver up not only as a potential Rookie of the Year contender but as a potential champion in his first season of IndyCar racing.
NASCAR - Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, October 25th - 3:30 p.m. ET - NBC Sports Network
NASCAR's Round of Eight is rapidly approaching its highly anticipated conclusion at Martinsville, a short track that tests the resolve of every competitor entered. Before that race, the series is contractually obligated to run another at a 1.5-mile intermediate oval, the tracks the series has spent the past few years trying to spice up, either through a high downforce package that made the racing even stranger or through a schedule that simply looked to get away from those races whenever possible.
In an era for so long defined by NASCAR's faults and many efforts to solve them, Texas Motor Speedway has been a fault for quite some time. This is no secret, and NASCAR's open tinkering with every tool in their arsenal to reduce the number of tracks like it on the schedule dating back to 2015 makes it clear that the series has no interest in pretending that these are events worth looking forward to. Next year's otherwise greatly improved schedule still puts races at both Kansas and Texas Motor Speedway in this all-important Round of Eight, so all we can do is embrace these races and hope they give us something to look forward to.
If Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, or a driver already eliminated from contention win this race, we can forget it immediately and move on with our lives. If anyone else in the Round of Eight field wins, however, this will be a crucial race in the playoff hunt. Logano reset the standings already with his win last weekend, vaulting himself from fifth to a guaranteed spot in the field and guaranteeing one of Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott will miss the final round. Another win by another contender dwindles the open spots to just two, and Kevin Harvick's 41 point cushion means that a strong race here will effectively lock him into the field before Martinsville, potentially cutting the open spots to just one. With Harvick unreachable on points and every winner guaranteed a spot in the next round, that would mean Denny Hamlin, one of the two strongest drivers of the season, would himself need to either win or ensure someone else does not win to make the Championship Four.
So, even if passing cannot actually happen on track in these races, watch closely. NASCAR's championship may not be decided here, but the final round at Phoenix will be impacted greatly by what happens.
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