Motorsports Weekend Guide: March 27 to March 29

Thanks for reading this weekly edition of Hooniverse’s guide to racing for the upcoming weekend. The coming days bring the opening of two big series, one highly anticipated with series changes and the other highly anticipated to see if a young phenom can match his performance last year. In addition, the F1 and NASCAR seasons roll on while Down Under visits one of this author’s favorite circuits. Read about those and more after the jump.
Want more information on a series mentioned below? Click here for Hooniverse’s Massively Oversized Guide to Motorsports 2015, which will tell you all you need to know (and then some).


IndyCar: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

After a long, nearly six-month offseason, IndyCar returns to action with a new look that should produce a new performance plateau. Honda and Chevy have each produced a unique body kit that should give each a different performance envelope that will likely cause track records to tumble. Last year saw Will Power finally, after many years of near-misses, take home an IndyCar title. He returns this year with an incredible Team Penske driver lineup that will duel with solid lineups from big teams Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport as well as a bevy of smaller teams that have been very competitive.
The season starts on St. Petersburg’s temporary circuit, a mashup of a wide airport runway and the claustrophobic confines of bumpy city streets. Expect veteran drivers Power, Helio Castroneves, and Tony Kanaan to be in the thick; they’ve all been historically solid in St. Petersburg. The weekend schedule is completely packed with support races from Pirelli World Challenge and Robby Gordon’s high-flying Stadium Super Trucks in addition to the full package of Road to Indy support series.
With no prompting, this writer predict that Simon Pagenaud emerges with an IndyCar championship at the end of the year. Check back to this post in September to see how wrong I am.
Website: IndyCar site. St. Pete GP site. Event page. Schedule. Entry list.
Supporting series: Pirelli World Challenge, Stadium Super Trucks, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000.
Live coverage: Sunday @ 3 p.m. ET on ABC (TV) and Sirius 213/XM209 (Satellite Radio. Live timing and radio also available on IndyCar Race ControlPWC – Races streaming Saturday @ 11:10 a.m. ET & Sunday @ 10:45 a.m. ET on World-Challengetv.comSST – Races streaming Saturday @ 3:30 p.m. ET & Sunday @ 2:10 p.m. ET on SST site.

Formula One: Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang Circuit)

Sticking with open-wheel racing, F1 jumps from Australia to Malaysia for the season’s second round. Few found much redeeming value in the season opener, where several cars failed before the race even started while the two Mercedes cars drove away from the green flag. Lewis Hamilton won his eighth race in the last nine for Mercedes with teammate Nico Rosberg coming in second. Sebastien Vettel claimed a podium in the Ferrari, a car that looks vastly improved from last year’s disaster while the new McLaren-Honda looked off the pace but finished the race.
Sepang is one of Hermann Tilke’s early circuit designs and, in many ways, the progenitor of the “Tilkedrome.” For whatever it’s worth, the Kuala Lumpur track has features that can occasionally allow passing, particularly at the Turn 15 hairpin. The race weekend is also notable for serving as the debut of the TCR International Series, a new series with fresh, cost-saving touring car regulations.
Website: F1 site. Sepang site. Event page. Schedule. Entry list. Season Points.
Supporting series: TCR International Series. Malaysian Super Series.
Live coverage: Sunday @ 2:30 a.m. on NBC Sports Network with replay Sunday @ 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Qualifying on Saturday @ 5:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with replay Sunday @ 1:00 a.m. on NBCSN.

MotoGP: Grand Prix of Qatar (Losail International Circuit)

The premiere two-wheel racing series opens its 2015 campaign this weekend, as well, in the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar. This season finds the two leading factory teams—Honda and Yamaha—expected at the front with the same riders as last year: defending champion Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa for Honda, Jorge Lorenzo and the ageless Valentino Rossi for Yamaha. Marquez obliterated all comers to start 2014, but the Yamaha duo fought back in the season’s second half. That could mean more excellent moto racing for fans. Further back in the field, Ducati might make a run at a few podiums while successful World Superbikes manufacturer Aprilia will take a swing at the bigger series this season.
They’ll contest the opening round at Losail, a track that seems best suited for motorcycle racing. If you’re a betting person, Marquez won the opening round last year to start his 10-race winning streak so he’s probably a smart play for the win and, ultimately, for the 2015 championship. However, Lorenzo and Rossi have a combined five wins at Losail, so absolutely expect them to give Marquez a run for his money.
Website: MotoGP site. Losail site. Event page with schedule. Entry list.
Supporting series: Moto3, Moto2.
Live coverage: Sunday @ 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2.

V8 Supercars: Symmons Plains Raceway (Tasmania)

Down Under, the V8s visit the island of Tasmania for a race on one of my favorite racetracks, Symmons Plains, which is six rhythmic corners and one insanely tight hairpin that give it a unique shape. Jamie Whincup famously hooned his way out of a spin at that hairpin in 2012. Anyway, this is the first of the new “SuperSprint” weekends for the series with two 60-kilometer races Saturday followed by one 200-kilometer race Sunday. Actual huge surprise: James Courtney leads the points after the first three-race weekend in Adelaide.
Website: V8S site. Symmons Plains site. Event page with schedule. Entry list. Season Points.
Supporting series: Touring Car Masters, Aussie Racing Cars, Sports GT.
Live coverage: Live on V8 SuperView (pay subscription). Replay in U.S. April 5 @ 7:00 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.

NHRA: Four-Wide Nationals (ZMax Dragway | Charlotte Motor Speedway)

Four-wide drag racing? Four-wide drag racing. Yep, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
Website: NHRA site. ZMax site. Event page. Schedule. Entry list. Season Points.
Live coverage: Eliminations on Sunday @ 2 p.m. ET on ESPN. Qualifcation on Saturday @ 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

NASCAR: STP 500 (Martinsville Speedway)

The NASCAR Neverending Season continues with a visit to Virginia and Martinsville, the only track left from the original 1948 NASCAR circuit. The half-mile “paper-clip” oval features tight turns and (relatively) long straights, meaning an extra chance for mayhem at corner entrance. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon—who is so far having a nightmarish farewell season—each have eight wins at Martinsville, which is twice as many as any other driver in the field (Denny Hamlin has four).
Website: NASCAR site. Martinsville site. Event page. Schedule. Entry list. Season Points.
Supporting series: Kroger 250 (Camping World Trucks Series)
Live coverage: Sunday @ 1 p.m. ET on FOX (TV) and Motor Racing Network (Audio/Streaming). CWTS – Saturday @ 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and MRN.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West: NAPA Auto Parts 150(Kern County Raceway Park)

The NASCAR development series opens its season on Kern County’s half-mile oval in beautiful Bakersfield, California. Defending champion, 46-year-old Greg Pursley, retired after taking home his second title. That leaves the championship open to a huge field of young guns.
Website: K&N West site. Kern County site. Event page with schedule. Entry list.
Live coverage: No live TV that I can find, but delayed broadcast April 3 @ 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

Australian Drivers Championship (Formula 3): Shannons Nationals (Sandown)

Generally, F3 is considered the fastest series in Australia (although a GT3 car recently smashed the Bathurst record, formerly held by an F3 cars) so this is kind of the Australian equivalent to IndyCar. OK, not really, but Mark Webber and Will Power both got their start in Aussie F3 and a young talent like Simon Hodge could be the next of what seems to be a burgeoning international community of OZ and Kiwi racers.
Website: Aussie F3 siteSandown site. Event page. Entry list.
Supporting series: Porsche GT3 Cup Australia, Radical Australia Cup.
Live coverage: None in the U.S.

World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

For once, here’s a round of the WCCCR that has an actual website. The Abu Dhabi Challenge is one of the bigger rounds of the series and one of the better-documented rounds, as well.
Website: WCCCR site. Abu Dhabi Challenge siteEntry listRally guide with schedule and maps. Season points.
Live coverage: Live online tracking on the Abu Dhabi Challenge site.

Texas Mile (Beeville, TX)

It’s a standing mile and it’s in Texas. A lot of big-time tuners and builders turn up to the Texas Mile to throw down some tremendous trap speeds at the end of 5,280 feet.
Website: Texas Mile siteSchedule.
Live coverage: No live coverage.

SVRA/VARA : Willow Springs International Raceway

The SVRA and VARA hold several events cooperatively on the West Coast and this is just one of them. If you’re in the area, you might think it worthwhile to head down and soak in some classic race machinery.
Website: SVRA site. VARA site. Willow Springs site. Event page.
Live coverage: Live timing on RaceMonitor app for smartphones and devices.

ChumpCar World Series: Texas Motor Speedway

Chump races at TMS’ interior road course this weekend in a Double-6. The race is a Friday and Saturday event, since the series is sharing the track with the Optima Ultimate Street Car Association, who will use the circuit Sunday.
Website: ChumpCar site. TMS site. Event supplemental rules with schedule.
Live coverage: Live timing on CCWS site and via RaceMonitor app for smartphones and devices.

ChumpCar World Series: Virginia International Raceway

A thousand miles away, Chump also will race for the first of three times this year at VIR. This race runs 12 hours into the night on the 1.65-mile South Course. As with most CCWS races at VIR, expect a lot of solid East Coast competition to show up.
Website: ChumpCar site. VIR site. Event supplemental rules with schedule.
Live coverage: Live timing on CCWS site and via RaceMonitor app for smartphones and devices.
[Lead photo copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Eric Rood | Other photos: IndyCar, Sepang Circuit, MotoGP]

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  1. The Rusty Hub Avatar
    The Rusty Hub

    The World Endurance Championship’s official, open tests (“The Prologue”) is this weekend at Paul Ricard Circuit in southern France, as well. Porsche just unveiled their new 919 today and Toyota their new TS040.