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Race Weekend Preview – June 28 to July 1

This weekend we are watching seven races:
Friday, June 29
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Overton’s 225, Chicagoland Speedway

Saturday, June 30
NASCAR Xfinity Overton’s 300, Chicagoland Speedway
IMSA Continental Tire Series, Continental Tire 240 at The Glen, Watkins Glen Intl
NASCAR Pinty’s Series, Autodrome Chaudiere, Vallée-Jonction, QC

Sunday, July 1
FIA Formula One Austrian Grand Prix. Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria
IMSA WeatherTech Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, Watkins Glen International
NASCAR MENCS Overton’s 400, Chicagoland Speedway

 

F1 Austrian Grand Prix

The Austrian Grand Prix is the second in a three-consecutive-weeks triple-header sequence, coming a week after the French Grand Prix and a week before the British GP. This track was originally built as the Österreichring, and, in this format, it hosted the Austrian GP from 1970 to 1987. It has been subsequently rebuilt into a slightly shorter format (4.318 km/2.683 mi). The Austrian GP returned here in 2014 and has run each year since.

The circuit is set in a lovely setting in the foothills of the Styrian mountains, somewhat reminiscent of the setting for Watkins Glen and it attracts a large number of enthusiastic Italian and German fans.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the race last year ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Last week, the two Mercedes drivers started from the front row with Hamilton cruising home to an easy win over Max Verstappen in the Red Bull car.

NASCAR at Chicagoland

MENCS: Despite its name, the Chicagoland Speedway is in Joliet, Illinois, a good hour southwest of the big city. It was built in 2001 as a joint venture between Indy’s Tony George and NASCAR’s Bill France, Jr. with the plan to run both IndyCar and NASCAR races there alongside the already exiting Route 66 Raceway drag strip.

The 1.5-mile oval has hosted NASCAR Cup races every year since the track opened but the IndyCar series abandoned this track after 2010. Now this Cup race in early July is the only major event on the oval. The track is considered to be another one of the standard 1-5-mile ovals that populate the Cup series.

Last year, this race ran in mid-September. Martin Truex won here ahead of Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick. Last week, on the totally different Sonoma road course, Truex won with Harvick and Clint Boyer second and third. The most recent race on a 1.5-mile oval was at Charlotte last month. It was won by Kyle Busch over Truex and Denny Hamlin. It looks like Truex is having a spurt of better results just now, so he may be going into Chicagoland as the favourite to win.

NXS: Justin Allgaier, the JR Motorsports driver, won the Xfinity race here last year ahead of Cup driver Kyle Larson and Elliott Sadler. Last week, at Iowa Speedway, Allgaier was the winner again ahead of Christopher Bell and Daniel Hemric. When the Cup drivers enter these lower-tier races, they are always a threat to win. This week the race lineup will include five Cup drivers – Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez.

NCWTS: Last year, Johnny Sauter won this truck race with Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell second and third. Last week, at the 1.25-mile Gateway speedway, KBM driver Justin Haley won his first truck race; Todd Gilliland was second and Johnny Sauter third. Keep your eye on KBM driver Noah Gragson who looks to be making a strong run for the championship this year, despite having only won once so far.

IMSA WGI 2018 winners 291948082017 IMSA WeatherTech Watkins Glen International, No.5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, race winners. Credit: Michael L. Levitt/LAT Images/IMSA

IMSA at Watkins Glen

WeatherTech Series: This race is a six-hour endurance race, round three of the four-race Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. The first two rounds were Daytona and Sebring. The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi won at Daytona and the No. 22 Nissan DPi won the Sebring race. The Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta in October is the fourth round in this series-within -a-series.

In the five WeatherTech races run so far this year, three have been won by a Cadillac DPi, one by the Nissan and one by the Penske-entered Acura DPi. The most recent outing was at Belle Isle where Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran co-drove their No. 31 Whelen Cadillac to the win. Given the six-hour nature of the race, most of the teams will be adding an extra driver to make up a three-driver roster. In addition to ten DPi entries there are also six LMP2 cars in the prototype field. Dario Franchitti’s younger cousin Paul Di Resta will be the third driver in the No. 32 United Autosports LMP2 Ligier-Gibson. He was already complaining that the IMSA BoP rules favour the DPi cars over the LMP2 cars making it virtually impossible for any LMP2 car to win in the IMSA prototype class. Perhaps Watkins Glen will be a test of his theory.

Continental Tire Series: This undercard race is contested by production cars in the GT4 configuration, while some of the same models of cars will also be seen in the WeatherTech race, running in the faster GT3 setup. Given the endurance nature of the Glen Weekend, the Continental race on Saturday will be four-hours long instead of the usual two.

Last year the Watkins Glen Continental Tire race was won by Jack Roush Jr and Dean Martin in a KohR Mustang. Winners so far this year have been Spencer Pumpelly and Dillon Machavern in a Porsche Cayman GT4 at Daytona, with Toronto’s Scott Maxwell – teamed with Ty Majeski and Cole Custer – coming third in a Multimatic Mustang GT4. The Sebring two-hour race was won by Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy in their KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4. This third round at Mid-Ohio went to that same KohR Mustang duo with the Multimatic Mustang of Patrick Gallagher and Chad McCumbee second. I thought that Maxwell had retired from racing last year or the year before but he is back on the entry list for the Glen, pared with Ty Majeski – and he is a genuine threat to win.

NASCAR Pinty’s Bumper to Bumper 300 at Autodrome Chaudiere

This weekend the Pinty’s Series is visiting the quarter-mile Autodrome Chaudiere oval 70 km south of Quebec City. The lap record at this track, which they like to compare to Bristol, is 10.77 seconds.

It is a long trip to get here from Ontario, where many of the teams in the series are based. This year only 14 cars are entered but this list includes all the regulars including rookie Cole Powell who put on a great show at Jukasa two weeks ago, finishing second to Kevin Lacroix. Last year, Cayden Lapcevich won here with Alex Labbe second and L.P. Dumoulin third. This year Lapcevich does not have a ride and Labbe has moved up to a full-time ride in the Xfinity series.

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