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Race Weekend Review: June 29-July 1, 2018

FIA F1 Austrian GP, Red Bull Ring
Verstappen drives a faultless race to victory while both Mercedes favourites drop out

Spielberg, Austria, July 1/18 (Howard Cohen/PRN): Despite all the pre-race hype about the Mercedes finishing 1-2, in the end, there were no Mercedes running.

The starting order was changed as Fernando Alonso in his McLaren-Renault was given a penalty and started from the pit lane, the result of a qualifying infraction. Sebastian Vettel had started from the third row after getting a penalty for interfering with another competitor during qualifying. The track temperature of 45̊C had a great effect on the race as the tires had to put up with a 20̊C increase from practice and qualifying.

At the green flag, the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen headed for the first turn, splitting the two Mercedes and letting them know the race would be hard fought, although Bottas retained the lead. The Ferraris started on the SuperSoft tires, hopefully giving them an advantage for the first leg of the race. But, by the end of the first lap, Lewis Hamilton had taken the lead with Bottas second and Max Verstappen third. Vettel, after slipping back at the start, was charging hard towards the front. Stoffel Vandoorne pitted early to get a new nose on his McLaren-Renault after clipping another car.

By lap 10 of the 71-lap race, Hamilton had a lead of more than two seconds and seemed to be in control of the race. Two laps later, Nico Hulkenberg’s day ended when his Renault engine went up in smoke and fire. Hulkenberg got out of the car safely as the emergency workers quickly doused the car.

The race changed drastically on lap 14 when Bottas pulled his Mercedes off the track with a loss of hydraulics and subsequent loss of gears, all while leading the race. The virtual safety car was put in effect and Räikkönen and Vettel used the time to make their pit stops and change tires. Many wondered why Hamilton did not take this opportunity to pit but his team left him out. When Hamilton did finally pit, his lead over second place was not enough to keep him at the front and he returned in fourth place behind Verstappen, Ricciardo and Räikkönen. This was a major error by the Mercedes team manager and seemingly cost Hamilton his chance to win the race.

Farther back in the pack, Canadian Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc had an ongoing battle for many laps, fighting for 12th and 13th place, with Leclerc finally getting the edge.

By lap 30, Verstappen was in the lead with Ricciardo and Räikkönen close behind. Räikkönen passed Ricciardo on lap 38 and then Ricciardo pitted a lap later. When he pitted, Hamilton got caught behind him and had to slow down, allowing Vettel to get close enough to use the DRS and pass him for third place.

Tires were heating up and blistering. On lap 62 Hamilton had to pit for tires, leaving him to rejoin the race in fifth position. Hamilton drove hard and set a lap record but it was not good enough.

Lap 55 wasn’t good for Ricciardo as he dropped out of the race with gearbox problems while running third. Brandon Hartley went out a lap later, briefly bringing out the yellow flag. Alonso finally broke into the top ten on lap 61.

Hamilton moved up to fourth place on lap 27 and maintained this until he pulled off the track on lap 63, his Mercedes unable to continue due to lack of fuel pressure. What started out as a very promising day and a chance at a 1-2 finish, had now ended with both Mercedes entries out of the race. This put Alonso into ninth with Leclerc, Marcus Ericsson and Pierre Gasly fighting for tenth place, the last position to give championship points.

F1 Verstappen AP 1W555B2R11W11 news resize2F1 Grand Prix of Austria, Red Bull Ring, July 1/18: Max Verstappen and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz (Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

All the while Verstappen had worked his way into the lead while others had their problems and he had driven a smooth, calm race, never over-driving the car and keeping the Ferraris at bay. The last few laps were trying for Verstappen as one of his rear tires was blistering. He was able to nurse the Red Bull home to first place, with Räikkönen second and Vettel third in their Ferraris, followed by Grosjean in the Haas-Ferrari, Magnussen in the Haas-Ferrari and Ocon in the Force India. Only three cars completed all 71 laps. The Austrian home crowd stood and cheered for their favourite team, Red Bull, and for their adopted racing son, waving their flags and letting Verstappen know how they felt.

This result, with Vettel finishing in fourth place while Hamilton was a DNF, put Vettel back into the points lead, 146 points to 145.

The next F1 Grand Prix I the British GP at Silverstone on Sunday, July 8.

Click HERE for the results of the Austrian GP.

IMSA WT WGI galstad WATKINS 0618 408051 resizeIMSA WeatherTech at WGI July 1/18: The race-winning #99 JDC/Miller Motorsports ORECA 07 driven by Stephen Simpson and Mikhail Goikhberg. (Credit: © 2018 Jake Galstad/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA WeatherTech Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, Watkins Glen International
LMP2 cars finish one-two in late race scramble in the heat

Watkins Glen, NY, July 1/18 (GRW): Going into this six-hour endurance race there had been much talk about how the LMP2 cars, running to an FIA/WEC spec were at a disadvantage to the IMSA-spec DPi cars. In the previous five races this year the DPi-spec cars had won every time. Indeed there was even talk about how IMSA really needed to split the LMP2 cars out into a class separate from the DPis.

After the Glen six-hour, there will be less talk of the disadvantage the LMP2 cars have. Paul di Rests, one of the vocal complainers about the unfair advantage the DPis, had qualified his No 32 LMP2 Ligier-Gibson second fastest, behind Colin Braun in another LMP2 car, the CORE ORECA-Gibson. The race result saw the LMP2s running competitively with the DPis and at the finish they were one-two. The No 99 JDC-Miller ORECA-Gibson of Misha Goikhberg/Stephen Simpson/Chris Miller took the honours 1.54-seconds ahead of the second place car, the No. 54 CORE ORECA-Gibson of Jonathan Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas.

At the start of the final lap, Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 6 Penske Acura DPi, looked set to challenge the lead car for the win but as the lap went on he was unable to close up on the car in front. Indeed the No. 54 car was closing on him. Just when it looked like Montoya would secure second, his car hiccuped in the faunal corner and Simpson in the No. 54 car swing past him to take second. Yet another LMP2 car was fourth, the No. 32 Ligier-Gibson.

When the No. 54 car opted to start with Jonathan Bennett, their bronze-graded driver, at the wheel instead of the pole-winner Braun they were sent to back of the prototype cars for the start. Bennett was able to keep the car on the lead lap and keep it in contention when he handed over to the other drivers.

The whole region was suffering under a heat wave which saw the temperatures here on race day reach the 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) level. Everyone was suffering from the unrelenting heat – drivers, crew members and spectators. The media writers, holed up in the air-conditioned press room, only suffered when the worried that the supply of snacks might run low; not the same for the photographers who had to venture out into this heat to do their work.

The start of the race was punctuated by a melee on the first lap in the esses when the No. 90 Cadillac spun near the front of the field causing several cars to take avoiding action. The No 22 Nissan was damaged and retired immediately, the No. 2 Mazda and the No. 90 car were both penalized for pitting before the pits opened and they were never able to make up this deficit.

Through the course of the race, the Penske Acuras seemed to have the pace, running one-two in the early hours. The No. 7 Acura of Helio Castroneves/ Ricky Taylor had maintained pace with the No. 6 Montoya/Ricky Taylor Acura but past half distance, this car fell back with gear linkage problems. In the end, the No. 7 car finished 12th, four laps down on the winner.

In the GTLM class the two Ford GTs qualified fastest ahead of the two Corvettes and the two Porsches. After six hours it was the No. 66 Ford of Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller winning the class ahead of the No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen(/Antonio Garcia. The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy/Patrick Pilet was third. After six hours all three finished on the same lap, with the Porsche just over two seconds back of the class winner.

In GTD, the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 of Jack Hawksworth/ David Heinemeier Hansson qualified fastest but, in the end, it was the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT# in the victory circle, finishing ahead of the No. 86 Acura of Katherine Legge/Alvaro Parente. After the Glen, Legge is third in the championship standings behind Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, teammates in the No. 48 Lamborghini (which finished third in class) each with 155 points to Legge’s 154. After some thought that Legge’s Acura would not be entered in all the races this year, it now seems apparent that she will be able to keep going and challenge for the class championship.

In the prototype class, Filipe Albuquerque/Christian Fittipaldi, the regular drivers of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac are tied for the lead with Felipe Nasr, who drives the No 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. In GTLM, the winners here at the Glen, Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, were leading in points over their teammates in the other Ganassi Ford GT, Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

The next round in the IMSA WeatherTech series will be at Canadian Tire Motorsport park next Sunday, July 8.

Click HERE for the results of the WeatherTech Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International

IMSA Conti Multimatic galstad WATKINS 0618 400444Continental Tire 240 at The Glen, Watkins Glen, June 30/18: GS Race winners Chad McCumbee and Patrick Gallagher (Credit: © 2018 Jake Galstad/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA Continental Tire series Continental Tire 240 at the Glen, Watkins Glen International
The Multimatic Mustang of McCumbee and Gallagher come to the fore to win

Watkins Glen, NY, June 30/18 (GRW): The Continental Tire series, which is basically a showcase for the GT4-class production cars, now has a big entry in the premier GS class. Now this class has a big contingent of impressive names – McLaren, Porsche, Mercedes, Aston Martin. In this company, the Ford Mustangs seem to be rather blue-collar and one might expect them to be outclassed by their up-market competition. However these race-ready GT4 Mustangs are a lot different from most of the regular Mustangs you see on the street.

Here at the Glen, the Mustangs demonstrated that they could compete and win. In qualifying, a pair of Mustangs beat out a pair of Mercedes-AMG contenders. The No. 80 Mustang of Martin Barkey/Brett Sandberg was on the pole ahead of the No. 8 Multimatic Mustang of Chad McCumbee/Patrick Gallagher – with a pair of Mercedes-AMGs third and fourth quickest.

The No. 80 Mustang led the first 37 laps of the four-hour race – which turned out to be 106 laps long. After that, the No. 8 Mustang led three times for a total of 59 laps, leading the final 25 laps to take the checker. The No. 82 BMW M4 GT4 of James Clay/Tyler Cooke was second, eight seconds back while the No. 60 Mustang of Nate Stacy/Kyle Marcelli was third.

There were a number of Canadians in the field. Notably, Barkey, who drove the pole-winning Mustang calls Huntsville, ON, home. Kyle Marcelli who co-drive the third-place Mustang is from ‘Toronto’ (originally Barrie, ON). Scott Maxwell, a former champion in this series and a long-time Multimatic driver is also from Toronto. The No 15 car he co-drove with Ty Majeski finished in ninth place on the lead lap but their primary mission was not to win the race but rather to give Majeski, who is a development driver in Ford’s stock car program, valuable road-course experience. Accordingly, Majeski had been sent out to qualify the car and he was in the car for about two of the race’s four hours.

If you look at the specs for the new TCR sedan class (which are now also the regs for the renamed World Touring Car Cup) – sedans with turbo 2-litre engine and front-wheel drive you might expect that they would be far off the pace of the muscular GS class cars – but they are surprisingly competitive. The fastest TCR qualifier was just a little over two seconds slower than the pole-sitting Mustang. In the race, the highest placed TCR was the No. 77 Compass Racing Audi RS3 of Britt Casey Jr/Tom Long , finishing in 13th place on the lead lap, 52 seconds back of the race winner.

In the slower ST class, the No 52 MINI JCW of Colin Mullan/Mark Pombo was the winner two laps down on the overall winner. This class used to be a really big part of the field for these Continental races. Now, the GS and the new TCR class are attracting most of the entries. Only six ST class cars lined up for the start – at the back of the grid.

The next round of the Continental Tire series will be at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Saturday, July 7.

Click HERE for the results of the Continental Tire 240 at the Glen

MENCS CHICAGO KyBusch 356497 resizeNASCAR MENCS at Chicagoland, July 1/18: Kyle Busch leads Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex during a restart (Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
Kyle Busch beats Larson after a fender-banging final lap.

Joliet, IL, July 1/18 (GRW): This is the way NASCAR races are supposed to end. In the final green-flag run, Kyle Busch started in the lead with Kyle Larson back in the second row but Larson was soon up to second place and he was driving Busch down. At the final laps ticked down, Larson got closer and closer. Approaching the final lap Busch, was held up a bit by lapped cars – and Ryan Newman, who was trying desperately for some reason to avoid going a lap down. So, as they started the final lap, Larson caught up to Busch and he dove down alongside. Larson slid up and they made contact, turning Busch up into the outer wall. But they both continued. This had let Larson get ahead of Busch. Busch caught him and bumped him from behind. Larson went into a half spin down onto the apron as Busch sailed on to take the checker. Larson recovered and kept on coming taking second place – but now he was over a second back. Behind them, Kevin Harvick was third, Martin Truex fourth and Clint Boyer fifth.
Busch was magnanimous in his comments after the race. “I don’t know. I got really boxed in and got really slow. I tried to get all of it on those last couple of laps. Larson tried to pull a slider but didn’t quite complete it. He slid up into me and used me, and then I kind of used him a little bit in Turn 3 to come back for the victory. We were horrible today. Absolutely horrendous. We just never gave up. It’s always to good to make the most of the days and get to where we needed at the end. I was able to lead all of those laps. And get through the rest of the traffic. If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”

Larson’s comments were equally positive. “I have a lot of respect for Kyle Busch”, he said. “He has a lot of respect for me. Yeah, I mean, like I said, that was hard racing. I had a lot of fun. I didn't think I was even going to get the opportunity to race him side by side for the win like that. I was getting really tight behind him. Just from running really hard up top to try to catch those guys. I was able to, yeah, race him like that. Yeah, I mean, like I said, he roughed me up, then I roughed him up. I can't be mad at him.”

How can you keep on hating Kyle Busch after that?

Paul Menard had won the pole in the Wood Brothers Ford ahead of Penske driver Ryan Blaney but he never led a lap after the race started. Aric Almirola in the Stewart-Haas Ford took the lead on lap 60 and he led a total of 70 laps in the race, winning the first stage which came after 80 laps of the 267-lap/400-mile race. Later, two green-flag pit stops for loose wheels dropped him from contention.

Early on in the race, Kyle Busch was uncompetitive, running outside the top ten but, late in the race, his car became competitive and he took the lead for the first time on lap 164. He took the lead for the final time on lap 209 during the last caution when he beat Harvick out of the pits and he led the rest of the way to the win.

Like at Watkins Glen, the heat wave engulfing this region of America made for hot, hot conditions here at Chicagoland as well.

The next MENCS race is the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, July 8.

Click HERE for the results of the Overton's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway

 NXS Larson Chicago 356489 resizeNASCAR Xfinity Series Overton's 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30/18: Kyle Larson, race winner. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overton`s 300 at Chicagoland Speedway
Larson shows his prowess, starting from the pole and taking a commanding lead in the final laps

Joliet, IL, June 30/18 (GRW): In an Xfinity race loaded with Cup interlopers on this triple-header weekend, Kyle Larson was the star performer, winning the pole, winning Stage 2 and running down Kevin Harvick late in the race to take the win. In just three Xfinity starts this year, he has won twice, his previous win coming at Las Vegas. In the past five years, he has won ten times, never before here at Chicagoland.

Kevin Harvick finished second eight seconds behind Larson, Cole Custer third, Daniel Suarez fourth and Daniel Hemric fifth.

The race only saw four cautions, including the two at the end of the first two Stages. The last caution came out on lap 115 of the 200-lap race. This left the competitors faced with the need to make their final pit stop under green. Larson emerged at the front after this final round of pit stops was completed – some nine seconds ahead of Harvick, a deficit the SHR driver could not overcome in the remaining few laps. Larson led for 80 laps while Harvick led for 38. Tyler Reddick led 35 laps but he crashed out of the race.

Christopher Bell started 11th but he led for 20 laps after racing resumed in Stage 2. Unfortunately he was caught speeding during the sequence of green-flag pit stops which began around lap 144. He was given a pass-through penalty and he could never fully recover from that setback, finishing in 12th place. Nonetheless, Bell was the highest finishing rookie in the race.

Cole Custer leads in the points standings with 541 points to Hemric’s 538 and Elliott Sadler’s 537 – but this is a bit academic given that a race win boosts a driver into the championship playoff and none of these three has yet won a race this year. In addition, once the playoffs begin, the pre-playoff points are of no value towards the ultimate championship. Given the number of Cup drivers or otherwise part-timers in this series who have won races so far, the only significant race winners in terms of championship eligibility are Bell and Tyler Reddick, each with one race win so far. At this rate, perhaps Custer, Hemric and Sadler look like having a good chance to qualify for the championship playoffs on points.

The next NXS race is next Saturday, July 6 at Daytona International Speedway

Click HERE for results of the NSX Overton`s 300 at Chicagoland Speedway

 NCWTS Moffitt winner 356471 resize NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Overton's 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 29/18: Brett Moffitt applies his third winner’s sticker of the year (Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Camping World Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway
Moffitt takes his third win in a surprise result

Joliet, IL, June 29/18 (GRW): Going into the final lap of the 150-lap race it looked like John Hunter Nemechek was set to win but half-way around his engine sputtered and he cried out, “We’re blowing up!” As his truck slowed, Brett Moffitt, who had been close behind sailed past to take the race win.

It was only on the previous Tuesday that Moffitt’s team had found the sponsorship they needed to participate in this race – and it paid off with a win. Moffitt had previously won at Atlanta and at Iowa so he now has three wins and he looks like a serious contender for the championship – if only the team can continue to scape up enough sponsorship to continue in all the remaining races this year.

Early on in the race Dalton Sargeant held the lead until Noah Gragson, the polesitter got past for the lead. But, just before the end of Stage 1, Nemechek got past to win the stage. Gragson won the race out of the pits and he started the second Stage in the lead – and he led for about 30 laps before he started to fade, letting Nemechek have his turn at the front.

For the rest of the race, the lead was passed back and forth between Nemechek and Moffitt, Going into that last lap, Nemechek looked certain to win but his engine problem handed the win to Moffitt.

Johnny Sauter finished in third place ahead of Gragson and Brandon Jones. Justin Haley, who had won the previous race, finished in sixth place here.

Stewart Friesen had a good run in the first half of the race, starting fifth on the grid and racing in the top five. He was still a solid sixth when, on lap 120, he tangled with another truck and his truck sustained a lot of damage to the rear end. He was able to continue after repairs but, by now, he was a couple of laps down and, with end of the race quickly approaching, he was out of luck. In the end he finished 19th, two laps down.

This problem for Friesen messed up Matt Crafton who been running in the top ten until his crew chief decided to bring him in under green for his final set of tires before the other contenders did. This stop left him temporarily down two laps – but that deficit became permanent when Friesen`s yellow came out soon after Crafton pitted. When everyone else made their final pit stop under this yellow, Crafton lost any chance of regaining more than one of those two lost laps – and he had to settle for an 11th-place finish. With the number of races before the championship playoff series begins, the two-time champion Crafton needs to be concerned that he might not qualify for the playoff competition.

Todd Gilliland had been a contender for most of the race but that went bad when he pulled into the pits under green with a flat right-front tire. He lost two laps before he was able to get back out on the track – and he finished 16th, two laps down. Because, due to his young age, he was unable to compete in some of the early season superspeedway races and losing his chance to accumulate points in those missed races, his only hope of making the playoffs would be for him to win a race. For a while here it looked like he had a chance – but it was not to be at Chicagoland.

The next NCWTS race is at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, July 12.

Click HERE for the results of the NCWTS Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway

Pintys Chadiere Ranger Powell resizeAndrew Ranger celebrates his 23rd NASCAR Pinty's Series win at Autodrome Chaudiere (Matthew Murnaghan/ NASCAR) Bumper To Bumper 300 for the NASCAR Pinty's Series at Autodrome Chaudiere on June 30/18: Ranger leading Powell (Matthew Murnaghan/ NASCAR)

 

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Bumper to Bumper 300 at Autodrome Chaudière
Ranger’s drought is over -- he wins this rain-shortened race

Vallée-Jonction, QC, June 30/18 (GRW): Andrew Ranger had not won a Pinty’s race since he last won at Saskatoon in 2016. Here on this quarter-mile short track, he held off L.P. Dumoulin long enough to let him claim the win when the race was red-flagged to a conclusion due to rain on lap 220 of the race’s scheduled 300 laps. Ranger got past Dumoulin for the lead on lap 179 and he led the remaining laps to the premature finish.

Dumoulin had started from the pole and he traded the lead with Ranger, leading a total of 167 laps until Ranger took over the lead for good. Donald Theetge finished in third place while rookie Cole Powell was fourth and D.J. Kennington was fifth.

Kevin Lacroix, who came into this race as the series points leader, suffered a blown engine on lap 125 ending his day early. Lacroix would finish 16th in the 17-car field and drop to fifth in championship points. L.P. Dumoulin is now the points leader with 128 points to Powell’s 121, Andrew Ranger is tied for third with Marc-Antoine Camirand at 120 points each.

The next Pinty’s Series race will be the Pinty’s Grand Prix of Toronto at Exhibition Place on Saturday, July 14 in conjunction with Sunday’s IndyCar Honda Grand Prix.

Click HERE for the results of the Pinty’s Series Bumper to Bumper 300 at Autodrome Chaudière

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