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Race Weekend Preview – July 6-7-8, 2018

This weekend we are watching six races:

Friday, June 6
1. NASCAR Xfinity Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, Daytona Intl. Speedway

Saturday, June 7
2. IMSA Continental Tire Series, CTMP 120, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON
3. NASCAR MENCS Coke Zero Sugar 400, Daytona Intl. Speedway

Sunday, June 8
4. FIA Formula One Rolex British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England
5. Verizon IndyCar Iowa Corn 300, Iowa Speedway, Newton, IA
6. IMSA WeatherTech Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON

F1 at Silverstone

This year’s Grand Prix will be the sixty-ninth running of the F1 championship event. The 1950 British GP was the first ever event under the then new F1 championship rules and there has been a British GP every year without a break ever since. After 1963, the event alternated between Silverstone and Brands Hatch until 1987. Since then all the British Grands Prix have been held at Silverstone. Over the years, the circuit has evolved from the original very basic layout on the former wartime airfield into a modern multi-purpose facility.

The Mercedes cars have won every one of the most recent five events here, with Lewis Hamilton winning the last four times. His teammate Valtteri Bottas was second last year with Kimi Räikkönen and Max Verstappen third and fourth.

Last week, in Austria, both Mercedes failed to go the distance while Verstappen came home the winner after an uneventful race for him – finishing ahead of the Ferrari duo of Räikkönen and Vettel. No doubt the Mercedes camp will be making their utmost effort to win here in England, hoping to see their champion Hamilton – a Brit – back into the points lead.

The British GP will be broadcast on TSN1/4/5 on Sunday at 9:05 am

IndyCar at Iowa

The Iowa Speedway is a 7/8-mile oval in the middle of cornfields. When the Indy cars are here on this short track, they produce sub-20-second laps. You have to wonder if, as they spin around the track lap after lap, they don’t get dizzy.

Last year, race winner Helio Castroneves completed the 300 laps in a little less than two hours. J.R. Hildebrand finished second and Ryan Hunter-Reay third. Neither Castroneves or Hildebrand are entered for this year’s race. This year the most recent Indy car race was at Road America – a totally different kind of race track – so the results there tell us little about what to expect here. Probably the track they have run on this year that is most similar to the Iowa bowl is the one at Phoenix. There, Josef Newgarden won by a close margin over Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi. All three will likely be strong contenders this time – although Wickens has very limited experience on ovals and has never raced on such a short track before. Newgarden, on the other hand, dominated the race here in 2016, leading 282 of the race’s 300 laps.

The IndyCar Iowa Corn 300 will be broadcast on SN360 at 2:00 pm on Sunday

NASCAR at Daytona

MENCS: This weekend sees the traditional Independence Day Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona on Saturday night. This race used to be run before noon to try to beat the intense summer heat and humidity of that Florida locale. Now, no doubt in the interests of better TV ratings, it is run as an evening race. Unfortunately, they often have rain at that time of day, so the race may be delayed, interrupted, or postponed due to rain. Hang in there ...

Roush driver Ricky Stenhouse won here a year ago, finishing ahead of Clint Boyer, and Paul Menard. Last week, at Chicagoland, Kyle Busch beat off Kyle Larson on the final lap to take the win with Kevin Harvick third. These restrictor races at Daytona and Talladega become ‘pack racing’ with the almost inevitable ‘big one’ crashes indiscriminately taking several cars out of contention. In January, in the season-opener Daytona 500, it looked like Aric Almirola was going to win but on the final lap he was turned into the wall by Austin Dillon who went on to win. These restrictor races are very unpredictable and often produce a first-time Cup winner. It was unlikely that either of these drivers were popular choices in the betting before the race.

The MENCS Coke Zero Sugar 400 will be broadcast on NBC and TSN5 on Saturday night at 7:00 pm

Xfinity: Given that this Xfinity race is running alongside the Cup race, there are a few Cup drivers on the entry list: Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott. The part-timer Ryan Preece is making his fourth start of the season; he won last time out at Bristol. Justin Haley, who recently won a NCWTS race, is also a visiting driver here this weekend.

Last year here, William Byron was the winner ahead of Elliott Sadler and Dakoda Armstrong. Byron has graduated to the Cup series and Armstrong is without a ride but Sadler is contesting the championship again this year. Last week at Chicagoland, Larson won handily over Harvick and Cole Custer.

The Xfinity race will be broadcast on TSN2 at 7:30 pm on Friday evening

imsa Cadillac DPi winner CTMP resize2017 IMSA winner at CTMP (Jake Galstad/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

WeatherTech: Last week at the Glen two LMP2 prototypes finished one-two ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya in one of the Penske Acuras. There had been debate that the DPi prototypes (which are lumped together in the prototype class with the LMP2 cars) had a rules advantage and that IMSA should be giving the LMP2 cars a break. However the results at the Glen suggested that, at least for that track, the two types of cars were pretty evenly matched. One argument to explain this seeming parity at the Glen was that the long straights and fact corners made up for the apparent disadvantage that the lower-powered but more aerodynamic LMP2 cars had on the slower, tighter circuits. Extending that argument, CTMP is another track with some long straights and fast corners so perhaps last Sunday’s parity will extend to this track as well.

A year ago here, the winner at CTMP was the Whelen Cadillac DPi car ahead of the LMP2 JDC-Miller ORECA and the Tequila Patron Nissan DPi. The LMP2 JDC-Miller car was the winner last week ahead of the LMP2 CORE ORECA-Gibson. While the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 was fourth after starting at the front.

In the hotly contested GTLM class No. 66 Ganassi Mustang won over the No. 3 Corvette. The two factory Fords and the two factory Corvettes will be at CTMP fighting among themselves and the other BMWs and Porsches for the win here. Last year the Team BMW cars finished one-two in class ahead of a Ford and a Corvette.. Expect more of the same this year.

The IMSA WeatherTech race from CTMP will be broadcast on the Fox Sports Racing channel on Sunday at 4:00 pm

Continental: This year the top class in this series, the GS class, has seen a big, competitive entry. In the four races so far, a Porsche Cayman won at Daytona and the other three were won by Mustangs. This success by the Mustangs might seem unexpected because the class is full of other impressive makes like BMW M4, Audi R8, Mercedes-AGM, Aston Martin, and McLaren but results don’t lie. The Mustangs have proven to be competitive with the best this big field of cars can put up against them.

Last year at CTMP, a Chevrolet Camaro won ahead of a Porsche Cayman and two McLarens. The highest-placed Mustang was 19th, five laps down. Clearly, the Mustangs are back this year – and in dominant form. Two Multimatic Mustangs are entered, one for last week’s winners, Chad McCumbee and local driver Patrick Gallagher, and the other for Scott Maxwell and Chase Briscoe. The Maxwell/Briscoe entry is primarily at training exercise for the young NASCAR driver, but I know that Maxwell is fast here and Briscoe may be pretty quick as well. In all there are 25 closely matched GS cars on the entry list – promising lots of competition here.

Another class to watch is the ‘Touring Car’ class which runs to international rules – front-wheel drive sedans with turbo two-litre engines. This is an FIA class which is being contested world-wide. These cars are surprisingly quick, not all that far off the GS cars’ pace. So far in the IMSA races, virtually all the cars are Audi RS3s but this is a start in what will likely become an important class here as well as in the rest of the world.

The IMSA Continental race from CTMP will not be broadcast live. However, Canadian residents can watch it by live-streaming on IMSA.TV at 2:55 pm on Saturday. The first television broadcast of the race will be the next week on Sunday, July 8 at 7:30 am.

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