N News & Results

Race Weekend Preview: August 25-26, 2018

This week we are watching five races:

Saturday, August 25
1. NASCAR Xfinity Johnsonville 180, Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI (TSN2, 3:00P)
2. Verizon IndyCar Bommarito Automotive Group 500, Gateway Motorsports Park (SN360/SN1, 8:00P)

Sunday, August 26
3. FIA Formula One Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium (TSN1/5, 9:05A)
4. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250, CTMP (FOX/FSR, 2:30P)
5. NASCAR Pinty’s Series Total Energy 200, CTMP (no live broadcast)

F1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps

The 7-km (4.350-mile) Spa-Francorchamps road course is one of the great classic Grand Prix circuits. It was once much longer and more treacherous but even in its shortened and sanitized form, it is still a daunting challenge. It’s origins go back to 1920. The post-war road course, using public roads closed for the event, was 14.1 km long. As the drivers’ campaign for safer circuits grew, this venue was dropped from the list of F1 circuits after 1970 and the Belgian GP was held at Nivelles and Zolder. The circuit was shortened in 1979 by the elimination of the very fast sections to the southern end of the circuit (Malmedy, Masta and Stavelot) reducing the lap length. After this, the ‘bus stop’ was added and it still exists in modified form. A new pit lane complex was built on the short stretch between the bus stop chicane and “La Source” hairpin. The difficult ‘Eau Rouge/Raidillon” section has been revised considerably over the years since the track was shortened making it a more open and less dangerous – but it is still the best place to watch the race from.

Last year, the Belgian GP was won by Lewis Hamilton over Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. The most recent Grand Prix this year, the Hungarian GP, was won by Hamilton over Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen. The Red Bull team is still capable of winning races and either one of Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen could pull off a win here.

Coming into Spa, Hamilton is leading in championship points race with 213 points to Vettel’s 189. With Räikkönen third in the points 42 points behind Vettel, it looks like the battle for the championship is down to the two leading drivers.

Indy car at Gateway

The 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval was built in 1997 as an circuit that would be used as an alternate venue for the CART series to run head-to-head with the IRL’s Indy 500. This experiment did not work out very well and after two more years of bucking the Indy 500, they picked a non-conflicting date for the subsequent year – and then left forever. The track never closed down and IRL-style Indy car racing came here from 2001 to 2003 and then it returned last year. This is a modest track with limited facilities, shared with a popular drag strip. Note that the track is actually located in Madison, Illinois, across the bridge from St. Louis, Missouri.

When the event was reinstated last year the winner was Josef Newgarden with Scott Dixon second and Simon Pagenaud third. The most recent Indy car race this year was the troubled event at Pocono last weekend which was won by Alexander Rossi in dominant fashion over Will Power. Newgarden seems to excel at short ovals like Iowa and Gateway.

Scott Dixon, who finished in third place last week, still leads the championship points race with 530 points but Rossi is catching him, now in second place just 29 points back.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, entrant of the car driven by Robert Wickens who had a big crash at Pocono and has subsequently undergone surgery to his spine, has not sought out a substitute driver for this car at Gateway.

NASCAR Xfinity at Road America

The Xfinity series will be running its third road course race of the season this weekend at the 4-mile Road America circuit. Nowadays it seems as if most of the series regulars have learned to compete well on road courses as well as on ovals, so there is little advantage to one-off road course ringers any more. This event at Road America runs Thursday to Saturday only with the Xfinity race on Saturday.

Last week the Xfinity cars ran at Bristol and Cup driver Kyle Larson was the winner ahead of series regulars Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier. But the results of that race on the Bristol bull ring don’t tell us mich about what to expect at Elkhart Lake.

Last year here at Road America, Jeremy Clements, an Xfinity Series veteran who had never won in 11 years of trying, finally scored a win. Michael Annett and Matt Tifft were second and third. This year there are no notable Cup drivers in the entry – except for former Cup driver Bill Elliott who is making a one-off return to NASCAR racing in the No. 23 GMS entry. Katherine Legge, the former Indy car driver, who had a big crash here in her Champ Car days, is returning to the Xfinity series after her run at Mid-Ohio – as is her former sports car co-driver Andy Lally.

NASCAR Camping World Trucks at CTMP

Since the truck series started coming to CTMP in 2013, this race rivals in importance the IMSA race which runs here earlier in the summer. The road course layout seems to encourage a wham-bam style of racing and we have seen a number of controversial, tightly-fought close finishes here.

The most recent truck race this year was at Bristol where Johnny Sauter beat out Stewart Friesen by a mere two-tenths of a second. Last year at CTMP Austin Cindric won his first NASCAR national series race – bumping his way past Noah Gragson and then, in Turn 5 on the last lap, Kaz Grala. Another controversial finish – something this race is known for. Johnny Sauter, with five wins so far this year, in one to watch – as are John Hunter Nemechek and Stewart Friesen. Friesen may be handicapped by his limited road-course experience.

NASCAR Pinty’s Series at CTMP

The Pinty’s Series is running at CTMP as a double-header with the trucks on Sunday. This will be the second time these cars have run here this year.

Last year Kevin Lacroix won in May and in September. This year In May, Lacroix was in command of the race when, on the last lap, he was punted off in Turn 5 by Andrew Ranger. Lacroix fell back, Ranger was penalized and L.P. Dumoulin emerged as the winner.

Going into this weekend’s race, L.P. Dumoulin is leading in the championship points race by 19 points over series ‘rookie’ Cole Powell and the veteran Alex Tagliani.

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