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Race Weekend Review: September 1-2, 2018

F1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia at the Monza Autodrome
Hamilton wins from third after a clash with Vettel and he extends his points lead

Monza, Italy, Sept 2/18 (GRW): With the Ferraris starting one-two on the front row, it looked like the home team was set to score an important points advantage over Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team – but it was not to be. When it was all over, Hamilton was on the top step of the podium having scored maximum points while Vettel was fortunate to be able to recover from a first-lap coming together with Hamilton and score fourth-place points. This extended Hamilton’s championship points lead by another 13 points, giving him a 30-point margin over Vettel.

At the start, Räikkönen was on pole with Vettel second and Hamilton third. Half-way around the first lap, Hamilton made a dive inside Vettel and they collided; Vettel spinning off while Hamilton continued unaffected. Vettel fell to the back of the field when he pitted for a replacement rear wing but the loss was minimized because the safety car had come out after Brendon Hartley pulled off with a broken suspension. All Vettel had to do now was catch up and pass everyone to take the race lead – and he did come close to achieving this lofty goal.

On the restart, Hamilton got past the leader Räikkönen briefly but he fell back into second place. He stopped on lap 20 of the 53-lap race but Hamilton stayed out. He came out behind Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas who trundled around for several laps behind Verstappen – meanwhile letting Hamilton close the gap to Räikkönen.

When Bottas finally pitted on lap 36, Hamilton, who taken on fresh tires eight laps before was right behind Räikkönen whose tires were starting to blister. After that, Hamilton had it all his own way, taking the lead on lap 44 and taking the checker by a nine-second margin over Räikkönen.

Bottas was third while Vettel was credited with fourth after Verstappen was given a five-second penalty for a driving infraction. Originally Romain Grosjean in the HAAS was scored in sixth place but, after a protest from Renault, his car was disqualified over a technical matter of their failure to comply with a technical modification to the bodywork regulations.

The next Grand Prix will be at Singapore on September 16.

Click HERE for the results of the Italian GP.

PHOTO INDYCAR SATO PORTLAND resizeTakuma Sato celebrates in Victory Circle after winning the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Verizon IndyCar Grand Prix of Portland
Sato wins but Dixon extends his points lead

Portland, OR, Sept 2/18 (GRW): Takuma Sato emerged as the winner here in Portland, leading the final 20 laps of the 105-lap raced leading home Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastian Bourdais. Among the championship contenders, Scott Dixon finished fifth while Alexander Rossi was eighth; Will Power was back in 21st place after suffering gearbox problems.

The race started with a bang when James Hinchcliffe and Zach Veach touched wheels in the first corner collecting Bourdais. Others involved included Dixon, Ed Jones, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti whose car flipped upside-down.

Late in the race Hunter-Reay was reeling in Sato but he was unable to catch him before Sato took the checker – by a 0.6-second margin over Hunter-Reay.

Spencer Pigot was the fourth-place finisher. Josef Newgarden was tenth and Hinchcliffe was credited with 22nd place after his first lap problems.

Going into the final race of the season, Dixon is leading in the points standings with 591 points to Rossi’s 569. The two Penske drivers, Power and Josef Newgarden are tied for third in the points with 511 points each,

The next IndyCar race is the season finale at Sonoma Raceway on September 16

Click HERE for the results of the Portland IndyCar race.

PHOTO MENCS KESELOWSKI resizeBrad Keselowski celebrates after winning the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Brad Keselowski sweeps Darlington, winning both the MENCS and the Xfinity races

Darlington, SC, Sept 2/18 (GRW): In his nine previous starts here, Brad Keselowski had never won – and, for that matter, he had not won a MENCS race so far this year, but that all changed when he won the traditional Labour Day weekend Southern 500 at Darlington this week. The day before Keselowski had won the Xfinity race here, so it was weekend sweep for Keselowski just as he is getting set to challenge for the championship during the soon-to-come playoffs. Kyle Larson had been the star of the show, winning both of the first two 100-lap stages and leading for 284 of the race’s 367 laps.

Keselowski beat Larson out of the pits on the final caution to take the lead for the last time. His teammate Joey Logano also passed Larson to make it a one-two finish ahead of Larson for the Penske boys. Ryan Blaney, the third Penske driver finished 15th.

Kevin Harvick finished fourth and Chase Elliott fifth – followed by the two Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle.

Erik Jones and Martin Truex had been running near the front in the early going but both were penalized during separate pit stop sequences for uncontrolled tires and sent to the back. This penalty was especially problematic for Truex who was pitting under green and who went a lap down as a consequence. Ultimately they both ended the race on the lead lap, Jones finishing in eighth place and Truex in 11th.

Indeed, after the fourth caution which came on lap 313 during a cycle of green-flag pit stops only three drivers – Larson, Keselowski and Logano – remained on the lead lap. But, given wave-arounds at the end of this caution and the two more that fell before the race ended, 18 drivers were listed as finishing all 367 laps of the race distance.

There is only one more race, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis next week (September 9) before the 10-race MENCS playoffs begins at Las Vegas the following week.

Click HERE for the results of the Darlington MENCS race.

PHOTO NXS KESELOWSKI resizeBrad Keselowski takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 (Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts 200 at Darlington Raceway
Keselowski wins after Chastain tangles with Harvick

Darlington, SC, Sept 1/18 (GRW): Ross Chastain, driving the Ganassi No. 42 car seemed to have this race under control but late in the race he and Kevin Harvick tangled. Both wrecked and Brad Keselowski came through to take the lead with 33 laps to go. After that he easily held off Cole Custer, taking the checker by a 0.7-second margin.

Chastain had started on the pole with Christopher Bell alongside and he led for 90 of the race’s 147 laps winning both the first and second Stages. But Harvick was running well, finishing the first Stage in third place behind Bell and the second Stage in third place behind Keselowski.

Both Bell and Justin Allgaier have won four races each so far this year and they are favourites to win the championship. Bell was involved in contact with Daniel Hemric and went a lap down. Later, on lap 67, he hit the wall and dropped out. Allgaier finished seventh on the lead lap.

Chastain’s good day ended when he was racing Harvick for the lead on lap 112. While the driver’s stories did not quite jibe afterwards, it looked like Harvick had pushed Chastain up into the wall. Then Chastain came back down on Harvick – either in retaliation or simply because he had bounced off the wall – and Harvick went spinning. When the dust settled, Harvick finished in 29th place 36 laps down while Chastain ended up in 25th place two laps down. Harvick was venting after the race, blaming Chastain for being an inexperienced driver, but perhaps he should have shown a bit more maturity and accepted this as a racing accident incident instead of throwing a temper tantrum.

Tyler Reddick was third with Denny Hamlin fourth, Elliott Sadler fifth and Chase Elliott sixth. Of these six, Keselowski, Hamlin and Elliott are Cup regulars and, as such, ineligible for any part in the Xfinity Series driver championship playoffs.
The next Xfinity race will be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Saturday, September 8. There are two more races left in the Xfinity regular season: Indianapolis and Las Vegas. The first race in the seven-race playoff series will be the race at Richmond on September 21.

Click HERE for the results of the Darlington Xfinity race.

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