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Race Weekend Review – October 21, 2018

FIA Formula 1 Pirelli United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas
Räikkönen wins his first Grand Prix since 2013; Hamilton fails to clinch the title

Austin, TX, Oct 21/18 (GRW): Lewis Hamilton started the US Grand Prix from the pole and it looked almost certain that he would clinch the 2018 F1 championship in this race. In the end, he finished third while his challenger Vettel was fourth, not quite good enough to give Hamilton the title this day. Meanwhile, Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen, who started from second on the grid, jumped Hamilton on the first lap and then held command of the race to the checker, claiming his first Grand Prix win since Australia in 2013.

”Obviously it’s a great feeling to win this race,” said Räikkönen. “It’s nice to prove to all the people that we can still win; that’s the reason we are here for, try to win races and Championships. It was an exciting race, not only for us but also for all those who were watching. We had a very solid weekend, I felt confident and I’m glad about that especially because lately we’ve had rough weekends for the team.”

PHOTO USGP RAIKKONENKimi Raikkonen smiling post-race (Ferrari media)

Vettel had qualified third quickest but he was sent back to fifth place on the grid as a penalty for not slowing quickly enough when the red flag was shown in a practice session earlier in the weekend. Max Verstappen had problems in qualifying; his suspension broke, damaging the drive train when he went wide over a curb. He qualified 15th quickest and was penalized more – back to 18th place when the team replaced the gearbox.

The start of the race saw a number of incidents on the first lap. The mot significant was when Vettel tried to get past Daniel Ricciardo and they touched wheels, Ricciardo continued but Vettel did a 360 degree spin and, when he got going again he was down in 15th place.

Now both Vettel and Verstappen were scything their way up towards the front. By lap eight the order was Räikkönen, Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, and Verstappen – an amazing run to the front from Verstappen who had started so far back. Vettel was already up to eighth place.

A lap later Ricciardo came to a stop at the side of the course with a battery problem. The car was parked in a bad spot and the Virtual Safety Car was invoked to allow the marshals to remove the car. During this yellow, Hamilton took a ‘free’ pit stop and was able to return in third place behind Bottas, having lost only one position. Hamilton soon closed up on Räikkönen within DRS distance and was harrowing him for the lead. Räikkönen was called into the pits and came back out behind Vettel who, by now was up into third place.

After Bottas pitted, Hamilton took over the lead ahead of Räikkönen and Vettel who promptly pitted, dropping to fifth behind Hamilton, Räikkönen, Verstappen and Bottas. Unfortunately for Hamilton, his tires were giving out and on lap 38 he pitted for a new set of tires, dropping to fourth just ahead of Vettel. He got past Vettel and then Bottas was told to let Hamilton past him so he could take over third place behind Räikkönen and Verstappen.

Now with just over ten laps left to run, there would be no more stops for tires. Räikkönen continued to lead but Hamilton closed up on the second-place Verstappen and closed to within DRS distance and he started to stalk him. By now both drivers were having grip problems as their tires were reaching the end of their useful life but Verstappen was able to fend off Hamilton and he went on the finish second, 1.2 seconds behind Räikkönen, while Hamilton finished third, another second adrift of Verstappen. But Vettel was fourth , albeit 15 seconds behind Hamilton. This result gave Hamilton 15 points and Vettel 12 points. The three point difference was not big enough to clinch the title for Hamilton. Next week at Mexico City he only needs to earn five points more than Hamilton to become champion. With three races left to go, it seems hard to imagine that Vettel has any chance of winning the championship over Hamilton this year.

The next F1 Grand Prix will be held at Mexico City next Sunday, October 28.

Click HERE for the full results of the USGP at Austin, Texas.

 PHOTO MENCS KANSAS ELLIOTTChase Elliott races during the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Monster Energy Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway
Elliott scores his third win of the season

Kansas City, KS, Oct 21/18 (GRW): Chase Elliot may have taken a while to get to his first Cup win but, with this win here at Kansas, he now has three wins this season, two in the last three races. He took the checker less than a second ahead of Kyle Busch, who had been running him down in the closing laps. As for Kyle Larson, he had to win this race to advance in the playoffs but the best he could do was third, just behind Busch.

The race saw only three cautions, the third coming at the end of the second Stage. After this yellow, Kevin Harvick was leading ahead of Elliott, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney. Harvick held the lead over Elliott right through this stint – until the next round of pit stops under green began about lap 213 of the 267-lap race. Brad Keselowski, who inherited the lead when the others pitted stayed out hoping that a caution would come and he would be able to gain track position by pitting under yellow when the field had closed up behind the pace car. No such luck and he eventually had to make his final pit stop which dropped him to eleventh and elevated Elliott into the lead – a lead he held to the finish. By the race’s end Keselowski had worked his way up to sixth place but that was not good enough to save him from elimination from the playoffs.

During this final round of green-flag pit stops, Harvick was caught speeding and he had to make a pass through the pits which dropped him to the back of the field. In the 40 or so laps left in the race he was never able to regain much lost ground and he was scored in 12th place at the finish.

“I got really tight that last run, and especially the second half of the run, (Busch) was catching me, and he was making a lot of time right against the wall, and I was just afraid to get up there and put it in the fence and really ruin it,” Elliott said.

“I thought last year we had a pretty solid run at it and didn’t win any, obviously, but had some really good runs. Just so proud of my race team and the pit stops we had today. (Crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) made some great calls.

“We just can’t get complacent. This is a huge time of year. We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”

This was the final race in the Round of 12 elimination series, so of the 12 playoff drivers at Kansas, the top eight drivers will go on to the three-race Round of 8 while the bottom four will be eliminated from the championship playoffs. The drivers continuing in the playoffs on to Martinsville next week are Kyle Busch, Harvick, Martin Truex, Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, and Aric Almirola. The four who were eliminated as of the Kansas race are Blaney, Keselowski, Larson and Denny Hamlin.

The next MENCS race will be at Martinsville next Sunday, October 28.

Click HERE for the full results of the MENCS race at Kansas.

 PHOTO NXS KANSASDaniel Hemric, driver of the #21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet, and Tyler Reddick, driver of the #9 BurgerFi Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 Kansas Speedway
Nemechek outdrives Hemric for the win; many playoff contenders knocked out early

Kansas City, KS, Oct. 20/18 (GRW): After the first-lap mass wreckage, the race came down to the polesitter Daniel Hemric and the rookie John Hunter Nemechek. Both of them had shown promise this year but neither had been able to win a race to solidify their place as serious contenders – and now that deals are being made for next year, this had to weigh heavily on both of them. Hemric led from the start and he led a total of 128 laps in the 200-lap race but, as the race went into the final run, Nemechek seemed to find better speed. After taking the final restart back in sixth place, he charged forward to challenge Hemric and then take the lead in a couple of laps. After that he was able to pull away and win the race unchallenged with Hemric coming in second some five seconds behind him.

The whole complexion of this race had suddenly changed when, on the very first lap, Justin Allgaier lost control going into the first corner and wiped out four of the championship contenders – himself, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Austin Cindric – taking them all out of contention in this race. In all, nine cars from the front of the field were involved. After that the race was between those left standing and this gave Nemechek his chance to challenge Hemric.

“When that caution came, I knew we had a chance,” Nemechek said. “Luckily, Daniel and I raced each other hard and clean all day. We got the track position, and this thing was on rails today. I feel like we’ve been contending for wins all year. We just haven’t pulled through.

“To check the first one off – that’s the hardest one to get. Hopefully, we can go on. We’re racing for the owners’ championship at Homestead.”

Nemechek has not run a full season in Xfinity and, hence, is ineligible to contend for the title but it did rob Hemric of the win, improving the playoff prospects for the other championship contenders who had been knocked out of the race early on.

Hemric led for the first 48 laps, while Nemechek in the Ganassi No. 42 rent-a-racer gradually moved forward from his 13th place starting position. The race’s third caution came on lap 26 of the 200-lap race when Spencer Gallagher blew a tire and crashed into the outside wall. Probably this was the result of the tire having been damaged in that first lap melee.

Of the championship hopefuls, Custer’s car was able to keep going despite losing its power steering and during a later caution they pulled behind the wall to make more extensive repairs to the car. The never did get the power steering fixed and he soldiered on, manhandling the wheel to score a 26th place finish – but this was better than his rivals who had been taken out in the first-lap wreck.

Nemechek was able to match Hemric’s speed most of the race but a miscue in the final pit stop sequence dropped him back. He slid just past the line in his pit box and lost time while he backed up the car before the crew could start work. Perhaps because of this bobble the crew were trying to make up time and he was send out of the pit box before all his lug nuts were secured. He had to make a second pit stop and he dropped to the back of the field but, given that there were only six cars left on the lead lap by this point, he was not too disadvantaged. And, when the green flew he was able to shoot forward and catch Hemric – and he never looked back.

Ryan Preece, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs rent-a-racer had started in seventh place and his chances looked good after so many good cars were taken out in the early going. Unfortunately for him, on lap 90 two lapped cars got together and spun just as he was coming past them. Preece’s car was knocked around and received significant damage. His crew were able to repair it enough to keep him going but, after keeping up on the lead lap for a while, he dropped back to finish in 21st place, 11 laps down. Preece has already been signed to drive the No. 47 JTD Daugherty MENCS car, replacing A.J. Allmendinger who has been released by the team.

This race was the first race in the three-race Round of 8; the bottom four of the eight playoff drivers will be eliminated at the end of this round, with the top four going forward to the championship finale at Homestead. After the Kansas race, the top four are Hemric, Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick and Bell. The bottom four on the bubble are Matt Tifft, Allgaier, Custer and Cindric. Of course, a win by any of these eight drivers in the next two races assures that they will proceed to the finale.

The next Xfinity Series race will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday. November 3.

Click HERE for the full results of the Xfinity race at Kansas.

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