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Race Weekend Review – May 17-18-19, 2019

Race Weekend Review – May 17-18-19, 2019

Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway
• Larson qualifies via the ‘B Main’ and he wins the All-Star feature

Charlotte, NC, May 18/19 (GRW): Kyle Larson had not been having great success so far this year. In the first 12 MENCS races, he had only finished in the top five once and in the top ten four times. But that changed for him here when he won the ‘Open’ (or the B-Main as Larson called it) and this took him to the All-Star (‘Main’) in which he held off Kevin Harvick for the win and the million dollar prize.

The All-Star has used the Stages concept for some time and this year, with the Stages being a short as 15 laps, this produced a very chopped up show. Realistically, it all came down to that final 15-lap Stage. Harvick had looked like he was the fastest all evening but problems in his pit stops saw him falling back due to penalties and he started the final Stage back in tenth place with Larson even farther back in 13th place.

Both of them gained places on the restart to begin the final Stage. But the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin had problems and he spun a couple of laps later bringing out the race’s seventh caution. Amazingly, on this restart, Larson and Harvick were able to hook up and push right ahead to the front – running with Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch who had been the lead cars when the green flew on this restart.

Then Erik Jones, who had been running in the top five, got up into the wall and brought out the race’s final yellow on lap 76 – 12 laps to go to the finish. The order for this final restart was Larson. Elliott, Busch and Harvick. On this restart, Harvick soon barged past into second behind Larson. Busch was on a tear and he led briefly but he dropped back behind Larson and then, as he desperately tried to regain the lead, he brushed the wall and fell back behind Harvick.

Now Harvick had his eyes on Larson and over the final few laps, he closed right up on him. Larson was able to hold him off and take the checker by a 0.3-second margin over Harvick. Busch finished third, Joey Logano was fourth and Darrell (‘Bubba’) Wallace fifth. But this race was all about the million-dollar prize and that was Larson’s to take home.

“This is unbelievable,” said Larson. “This whole day was up and down. From the B-Main, we had a little bit of damage, had to repair the car. Had some great restarts there the last few, and Harvick gave me a heck of a push to get to the lead from the third row, and that was huge. Then again to get by the 18 (Busch) on that final restart, just had to guess what he was going to do behind me and try and take his air away. The 18 surprised me how good he was.”

In the ‘Open’ race which preceded the All-Star, the MENCS regulars who had not previously qualified for the All-Star race were able to compete for four starting spots in the All-Star Main. The winner of each of the race’s three heats – William Byron, Wallace, and Larson – plus Alex Bowman (by way of a fan vote) all were added to the back of the starting lineup for the Main. Larson was able capitalize on this to go on and win the million-dollar purse. Of course, this result has no bearing on the championship battle; it is good for bragging rights only.

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS ‘Open”
Click HERE for the results of the MENCS ‘All-Star”

The next MENCS race will be a championship points race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte next Sunday, May 26.

PHOTO NGOTS CLT KyBuschVL 51719Kyle Busch celebrates in victory lane after winning the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 (photo: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery at Charlotte Motor Speedway
• Busch the carpetbagger wins yet another time

Charlotte, CA, May 17/19 (GRW): Under NASCAR rules, Kyle Busch – as a MENCS regular – is only allowed to start in five truck races this year. This race at Charlotte was his fifth and final start of the season and it was his fifth win. Indeed, if you count his win at Pocono last year, it was his sixth consecutive win in as many starts. The NGOTS regulars must be happy to know that they will not have him challenging them any more this year.

Matt Crafton had started from the pole with Stewart Friesen alongside – with Busch was back in eighth place. But it only took Busch five laps before he was able to assert his dominance and take the race lead. In all, he led for 102 laps of the 134 lap (with overtime) race, taking the checker by a one-second margin over Brennan Poole. Friesen was third, Ben Rhodes fourth and Crafton fifth.

Given that he is not competing for the series championship, Busch pitted when the first caution came on lap 25 during the first Stage rather than waiting for the end of the Stage – but so did almost everyone else and he found himself back in eighth place for the restart – and he was scored ninth at the end of the first Stage. It took him about five laps to regain the lead when the racing resumed after the Stage break – and he held on to be the winner of the second Stage. And after that, despite some challenges, he was able to emerge as the race winner.

“This Tundra was awesome tonight,” Busch. “It was flying and it was fast. We worked on it a lot in practice. We were a little off when we unloaded, and we tried to make it better and better and better. We made improvements. That’s what’s good about me driving and Rudy (Fugle) crew-chiefing. These guys do a great job working on it, and we just keep getting better.”

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS at Charlotte.

The next NGOTS race will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, June 7.

PHOTO INDY500 QUAL PAGENAUD POLESimon Pagenaud, pole winner (photo: Doug Mathews/INDYCAR)

NTT IndyCar Indianapolis 500 Qualifying
• Pagenaud on pole, Hinchcliffe squeaks in, Alonso fails to make it

Speedway, IN, May 19/19 (GRW): This year the qualification runs for the Indy 500 were run over two days the weekend before the big race – but the drama was reserved for the second day when the top nine grid positions would be determined as well as the final three starting spots at the back of the field.

After the qualifying runs on Saturday there were six cars that had not made it into the top 30 of the field and they would have to try to qualify for the remaining three spots at the back on Sunday. This group of hopefuls included James Hinchcliffe and Fernando Alonso. Hinchcliffe had crashed his primary car on his first lap on Saturday; the team hastily prepared the back up car but he was not able to get enough speed to break into the top 30 on Saturday. Alonso’s effort was flagging all May; this year his McLaren team was going it alone rather than relying on the Andretti team’s resources as they had the previous time Alonso was here.

On Sunday, Hinchcliffe was second quickest behind Sage Karam, clinching a spot in the 500. Alonso’s best speed was eclipsed by the unsponsored Juncos car of Kyle Kaiser; Kaiser made it into the field and Alonso was on his way home.

On Saturday, Pagenaud was third fastest behind Spencer Pigot and Will Power but on Sunday when it all counted he won the pole for the race. Ed Carpenter and Pigot will start alongside him on the front row of the grid. Will Power will be starting on the second row in sixth place – but in a 500-mile race these distinctions are of little importance.

Click HERE for the starting grid for the Indy 500

The Indianapolis 500 will be run next Sunday, May 26.

PHOTO PINTYS CTMP LACROIXRace winner Lacroix leads Ranger and Gary Klutt (photo: Matthew Manor/NASCAR)

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Clarington 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
• Lacroix win the race; makes up for last year’s disappointment

Bowmanville, ON, May 19/19 (GRW): Last year Kevin Lacroix looked to have the race won after he had been dominant – but on the final lap he was bumped off course by Andrew Ranger and he was left with a sixth-place finish. This time the tables were turned. He had led twice earlier in the race but on lap 48 of the 51-lap race but he pushed past Ranger to take the lead and he held on to take the checker by a half-second margin over Ranger. Gary Klutt, who had started from the pole, finished right with them in third place.

Klutt had taken the lead at the start of the race but he only led the first nine laps of the 51-lap race before Lacroix, who had started from the front row, pushed past into the lead on lap 10 soon after the first yellow finished. Lacroix led for the next seven laps until the second caution. Alex Tagliani, who had been running well back in the field, opted not to pit when most of the others did during this caution, and he took over the lead ahead of Jason White, Lacroix, Klutt and Ranger.

Almost immediately we saw the third caution when Jocelyn Fecteau went off course at the top of the esses. Several cars took this opportunity to pit for fresh tires but the front runners stayed out and continued to lead the race. On this restart (on lap 24) Lacroix passed Tagliani to regain the race lead. Soon Klutt got past him to move up to second place. And then L.P. Dumoulin took over third dropping Tagliani to fourth.

Now the order began to shuffle a bit as those who had not taken on fresh tires before began to pit under green to get their second set of tires. This year they are running General tires in this series for the first time and it seems like these tires degrade fairly quickly making it essential that everyone opt for fresh tires mid-race. It looked like the best strategy was to wait as long as possible before getting the second set of tires so that they would give the best performance in the crucial final laps.

Tagliani got caught up in the incident which brought out the fourth caution on lap 37 and he had to make an unscheduled pit stop to replace a damaged tire. This dropped him back into the mid-field for this restart and he was never able to make it back near the front.

After this pit stop opportunity, Ranger had cycled into the lead while Klutt took the restart in seventh place with Lacroix in eighth. By the time the fifth and final caution flew on lap 44, Ranger was still in the lead but Klutt and Lacroix were right behind him. On the restart, Lacroix got past Klutt into second and three laps later he passed Ranger for the lead. This set up the finishing order of Lacroix, Ranger, Klutt.

“Same as last year, I had Andrew on the last lap,” Lacroix said. “It was a little bit stressful in corner five, but this time we kept it clean. We got the win at the end, it was the other way last year. We had the best car, we waited a little bit longer this year to change the tires. It paid at the end, it made the car better and faster.”

Click HERE for the results of the Pinty’s race at CTMP.

The next Pinty’s race will he held at Jukasa Motor Speedway on Saturday evening, June 1st.

PHOTO BENTLEY SUNDAY COHENBlancpain Round #6 winner: No. 9 Bentley ahead of the No 61 Ferrari (photo: Howard Cohen/PRN)

Blancpain GT World Challenge America at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

• Ferri’s Ferrari wins on Saturday; K-Pax Bentley wins on Sunday

Bowmanville, ON, May 19/19 (GRW): The Blancpain GT3 America series ran two 90-minute races here – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The first one (Round 5 of the championship series) was won by the No. 61 Ferrari 488 entered by the local Ferrari dealer R. Ferri and driven by Miguel Molina/Toni Vilander. Patrick Long had led early in the race in his Porsche 911 GT3R but he had to make an unscheduled stop for tires and this saw him drop to finish in sixth place overall, some 51 seconds back.

On Sunday, the No. 9 Bentley of Alvaro Parente/Andy Soucek was the race winner over the Ferrari. The second Bentley, the No. 3 of Rodrigo Baptista/Maxime Soulet, was third while the No. 58 Porsche of Long/Scott Hargrove was fourth.

Click HERE for the results of Blancpain GT America Round #5 (May 18/19)
Click HERE for the results of Blancpain GT America Round #6 (May 19/19)

The next Blancpain GT America pair of races will run on the weekend of June 8-9 at the Sonoma Raceway in California.


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