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Preview: Weekend of June 15-16, 2019 – Le Mans 24 and two NASCAR races

Preview: Weekend of June 15-16, 2019 – Le Mans 24 and two NASCAR races

While both the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix are contenders, the 24-Hours of Le Mans is arguably the most significant auto race in the world, held each year near the summer equinox in mid-June. It has been run annually since it inauguration as test of road-going cars in 1923. This has always been a race run on real roads – although, in recent years, the section near the pits has been segregated from the road system.

The tradition of racing road-worthy cars has continued but the race has long attracted ‘sports cars’ built specifically for road racing in addition to or instead of actual road-going touring cars. With the trend towards energy systems other than gasoline-fueled engines, the organizers (the ACO) have written rules for diesel-powered cars and, more recently, for hybrid gasolene/electric cars. The way these rules have been written, the traditional gasoline fueled cars have been at a disadvantage.

In addition to the top classes for specially-built racing cars (now called LMP1 and LMP2) there are two classes (‘Pro’ and ‘Am’) for GT cars which are based on actual road-going models. The LM-GTE (aka GT-Le Mans) class includes entries from Ford (Ford GT) and General Motors (Chevrolet Corvette) as well as other well-known GT cars including Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari. Given the dominance of the top LMP1 class by the Toyotas, the LM-GTE-Pro class is worth watching.

My first Le Mans 24 was the 1979 event in which the Whittington brothers (with Klaus Ludwig) won in their Porsche 935 over the similar Porsche of Paul Newman, Dick Barbour and Rolf Stommelen. I have been to 24-hour races before and since but this one has to be my favourite.

This is an off weekend for the MENCS teams. The NGOTS and the Xfinity Series are running at the short Iowa oval this weekend. While slightly longer that the half-mile Martinsville and Bristol ovals, it offers a similar style of short-track racing action.

Saturday, June 15
1. FIA World Endurance Championship 24-Hours of Le Mans , Le Mans, France
• TV: Discovery-Velocity; this 24-hour race will be broadcast in its entirety starting at 8:30A on Saturday morning until 9:30A on Sunday morning
• 13.626 km (8.467 mi); 24-hour race; race lap record: 3:17.475; race distance record: 397 laps (5411 km) in 2010
• Last year the No. 8 Toyota LMP1-Hybrid driven by Fernando Alonso/Kazuki
Nakajima/Sebastien Buemi won the race by a two-lap margin over the No. 8 Toyota with the best finishing LMP1 (non-hybrid) was the No. 3 Rebellion Racing, 12 laps down on the race winner.
• The most recent WEC race was the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps which was run in difficult weather conditions of snow, hail, sleet and rain and which was red-flagged to a premature end due to the weather. The No . 8 Toyota was the race winner with the No. 3 Rebellion finishing in second place one lap down. The No. 7 Toyota had problems during the race and finished in sixth place four laps in arrears.
• As of this writing, the first round of time trials has been completed on the Wednesday. The No. 7 Toyota LMP1-Hybrid car of Mike Conway/Jose Maria Lopez/Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest time at 3:17.161. The No. 8 Toyota in the hands of Alonso/Nakajima/Buemi was fourth fastest. Two of the LMP1 (non-hybrid) entries were second and third fastest in Qualifying Practice No. 1 – the No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering -AER and the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson. Given the total dominance we have seen in which the Toyota Hybrids have overwhelmed the non-hybrid LMP1 cars every time, there is little reason to expect a different result in this 24-hour race here.

Click HERE for the entry list for the 24-Heures du Mans

2. NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks M&M’s 200 Iowa Speedway, Newton, IA
• TV: FSR at 8:30P
• 0.875 mi; 200 laps = 175 mi; Stages: 60/60/80 laps
• Eventual 2018 series champion Brett Moffitt was the winner here last year. Noah Gragson was second and Harrison Burton third.
• Last week the trucks ran at Texas on Friday evening. Former truck series champion Greg Biffle, back after a three-year hiatus, won the race with a fuel economy strategy over Matt Crafton and newcomer Tyler Ankrum.
• This week neither Biffle nor Ankrum will be competing in the truck race. Chandler Smith will be in the NO. 51 truck Biffle drove and the young Canadian driver Raphael Lessard will be at the wheel of the No. 17 DGR-Crosley truck Ankrum drove last week.

Click HERE for the entry list for the NGOTS race at Iowa

Sunday, June 16
3. Le Mans 24-Hours continues
• Discovery -Velocity broadcast continues until 9:30A

4. NASCAR Xfinity Series CircuitCity.com 250, Iowa Speedway, Newton, IA
• TV: TSN5 at 5:30P
• 1.3 mi; 250 laps = 218.75 mi; Stages: 60/60/130 laps
• Justin Allgaier, driving the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet was the winner of the June race here last year. Christopher Bell was second in a Joe Gibbs truck while Daniel Hemric was third in a Richard Childress entry.
• The most recent Xfinity race was run at Michigan last Saturday, It was won by Tyler Reddick with Noah Gragson second and Michael Annett third. Allgaier was fifth while Bell finished back in 13th place.

Click HERE for the entry list for the Xfinity race at Iowa.

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