Race Weekend Review: March 12, 2017

Written by George Webster on .

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The tables are tuned on shoo-in Keselowski and Truex inherits the win

March 12, 2017: Last week in Atlanta, Kevin Harvick dominated the race only to be penalized for speeding on his final pit stop. This handed the win to a lucky Brad Keselowski. This week at Las Vegas, Keselowski, who started from the pole, had emerged as the one who looked certain to win after he passed Martin Truex with 23 laps to go in the 267-lap race. But, when he looked to have the win locked up with two laps to go, he slowed and dropped back. Truex came through to take the checker while Keselowski struggled around to finish fifth.

Something had broken on Keselowski’s car and he was fortunate to be able to maintain enough speed to finish where he did. This seemed to be a classic example of “what goes around, comes around”.

Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott topped off strong race performances with a second- and third-place finish respectively. Joey Logano, Keselowski’s teammate finished fourth just ahead of the other Penske driver.

Indeed Truex had been strong throughout the race, leading for 150 laps while Keselowski, who had hounded Truex for the lead most of the race, led for 89 laps. And Truex was the ‘winner’ of all three stages. The record shows that Jimmie Johnson led for 19 laps but he was really never in contention; his crew chief Chad Knaus had left him out after everyone else had pitted and he did lead those laps but he had to fall back out of contention when he finally pitted for tires and fuel.

This week Kevin Harvick who “should have won” last week did not have a good result this week either. He started 19th on the grid but he had worked his way up to sixth by lap 50. Surprisingly, a few laps later, a tire blew on his No. 4 car and he crashed heavily into the outside wall, ending his day.

When Keselowski slowed in those final laps, he thought perhaps he had caused a wreck behind him but he was not responsible for anything that transpired. As Kyle Busch rushed around on the second last lap, and dove under the struggling Keselowski, he crowded down on Logano, making contact and almost caused him to spin. But Logano hung on and he charged forward to regain his lost position and he seemingly slid up into Busch’s car, causing it to spun dramatically down pit lane and across the extension of the finish line in there. No yellow was shown and they let the cars come around under green to the checker. But after Logano came back into the pits an altercation broke out. Clearly Busch was out-of-control angry and he tried to assault Logano, but he only landed one punch before a swarm of Logano’s crew members jumped on top of Busch and tried to calm him down. Somehow in the midst of their mediation efforts Busch got a small cut on his forehead and he wore the stream of blood like a badge of honour as he took press interviews in which he threatened future retaliation on Logano. Both the Busch brothers have been Cup champions and this kind of brawling behaviour by either of the two Las Vegas bullies should have no place in organized sport.

The next NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race is next Sunday, (March 19) at Phoenix Raceway.

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NASCAR Xfinity Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Joey Logano holds off Kyle Larson for the win

March 11, 2017: The Joe Gibbs Toyotas and the Roger Penske Fords dominated qualifying for this race, with two of each in each of the front two rows. It was Joey Logano in the other Penske Ford, which had qualified fourth, who came home the winner after leading for 106 of the race’s 200 laps.

Kyle Larson, who drives full-time in the Cup series for Chip Ganassi, had qualified here in seventh place but he was a factor throughout the race, leading for 33 laps. In the second half of the race, the trio of Kyle Busch and Larson were fighting Logano for the lead. In the final ten laps Busch fell back but Larson hounded Logano all the way to the checker, finishing 0.6 seconds behind him.

Daniel Suárez, another Gibbs Cup driver, finished in third place ahead of Justin Allgaier and Austin Dillon. Kyle Busch was scored in seventh place while his rival Logano won the accolades. Perhaps this contributed to Busch’s grumpy behaviour at the end of Cup race the next day?

Busch had been the winner of the first stage while Keselowski was the winner of the second stage.

This race was run on the Saturday before the Cup feature the next day but it attracted only a sparse crowd in contrast to the near sellout on Sunday for the Cup race.

The next round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series is next Saturday (March 18), at Phoenix Raceway.

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Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Bourdais drives from last to first to win for the underdog Dale Coyne team

March 12, 2017: Sebastien Bourdais was unable to record a time in Saturday’s qualifying session but, in the race, he managed to work his way up into the lead and he dominated the second half of this race to take the win – by a margin of over ten seconds ahead of his fellow Frenchman, defending champion Simon Pagenauld, in a Chevrolet-powered Penske entry.

Bourdais’ win along with the fact that eight of the fastest ten qualifiers were Honda-powered seems to serve notice that Honda drivers can look forward to a good year. In the hands of Bourdais, once he got over Saturday’s brake gremlins, the Honda engine seemed to have it all – better power and better fuel economy than the rival Chevrolets. In the closing laps of the race Bourdais kept going at full speed while it appeared that Pagenauld had been ordered to conserve fuel and he kept dropping farther and farther back until the checker flew for Bourdais.

Scott Dixon was third in a Ganassi car with Honda power while Ryan Hunter-Reay was fourth after a fraught day which saw him crash during the morning warm-up and then at the start of the race the car would not run at full power. His new Andretti teammate Takuma Sato finished fifth.

Those of us who were CART/Champ Car fans will remember the days when Bourdais dominated in that series, winning the championship four times in a row from 2004 to 2007. Last year he was driving for the KV team which was owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser (owners from the Champ Car days) but they finally packed it in and Bourdais had to look for a new ride for this. He found it at Dale Coyne’s team. Coyne has been known as a bit of a field filler but in recent years his team has been more successful, even winning a few races starting with Justin Wilson at the Glen in 2009. Coyne seems to have made a commitment to give Bourdais proper backing, even taking on some of Bourdais former engineering staff. Whatever, the Coyne-Bourdais combination paid off in their first race together. On the strength of this performance, one has to consider Coyne to one of the competitive teams alongside all those other teams he beat this day – teams like Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Sam Schmidt. While Bourdais won for Coyne, his second driver, the Englishman Ed Jones, finished a solid tenth in his first race in the IndyCar series. Both Coyne entries carried “sponsor” logos but Bourdais’ was for Coyne’s own restaurant chain and Jones’ was for the Boy Scouts. Maybe some real sponsors will line up to back this team for the rest of the season.

Oakville’s own James Hinchcliffe started from third place on the grid in the Schmidt-Peterson Honda. He got off to a good start when, after the first caution which came on the first lap of the 110-lap race, he emerged as the race leader. He held onto the lead until the second caution came on lap 26 for some debris from Kanaan’s car. He pitted then but he fell to 11th when ten of the others stayed out. It might have seemed that this was going to cycle around when these others pitted in an alternate sequence but that never happened and Hinchcliffe was trapped back there for the rest of the race, eventually finishing in a disappointing ninth place.

Pagenauld, who had been in 10th place, took the lead when the others in front of him pitted with Bourdais, who had been in 12th place, taking over second behind him. A couple of laps later and Bourdais was past Pagenauld and he was able to take control of the race, coming home a solid winner.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif. on April 9.

Photo Credits:

IndyCar: Chris Jones
MENCS: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Xfinity: Chris Graythen/Getty Images/NASCAR

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