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Race Weekend Review – July 6-7-8, 2018

Formula 1 2018 Rolex British Grand Prix - Silverstone
Vettel overpowers Bottas for the win; Hamilton recovers from last to second place

Silverstone, England, July 8/18 (GRW): Sebastian Vettel won the British Grand Prix by a two-second margin over Lewis Hamilton, thereby earning seven more Championship points than Hamilton, giving him an eight-point lead in the championship standings. Kimi Räikkönen was third, Valtteri Bottas fourth and Daniel Ricciardo fifth. The sixth member of the only six who have a realistic chance of ever winning an F1 race, Max Verstappen spun off after running in third place for the first two-thirds of the race.

The race result looked to be settled when Lewis Hamilton won the pole over Sebastian Vettel but it was not to be so simple. On the opening lap Räikkönen clipped Hamilton, sending him spinning and he resumed at the back of the field. Although he complained of damage to the floor of the car, he had lots of speed and started to move forward, gaining a position or more each lap. By lap ten of the 52-lap race he was up to tenth place already.

The stewards, in their wisdom, gave Räikkönen a ten-second penalty for causing the collision, a penalty he served as part of his first pit stop for tires.

F1 BOTTAS resizeBritish Grand Prix, Silverstone, July 8, 2018: Valtteri Bottas

Meanwhile, Bottas had been running in second place behind Vettel and ahead of Verstappen and Räikkönen. When Räikkönen pitted on lap 13, Ricciardo moved up to fourth ahead of Hamilton. Hamilton was still charging. On lap 18 and 19 he passed both Ricciardo and Verstappen to take over third place and now Hamilton was challenging his teammate Bottas for second place.

Hamilton fell to sixth behind the other five when he pitted on lap 25. The safety car came out after Marcus Ericsson spun his Sauber off course on lap 32 – and soon Hamilton was back up to third behind Bottas and Vettel. Vettel closed in on Bottas and he regained the lead on lap 47. Bottas’ car seemed to lose its potency and he lost second to Hamilton and then to Räikkönen, losing his shot at the podium.

As for the Canadian Williams driver Lance Stroll, he had to start the race from the pit lane after the team made modifications to the car when it was in Parc Fermé following qualifying. In the race, he struggled around at the back, qualifying as an official race finisher after taking the checker in 12th place, on the lead lap. Haas driver Romain Grosjean worked his way up as high had eighth place but a contretemps with Carlos Sainz saw them both into the barriers and out of the race on lap 37.

The next F1 race is the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in two week’s time, Sunday July 22.

Click HERE for results of the British Grand Prix

Indycar JGS 2018 IOWA 148087 1 resizeJames Hinchcliffe celebrates in Victory Circle after winning the 2018 Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar)

Verizon IndyCar Iowa Corn 300 at the Iowa Speedway
Hinchcliffe back in victory circle; Newgarden robbed of the win by a late caution

Newton, IA, July 8/18 (GRW): The promoters of next week’s Indy car race in Toronto must be overjoyed. What better to promote ticket sales than to have the hometown hero James Hinchcliffe win the week before. For most of the race Hinchcliffe had been running second or third to the dominant Josef Newgarden but a late-race caution consolidated his lead and Hinchcliffe emerged as the race winner. Spencer Pigot was second and Takuma Sato third ahead of Newgarden and Robert Wickens.

This was Newgarden’s race to lose and, unfortunately for him, he did lose it. He started from the front row alongside Will Power and it only took him until lap 24 of the 300-lap race to demonstrate his dominance and take over the lead. After that he led, except when he handed over to Sato for three laps during the second pit stop cycle. As soon as Sato pitted, Newgarden was back into the lead again.

Hinchcliffe started in 11th place but, after the start, he quickly gained positions – right up to second place by lap 50. After that he was able to maintain his position falling to third behind Sato just before the second round of pit stops began at lap 223. Hinchcliffe was in third place behind Newgarden and Pigot after these pit stops were completed but he had found more speed and a few laps later, on lap 256, he passed Newgarden for the lead.
Now, with the laps winding down to the finish, the order settled down to Hinchcliffe, Newgarden, Wickens, Pigot - and it might well have gone that way to the finish had not a second caution come out.

On lap 293, Ed Carpenter lost control of his car and did a half spin down the track where his nose was clipped by Sato. A piece of Carpenter’s front wing fell off and they called for the yellow flag.

Now the question for Hinchcliffe and the other front-runners was, with six laps to go should you pit or not? If you pitted and took on fresh tires and the race went green again, you would have had superior speed and a chance at the win. If you did not pit and the race went green you would be handicapped by having worn-out tires. On the other hand, for Hinchcliffe, if you did not pit and the race finished under yellow you would be the winner.

It seemed to be a big gamble either way. Newgarden and Wickens were among those who opted for fresh tires. Hinchcliffe’s crew kept him out, fingers crossed that the race would end under yellow. It was a close thing, but the pace car turned its lights back on with a lap to go and the deal was done - Hinchcliffe was the winner and Newgarden and Wickens had given up their shot at a podium finish.

In case it gets lost in the euphoria of Hinchcliffe’s win, Wickens, running on a kind of track he has never raced on before, was solidly set up for a third place finish had not that late caution fallen and had not his team gambled on taking on fresh tires.

“Very good day,” said Hinchcliffe. “The best day. You know, it's so nice to be back up top after the kind of season that we've had, and obviously the month of May that we had. But we've had a couple good weekends in a row. It's a shame that Robbie ended up taking that pit stop at the end. Man, it would have been great to have both of us up on the podium heading into the hometown race in Toronto. But overall it was a great result for the Arrow car and for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in general."

This was Hinchcliffe’s second win here at the Iowa Speedway – his first coming in 2013 – and his first Indy car win since Long Beach last year.

It was not all bad news for Newgarden. Scot Dixon, the series points leader finished 12th while Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had been second in the points standings was 19th. Newgarden’s fourth place finish vaulted him to second just 33 points behind Dixon (411 points to 378). Meanwhile the ‘rookie’ Wickens is sixth and Hinchcliffe eighth.

The next IndyCar race is the Honda Indy in Toronto next Sunday, July 15.

Click HERE for results of the Iowa Corn 300

IMSA WT galstad CTMP 0618 422238 resize#54 CORE Autosport ORECA LMP2, Jon Bennett/Colin Braun (Jake Galstad/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA WeatherTech Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Braun takes a win for the underdog LMP2 cars.

Clarington, ON, July 8/18 (GRW): Colin Braun may be only 29-years-old but he has been around a long time driving sports cars and stock cars. He seems to have found his forte in the sports cars. Last week, at Watkins Glen, he drove the No. 54 CORE ORECA to set the fastest lap in qualifying and helped put the car into a position to finish a close second at the end of the race. Here at ‘Mosport’ he again set the fastest qualifying lap in this supposedly out-classed LMP2 car – and in the race he emerged as the winner, taking the lead on the final restart to hold off Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi for the win.

At the Glen, the team had opted to start the race with their second driver, Jonathan Bennett, a ‘bronze’ level driver. Under IMSA rules, this put the car at the back of the prototype field for the start. Bennett was able to keep the car on the lead lap until the end of his stint and then his co-drivers could regain track position during the inevitable cautions and challenge for the lead. At the Glen, this resulted in a second-place finish. Despite that, they tried the same tactic as before – and this time it paid off with a win – a tribute to the team and to Braun’s talent as a driver.

In the race, the No. 6 Penske Acura led for the first 35 laps of the 160-minute, 116-lap race before handing over the lead to the No. 10 Renger van der Zande/Jordan Taylor Cadillac which held command right up to the final caution just ten laps from the end. Just before that, Montoya had pitted the No. 10 Acura but when he left the pits the left-front wheel – which must not have been properly attached – came off and he had to drive slowly back around to the pits with no wheel. This brought out the yellow and closed up the field.

On the restart, Braun was running competitive laps with the leading No 10 car and it looked like he might actually run him down and pass him just before the finish. Then, after two laps of green, the No. 55 Joest Mazda went off at Turn 5 bring out another yellow. There was some confusion about who was leading when this caution period began but eventually it was agreed that Braun had passed he No. 10 car just before the yellow froze the race order – so he took the final green ahead of the No. 10 car.

Now, Braun was unleashed and he shot out well ahead and seven laps later he took the checker 3.4 seconds ahead of the No. 10 Cadillac. After the one-two win for the LMP2 cars at Watkins Glen last week, this was a second win in a row for the underdog cars.

In GTLM the No 911 Porsche of Nick Tandy/Patrick Pilet were the fastest in qualifying ahead of the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook. Mid-race, the two Corvettes set the pace for this class, mixing it in with the Porsche and the Ford GT. Westbrook opted to stay out when the No. 3 Corvette of Andy Garcia pitted and handed over the lead. Westbrook maintained this lead by skipping this pit stop – but, when Montoya brought out the caution near the end, he was – lucky or skilful? – able to come into the pits for service instants before the pits were closed and this cemented his position at the front and gave him the class win over the two Corvettes.
This win for the Ford GT here was notable given that this car is built by Multimatic at its home base near Toronto – and, as Westbrook pointed out, ironically the Ford does not take well to this old Mosport track. Many Multimatic people were here in support of their two Continental Series Mustangs – so this was a good day for them.

In GTD, the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Ben Keating/Jeroen Bleekemolen won the class finishing ahead of the No. 14 Lexus of Dominik Baumann /Kyle Marcelli and the No. 44 Audi of Andy Lally/John Potter.

The next IMSA WeatherTech race is at Lime Rock Park on Saturday, July 14

Click HERE for the results of the CTMP Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix

IMSA CONTI 60 galstad CTMP 0618 416463 resize #60 Roush Performance / KohR Motorsports, Ford Mustang GT4, Nate Stacy, Kyle Marcelli ((Jake Galstad/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA Continental Tire Challenge CTMP 120 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Stacey/Marcelli Roush/KohR Mustang wins; four Mustangs in the top five finishers

Clarington, ON, July 7/18 (GRW): Once again this GT4 series race was won by the blue-collar Mustangs beating many cars of more prestigious makes. This time it was the No. 60 Roush/KohR Mustang of Nate Stacy/Kyle Marcelli winning over the No. 80 AWA Mustang of Martin Barkey/Brett Sandberg. The No. 33 Mercedes-AMG (now that’s a prestige nameplate!) of Russell Ward/Damien Faulkner was third.

Of local interest was the fact that both Marcelli and Barkey were local drivers, from Barrie and Huntsville respectively.

The No. 7 VOLT Mustang (Alan Brynjolfsson/Trent Hindman) was fourth while the No. 8 Multimatic Mustang (Chad McCumbee/Patrick Gallagher) was fifth. The other Multimatic car, the No. 15 Mustang (Scott Maxwell/Chase Briscoe) fell out of contention early after it had an engine problem, although Briscoe, who Maxwell was mentoring in road-course driving, did set the fastest lap of the whole GS class after the problem was fixed.

Alexandre Premat had put the No. 92 Mercedes-AMG on the pole ahead of Gallagher in the No. 8 Mustang but he led only one lap before Gallagher passed him for the lead in the two-hour timed race (which ended up being 80 laps long). Premat regained the lead on lap 19 and handed over to the No. 60 car on lap 39 – and they led for the rest of the way. The winning car had a margin of two-seconds over the second-place car at the checker.

The next IMSA Continental race will be another two-hour race at Lime Rock Park on Saturday, July 21.

Click HERE for results of the IMSA Continental CTMP 120

MENCS Daytona resizeMartin Truex and Erik Jones during the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images/NASCAR)  

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway
Jones survives a Daytona wreck-fest to win his first Cup race

Daytona Beach, FL, July 7/18 (GRW): I’m sure every NASCAR drivers hates coming to Daytona. The style of racing on this high-banked 2.5-mile oval sets up pack racing which leads to the inevitable ‘big one’ – a big crash that destroys several cars. And this can happen a few times during the race – especially near the end. It makes the races here on the Daytona oval dangerous, expensive in wrecked equipment, and no fair contest of a driver’s skills.

Don’t tell me that everything would be okay if they just got rid of the power-robbing restrictor plates - all that would do would make it certain that the big wrecks would involve even much higher speed and more carnage. But, these races here and at its sister track Talladega are fan favourites and there seems to be no chance that the NASCAR/ISC powers-that-be are prepared to deal with it in any serious way. The only good part of this is that NASCAR has achieved a level of safety standards that pretty much ensures that no one is going to get too seriously hurt.

On Saturday night we saw the annual fourth-of-July demolition derby. It all started smoothly with no cautions until the planned one at the end of Stage 1. But, once they got into the second Stage, things changed. After a crash that only took out three cars, we had a massive crash which involved 24 cars – over half of the field. Ten laps later there was another crash which involved seven more cars. By now, 11 cars were done for the night, including favourites to win like Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and William Byron.

Kyle Busch was a bit more outspoken that the others. When he got out of his wrecked car, his chances of a win gone, he said, “It’s really frustrating to have to race like that.”

With the race field decimated like this, the character of the race was totally changed. Ricky Stenhouse, who had been implicated as the cause of both big wrecks, won both the first and the second stage – and now that so many strong contenders had been eliminated, he was running up front and he looked like having a good chance to win a third Daytona race.

The race was scheduled to run 160 laps with the final Stage a run of 80 laps, double the distance of each of the first two Stages. The now-reduced field seemed to settle down and get ready for this final push to the end. Jimmie Johnson came to the fore and led for ten laps. After that, it was Martin Truex who seemed to be the strongest runner. At one point Truex dropped to the back of the field and even farther back as if he was trying to simply get away from the next crash. Presumably he realized that this might disconnect him from the draft and he might drift back so far that he could never reconnect, he put his foot down and, unassisted, caught up the field and drove to the front. He took the lead on lap 124 and led for 14 laps.

Kasey Kahne led for 17 laps until the end of the eighth caution. Harvick beat Kahne out of the pits and took over the lead for seven laps until the next caution which took the race into overtime. Truex lined up alongside Harvick for the (hopefully) final overtime restart, Erik Jones, restarting from the second row behind Truex, pushed him out into the lead but this run was short lived because this set off a melee on the restart which collected nine cars and brought out the red flag while they cleaned up.

By this time, one might begin to wonder if this race was ever going to end, or if the winner was going to be the ‘last man standing’. But finally they refired the cars and they lined up for the restart with Jones on the high side above Truex. The final green flag. Truex gets a bit of a jump on Jones but Jones fights back and they race around the last two overtime laps side-by-side. Jones comes off the last corner ahead and he takes the checker 0.125 seconds ahead of Truex.

A.J. Allmendinger was third, Kahne fourth and Chris Buescher fifth. In 2016, his last full season in Xfinity, Jones won four times, more than any other championship-eligible driver but since he moved up to the MENCS competition last year, he had not won a single Cup race. This win at Daytona gives him his first Cup win and makes him eligible for the season-end championship playoffs. Pinty’s driver J.D. Kennington finished 13th.

The next MENCS race is at Kentucky Speedway, next Saturday, July 14.

Click HERE for the results of the Coke Zero Sugar 400

  NXS Daytona resizeKyle Larson takes the checkered flag ahead of Elliott Sadler to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. Note the No. 24 car which had already taken the checker. (Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Coca-Cola Firecracker 250, Daytona International Speedway
Larson declared the winner after Haley penalized for last-lap infraction

Daytona Beach, FL, July 6/18 (GRW): The race ended in overtime with two laps after the green was waved until the checker. As they started the final lap, Kyle Larson was in the lead ahead of Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Justin Haley. It looked like Larson was, for sure, going to be the race winner. But, as they exited the final corner and Larson went high to crowd Blaney, who was now alongside, Haley dove low and shot past under everyone to take the lead – and the checker.

But was he the winner? Almost immediately, people began to point out that, in making the pass, he had put his left-side tires below the yellow line. Here at Daytona, this is an out-of-bounds line and drivers are penalized if they go under the line to gain a position. Quickly, NASCAR ruled that Haley had broken the rule and that Larson was thereby the official winner. Haley was dropped to last car on the lead lap, in 18th place.

Sadler was scored in second place ahead of series rookie Christopher Bell, Blaney, and Kaz Grala.

Cole Custer took the lead on the first lap and held it for the first eight laps. After that, for most of the short 100-lap race, the lead alternated between Larson and Blaney – Larson leading, assisted by Haley’s last lap penalty, for the final 10 laps.

Blaney was driving the No. 22 Penske Ford while young Austin Cindric was driving the No. 60 Penske Ford. Although Cindric started back in 23rd place, he was soon up into the top ten, taking the first restart, which came at the end of Stage 1, in third place, quickly moving past Larson into second. He stayed up in second or third place until the first ‘big one’ happened on lap 82. Matt Tifft tried to dive under Cindric as they entered a turn but Cindric moved down on him and they touched – setting off a massive crash which involved 17 cars and brought out the red flag while they cleaned up the mess. Cindric’s car barrel-rolled twice and came to rest on its wheels. Thankfully Cindric climbed out of the car under his own power.

There was another incident on lap 88 which involved three cars. Then, just as the finish of the race was in sight, there was another big one. when Jeff Green touched Custer and sent him spinning, collecting another seven cars and sending the race into overtime. Larson was leading at the time and took the final green as the race leader – and, despite Haley’s banzai dive past him out of the final turn of the final lap, Larson was declared the race winner.

It often rains in the afternoon here at Daytona this time of year. As they approached the end of Stage 2, it looked like the rains were about to come and the race would be flagged off early — but the rain held off and the race ran the full distance and a bit more.

Haley’s regular job is as a driver in the truck series, driving for the GMS team. Here at Daytona, he was driving as a fill-in driver in the GMS No. 24 Xfinity car. Spencer Gallagher, the son of the team owner, was scheduled to run the whole season in this car but he was suspended by NASCAR for a drug infraction days after he won the Xfinity race at Talladega at the end of April. Since then, various drivers have been filling in for him in this car. Last week, NASCAR reinstated him and he will return to the car once the team’s commitments to other fill-in driver have been fulfilled. His first race back will be at Kentucky next weekend.

The next Xfinity race will be at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, July 13

Click HERE for the results of the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250

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