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Race Weekend Review – June 22, 2018

Formula 1 Emirates Grosser Preis von Deutschland at Hockenheimring
Hamilton wins after starting in 14th place; Vettel throws away a sure win

Hockenheim, Germany, July 22/18 (GRW): Who would have believed it? Hamilton’s Mercedes failed in the first round of qualifying and he was left starting in 14th place. But through a combination of gritty driving and luck, he charged back towards the front and, when Vettel slid off the track and out of the race on a rain-slicked track, Hamilton suddenly found himself in the lead ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas – and that’s the way it went to the finish. A triumphant victory for Hamilton on Mercedes’ home turf and a devastating loss for the German driver Vettel.

This results vaulted Hamilton back into the points lead by a 17-point margin over Vettel, a tremendous turn-around for Hamilton after his loss to Vettel at Silverstone. One week he was trailing by eight points, the next he is leading by 17. This F1 season championship is far from settled as we approach the summer hiatus.

Kimi Räikkönen finished third, Max Verstappen drove a steady race into fourth and Nico Hulkenberg was fifth in his Renault with Haas driver Romain Grosjean sixth.
The weekend’s drama started in Saturday’s qualifying when the hydraulics in Hamilton’s car failed leaving him stranded out on the course in the first round of qualifying. This left him in 14th place on the starting grid – and obviously upset. Vettel was on the pole with Bottas second, Räikkönen third and Verstappen fourth.

F1 MB Hockenheim podium resizeF1: 2018 Großer Preis von Deutschland, podium: Bottas, Dieter Zetsche, Hamilton (Steve Etherington/Daimler AG)

In the race, Hamilton sliced his way past the tail enders, moving up to fifth by lap 14. After Vettel, Räikkönen and Verstappen pitted when it started to rain slightly, this moved Hamilton up to third place. After starting so far back he might well have been content to take that as his finishing position but there was more to come. Hamilton lost a couple of places when he pitted on lap 42 of the 67-lap race, obviously on a one-stop strategy while most of the others were committed to two stops for tires.

Then, on lap 52, it started to rain again slightly and Vettel lost traction and slid off the track into the barrier and out of the race. This brought out the safety car. Bottas and Räikkönen now came in for tires. Hamilton, who was running behind these two, also made a move to come into the pits but a confused, contradictory flurry of instructions saw him come into the pit lane entrance and then suddenly cut back across the grass back onto the racing surface – an unorthodox manoeuvre to say the least – but it put him into the lead ahead of Bottas, Räikkönen and Verstappen.

After the safety car was called in they resumed racing, Bottas ‘held station’ and they continued in this order until the checker fell. Once the race distance had been completed with little rain actually having fallen, the skies opened up and the victory celebrations were held under heavy rain.

None of the trio of Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll and his Williams teammate Sergey Sirotkin, were classified as finishers.

After the race, Hamilton was summoned to meet with the stewards concerning his detour across the grass out of pit lane. While they were clear that his move had been a violation of the rules, they decided to give him only a reprimand, leaving his race win intact.

There is one more race before the month-long summer hiatus, the Hungarian GP next Sunday, July 29.

Click HERE for the results of the German GP.

 MENCS NHMS Harvick resizeMENCS: NHMS, Loudon, Kevin Harvick, leads a pack of cars (Robert Laberge/Getty Images/NASCAR)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
A late caution sees the Big Three come to the front; Harvick takes win number six

Loudon, NH, July 22/18 (GRW): The day before this race, they decided to move the start time up an hour earlier to try to avoid the rain which was forecast for Sunday. It did not work. When the time for the rescheduled start approached, the rain had already arrived and it was another three hours before the race could start. But once it did, it looked like we were going to see a winner other than this season’s ‘big three’ of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex. And then, a late caution shuffled things up and the order at the checker was Harvick, Busch, Aric Almirola and Truex – the big three almost one-two-three.

With just seven races left in the ‘regular season’ before the playoff series of races begin, it is looking more than ever like the big three will dominate that late-season race for the championship.

The results of this race to the contrary, for most of the race it looked like we were going see someone else win. Kurt Busch started from the pole and he led for 94 laps of the 301-lap race. Chase Elliott came up to challenge and he passed Truex for the lead on lap 132 and he led another 35 laps, winning Stage 2.

Going by the video of the line at the end of pit road, it looked like, when they came out of the pits after the round of pit stops att he end of Stage 2, Elliott had beat Kurt Busch out of the pits by a margin of a couple of inches. Mysteriously, NASCAR saw it otherwise and declared that Busch had been the first one out of the pits. Busch was able to line up for the restart on the favoured high line and Elliott never managed to challenge for the lead again.

But now Almirola made a charge up into second place behind Busch and on lap 212 he fought his way past under him to take the lead. Harvick took the lead briefly during a round of green-flag pit stops but Almirola once again powered past to regain the lead. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch, who had been languishing back in the field made a run for the front and he got up into third behind Almirola and Harvick by the time the final caution flew on lap 258.

Everyone pitted for fresh tires and the order was reshuffled with Kyle Busch leading over Harvick, Almirola and Truex. Any hopes Almirola had of salvaging the win disappeared when he spun his tires on the restart and fell back several places.

In the remaining laps, Almirola was able to work his way back up to third, passing Truex and breaking up the Big Three. Small consolation. Almirola admitted that he should have been pleased to have finished in third place, but he was devastated at not having won the race. Perhaps his chances of race wins this year are not over yet.

Ahead of this, Harvick had closed up on Busch and, with five laps to go, he gave Busch a tap on his rear bumper, sending him veering up towards the outside wall – and letting Harvick past. Once past, Harvick was able to move out into a comfortable lead, taking the checker 1.877 seconds ahead of Busch, Almirola and Truex. Elliott finished fifth in front of Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch.

“We were just running out of laps, and I knew I might not get to him again,” said Harvick by way of explanation. “As hard as both of us were pushing, I got to him, and I knew I needed to take my opportunity. I felt like I needed to get him up out of the groove, and I got him up out of the groove and was able to get by.”

The next MENCS race is back at Pocono Raceway next Sunday, July 29.

Click HERE for the results of the NHMS Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.

 Christopher Bell Wins NXS Lakes Region 200 resizeNXS: NHMS, Loudon, Christopher Bell, race winner (HHP/Ashley R Dickerson)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Bell takes his third win and is looking like the championship favourite

Loudon, NH, July 21/18 (GRW): In the end, this race came down to a battle between Christopher Bell, the KBM driver, who already had two race wins, Brad Keselowski who was driving the often-dominant No. 22 Penske Ford, and Ryan Preece, a local modified driver who has a record of success in that category here at this track. And that was the order in which they took the checker at the end.

Bell had started from the front row alongside Keselowski but Preece and Cole Custer were lined up in the second row. Bell took the lead from Keselowski and he led the first 48 laps of the 200-lap race, wining Stage 1. After that Keselowski and Preece took turns leading the race until the end of Stage 2 with Keselowski the winner of that Stage. After racing resumed, Bell took over the lead again for the next 26 laps.

But then Keselowski got past into the lead on lap 146 and he led until lap 181 – except when Daniel Hemric got past for three laps in the middle of this run during a sequence of green-flag pit stops which turned into a caution. This yellow was brought out when Jeremy Clements rammed the Fitch barrels at the leading end of the pit wall, scattering debris all over. They put out the red flag briefly while they cleaned up the mess. Once back to yellow, Keselowski was in front again and he took the restart alongside Hemric. Hemric had a bad start and faded far back leaving the running order Keselowski, Bell, John Hunter Nemechek and Preece.

Another yellow and another restart in the same order – except this time Bell was able to get past Keselowski for the lead. Behind him Preece had taken an unorthodox low line to get past Nemechek and he was staying down on the bottom, challenging Keselowski side-by-side. With just ten laps left to go, Keselowski edged his car forward ahead of Preece to regain second - and that is how they finished the race. Despite Preece’s failure to win here at his home track, many Cup divers noted his unusual low line and tried it to good effect in the Cup race on Sunday.

On the final lap, as these three took the checkered flag, Austin Cindric lost control of his car and crashed heavily, destroying the No. 60 Ford but he emerged uninjured.

The next NASCAR Xfinity race will be held at the Iowa Speedway next Saturday, July 28. It is a stand-alone race except for a K&N race which will be run on Friday night.
Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race from NHMS.

NCWTS Eldora RhodesLeadsPack 07182018 resizeNCWTS: Eldora Speedway, pole-sitter Ben Rhodes leads a pack of trucks (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Eldora Dirt Derby 150 at Eldora Speedway
Chase Briscoe wins on the dirt

Rossburg, OH, July 18/18 (GRW): This was Stewart Friesen’s race to win – racing on dirt tracks like this is his specialty – and he almost did win. Although he was a strong contender all night, he only qualified fifth and he led a only single lap in the main event. Chase Briscoe, who has little dirt track experience and who is only running a part-time schedule this year as a Ford development driver, beat NCWTS regular Grant Enfinger to the checker with Friesen coming in third. The race finished in overtime after 153 laps in what had been scheduled as a 150-lap race

The starting lineup for the main was determined by the results of five heat races and a last-chance qualifying race. The front five from this process were Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland, Briscoe, Matt Crafton and Friesen. In the 40-lap Stage 1, Rhodes led all the way save for a single lap mid-way when Friesen momentarily got past for the lead but he spun and fell back. Rhodes was the Stage 1 winner.

In Stage 2 Rhodes fell out of contention and now Briscoe had his run at the front, winning Stage 2 at the end of 90 laps. After these pit stops, it was Logan Seavey leading over Friesen - and he led for 53 laps until a pair of cautions near the end of the scheduled 150 laps reset things. It took several laps under caution before these two incidents were cleared up.

On the restart from the second of these two cautions, Seavey was still leading over Briscoe but, almost immediately there was another caution caused by a big wreck on the backstretch. They lined up for this final overtime restart with Briscoe on the bottom alongside Enfinger with Friesen and Seavey in the second row. On the restart Briscoe jumped ahead into the lead and he took the checker to win the race. Seavey had faded back to finish eight after those final two green-flag laps.

This race for trucks running on the half-mile Eldora dirt track has been going since 2012 and it has proved to be a popular idea – even though the actual attendance at this small venue is rather limited. It is questionable whether this is a good idea or not. It is really a novelty race and, as such, it has no place as a part of the championship series. The trucks that run here are not well-suited to the dirt racing and many of the drivers lack even basic experience racing on the dirt. It makes for a spectacle for sure, but perhaps it is more in the nature of a figure-eight race or a demolition derby than a serious championship points-counting race. A few days before this year’s event, Tony Stewart, the track owner, suggested that the other two national series, Cup and Xfinity, should also have championship races at his track. Enough. The truck race on dirt is a pleasant-enough diversion but two more of these free-for-alls would be too much. And I doubt that the crowd would justify them.

If Stewart wants more stock car races on his dirt track, he should be looking to ARCA. They still race on a couple of dirt tracks during the championship season and adding another would not create a situation in which drivers contending for a top-level championship had to show up for a novelty race mid-season. But I doubt that the attendance figures for either idea would justify the effort.

The next NCWTS race will be at the Pocono Raceway on Saturday, July 28.

Click HERE for the results of the truck race at Eldora

 IMSA WT Lime rock resizeIMSA WeatherTech: Lime Rock, Joey Hand in the winning Ford GT (Richard Dole/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park
Last minute stumble by Magnussen delivers the win to Hand in his Ford GT

Lakeville, CT, July 21/18 (G RW): The Lime Rock circuit is so short that IMSA only invites cars from the two WeatherTech GT classes to participate, letting these cars take the spotlight for a change. The race was dominated by the No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia who had started on the pole but, in the closing minutes of the race, Joey Hand closed in on the Corvette. At the same time Magnussen was making a pass on a GTD car and he slid wide, letting Hand past for the lead - and Hand held on the remaining 15 laps to take the win. The Corvette finished second. 11 seconds back.

The Hand/Dirk Mueller Ford GT had actually started in third place behind the No. 912 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor/Earl Bamber. This Porsche ran strongly, taking the lead for 11 laps towards the end of the race and finishing third 14 seconds behind the winning Ford.

In GT-Daytona the No. 48 Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow won the class after leading the second half of the race. The No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 of Patrick Long/Christina Nielsen had been the fastest GTD qualifier and it led the first 52 laps of the 178-lap/160-minute race. The No. 15 Lexus of Jack Hawksworth/Mario Farnbacher took over the lead for the next 24 laps before conceding to the No. 48 car. The No. 44 Audi R8 of John Potter/Andy Lally finished second in class.

The next IMSA WeatherTech race will be run at Road America on Sunday, August 5

Click HERE for the results of the Lime Rock WeatherTech race

IMSA Conti LimeRock resizeIMSA Continental: Lime Rock, race winner, No. 46 Mercedes-AMG (Jake Galstad/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA Continental Tire Challenge Lime Rock Park 120
Mercedes-AMG take one-two win, their first win in this series

Lakeville, CT. July 21/18 (GRW): Mercedes-AMG scored its first ever win in the Continental Tire series at the hands of Owen Trinkler/Hugh Plumb, driving the No. 46 car. Indeed, the second place car was also a Mercedes-AMG, driven by Bryce Ward/Indy Dontje, finishing 1.9 seconds back.

The No. 28 Porsche Cayman of Dillon Machavern/Spencer Pumpelly started ahead of the No. 46 Mercedes and it led for the first 56 laps of the 114-lap/120-minute race. It finished third ahead of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4 of Paul Holton/Matt Plumb. Mustangs have found some success in this series this year but the best they could do at Lime Rock was eighth for the No. 59 Roush Mustang of Jack Roush Jr/Joey Atterbury. Once again, Scott Maxwell was in the No. 15 Multimatic Mustang, paired with Chase Briscoe, who had won at Eldora earlier in the week. They finished 32nd , having retired after completing 70 laps.

The No. 54 Audi of Michael Johnson/Stephen Simpson won the TCR class with a tenth place overall finish. In the ST class it was the No. 73 Mini JCW of Mike LaMarra/Mat Pombo.

The next IMSA Continental Tire race will be run at Road America on Saturday, August 4.

Click HERE for the results of the Lime Rock Continental Tire race







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