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Race Weekend Review – June 29, 2018

 

FI HUNGARY PODIUM RESIZEHungarian Grand Prix podium: Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen (Steve Etherington/Daimler AG)

FIA Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix at Hungaroring
Hamilton wins over Vettel and extends his championship points lead

Budapest, Hungary, July 29/18 (GRW): After Friday’s practice sessions, the smart money had it that the Hungarian GP was going to be won by either Sebastian Vettel or Daniel Ricciardo. But rain during the qualifying sessions on Saturday saw Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas ending up on the front row for the race. Although the race was run in dry conditions like Friday, the two Mercedes cars were dominant in the race.

Hamilton won over Vettel by a huge 17-second margin with Kimi Räikkönen finishing third ahead of Ricciardo in fourth and Bottas in fifth.

In practice on a dry track on Friday, Vettel and Ricciardo were the fastest with the Mercedes fifth and sixth fastest behind the Ferrari and Red Bull pairs. Hence the predictions of a poor race result for the Mercedes. When Saturday turned out to be wet for qualifying, it was expected that both Ricciardo and Verstappen would be very good in the rain so they had good chances of qualifying well. As it turned out, the Red Bull cars were not very good in the wet this day and Ricciardo – caught out after he was slowed by Lance Stroll’s spin early in the second qualifying session and by rain which began to fall and prevented him for achieving a decent qualifying speed after that – was beached back in 12th place on the grid. The best Verstappen could do was seventh.

But the real surprise was the speed of the Mercedes cars – especially Hamilton who seemed to find grip on full wets better than the others – he easily won the pole over Bottas while Räikkönen was third quickest and Vettel fourth.

It was dry on Sunday and the teams, by virtue of having qualified on wet tires, could choose any combination of tires for the race. At the start Vettel got past his teammate for third and almost passed Bottas going into the first turn. Verstappen shot up into fifth place behind the two Mercedes and the two Ferraris – a hopeful sign for the Red Bull team.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, Verstappen slowed and came to a stop on the sixth lap with a power unit failure. This brought out the first Virtual Safety Car while his car was picked up.

The order settled down to Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Räikkönen for a bit until Räikkönen and then Bottas, a lap later, came in to the pits. Now the chase was on with Vettel in second place about eight seconds back Hamilton. Most everybody was on a one-stop strategy. Hamilton came into the pits on lap 25 of the 70-lap race and made a quick exit, falling back to second about 14 seconds behind Vettel, the new leader. But an analysis of their respective positions, suggested that Vettel needed to close up more on Hamilton and more ahead of Bottas in third if he was to maintain his second place position after he made his pit stop.

When Vettel came into the pits on lap 39, he was still ten seconds behind Hamilton and another ten seconds ahead of Bottas. With the full time of the in-and-out of the pits taking a bit more than 20 seconds, it looked like Vettel was likely to fall into the grasp of Bottas. The worst thing happened. When he pitted, the stop itself took over four seconds – and when he came out he was a second behind Bottas. There was nearly half of the race left to run but Vettel was struggling to maintain his position behind Bottas, with no hope of catching Hamilton who was nearly ten seconds ahead of him.

Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren stopped on course – “gearbox gone” – bringing out the Virtual Safety Car for a second time. The virtue of this method of slowing the cars is that it avoids all the back markers bunching up behind the race leader – but this meant that Vettel could gain no advantage from the VSC and he was still about 15 seconds back of Hamilton when the VSC was withdrawn.

Now, with less than ten laps left to run, he was able to close up on Bottas and attempt a pass. He got by into second place but his rear wheel clipped Bottas’ front wing, damaging it, but both kept going. Bottas lost ground and fell back behind Räikkönen. Ricciardo had worked his way up into fourth from his mid-field starting spot and he closed on Bottas and passed him for fourth.

With Hamilton the winner and Vettel second, this extended Hamilton’s points lead by another seven points, giving him a 24-point margin going into the summer break. There are still nine more Grands Prix yet to run, so it is too early to concede the championship to Hamilton yet.

The next F1 race will be in four weeks time at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug 26.

Click HERE for the results of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

IndyCar Start resizeAlexander Rossi leads the field to the green flag to start the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Matt Fraver/IndyCar) 

Verizon IndyCar Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
A two-stop strategy yields victory for Rossi

Lexington, OH, July 29/18 (GRW): Alexander Rossi, the one-time F1 driver, started from the pole and, using a two-stop strategy while everyone else made three pit stops, he dominated the race, coming home the winner by a 13-second margin over Robert Wickens.

In the race, Rossi led the first segment of the 90-lap race until he pitted on lap 29 after everyone else had already pitted. This late pit stop revealed the No. 27 team’s plan to make the race on only two pit stops while everyone else, by pitting earlier, was already committed to three pit stops.

When Rossi pitted, Wickens, who had qualified fifth quickest, took over the lead for nine laps until he made his second pit stop, letting Will Power through into the lead ahead of Josef Newgarden and Rossi. After Newgarden and Power made their second pit stops, Rossi was back into the lead with Wickens back up into second again.

Then, when Rossi made his second pit stop, Wickens regained the lead for a second time until he pitted after another six laps letting Rossi back out in front. A few laps later and Wickens had cycled back past Power into second place again but he was trapped behind some two lapped cars. Afterwards, Wickens said that he thought that he might have been able to catch Rossi in that final stint but for the time he lost while he was held up behind the slower cars.

IndyCar podium JGS 2018 MIDOHIO resizeHonda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio podium: Wickens, Rossi and Power (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar)

Wickens finished in second place, two seconds ahead of Power in third place and another three seconds ahead of Newgarden in fourth while championship points leader Scott Dixon was fifth right behind Newgarden. The race ran the full 90 laps without any cautions. Every driver made three stops for tires except Rossi who made only two stops – the secret of his race win.

Sebastian Bourdais caught everyone’s attention by his strong drive through the field. The day before he had failed to record a qualifying time when he slid off the track on his first qualifying lap. This meant he had to start at the back of the 24-car field. He had shown good speed in practice so it was no surprise when he started to chop his way up through the field. Despite there being no cautions to help him make progress, he was able to pass almost everyone and finish in sixth place.

Wickens teammate James Hinchcliffe did not have such a good day. He started tenth on the grid but he never found pace and he gradually fell back to finish in 14th place. Every one of the 24 starters finished the race with 15 of them finishing on the lead lap.

Rossi advanced one position in the championship standings, moving into second place, 46 points behind Scott Dixon (494 points to 448) after 13 of 17 races. Newgarden is now third in the points race with 434 points.

The next Indy car race is the ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 19.

Click HERE for the results of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

MENCS Busch Pocono resizeKyle Busch, race winner of the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway (Chris Trotman/Getty Images/NASCAR) 

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway

Kyle Busch holds off Suárez for the win – his sixth win so far this year

Long Pond, PA, July 29/18 (GRW): By rights this race should have gone to Kevin Harvick but a series of misadventures saw him finishing in fourth place while Kyle Busch who, like Harvick, had started the race from near the back, ended up the winner.

When the fifth caution ended on lap 132 of the 160-lap race Busch was at the front of the field with Daniel Suárez alongside for the restart. Harvick, who had had a second bout of bad luck was in 27th place. On green Harvick charged up through the field – as he had done at the beginning of the race as well – and by the time next caution flew on lap 155, he was up into ninth place.

This sixth caution came when Darrell Wallace lost his brakes and slammed into the outside wall. When it was obvious that the clean-up was going to take a long time and, given that there were on a handful of laps left to run, they red-flagged the race. When the race restarted, it was again Busch, Suárez, Chase Elliott and Erik Jones at the front. On this restart, Busch once again pulled ahead of Suárez but a couple of laps later the yellow flew again. Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse had tangled and spun.

This put the race into ‘overtime’ and Suárez knew it was his last best chance to take a win and thereby qualify for the playoffs. When the green was dropped he charged forward and managed to pull alongside Busch and even a bit ahead of him but Jones was also going for his best finish and he drew up alongside making it three-wide half-way through the first green-flag lap. This slowed Suárez and the two fell back, letting Busch get away from them to win by a 1.8-second margin after the final green-flag lap of the race. Alex Bowman was third and Harvick fourth.
This weekend they followed a modified schedule which omitted the pre-inspection before Friday’s qualifying session and opted to wait until after qualifying was completed to inspect the cars. Harvick had qualified for the pole with Kyle Busch alongside but both of them – along with another 11 cars – failed the post-qualifying inspection and were relegated to the back of the grid, making Suárez the official pole-sitter. Busch started in 28th place while Harvick started 29th.

Once the race began, they both made their way towards the front quickly. When Stage 1 ended on lap 50, Harvick was in second place and Busch in fourth place. On the restart, Harvick quickly moved up into the lead ahead of Jones and Elliott while Busch was back in sixth. The way the Stage segments broke, many drivers thought it to be advantageous to pit early before the mandated Stage-end break. Such a series of green-flag pit stops began around lap 78, over 20 laps before the scheduled end of Stage 2 and both Harvick and Busch gave up positions when they pitted.

This cycle of green-flag pit stops was nearly completed when there was a yellow for a crash on lap 84. Harvick and Busch were among those who did not pit during this yellow and, after the track went green again, Harvick was leading with Busch right behind him.

After the pit stop cycle at the end of Stage 2, Busch, who did not pit this time, was up into second place while Harvick, who did had fallen back to 13th place behind all those who had short-pitted before the end of the Stage.

On the restart, Harvick was charging forward again when another yellow (#4) flew after Brad Keselowski blew a tire. Another round of pit stops which saw Busch coming out of the pits first. However, Harvick had to make a second pit stop for attention to damaged bodywork and this dropped him far back, restarting in 27th place. This was as far back as he had been at the start of the race. After that, through the remaining three restarts, he did well to work his way forward to finish in fourth place.

This win for Kyle Busch was his sixth win of the season, tying him with Harvick for wins and making them both favourites to win the season-end championship.

The next MENCS race will be held on the Watkins Glen road course next Sunday, August 5.

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS Pocono Gander Outdoors 400

NXS Christopher Bell stickers NASCAR Xfinity Iowa 2 7282018 resize Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Ruud Toyota shows four fingers at Iowa to represent his four wins so far this year (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway
Bell fights off Busch and Allgaier to win in overtime

Newton, IA, July 28/18 (GRW): It took a red-flag and two overtime restarts to settle who was going to win the race. Coming down to that final restart, Justin Allgaier was leading with Brandon Jones starting alongside. Kyle Benjamin was in the second row below Christopher Bell. The green flew and all hell broke loose. Somehow Bell got under Allgaier running side-by-side for the lead and then he pushed forward and was in front when the final lap began. Behind them there was another crash but the track stayed green long enough for Bell to take the checker 0.4 seconds ahead of Allgaier. Benjamin finished in third place ahead of Ross Chastain and John Hunter Nemechek.

This was Bell’s third win in a row in the Xfinity Series and his fourth win of the year.

Cole Custer had started from the front row alongside pole-sitter Elliott Sadler. Custer passed Sadler for the lead on lap 27 and held the lead to the end of the first Stage. After that Bell, who had been running in third place behind Sadler, passed both Sadler and Custer to take the lead for the first time on lap 116 – which gave him the Stage 2 win on lap 120 of the 259-lap race.

Custer regained the lead for another 30 laps before Bell, who had been right behind, repassed him.

Now with a longer 130-lap Stage to be run, drivers started making mid-Stage pit stops under green and this shuffled the race order – but, once this cycle of green-flag laps was completed, Bell was back in front. The fourth caution flew on lap 238 in strange circumstances. Chase Briscoe spun across in front of race-leader Bell. Bell tapped him but both cars kept going. Bell was still in the lead while Briscoe lost several places before he got going again. How lucky could Bell get?

This left Bell taking the restart with Custer alongside but Custer had a bad restart and fell back a few places. Meanwhile, Garrett Smithley had spun into the wall, bringing out the fifth caution on lap 244. By the time they were ready to go again, it was lap 249 and the race was going into overtime.

Bell, the race leader, lined up alongside Jones with Benjamin and Allgaier in the second row. On the restart, they charged into the first corner all four side-by-side abreast. Behind them Matt Tifft and Max Tullman tangled bringing out the yellow again. They red-flagged the race while they cleaned up the mess. For the final restart Bell was in the second row behind Allgaier but in that first lap melee, Bell passed them all to take the lead and the win.

Now that Bell has four Xfinity wins and only two other Xfinity regulars have wins – two for Allgaier and one for Tyler Reddick, Bell has to be the strong favourite to win the series championship. If he does so, this would be his second NASCAR championship in a row, having won the truck series championship last year.

The next Xfinity race will be held at Watkins Glen next Saturday, August 4.

Click HERE for the results of the Iowa Xfinity race.

NCWTS 2018 Pocono BuschLeading 072818 RESIZEKyle Busch, race winner of the NCWTS Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway
Kyle Busch dominates to take his first win of his weekend sweep

Long Pond, PA, July 28/18 (GRW): Kyle Busch led 43 laps in this 60-lap truck race, including the final 24 laps to take a convincing win. He held off Erik Jones, who was subbing for Noah Gragson in the No. 18 KBM truck, winning by a margin of 1.5 seconds. Dalton Sargeant was third while Canadian Stewart Friesen, who had led for four laps during the race, had to settle for fourth ahead of Justin Haley.

Gragson had been scheduled to start from the second row until illness Saturday forced him to sit out and let Jones take over. Jones had been the series champion in 2015 in a KBM truck and he is a Cup teammate of Busch’s this year, so this was a reunion of sorts for Busch and Jones.

Todd Gilliland was racing Busch for the lead during the first Stage (which was only 15 laps long) and, when Busch short-pitted before the end of the Stage in order to set himself up in the lead starting the second Stage, Gilliland was left to win the Stage uncontested. But, once the race restarted after the Stage 1 break, Gilliland was challenging Busch for the lead again.

Friesen took the lead on lap 29 after Busch and Jones pitted early and he held on to win the second stage. The final stage was a mere 30 laps long and Busch led the final 24 laps to take the win by a 1.5-second margin over Jones. Todd Gilliland ended up seventh.

The next NCWTS race will be held at Michigan International Speedway on August 11.

Click HERE for the results of the Pocono NCWTS race.

PINTY LPD EDMONTON RESIZELP Dumoulin crosses the line to win the LUXXUR 300 presented by Bayer at Edmonton International Raceway. (Matthew Manor/ NASCAR)

NASCAR Pinty’s Series in Saskatoon and Edmonton
Three races – three winners: Theege, Powell and L.P. Dumoulin

Wetaskiwin, AB, July 28/18 (GRW): Kevin Lacroix led the first 281 laps of the 300-lap race here near Edmonton but L.P. Dumoulin took over to lead the final 17 and take the checker, his first win of the 2018 Pinty’s season. Dumoulin gained the lead after the second caution which ended on lap 279. He had taken the restart from the second row behind Lacroix and Alex Tagliani but, on the restart, the two in front were battling for the lead on old tires and he was able to slip by both of them to take the lead – and go on to win.

Earlier in the week on Wednesday. there had been a double-header event at the Wyant Group Raceway near Saskatoon which produced a pair of first-time winners. Donald Theege won the first half of the double-header while Cole Powell won the second race. While this is Powell’s first year in the Pinty’s Series, NASCAR does not consider him to be a rookie because he raced a full-season in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2013. Regardless, Powell has been turning heads in the Pinty’s series this year and looks like a contender to win the series championship.

Powell had been leading in the series points standings coming in to Edmonton but Dumoulin’s win there moved him into the lead with 286 points to Powell’s 282.

Click HERE for the results of the Saskatoon Race #1
Click HERE for the results of the Saskatoon Race #2

Click HERE for the results of the Edmonton race

The next NASCAR Pinty’s Series race will be held at Trois-Rivieres on Sunday, August 12.

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