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Race Weekend Preview: Aug 16-19, 2018

We are watching seven races this weekend

Thursday, August 16
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200, Bristol Motor Speedway

Friday, August 17
NASCAR Xfinity Food City 300, Bristol Motor Speedway, TN

Saturday, August 18
NASCAR MENCS Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Bristol, TN
IMSA Continental Tire Series, Biscuitville Grand Prix, Virginia Intl. Raceway Alton, VA
NASCAR Pinty’s Series Bumper to Bumper 300, Riverside Intl. Speedway, Antigonish, NS

Sunday. August 19
Verizon IndyCar ABC Supply 500, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA
IMSA WeatherTech Michelin GT Challenge at VIR, Virginia International Raceway, Alton, VA
WEC 6-Hours of Silverstone, Silverstone, England

IndyCar at Pocono

The Indy cars will visit the 2.5-mile triangular track this Sunday. When the track first opened in 1971, the USAC Indy cars were the first to race there. Mark Donahue won the first race. NASCAR did not arrive until 1974. When CART split apart from the USAC-sanctioned Indy car series, Pocono stayed with the USAC races until 1981 but after some kind of settlement was reached, a CART-sanctioned race was run here in 1982 and the CART races continued until 1989. More recently, after the resolution of the split between Champ Car (aka CART) and the Hulman family-backed IndyCar series, Indy car racing in the form of the Verizon IndyCar series returned in 2013 and has run there each year since. Will Power has won here the past two years.

The most recent Indy car race this year was at the Mid-Ohio road course on July 29; it was won by Alexander Rossi, his second win of the season. Last year’s winner Will Power has won twice this year – at both of the Indianapolis races. Scott Dixon comes into Pocono having won three times this year already, the most wins for any driver. Canadian Indy car fans will be watching Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe, who won at Iowa, and Guelph’s Robert Wickens, who has finished second twice and third twice, after nearly winning in the first race of the season at St. Petersburg.

IMSA at VIR

The IMSA WeatherTech race at VIR will include only the GT classes – GTLM and GT-Daytona. Presumably it is thought that the VIR is too confined to include a full field of prototype cars. This will turn the spotlight on the GT classes.

Last year there were a total of 25 entries and the No. 3 GTLM Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia won overall by a margin of 12 seconds over the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The top finishing GT-Daytona car was the No. 16 Lamborghini of Corey Lewis and Jeroen Mul. The No. 16 car is not competing this year in the 18-car field.

In the most recent WeatherTech race, which was at Road America two weeks ago, the No. 67 Briscoe/Westbrook Ford GT won the GTLM class over the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin/Tommy MIlner with the No. 3 Corvette of Magnussen/Garcia third in class. The GT-D class was won by Patrick Long/Christina Nielsen in a Porsche 911 GT3 R.

The Continental Tire race at VIR last year was won by the No. 28 Porsche Cayman GT4 of Dillon Machavern/Dylan Murcott. The ST class was won by the No. 44 Nissan Altima of Sarah Cattaneo/Owen Trinkler. This year, Machavern is paired with Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 28 Cayman while Trinkler is driving the No. 46 GS Mercedes-AMG. In the Road America Continental Tire race two weeks ago, the No. 7 VOLT racing Mustang of Alan Brynjolfsson/Trent Hindman won overall and the CS class ahead of the No. 28 Pumpelly/Machavern Porsche.

This year there is a new class – TCR – based on the standardised international rules. While this class has attracted entries from many different manufacturers in Europe and in the world championship series, it has been dominated by Audi RS3 cars here. At Road America the winner was the No. 74 Compass Audi of Rodrigo Sales/Kuno Wittmer. The new TCR class has somewhat overshadowed the carry-over ST class which has been reduced to five cars. The winner in the most recent race was the No. 81 BMW 328i of Nick Galante/Devin Jones.

NASCAR at Bristol

As the ‘regular season’ winds down and the series move on to their ‘playoff’ races we will hear more and more about the different drivers and their chances of making it into the playoffs. With 12 or 16 drivers moving forward into the playoffs the battle for the last qualifying positions is fairly meaningless. Anyone who has been paying attention already has a good idea who to the strongest competitors are – and it is highly improbable that a driver who is the 16th best qualifier will make it through the three rounds of knock-out competition to line up as one of the four hopefuls in each of the three NASCAR races at Homestead at the season finale. Think about it – you already have a well-formed idea of who the top drivers are in each class and you believe that the eventual champion will come from the ranks of the top few, not the 16th best playoff qualifier. So, in the weeks between now and the start of the playoffs, hold your seat and enjoy the racing, race by race, and don’t get sucked into the hyped-up speculation about who is going to make the qualifying cut into the playoffs. There will likely be some good racing if it does not get overshadowed by the false excitement over who will qualify for the last playoff position.

This week all three NASCAR National series are running at the Bristol 1/4-mile bullring. While it is one of the shortest tracks on the NASCAR calendar, it has become an iconic part of the NASCAR mythology. It was the first NASCAR track to bring in lights to run a night race and that boosted attendance and led to a huge expansion of seating. For years, it was well-nigh impossible to find any available tickets. With the general drop off in attendance in recent years, you can now buy tickets easily, but this night race in late August remains one of the high points of the NASCAR year. There was a time when there was seating for perhaps 20,000 people. Now the ‘coliseum’ can accommodate a crowd of well over 100,000 people. For most NASCAR fans this night-race weekend at Bristol is on their bucket list.

Last year, the MENCS race was won by Kyle Busch ahead of Toyota team associate Eric Jones, with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, Busch’s teammates, third and fourth. Martin Truex, who was to go on and win the series championship finished 21st, a lap down. Last week at Michigan, two of this year’s ‘Big Three’ had good results – Kevin Harvick was the race winner while Busch was in third place behind Brad Keselowski. Truex has a difficult day but managed to finish in 14th place – remember how things worked out for him last year despite a poor result at MIS.

In the NCWTS race run at MIS last Saturday, Brett Moffitt made a last-corner charge and beat Johnny Sauter to the line. He also won at MIS two years ago in similar fashion. Last year, Darrell Wallace was the winner at MIS over Christopher Bell, the eventual 2017 series champion. Bell has moved up to Xfinity this year but he will be driving double-duty in the truck series as well, subbing for an ill Harrison Burton.
Last year at Bristol, Kyle Busch made it a double win, winning both the MENCS and the truck race that weekend. Matt Crafton, who is having a difficult year in 2018, was second at Bristol last year.
The Canadian driver Stewart Friesen made another good showing at MIS last weekend. Indeed he might have won that race but for a penalty incurred when an over-zealous crew member made a mistake. Short tracks are Friesen’s stock-in-trade so this might be his time to score his first win in the truck series.

The Xfinity series ran at the Mid-Ohio road course last weekend. Austin Cindric dominated the race almost the entire distance but he was run down and beat by Justin Allgaier – on fresher tires – in the last few laps.
Of course, the Bristol oval is a totally different kind of racing venue from Mid-Ohio so Cindric’s prowess at Mid-Ohio may not carry over to Bristol. Last year, the Xfinity race at Bristol was won by Kyle Busch, making it a triple-header winning weekend for the relentless driver. He must have been dizzy after going around in circles all those laps.
This year Busch is entered only in the Cup race and the Xfinity race, giving others some hope of winning the truck race at least. Other Cup drivers entered in the Xfinity race include Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. With Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota, Ryan Preece will be sitting this race out.

NASCAR Pinty’s in Nova Scotia

This weekend the Pinty’s series is running at the 1/3-mile oval Riverside International in Antigonish, NS. n 11 previous NASCAR Pinty’s Series events at Riverside, only two drivers have been to Victory Lane more than once. The last six races have seen six different drivers hold the checkered flag. Last year’s winner was Alex Labbe, who went on to win the series championship; this year he is competing full-time in the Xfinity Series. In the most recent Pinty’s race this year, at Trois Rivieres, the winner was Alex Tagliani.L.P. Dumoulin is leading in the points race ahead of M-A Camirand and Tagliani

WEC 6-Hours at Silverstone

Earlier this year the WEC announced new plans for television coverage of their races in the US and Canada saying that they would be broadcast on the Velocity channel and online via Motor Trend On Demand. While the WEC races, at least the first and last hours of them are being broadcast on Velocity in the US, the equivalent channel in Canada, Discovery Velocity, will not be carrying this broadcast. As for Motor Trend On Demand, this service is identical for US and Canadian residents and they will NOT be broadcasting the Silverstone race. Presumably they have decided to not pick up this series. I expect that this means that few Canadians will be trying to follow this WEC series, so I do not plan to report on any more event in this season.

BREAKING NEWS (as of Saturday, August 18); I now see that Motor Trend on Demand has revised their information about upcoming programming and they now show that the 6-Hour WEC race from Silverstone will be broadcast live on Sunday with the broadcast starting at 6:30A

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