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Race Weekend Review – October 12-14, 2018

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup 1000Bulbs.Com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
Almirola beats his teammates on the final lap

Talladega, AL, Oct 14/18 (GRW): For most of the race it looked like one of the four Stewart-Haas drivers was going to win the race. For much of the early going, the four – Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola – were running out front, line astern, ahead of the rest of the field. Busch, the pole-sitter, led for 108 of the race’s 193 laps and Harvick led for 46.

Coming off the pit stops at the end of the second stage – which came on lap 110 – their amazing domination was disrupted and first William Byron and then Brad Keselowski led in turn but the SHR mob was catching up and soon it was Bowyer in the lead ahead of Keselowski and Harvick. On lap 137, Jamie McMurray went up into the wall and spun down onto the infield grass bringing out the sixth caution. The front runners pitted and almost immediately after the restart the SHR drivers had taken up their place at the front with Busch leading over Harvick.

The seventh caution came on lap 161 when D.J. Kennington lost a wheel. This time the SHR four did not pit and on the restart they continued in their exceptional domination of the race. As the laps counted down to the finish, the only question seemed to be which of these four would emerge as the winner on the final lap.

But there was to be yet another yellow, on lap 187, which meant another restart – in overtime – and anything might happen on a late-race restart like this. As it happened, the outcome was decided by which cars were running short on fuel. Ryan Blaney, who was lined up in sixth place, and Harvick, who was in third place, both peeled off into the pits for fuel – removing them from the equation.

The green flew and the cars raced around without incident to the white flag – but then J.J. Yeley crashed. NASCAR held off showing the yellow on this long-lap course until the pack of cars had raced back to take the checkered flag. Busch was fighting side-by-side for the lead with his teammate Almirola. It looked like Busch might have the advantage but then his car slowed – out of gas – and Almirola took the checker ahead of Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

“When we qualified top four, all of us together, I knew that all four of us were going to be tough to beat,” said Almirola. “We were going to have really fast race cars. We've been chasing those Penske cars. We talked about it in here Saturday. We've been chasing Penske at the restrictor plate races. They've been able to do somewhat of what we did today, where they get out front, Brad and Joey and Paul and Blaney get organized, basically dominate the race.

“Today we were able to do that. We stayed so committed to each other. We worked every restart out to where we stayed committed to each other, got in line. It was us against the field.

PHOTO MENCS TAL Almirola flagAric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Bacon for Life Ford, celebrates after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

“When we started to drive off from the field in the first stage, as the stage went on, I knew we had something special. I knew one of our four cars was going to win. Just by happenstance, we were the ones that qualified fourth, I kept being the third or fourth guy in line. It was like, man, this is nice that we're all four running together, but I'm scoring less stage points than Bowyer, I'm racing him in points.

“Eventually we're going to have to try and win this race, we're going to have to separate and start to fend for ourselves. That opportunity honestly never really presented itself. It seemed like the way the race played out, such long green flag runs, we would get committed to each other. As we would drive away from the field, me being the fourth guy in line, I never really had anybody behind me to help me make a move on my teammates.

“It was an incredible day for us as an organization at Stewart Haas Racing, and I am so proud and so thankful for the opportunity to be driving these race cars.”

A.J. Allmendinger, who has lost his ride for next year, was sixth while Jimmy Johnson was seventh. Kurt Busch finished on the lead lap in 14th place. Martin Truex was 23rd, Kyle Busch 26th and Kevin Harvick was 28th, while Blaney was 29th, the last car to complete all 193 laps of the overtime race.

This was the second race in the three ‘Round of 12' playoff races. The next race will be at Kansas Speedway next Sunday, October 12. After that race is run, the bottom four playoff drivers will be eliminated and the other eight will go forward to the ‘Round of 8'. As of the Talladega race, the bottom four are Almirola, Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman.

Click HERE for the full results of the MENCS race at Talladega.

PHOTO NCWTS PETERS TALTimothy Peters, driver of the #25 Kingman Chevrolet Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Fr8Auctions 250 (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Fr8Auctions 250 at Talladega Superspeedway
Peters brushes Gragson aside on the final lap to take the win.

Talladega, AL, Oct 13/18 (GRW): Not long ago, Timothy Peters was one of the truck series’ star drivers. In 2016, driving for Tom DeLoach’s Red Horse Racing, he ended the season fourth in the championship standings but, last year, DeLoach shut down his team leaving Peters stranded, looking for any rides he could pick up. His appearance at Talladega was only his fourth start of this year, the last three with the Gallagher GMS team.

But it seems that he has not forgotten how to win races. He started from the second row of the starting lineup and he jumped up to the front when the second Stage finished by virtue of not pitting. After that, he ran near the front for the rest of the third Stage, taking the restart after the fourth caution – which came out for a ten-truck wreck – in sixth place. After a red flag period for cleanup, the race resumed on lap 63 of the 94-lap race. Peters jumped to fourth on the restart and was soon up to third as the trucks shuffled around at the front.

Grant Enfinger was leading ahead of the Gillilands – son Todd and father David – and he looked like winning the race but, on lap 83, Todd Gilliland got alongside Enfinger and they touched – Gilliland spun, bringing out the fifth yellow. Enfinger was still in the lead for this restart with the elder Gilliland alongside – Peters was back in the third row. But this time, on the very first lap after the restart, David Gilliland made contact with Enfinger and he spun – but no yellow flew. Justin Haley jumped ahead of Enfinger to take the lead for a couple of laps, then Noah Gragson, who had not been a factor until now, went from fourth to first in a couple of laps. With just four laps left in the race, it looked like he was on his way to the win.

But Peters was coming fast and, at the start of the final lap, Peters’ and Gragson’s trucks touched and Gragson went spinning while Peters was able to drive through and claim the win.

“Everybody’s wanting to win,” Peters said, who triumphed for the 11th time in his career and the first time since 2015. “Everybody’s wanting to block. I wanted to win, too, because this is my last go-around on the three-race stint. So, at the end of the day, I was going for it.”

Myatt Snider was credited with second place ahead of David Gilliland, Haley and Wendell Chavous. Stewart Friesen, one of the playoff contenders, started the race in eleventh place and he was able to run up in the top five in the early going but, by the time the first Stage ended he had drifted back out of the top ten. For the rest of the race he was hampered by an engine that was down on power – possibly a broken rocker arm – but, given the melee at the end of the race – he was able to claim a sixth-place finish. Gragson finished a lap down in 13th place. Ben Rhodes was 16th, Brett Moffitt 17th, Johnny Sauter 22nd and Matt Crafton 26th, all playoff contenders.

This was the third race in the three-race Round of 8 and the bottom two drivers in the playoff standings, Rhodes and Friesen, were eliminated. The six drivers who will go forward to the Round of 6 are Sauter, Moffitt, Gragson, Enfinger, Haley and Crafton.

The next NCWTS race, which is the first race in the three-race Round of 6, will be held at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, October 27.

Click HERE for the full results of the NCWTS race at Talladega.

 PHOTO IMSA WT NO 10 RATL abbott petit 1018 18124#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi, P: Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor, Ryan Hunter-Reay (© 2018 Phillip Abbott/LAT/IMSA)

IMSA WeatherTech Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
The No. 10 Taylor Cadillac scores its first win of the year; Whelen Cadillac wins the championship

Braselton, GA, Oct 13/18 (GRW): IMSA’s Petit Le Mans race is a 10-hour endurance race at the end of the WeatherTech season, a 12-race season which begins with the Daytona 24-hour race and the Sebring 12-hour enduro and ends here at Road Atlanta. In all three classes, the title was not yet settled coming into this final race.

In the prototype class, it all came down to who had enough fuel to get to the finish line, the final round of pit stops having come a bit early. At lap 434 of what would turn out to be a 443-lap race, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac of Filipe Albuquerque/Christian Fittipaldi/Tristan Vautier was leading the No. 22 Nissan DPi of Pipo Derani/Johannes van Overbeek/Timo Bernhard, the No. 10 Cadillac of Renger Van Der Zande/Jordan Taylor/Ryan Hunter-Reay, the No. 54 LMP2 ORECA of Colin Braun/Jonathan Bennett/Romain Dumas, the No. 55 Mazda DPi of Spencer Pigot/Jonathan Bomarito/Marino Franchitti and the No. 7 Penske Acura DPi of Helio Castroneves/Ricky Taylor/Graham Rahal. But most of them were running low on fuel.

Braun in the No. 54 cars blinked first and came in for gas on the next lap. The No. 22 car driven by Derani, was also in fuel conservation mode. Derani slowed to save gas and started losing spots, eventually finishing in sixth place, just ahead of the No. 54 car. On the final lap the No 5 car, driven by Albuquerque sputtered and slowed, eventually finishing in fourth behind the race winner – the No. 10 car driven by Taylor and the No. 77 and the No. 55 car as well.

This race result saw Curran and Nasr, the season-long drivers in the No. 31 car which finished here in eighth place the winner of the season-long championship for Prototype cars with 277 points to the 274 points won by Braun and Bennett in the ORECA.

In the GT-Le Mans class, the drivers of the No. 3 Corvette (Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia) had come to Road Atlanta leading the class championship over the drivers of the No. 67 Ford GT (Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook). In the end they did win the title but it was a close thing. Late in the afternoon, Garcia came out of the pits on cold tires and spun into the concrete wall doing considerable damage to the front of the car. He was able to drive the car back to the pits and the crew changed everything over with amazing speed and got the car back out on the course. With the points gap coming in to the race at only nine points, their title hopes were in jeopardy. In the end, the Ford finished fifth in class while the Corvette was eighth, good enough to give the title to the Corvette duo by a margin of six points.

In the GT-Daytona class the championship battle was between the drivers of the No. 48 Lamborghini (Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers) and Katherine Legge who was the only driver who had been in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Acura NXS GT3 for the full season. The Shank team put their visiting third driver Alvaro Parente in the car for the final sprint to try to catch the class-leading Ferrari. Unfortunately the Acura was blocked in when the No. 4 Corvette came in and pitted right in front of them and a tire was placed in a manner which hampered their exit. This was enough to ruin any hopes they had of beating the leading Ferrari. The Acura took second but the third-place finish for the Lamborghini was good enough to give its season-long drivers the class championship.

The Petit Le Mans was the final race in the 2018 WeatherTech championship season.

Click HERE for the full results of the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta.

PHOTO IMSA CONTI NO 82 BMW RATL#82 BimmerWorld Racing, BMW M4 GT4, GS: James Clay, Tyler Cooke (© 2018 Jake Galstad/LAT)

IMSA Continental Tire Challenge Fox Factory 120 at Road Atlanta
Clay/Cooke BMW wins the race; the GS championship goes to the Trinkler/Plumb AMG

Braselton, GA, Oct 12/18 (GRW): The pole-sitter, the No. 82 BMW M4 GT4 of James Clay/Tyler Cooke, won the race over the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4 of Paul Holton/Matt Plumb and the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG of Bryce Ward/Indy Dontje. The No. 60 Mustang of Nate Stacy/Kyle Marcelli was fifth while the top-placed Multimatic Mustang entry was the No. 22 driven by Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe in seventh.

With the drop of the green flag, celebrations were already in order for the No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Owen Trinkler/Hugh Plumb, who came into the race with a large enough lead in the Grand Sport (GS) standings that required the team to only start the race to clinch the team’s first title. With an 11th-place finish, they finished with a 25-point lead (281-256) over Marcelli and Stacy in the No. 60 KohR Motorsports/Roush Performance Ford Mustang GT4.

The No. 12 Audi RS3 of Kenton Koch/Tom O'Gorman won the TCR class, finishing 14th overall. The No. 73 Mini JCW of Mike LaMarra/Mat Pombo won the ST class, 28th overall, two laps down on the race winner.

This was the final race in the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire Challenge season.

Click HERE for full results of the IMSA Continental Tire Challenge at Road Atlanta.

PHOTO WEC FUJI NO 7 TOYOTAPodium - #7 TOYOTA GAZOO RACING / JPN / Toyota TS050 - Hybrid - Hybrid / Mike Conway (GBR) / Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) / Jose Maria Lopez (ARG) - 6 hours of Fuji (photo: Joao Filipe/AdrenalMedia.com)

FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji at Fuji Speedway
No surprise: Toyota Hybrids win by a four-lap margin.

Oyama, Shizuoka, Japan, Oct 14/18 (GRW): Once again, the hybrid Toyota cars completely overpowered their gas-only rivals. In qualifying, both of the Toyota entries captured the front row well ahead of their non-hybrid LMP1 rivals. The No. 7 Toyota’s qualifying time was disallowed and the car had to start from the back of the class. This did not prove to be much of a handicap. By the end of the first hour, the No. 7 car had made up its deficit and was running with the sister car and from then on, the two Toyotas held command of the first two places in the running order. When the six hours were completed, the No. 7 car (Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/Jose Maria Lopez) took the flag ahead of the No. 8 Toyota (Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima/Fernando Alonso) by an 11-second margin.

The highest-placed non-hybrid LMP1 car was the No. 1 Rebellion Racing of Neel Jani/André Lotterer/Bruno Senna which finished some four laps behind the two Toyotas.

The LMGTE-Pro class was won by the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen/Kevin Estre while the LMGTE-Am class went to the No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Jörg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Egidio Perfetti.
The next race in the WEC 2018-2019 season is the 6 Hours of Shanghai (China) on November 18.

Click HERE for the full results of the 6-Hours of Fuji.

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