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Race Weekend Review – May 25-26, 2019 - Monaco, Indy, Charlotte

Race Weekend Review – May 25-26, 2019

Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco
• Another Hamilton win but Vettel’s Ferrari is second

Monte Carlo, Monaco, May 26/19 (GRW): Lewis Hamilton continued his dominance of the 2019 F1 season, winning the Monaco Grand Prix flag-to-flag, making it the sixth win for Mercedes in as many races this year. But for the first time this year, it was not a one-two finish for Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) was scored second, 2.6 seconds behind Hamilton while Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was third.

The lap chart for this race had the usual boring pattern we are getting used to – Hamilton started from the pole and he led every lap to the finish. Behind him there was a bit more drama. Max Verstappen was in third place when he pitted on lap 11 of the 78-lap race – but he was in second place when he exited the pits. However, as he shot out from his pit, Bottas was coming along after his pit stop and Verstappen ran into the side of the Mercedes. Bottas made a second pit stop immediately to assess the damage and dropped to fourth behind Vettel. And the front four ran in that order for the rest of the race.

However, Verstappen was given a five-second penalty for an ‘unsafe release’ from his pit stall. Given that he never made a second pit stop, this penalty was assigned post-race, dropping him to fourth place behind Vettel and Bottas.

Behind this action at the front of the pack, the eyes were on Charles Leclerc. The rookie Ferrari driver had failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying and he was starting in 15th place. This terrible starting position was the result of a strategy error on the part of his team management. Despite Leclerc’s pleas to the contrary they chose to sit on a mediocre qualifying time that they believed would have been good enough to promote him on to the second round. They were wrong and he was screwed. Now, in the race, he was doing everything he could to work his way forward – on a street circuit where it is almost impossible to pass another car.

He got past a few cars, including an impossible passing move at Rascasse but he touched the other car and he punctured a tire. This brought out the Safety Car and triggered the single round of pit stops for the front runners (and Verstappen’s unfortunate pit road collision). When the Safety Car came in he was still a man on a mission. This time when he tried to pass at Rascasse he collided with another car and the team retired the car. A sad weekend for Leclerc.

For the rest of the race, the attention was on Verstappen who was running close behind Hamilton – less than a second back. But, of course, this run was quixotic because the other two cars behind him – Vettel and Bottas – were well within the five-second interval that Verstappen was going to have to give up at the end of the race. Hamilton’s tires were perhaps not quite a good as Verstappen’s choice but he was able to hold off the charging Dutchman to the finish, crossing the line half a second ahead. Of course, he did not have to beat Verstappen on the road – all he had to do was finish second within five seconds behind him to be declared the race winner.

Among the other runners, Pierre Gasly, in the second Red Bull car, was fifth while Carlos Sainz in a McLaren was fifth. As for the ‘Team Canada’ Racing point cars, Sergio Perez was 12th and Lance Stroll was 16th.

“Today was one of the hardest races of my career, it was so intense,” Said Hamilton after the race. “ With 20 laps left I thought there was no way I was going to make it to the end. I thought I was going to crash, I was battling so much with the car. There was absolutely nothing left in the tyres and it was so tough to keep the car on the track. I thought to myself, ‘what would Niki do’. I was trying my hardest – giving everything I had. I just tried to stay focussed and make no mistakes. I know he was watching me today, but with Niki by my side we managed to do it. I wore his helmet colours today and I didn’t want to let him down. He was close to my heart, I really wanted to deliver for him this weekend and I was determined not to crack under the pressure. Today belongs to Niki.”

PHOTO MONACO NIKIDrivers and others wear red NIKI hats as part of the tribute to Niki Lauda (Daimler AG)

Niki Lauda, the four-time world champion who had been the non-executive president of the Mercedes team had died during the week preceding this race and an elaborate tribute to him was given before the race began.

This win for Hamilton, his sixth in as many Grands Prix so far this year, gives him a 17-point advantage over his teammate Bottas (137 points to 120). Vettel is third with 82 points while Verstappen has 78.

Click HERE for the results and points after the Monaco Grand Prix.

The next F1 championship race will be the Grand Prix du Canada at Montreal in two weeks time, June 9.

PHOTO INDY 500Pagenaud with the traditional milk in victory lane at the Indy 500 (Chris Owens/INDYCAR)

NTT INDYCAR Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
• Pagenaud holds off Rossi to sweep the Indianapolis ‘Month of May’

Speedway, IN, May 26/19 (GRW): The modern version of the Indianapolis ‘Month of May’ now includes a ‘Grand Prix’ on the road course two weeks before the traditional Indy 500 as well as a weekend of qualifying for the 500. Former sports car driver Simon Pagenaud swept the board this year – winning the IndyCar Grand Prix, the pole for the 500 and the Indy 500 itself.

But this win in the 500 did not come easy. Coming off the final caution which ended on lap 187 of the 200-lap race, Alexander Rossi was coming on strong. Rossi was leading when the green flag flew but Pagenaud powered past into the lead on the next lap. Rossi continued to press and he got ahead on lap 198. Pagenaud never gave up and he was able to charge past him into the first turn. Rossi was determined to regain the lead but Pagenaud – in the tradition of American-style racing – traced out a serpentine track down the straights for the rest of the race. Some might call this blocking but it was legal here and it kept Rossi behind him until he took the checker.

Pagenaud had led most of the earlier running – leading a total of 116 laps – but this came at a cost. As the front runner, he was not able to conserve as much fuel and he was making his pit stops before anyone else. It looked like he was going to have to make an extra pit stop to have enough fuel to go the distance – and thereby forfeit his hold on the race lead. Redemption came at the hands of his fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Graham Rahal was making a pass on his inside when Bourdais misjudged his position and turned to the left. This left no room for Rahal and their wheels touched setting off a big melee which collected another three cars. Their hopes for a good finish were done but, more importantly, this yellow would solve Pagenaud’s fuel worries.

The race officials put out the red flag to allow for cleanup but, regardless, this final series of eight caution laps was enough to assure Pagenaud enough fuel to be able to finish the race.

“It’s hard to believe right now, to be honest with you,” said Pagenaud. “It’s been such an intense race. I believe we led most of the race. The car was just on rails. The yellows came out perfectly. The stars are aligned. Man, wow, I’m seeing myself on TV with this. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a dream come true, a lifetime of trying to achieve this”

PHOTO INDY MENARD CROP JDC INDY500 19 1049Pagenaud celebrates with long-time Indy 500 entrant and sponsor John Menard (INDYCAR)

Of course, Rossi was not so happy after the race. There had been a problem with the fuel filler and there was one long stop when it looked as if he was never going to be able to get fuel into his tank. Asked about Pagenaud’s advantage, Rossi said, “Horsepower. That’s unfortunately the way it is. They did a great job. Obviously, he was on pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car. We just didn’t have enough there at the end.” (Rossi’s car had an Honda engine while Pagenaud’s car had a Chevrolet.)

Takuma Sato had a strong run in the closing laps after the red-flag session ended and he finished third ahead of Josef Newgarden and Will Power. Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe, who started from the back row after a troubled fist day of qualifying was able to work his way up to mid-field during the race and he finished 11th having completed all 200 laps.

Click HERE for the results of the Indy 500.

The next IndyCar race will be a two-day double-header at Detroit’s Belle Isle next weekend, June 1-2.

PHOTO MENCS CMS Truex3 052619Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Coca-Cola 600 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR)

Monster Energy Cup Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
• Truex win the longest NASCAR race of the year

Charlotte, NC, May 26/19 (GRW): When the No. 19 Toyota blew a tire and hit the wall bringing out the third yellow on lap 75 of this 400-mile marathon, one might have expected that Martin Truex’ chances of winning the race were over – but he carried on and, in the final hour of the never-ending race, he came to the fore and went on to win the race.

Actually, he took the lead coming out of the pits during the race’s 11th caution which came on lap 252 – closely followed by Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. He won the third Stage (This race had four 100-lap Stages) but Elliott beat him and Busch out of the pits and he led for the next 40 laps. Then Truex regained the lead with 57 laps to go and he retained the lead through the second-last caution.

The final caution fell on lap 392. David Ragan chose to not pit while Ryan Newman took on only two tires. This gave them track position at the front ahead of Truex for the restart – but, on the restart, Truex immediately charged forward to regain the lead with Joey Logano close behind. They completed the final few laps like this finishing one-two. Kyle Busch was third. Elliott fourth and Ricky Stenhouse fifth. So the strategy of not taking on four tires on that last round of pit stops did not pay off for Ragan or Newman, who finished a distant 15th and 16th.

“That was just incredible — what a race!” Truex said. “This is for everybody who gave their life so we could be here doing this tonight. What a hell of a team — we never gave up on it. I thought we were done. We blew a tire and hit the wall. We never gave up on it. Just kept fighting, just kept fighting. What a race there at the end. That was pretty wild.”

Given Simon Pagenaud’s win for Roger Penske at Indianapolis earlier that day, all three Penske drivers were hoping to win here to make it a double win for Team Penske – this double of the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 for the team had never been achieved. For much of the race it had looked like all three of the Penske drivers had a chance of winning, however, in the closing laps both Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski had tire failures and finished outside the top ten while Joey Logano, who had not led all day, pulled off a second-place finish.

Given that the race started in the afternoon and ran for nearly five hours into the night – ending well after 11 o’clock, the heat which had been a problem in the Xfinity race run the previous afternoon, did not prove to be such a big problem due to the cool-off when the sun set.

Although Truex had seemed to be struggling a bit at the beginning of the season as the new boy at Joe Gibbs Racing, he seems to have found his legs – this was his third race win this year, the previous two having come at Richmond and at Dover in recent weeks. Despite the fact that he is currently in sixth place in the points standings, he is tied for the most race wins this year with Kyle Busch and Keselowski and, come the playoffs, those wins are the most important consideration.

Click HERE for the results of the Coca-Cola 600.

The next MENCS race will be held next Sunday, June 2, at Pocono Raceway.

 PHOTO NXS CMS Reddick OnTrack 052519Tyler Reddick, driver of the #2 TAME the BEAST Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Alsco 300 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR)

Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
• Reddick dominates after polesitter Bell stumbles

Charlotte, NC, May 25/19 (GRW): With Christopher Bell and Cole Custer starting from the front row, it looked like the race was going to be a battle between these two but both of them had problems in the race and Tyler Reddick , who had qualified in third place, emerged to take control in the second half and go on to win. In all, he led 110 laps of the 200 lap race.

At the start, Custer took the lead over Bell but Bell passed him on lap 16 and held on to the lead to the end of the first Stage. Just before this, Custer had sustained damage from hitting a big piece of debris and during the end-of-Stage caution he had a long pit stop while this damage was repaired – emerging in 20th place. Bell came out in third place behind Brandon Jones and Reddick. On the restart Bell fell to sixth place.

During Stage 2, Bell made up most of his lost places and he was up to second when he hit the wall and damaged his right-front suspension and tire. With the end of the Stage just one lap away he opted to stay out and run around another lap until the Stage ended. This turned out to be a big mistake. The tire blew apart and damaged the car as it flailed around. He pitted and the crew pulled off the flat tire but the rubber from the tire burst into flames and the team was forced to retire the car. What had started out as good day ended up badly with him scored in 31st place.

Now, in the final stage, the race was between Chase Briscoe, Reddick, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson. Things got shuffled up a bit as this final Stage saw six more caution in 100 laps. Reddick led most of the way but Briscoe and then John Hunter Nemechek took the lead for a while.

This race was run on a very hot day with temperatures rising past 135 degrees Fahrenheit in the cockpit. The race organizers had put down traction compound before the race but, in this heat, it wore away and the track got more and more slippery. Many of the cars nudged the outer wall – or worse. Both Nemechek and Briscoe suffered this fate and they fell out of contention.

Meanwhile, Reddick had taken over the lead and he led for 12 laps through to the end of the seventh caution which ended on lap 178. By now Custer had recovered from his earlier setback and he took the restart on the front row alongside Reddick. On the green Reddick had wheel spin and Custer shot out into the lead. But a spinning car brought out the tenth and final caution almost immediately. The reverse happened on this restart – Custer spun his tires and Reddick took the lead. Soon after, Custer hit the wall and he fell out of contention letting Reddick take command for the remaining laps.

Allgaier finished second, two second behind Reddick, while Jeffrey Earnhardt finished third. This was the best finish to date for Earnhardt, who is a grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr., Noah
Gragson was fourth and Justin Haley fifth.

“Hats off to all of Richard Childress Racing,” Reddick said. “We were pretty good going into the two ‘off’ weeks, but we weren’t really happy with where we were, and they worked really hard and worked on a couple things, and we were so good when we came back here to Charlotte. I’m just so pumped about the work ethic of everyone at the shop and the guys here with me today, they just worked their tails off. We held off Justin Allgaier, who is really tough to beat. I won at Charlotte — a place I used to hate.”

Click HERE for the results of the NXS race at Charlotte.

The next Xfinity Series race will be held next Saturday, June 1 at Pocono Raceway.

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