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Race Weekend Review – June 7-8-9, 2019 - Montreal F1, etc.

Race Weekend Review – June 7-8-9, 2019

F1 Pirelli Grand Prix du Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
• Hamilton is declared the race winner; the sport is the loser

Montreal, QC, June 9/19 (GRW): This year’s Canadian Grand Prix had all the makings of being perhaps the greatest fan festival since Gilles himself won here the first year, in 1978. But then, a misstep by Sebastian Vettel and an unfortunate Star Chamber decision by the faceless race stewards and everything turned to ‘merde’. The hordes of race fans, with a preponderance of Ferrari supporters, were left in disbelief and they went home disillusioned at the seemingly unfair turn of events.

This weekend had all the hallmarks of being a fairy-tale event. We came into this race, the seventh round of the 2019 championship, having seen the complete dominance of the season by Mercedes. Hamilton had won four of the previous six races and his teammate Valtteri Bottas had won the other two – and it looked like this complete dominance of the ‘W’ column for Mercedes might continue for the rest of the entire season.

But, here in Montreal, a miracle happened. Vettel pulled out all the stops in the final round of qualifying and he pipped Hamilton for the pole by a two-tenths of a second margin. He was ecstatic, the partisan crowd was overjoyed. Even the denizens of the press room were smiling. Maybe this race was going to be the one where Vettel in his Ferrari beat Hamilton in his Mercedes. Nobody was thinking about the big picture and the question of how many more races Hamilton was going to win this year. This time, this one time at least, could be Vettel and Ferrari’s day at last.

Come Sunday, the lights went off and the cars streamed into the first corner – Vettel ahead of Hamilton. The fans cheered; maybe they were going to see a miracle. The lap chart tells much of the story of the rest of the race. Except when he gave up the lead to Hamilton and then his teammate when he made his one pit stop for fresh tires mid-race before he cycled back into the lead, he led all the way to the checkered flag. That may sound like a boring race but Hamilton was always right there – just behind him. Sometimes a second and a bit back and sometimes within the one-second DRS rule.

Hamilton could keep up, He could make things hot for Vettel but he never seemed to have quite the last little edge he needed to get past him into the lead.

Had the race played out the way it is recorded on the lap chart, the place would have exploded. In 1978, I was in the marshal’s post across from the pits when Villeneuve took the checker. The crowd behind me surged forward and the fencing collapsed under their collective weight. The fencing is a lot stronger these days but I am sure that there would have been an equally huge wave of enthusiasm from the crowd here today.

About 15 years ago, I was at the New Hampshire speedway trying to figure out the number of Canadian NASCAR fans. I found a group from Montreal who were guests of a trucking company thanking them for their business. We talked about NASCAR and their interest in that sport but it seemed as it every conversation ended with a tribute to their enthusiasm for ‘Gilles’ – and he had been dead already for about 15 years. It was clear to me that the miraculous first Grand Prix win for Gilles in 1978 has always been a huge driving force to maintain the F1 fan base in Quebec to this day. Had Vettel been allowed to claim his victory here today, that would have been another milestone in the building of the F1 fan legacy and fan base for the Montreal Grand Prix.

Instead, the fans were sent home sad and disillusioned. I gave up on F1 for decades after Gilles’ unfortunate (and unfair) demise in 1982. I don’t expect that Montreal race fans will be quite so devastated but I am sure that this turn of events has taken a lot of steam out of the popularity of the Grand Prix as a major festival in the city and in the province. A sad day for the sport.

How did it happen? Mid-race, long after the single round of pit stops had been completed, Hamilton was hounding Vettel about one second behind him. Sometimes he was within the one-second DRS range - but he never seemed able to close the deal and get past for the lead. Now Hamilton was going at his fastest pace and pressuring Vettel. Entering Turn 3, Vettel’s car made a little slip and he cut across the grass. He slowed and as he came back out onto the pavement, his car bobbled a bit over to the right. With Vettel slowing, Hamilton had closed right in and he had a wheel up beside him. Now with Hamilton slewing to the right, Hamilton had to slow and veer to the right himself – almost into the barrier – but both cars were able to get back up to speed and continue and with no contact.

No harm. No foul. Just a racing incident. Maybe I’ve spent to much time watching NASCAR to think that this was something that called for a penalty. But the FIA-appointed stewards thought otherwise and they awarded him a five-second penalty which, the way the race was going, was sure to hand the win over to Hamilton and even perhaps drop Vettel to third behind his teammate Leclerc.

Logically, Hamilton was told, “You just need to stay on his gearbox” to secure the win and that is what he did, He dropped back a smidge and followed Vettel to the flag secure in the knowledge that his second-place finish would automatically turn into a win.

Vettel was clearly distraught after the race. He engaged in some dramatics on the way to the podium. To give him credit, when the disappointed crowd booed his rival Hamilton, he butted in an pointed out that the their beef was with the race officials and not with Hamilton.

PHOTO F1 HAMILTON AFTER RACEHamilton celebrates but Vettel's car is missing (Daimler AG)

After the awkward podium ceremony, we assembled in the press conference room and waited. We waited for what felt like a half hour before the two Ferrari drivers appeared. It seemed obvious that during that interval Vettel had been emotional behind closed doors.

Vettel gave his version of the incident, basically saying that the car went loose and I did my best to recover and keep going. ‘What else was I supposed to do?’ was his theme, Hamilton for his part said that he was trying to pressure Vettel into making a mistake and a mistake was made.

I’m going to the Italian Grand Prix later this year. I have to wonder what the tifosi there would have made of such a circumstance.

In other news, local boy Lance Stroll started in 17th place, slower than all but the two lackluster Williams entries but he jumped up into the top ten early in the race and managed to pull off a ninth-place finish, his third finish in the points so far this year.

Click HERE for the results and points from the Canadian Grand Prix

The next F1 world championship event will be held at Paul Ricard in France in two weeks time, June 23.

PHOTO NEWGARDEN TMSNewgarden at TMS (Chris Owens/INDYCAR)

NTT INDYCAR DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway
• Newgarden makes late charge to hold off Rossi

Fort Worth, TX, June 8/19 (Mark Robinson/INDYCAR) Josef Newgarden came seemingly from nowhere to win the latest electrifying NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 2019 championship leader fended off Alexander Rossi in a thrilling duel over the final 10 laps to capture the DXC Technology 600. Newgarden, in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet, won by 0.8164 of a second to collect his 13th career win, third this season and first on a superspeedway.

"Feels awesome to win here," Newgarden said. "I knew we'd get it done here at some point. We've had fast cars (but) it never has materialized. Tonight, it happened."

Starting seventh in the 22-car field, Newgarden didn't lead until Lap 190 of the 248-lap event on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval. A lightning-quick final pit stop on Lap 198, accompanied by lightning-fast laps before and after the stop, put the 28-year-old Tennessean in position to retake the lead on the 202nd lap, and he never surrendered it.

"This win was down to the team," Newgarden said. "I knew once we pitted and basically got back to where we were before the pit stop on the green-flag sequence, we had such a fuel advantage on everybody. If we could get to the lead, I could crank out super-quick laps and jump everybody. That's what we did."

Rossi, driving the No. 27 GESS/Capstone Honda, ran second behind Newgarden for the final restart on Lap 236. Time and again in the closing laps, Rossi pulled alongside as the duo launched into Turn 1, but each time Newgarden kept the low line and held off the Andretti Autosport driver.

"I think we had a good car, could obviously get a good run on him off of (Turns) 3 and 4," Rossi said. "Lane 2 (the outside line) was really never there for me. We could get halfway around the outside (but) would have to bail out.

"Ultimately, then it became about trying to beat him for the (start/finish) line. But we took out a lot of the tire life going in Lane 2 there, so we just didn't have the rear tires there at the end to stay close to him. I didn't see him up front all day. All of a sudden, he appears in P1, so obviously they're doing a good job. He had a fast car once he got in front."

Graham Rahal finished third, rookie Santino Ferrucci fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth. It marked the first time Americans swept the top five spots in an Indy car race since 2001 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, when Al Unser Jr., Mark Dismore, Sam Hornish Jr., Eddie Cheever and Robbie Buhl finished first through fifth.

Saturday's race was the 31st for the NTT IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway, which has become home to some of the most exciting finishes in history since the track opened in 1997. This year's event was no exception.

The race ran caution-free for more than the first half, until Zach Veach brushed the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 2 on Lap 135. The No. 26 Gainbridge Honda did a 360-degree spin but Veach kept it off the wall and came to a stop in Turn 3 with only slight suspension damage and a flat tire.

The second caution occurred when James Hinchcliffe slid wide into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier on Lap 219. The final yellow waved when the cars of Scott Dixon and rookie Colton Herta touched while battling for third place in Turn 3 on Lap 229, sending both into the SAFER Barrier. All drivers were unhurt from the incidents.

The caution for the Dixon-Herta incident set up the shootout to the finish between Newgarden and Rossi.

"I knew he was going to be difficult to beat," Newgarden said of Rossi. "He had a great car. He drove me clean, he drove me hard.

"I think we had enough power there from Chevy. Our car was handling well enough out front (that) we could get the job done, pretty much stay on the throttle as much as we needed to just to stay ahead of him."

With the win, Newgarden extended his lead in the standings to 25 points over Rossi and 48 over Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud, who finished sixth on Saturday.

Pole sitter Takuma Sato led the first 60 laps of the race until making his first pit stop in the No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda. But the car slid into the pit stall and made contact with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing front tire changer Chris Welch. Sato was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for hitting a crewman. Welch was evaluated and released from the track's infield care centre.

Ferrucci collected a career-best fourth-place finish in the No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Hunter-Reay led a race-high 90 laps in the No. 28 DHL Honda but was forced to make an extra stop for fuel and wound up fifth.

Tony Kanaan finished 16th in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, in the 369th race of the Brazilian's Indy car career. It tied Kanaan with team owner A.J. Foyt for second place on the Indy car all-time list. Kanaan also extended his record streak of consecutive race starts to 309.

Click HERE for the results of the TMS IndyCar race.

The next NTT IndyCar Series race will be held at Road America on Sunday, June 23.

Photo MENCS MIS1 HarvLogano 061019Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 (Logan Riely/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway
• Worth the Wait for Logano

Brooklyn, MI, June 10, 2019 (Jamie Maudsley/PRN): Throughout the early portions of Monday's Monster Energy Cup Series race, the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan Speedway, Joey Logano was worried, as his Ford Mustang was fighting a loose condition. After dominating the first half of the event, Logano was finally tested in traffic, during the last 100 laps, and every time he was faced with staring down another competitors bumper, he would make short work of them and shortly after re-assume his position at the head of the pack.

Logano would have to wait one extra day to assert his domination, as rains forced the event to move from Sunday until Monday, but it was evident how strong Logano's Ford Mustang was by the lap leader totals, as Logano paced the field for 163 laps of the 200-lap affair. It was Logano's third career victory at Michigan. Ironically, both of Logano's previous victories in the Irish Hills two-mile playground of speed came from the pole, in both 2013, and 2016.

It was the 23rd victory of Logano's career, and it was a tremendous performance by his Penske Racing team, "My guys delivered on pit road every stop today, the car was awesome all day, we had the right pit strategy, and I was able to do my job on the restarts. Our team executed all day, and when you can do that, you put yourself in a position to win."

Kevin Harvick led the second most laps at 15, but was forced to overcome an early unscheduled pit stop as he came to his crew on lap 55 while fighting a vibration. The vibration continued after the stop, but no issues would ever surface from it, as Harvick, who put himself a lap down at that point battled back to the lead lap, and to 8th by lap 100.

On a lap 127 restart, Harvick seemed like he might be as strong as Logano. When the green fell, Chase Elliott blasted down the inside of Logano into turn one, and while they were dueling, Harvick, who restarted fourth, went to the outside of both of them to fly into the lead, but it would prove to be short-lived, as Logano came calling again shortly.

The race went green on lap 135, and all the teams would have to come to pit road for one final stop to get to the checkered flag. During those final green-flag stops, most of the drivers up front took two tires and fuel, while Kyle Busch, who had struggled outside the top-ten all day, took fuel only, and with 10 laps to go, Logano had the largest lead of the race at 1.3 seconds, but Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch lined up, before running down the leader during the closing laps.

With just a handful of laps to go there would be one final yellow, and despite another crack at Logano during the overtime restart, no one seemed to have anything for the eventual winner, as he was again able to use the outside lane to run a wider arc into turn one and keep everyone else at bay, winning his second race of the season, and first since Las Vegas.

Kurt Busch spoke about his runner-up finish, "It was a great day for our team, we just didn't have anything for the No. 22 car. I tried everything I could do to get a run on him, but I needed some help, and just never got enough help trying to get him before or after the restart."

Truex Jr. finished third, while Daniel Suarez raced to fourth, and Kyle Busch held on to finish fifth during the final scramble. Logano won the first stage, while Austin Dillon was able to capture his first career stage win in stage two.

Click HERE for the results of the MIS MENCS race.

The next event for the MENCS will be Sunday June 23rd at Sonoma Raceway in California.

Photo NXS MIS1 ReddickWin5 060819NXS Race winner Tyler Reddick (Logan Riely/Getty Images/NASCAR) 

NASCAR Xfinity LTi Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway

• Defending Champ Tyler Reddick - Good to the Last Drop

Brooklyn, MI, June 8, 2019 (Jamie Maudsley/PRN): Miscommunication can often be costly, and for Christopher Bell it was the factor that kept him out of a shot at victory lane at Michigan International Speedway during the LTi Printing 250 on Saturday, for the NASCAR Xfinity Racing Series.

The leaders were able to pit under yellow on lap 81, putting most of them within their final fuel window to the checkered flag, but at the final moment, but just before entering pit road, Bell, who was leading at the time hung a right to remain on the track, bringing second-place Cole Custer with him back out onto the speedway.

The remainder of the lead lap cars came to pit road to top off fuel tanks, and when the race went green until the end of the race, Bell and Custer were forced to make green flag pit stops, finishing 13th and 12th respectfully.

As the laps wore down, defending series champion Tyler Reddick was able to make his final tank last 44 laps to capture his third Xfinity victory in the last five races.
Reddick talked about the final run, "We were fifth in the race when we pitted, but I was able to make some quick work of some guys and get to the front of the cars that pitted. I saw what happened to Ty Majeski when he ran out yesterday."

In the previous day's ARCA Menard Series race, the VizCom 200, Majeski had tried to stretch out fuel mileage to beat a much faster Michael Self, only to run out entering turn three on the final lap allowing Self to claim the win.

Reddick continued, "I don't know why I was so worried, we still had enough fuel left to do some burnouts and get to victory lane."

The point leader also had to overcome an error during his first pit stop of the race, as he inched over the end line in his box, and had to back up, getting buried in the field. Tyler explained, "We got behind when that happened, but we needed a solid finish to the day to help us in points, and this was our third win in the last five races, and 10th straight top-five finish. Also, a big hats off for ECR Engines for this great power, and awesome mileage."

Reddick's crew chief Randell Burnett had nothing but praise for his driver, "Tyler did a great job at saving field, and managing the gaps behind him. Bell and Custer put themselves in a bad spot when they didn't pit, and no yellows the rest of the way is just what we needed."
Noah Gragson was able to weave his way past Michael Annett on the final lap to put up a second-place finish, his fourth such result in his short career. He said, "It was nice to finish second, but I want to win one of these things. I go to bed each night dreaming on being in victory lane in this series, and we will get there."

It was the third top-five finish of 2019 for Annett, who spoke about the duel with Reddick, "There were a few of the laps where I would gain on him, but I didn't get too excited. I was doing everything I could to catch him, and on the last lap I just drove through the front tires and gave the spot away."

The only Monster Energy Cup Series driver entered was Paul Menard, and after grabbing the pole, he was able to lead the first 56 laps before Bell snuck by late in stage two. Menard was never the same after losing the lead, and he finished fourth. He said, "We were really fast by ourselves, but as soon as we were in traffic we struggled."

Justin Allgaier finished fifth.

Bell spoke about the error between him and crew chief David Ratcliffe after the race, "I thought I heard one of our code words, and stayed out. In the end it didn't much matter, because the No. 00 [Custer] blew our doors off anyways. We have some code words, and I heard something wrong."

Click HERE for the results of the NXS race from MIS.

The next event for the NXS will be at Iowa Speedway, in Newton, IA, June 16.

Photo Biffle TexasNGOTS 060719Greg Biffle, driver of the #51 Toyota Toyota, leads during the SpeedyCash.com 400 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway
• Biffle, back after a three-year hiatus, wins at Texas

Fort Worth, TX, June 7/19 (GRW): Greg Biffle has not raced in NASCAR since the end of the 2016 season but he returned here in Texas, diving a Kyle Busch truck, and he won the race. He only took the lead on lap 104 of the 167-lap race and then he led for five laps. After that he led only the final 13 laps to win the race.

Biffle, despite fuel concerns held of Matt Crafton to win by a one-second margin. Tyler Ankrum, an 18-year-old from California who had only made five prior starts in the truck series, finished third. Grant Enfinger was fourth and Harrison Burton was fifth.

“Just excited to be here, man,” Biffle said. “I don’t even know what to say. Just so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to drive great trucks. This thing was really fast.”

Biffle started his career in the NASCAR national series driving trucks for Jack Roush. He drove the full series for three years, winning 17 times and winning the series championship in 2000.

This race was bonus race which paid $50,000 to an eligible winner, which Biffle collected. There are two more of these bonus races – Iowa and then Gateway in the next two weeks. Biffle’s plans are not yet settled for these but it is too late for him to qualify for the Iowa bonus money.

“I haven’t been this excited in a long time,” said Biffle’s crew chief Rudy Fugle. “It’s fun to win these things. I’ve won a lot of races, but never on fuel mileage ever. I was praying to the fuel-cell gods there that we had enough fuel in the tank.”

The race was slowed by a record 13 caution periods, the most in the 44-race history of the series at Texas.

Enfinger, who finished third, led the most laps in this race – 44 laps. Johnny Sauter won the first Stage but he finished up in 13th place a lap down after getting caught up in an accident during the second stage. Ben Rhodes won the second Stage but he was scored as a 21st-place finisher after dropping out with transmission problems.

Click HERE for the results of the truck race at TMS.

The next NGOTS race will be held next Friday, June 15 at Iowa Speedway.

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