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Race Weekend Review – June 15-16, 2019

Race Weekend Review – June 15-16, 2019

FIA World Endurance Championship 24 Heures du Mans
• Once again the Toyotas outpace the competition; win the WEC championship

Le Mans, France, Jun 16/19 (GRW): Given the record of the Toyota LMP1-Hybrid cars dominating the WEC season and beating the non-hybrid competition by laps on almost every occasion, one could only expect that this Le Mans 24 -hour race would see the same result. And it did.

The No. 8 Toyota of Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima/Fernando Alonso took the honours, crossing the line 17 seconds ahead of the No. 7 Toyota driven by Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/Jose Maria Lopez. The No. 11 SMP Racing LMP1 (non-hybrid) BR Engineering-AER driven by Vitaly Petrov/Mikhail Aleshin/Stoffel Vandoorne finished third six laps down on the Toyotas. A pretty one-sided competition.

The No. 7 Toyota had won the pole and this cars led for most of the race. Approaching the final hour, this car had a tire problem and pitted for a single tire, giving up the race lead to the No 8 Toyota. As if this was not enough, the car returned to the pits for a second time as if they had not actually changed to right tire the first time. The problem was actually a faulty tire pressure sensor which had not identified the correct flat tire. This dropped them farther back and killed any hopes that this team would be able to win the race. This left the win to the No. 8 car which had also won here last year. The problems for the No 7 were not assuaged by the memory of the 2017 race which saw all three Toyota entries encounter trouble with the No. 8 car having the best result – an eighth, nine laps down. Or the 2016 race which was won by Porsche after the race-leading Toyota dropped out in the final minutes.

This race was the final round in the Super-Series which began with last year’s Le Mans 24. The driver team of the No. 8 car, Buemi/Nakajima/Alonso were tied for the season-end driver championship with their teammates in the No. 7 car Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez, tied for second place behind them.

The No. 36 LMP2 entry, the Alpine-Gibson of Nicolas Lapierre/André Negrāo/Pierre Thiriet finished 6th overall, 17 laps down on the race winner, and first in class.

The LMGTE-Pro class was won by the No. 51 AF Course Ferrari 488 driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi/James Calado/Daniel Serra. It finished 20th overall, 43 laps behind the race winner. The No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz/Gianmaria Bruni/Frédéric Makowiecki was second, 49 seconds behind the Ferrari and the No. 93 Porsche of Patrick Pilet/Earl Bamber/Nicholas Tandy finished third on the same lap. The Ford GT entries seemed to have been hampered by an over-zealous application of BoP by the race organizers; they could not match the pace of the class winners but they ran consistently to a 4-5-6-7 class finish.

PHOTO LEMANS KEATING NO 85 CHECKERThe No 85 Keating Ford GT takes the checker to win the LMGTE-Am class (Frederic GAUDIN (ACO))

On the other hand, the sole Ford GT entry in the LMGTE-Am category, proved to be the strongest in that class. This was the first time a customer Ford GT had been raced in the ‘Am’ class. Their hopes of a class win were almost dashed when, on their penultimate pit stop, Ben Keating spun the tires on the No. 85 car, leaving a black stripe as he exited his pits. He was given a stop-and-go penalty for this indiscretion. It was feared that this setback would allow the No. 56 Porsche to catch and pass them for the lead. Keating was able to hold off the Porsche and when he handed over to Jeroen Bleekemolen to drive the final hour, he was able to build his lead over the Porsche to a 45-second gap at the finish.

Monday, June 17: During the post-race technical checks, the race stewards officially disqualified the #68 (Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA's Ford GT) and the #85 (Keating Motorsports' Ford GT) for breach of fuel tank capacity regulations. The top step on the LMGTE Am class podium is now claimed by Team Project 1's #56 Porsche. The results of the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans remain provisional.

Despite some comments that this year’s attendance was down somewhat, the race organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), said that the crowd for the around-the-clock race was over a quarter of a million. That has to be the biggest crowd for any race this year.

This 2018-2019 championship season included all the races from last year – from Spa onwards including the 2018 Le Mans 24 and ended with this year’s Le Mans 24. The purpose of this unusual schedule was to adjust the WEC championship year to end with the Le Mans race each year. The next WEC season will begin with the next race, Silverstone in September, and end with the 2020 running of the Le Mans 24.

Click HERE for the results of this year’s 24 Heures du Mans.

The next WEC race will be run at Silverstone in England on September 1.

PHOTO NXS BELL Iowa1 WinnerAction 061619Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Ruud Toyota, races during the CircuitCity.com 250 (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series CircuitCity.com 250 at Iowa Speedway
• Bell vanquishes pole-sitter Custer for the win

Newton, IA, June 16/19 (GRW): the Joe Gibbs driver Christopher Bell has run hot and cold this year. In the first 13 races so far he had won three times but he had finished out of the top ten six times. Here in Iowa, he started on the front row beside Cole Custer who had won the pole. Custer led the first 51 laps of the 250-lap race but after that Bell took command and he led most of the rest of the way to the checker, notching his fourth win of the season.

Custer started from the pole and he led most of the first Stage – looking good. But, after the second caution came on lap 50, Bell was quickly able to get past him and take over the lead. Bell continued to hold the lead and he won both of the first two Stages – ahead of Custer in each case. Counting the two end-of-Stage cautions there were seven yellows. Bell continued to beat Custer on the restarts but on the sixth caution – which came on lap 217 and marked the end of tire changes for most of the runners – Custer beat Bell out of the pit lane and lined up on the top for the restart.

This gave Custer the advantage now and he took the lead over Bell when the green flew. Bell battled back and the two got together side-by-side once. This could have ended Bell’s run but, despite rubbing the letters off his front tire, he kept on going unabated and he regained the lead with 26 laps to go. On lap 236 the seventh and final caution flew. None of the front runners pitted.

For this final restart Bell had the upper hand on the high side and he was able to hold off Custer – and then he built his lead to a 1.8-second margin by the time he took the checker.

“Man, I got to win at Dover on Mother’s Day weekend, or, I guess it was the week before with me mom there,” said Bell. “Now I just won on Father’s Day with my dad here with my dad here, so it was pretty special.”

Justin Allgaier, who had started in 14th place, was third. Harrison Burton, who had finished third in the truck race earlier the same day, was fourth in a Joe Gibbs car. Twenty-year old Zane Smith, in his was fifth Xfinity race this year, finished fifth, his best result so far.

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway.

The next NXS race will be held at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, June 29.\

PHOTO NGOTS Iowa1 BMoffitt 061619Ross Chastain, driver of the #44 Chevrolet, and Brett Moffitt, driver of the #24 Chevrolet, lead the field to a restart during the M&M's 200 (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks M&m’s 200 at Iowa Speedway
• Moffitt declared the winner after Chastain DQ’d

Newton, IA, June 16/19 (GRW): Ross Chastain started the race in 19thplace but he quickly shot up towards the front of the field. He took the lead on lap 60 the final lap of the first Stage in the 200-lap race. After that, he was in command, leading the remaining 141 laps to take the checker.

Chastain had recently made the decision to focus his efforts here in the truck series instead of in the Xfinity Series and this win was almost certain to assure him a place in the season-end playoffs – and to win him the $50,000 bonus on offer at this race. Unfortunately, in post-race inspection, his truck failed for being too low at the front. Under NASCAR’s current version of their rules, this meant that he had the win taken away from him and he was scored in last place.

This penalty to Chastain promoted the second-place finisher Brett Moffitt to the win. Moffitt had won the race here last year and this was his first win of the 2019 season – giving him a playoff berth and the $50,000 bonus. Moffitt had taken over second place at the start of the final Stage and he challenged Chastain for the lead for the remainder of the race’s laps, finishing about a second behind him.

“Obviously I was very disappointed,” said Moffitt. “It’s a big change of emotions — and obviously this is not the way I want to win it. As a driver, I still know I got beat on the track, which is frustrating. But back in the beginning of the year when NASCAR implemented this new system, it was to clear up the Tuesday disqualifications and the encumbered wins and let the fans know and everybody else know who actually won the race. I’d still rather take the checkered and be the first one to it, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it.”

In the final, official results, Ben Rhodes was scored third with Harrison Burton third, Grant Enfinger fourth and Stewart Friesen fifth.

The race was run mid-day on the Sunday, having been put over from Saturday due to rain. In contrast to Saturday, Sunday was sunny and warm – but the rainy day had meant that the drivers had few practice laps and no qualifying. The starting places were set on owner points.

This produced the odd result that a 16-year old driver who had never raced a truck before, Chandler Smith, was starting on the pole alongside the experienced driver Enfinger. Smith had won another race on Friday – the ARCA race at Madison, WI. He took the lead from the start and he led all the laps to the first caution which came on lap 53. Unfortunately, he had been running without radio contact with his spotter or crew chief – something that makes it hard for any driver, let alone one with so little experience with pit stops – and it is against the NASCAR rules to race without communication with your spotter. When he pitted, a crew member climbed into the cab and a fix was effected – but now Smith was at the back of the field.

Smith made a good recovery and by the end of Stage 2 he was up to fourth place – and looking like a contender for the win. Disaster struck again when he was penalized for speeding on pit road and sent to the back. The final Stage was only 80 laps long and that was too little time for him to make up for this mistake and he only managed to make it up to ninth place (promoted to eighth) at the finish. A remarkable drive for this Kyle Busch apprentice.

The 17-year-old, Quebec-based, Raphael Lessard has been cherry-picking races in a number of different series this year. This was his third start in the truck series this year and his ninth-place finish is his best so far. He also plans to compete in the truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park at the end of August.

Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill got into a contretemps mid-race. The first we saw, Sauter was nudging the rear corner of Hill’s truck and almost sending him out of control. Hill retaliated on the next lap and spent Sauter spinning up into the wall. Sauter was able to continue as the yellow flag came out. Then Sauter must have seen red. Now under the caution, he shot ahead and rammed Hill hard, spinning him up into the wall. Hill was able to continue after minor repairs. Sauter, as he must have known would happen, was parked by NASCAR. Given the past history of rammings like this under yellow, it seems likely that Sauter will be sitting out one or more races before he returns to the track.

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS race at Iowa Speedway

The next NGOTS race will be next Saturday evening at Gateway Motorsports Park across the river from St. Louis.

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