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Preview: Weekend of June 22-23, 2019: F1 in France, IndyCar at Road America and NASCAR at Sonoma

Preview: Weekend of June 22-23, 2019: F1 in France, IndyCar at Road America and NASCAR at Sonoma

The Gateway speedway – now renamed as the World Wide Technology Raceway – is located across the river from St. Louis. It has always been a bit of an orphan. Formerly this site was the home of a popular drag strip and a minimal road course layout. Chris Pook, of Long Beach Grand Prix fame acquired the facility and built the current 1-1/4-mile oval. Its first race in the new configuration was the second CART US 500 run the day before the 1997 Indy 500 as a competing event. The last Indy car event – an IRL sanction – was held here in 2003 but the Indy cars returned in 2017. The NASCAR Xfinity series has run here each year since1997 through to 2010. The NASCAR trucks have run here each year since 1998; however, the track was closed in 2011 and no more truck races were run there until 2014. The current owner/promoter has been able to rebuild local interest in this oval track/drag strip.

The French Grand Prix has the longest heritage of all such races, the first event with that name having been run near Le Mans in 1906. In the Formula One era there was a French Grand Prix held every year but for 1955 (the year of the terrible Le Mans tragedy) up until 2008. Last year the French Grand Prix returned to the schedule with a round at Le Circuit Paul Ricard (named after a manufacturer of Pernod). In the early F1 years, the race ran on the true road courses at Rheims and Rouen. Since then the GP has run at a series of less satisfactory venues – Clermont-Ferrand, Le Mans (Bugatti circuit), Paul Ricard, Dijon and Magny-Cours. The current choice is laid out in desert-like terrain and it saw horrific traffic congestion last year. I love the idea that the French Grand Prix has regained its rightful place on the F1 schedule but I wish it could find a better home.

The Road America circuit, built in the 1950s near the location of the established Elkhart Lake road race, is arguably one of the best road-racing venues in America. The track is long – four miles long – and it has a variety of road-racing challenges. Unlike Watkins Glen it did not have to suffer from the years of F1 experimenting with different safety ideas – although in recent years, current safety engineering concepts have been put into practice. This venue still basks in the glow of the early road-race traditions with the Siebkens bar and resort still filled with race fans each race weekend. The circuit has many excellent viewing locations and is renowned for its ‘brats’ and corn-on-the cob.

The Sonoma Raceway course will have a distinct new - longer - look this weekend, at least for recent NASCAR fans. For the first time in 22 years, the course will again use the “The Carousel” turn for a NASCAR race – a tight, 200-degree plus turn that leads to the track’s long straightaway and hairpin turn. Since 1998, NASCAR has bypassed “The Carousel” and used a 1.99-mile course. The last driver to win at Sonoma with the “Carousel” is Mark Martin in 1997. Ricky Rudd is the only driver to win in both course layouts, earning the inaugural NASCAR race victory in 1989 and then winning a second time in 2002. All of Jeff Gordon’s historic five wins happened since 1998. Of the current roster of drivers entered this weekend only Kyle Busch and California natives Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have ever turned a lap on the Carousel configuration – all getting their time on the track in other series earlier in their racing careers.

Saturday, June 22
1. NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks CarShield 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (formerly Gateway Motorsports Park), Madison, IL
• TV: FSR at 10:00P
• 1.25 mi; 160 laps = 200 mi; Stages: 45/45/110 laps
• Justin Haley won here last year. Todd Gilliland was second and Johnny Sauter was third.
• Last weekend at Iowa, Ross Chastain was the apparent race winner but his truck was disqualified after the race and the win was taken away from him. This elevated defending champion Brett Moffitt to the race winner position despite him having not led a single lap during the race. Ben Rhodes was awarded seconds place and Harrison Burton third. Sauter has been sat down for this weekend as punishment for his attack on Austin Hill during a caution period at Iowa last weekend.

Click HERE for the NGOTS entry list

Sunday, June 23
2. FIA Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix de France, Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France
• TV: TSN4/5 at 9:05A
• 5.842 km; 53 laps = 309.6 km
• Last year, the French Grand Prix returned to Paul Ricard in the south of France after having last run here in 1990. Lewis Hamilton won here last year with Max Verstappen second and Kimi Räikkönen third.
• This race comes after the controversial Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago in which Sebastian Vettel was penalized for an off-track excursion which cost him the win. This gave the ‘W’ to Lewis Hamilton who was able to extend the unbroken line of Mercedes wins this year one more time – as it they needed it. Vettel ended up with a second and Valtteri Bottas was third.

Click HERE for the French GP entry list

3. NTT IndyCar Series REV Group Grand Prix, Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI
• TV: NBC/ Sportsnet World at 12:00 noon
• 4.048 mi (6.515 km); 55 laps = 222.64 mi
• Last year’s winner here was Josef Newgarden. Ryan Hunter-Reay was second and Scott Dixon third.
• Newgarden was also the race winner in the most recent IndyCar race at Texas Motor
Speedway two weeks ago. Alexander Rossi was second and Graham Rahal was third.

Click HERE for the IndyCar entry list

4. NASCAR MENCS, Toyota/Save Mart 350, Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA
• TV: TSN4/5 at 3:00P
• 2.52 mi; 90 laps = 226.8 mi; Stages: 20/20/50 laps
• Martin Truex was the winner here last year finishing ahead of Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.
• Last week the MENCS racers were at Michigan where Joey Logano took the honours. Kurt Busch finished second while Truex was third.

Click HERE for the MENCS entry list

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