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Race Weekend Review – June 22-23, 2019

Race Weekend Review – June 22-23, 2019

Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard
• Hamilton continues the Mercedes domination with another shut-out

Le Castellet, France, June 23/19 (GRW): The story of the French Grand Prix has a familiar ring to it: Lewis Hamilton started on the pole and he led every one of the race’s 55 laps to take the win. This was the eighth win for Mercedes in the eight races run so far this year and on Hamilton’s part, it was his sixth win. He was never challenged during the race and his teammate Valtteri Bottas finished second, 18 second behind Hamilton.

In the closing laps, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who had started in third place on the grid, closed up on Bottas and he finished in third place, less than a second behind Bottas. Max Verstappen started fourth and he finished in that same position.

Sebastian Vettel had a fraught qualifying session, He made it into Q3 but he aborted his first run and on his second run he could only manage a time which left him starting seventh on the grid. In the race, he was able to work his way forward past some of those who had qualified faster but he had to settle for a fifth-place finish, some 63 seconds behind the race winner. The best he could salvage out of the day was the extra point for setting the fastest lap. He had come in near the end and put on a set of soft tires without giving up his race position – and he was able to record this fastest lap on the way to the checker.

This was a race without much drama. The four cars which had been on the front of the grid ran that way for the entire race – except for a brief shuffle when they all pitted for their single pit stops within a few laps of each other. Once Vettel had gotten past Sainz into fifth, the order at the front remained constant for the rest of the race – and Sainz was eventually able to regain his sixth-place position. Sainz, the McLaren driver, finished sixth and he was the only other one to finish on the lead lap.

Canada’s Lance Stroll qualified in 17th place having outpaced only the two hapless Williams entries. During the race, Stroll was running as high as sixth place for a while but this was an illusion – his placement came from the fact that while the others had pitted for tires earlier, he was still running on his original set of tires. When he pitted on lap 39 he fell to 13th place, as lap down – and that is where he finished the race. The two Williams cars finished two laps down.

PHOTO FRENCH GP PODIUMFrench GP podium: Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc (Daimler AG)

“I’ve been racing a long, long time but this just never gets old,” said Hamilton. “It’s always a challenge out there and I just love trying to find the edge, and really being on top of this machine. This is actually an awesome track to drive in the race, there’s some really technical areas. It may look easy from the outside but it wasn’t easy at all, everything’s always on the edge. So, when I could, I was saving tyres, saving the engine, saving fuel. I had quite big blisters on my front tyres which I was a little worried about. But we got to the end and I couldn’t do it without this incredible team. I’m so proud of everyone and so proud to be part of this group of people. This has been the best start of the year so we have got to enjoy it.”

This result sees Hamilton continuing to lead in the championship points race with 187 points to Bottas’ 151. Vettel has 111 points and Verstappen 100. There are 13 more Grands Prix to be run this year – but, the way things have gone so far, it is hard to imagine anything but more of the same Hamilton-Bottas domination.

Click HERE for the results of the French Grand Prix.

The next Formula One race will be run in a week’s time at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on June 30.

PHOTO INDYCAR ROSSI CARRossi in the winning car (John Cote/INDYCAR)

NTT IndyCar Series REV Group Grand Prix at Road America
• Rossi leads every lap to score a dominant win – his second of the year.

Elkhart Lake, WI, June 23/19 (GRW): In the previous four races before coming to Elkhart Lake, Alexander Rossi had finished second three times – and he was getting tired of it. Things turned out differently for him here. He took the lead from the pole-sitter Colton Herta going into the first corner at the start and he led every lap of the race but one from then on, taking the checker by a 28-second margin over Will Power. Graham Rahal, led one lap near the end of the race when Rossi pitted under green before he did. The race ran its full distance without a single caution which might have stirred things up a bit. And that is pretty much the story of the race.

In qualifying Herta had recorded the fastest lap in the Fast Six final round, making him the youngest driver ever to win a pole in this series. But at the start, Rossi made quick work of him and dove to the inside at the very first corner to take the lead. Herta kept Rossi in sight during his first stint but after the first round of green-flag pit stops he had lost touch and found himself back in seventh place. And that was pretty much the way the rest of his day went; things were not helped when there was a problem connecting his fuel filler and he lost extra time in the pits. In the end, he finished in eighth place, 48 seconds behind the race winner.

Power had started in third place and ran most of the race in second once Herta had dropped back. Josef Newgarden started fourth and finished third while Graham Rahal turned his fifth-place start into a fourth-place finish.

On the first lap, Scott Dixon who had started in 12th place, tangled with Ryan Hunter-Reay at Turn 5 and he spun, dropping to the back of the field – in 23rd place. After this, Dixon provided some drama – in contrast to the procession at the front – passing car after car. By the end of the race he had worked his way up to fifth and he had earned some valuable championship points.

Oakville’s hero, James Hinchcliffe, qualified in ninth place but he was able to improve his status to finish the race in seventh place.

PHOTO INDYCAR PODIUM RARoad America podium: Power, Rossi, Newgarden (Chris Jones/INDYCAR)

"It was probably one of the best race cars I've ever had," Rossi said of his No. 27 Andretti Autosport-Honda. "We have been quick through the whole season, but we just haven't really had it come our way as many times as we want, for one reason or another. ... To come out and be able to do what we did today is a huge testament to the whole organization."

Click HERE for the results of the IndyCar race at Road America.

The next IndyCar race will be held on Sunday, July 14 at the Exhibition Place in Toronto.

PHOTO MENCS SR TRUEXMartin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway
• A fourth win for Truex as part of the Joe Gibbs team

Sonoma, Ca, June 23/19 (GRW): This road race at Sonoma could stand as an example of how to produce a race which no casual fan can figure out – and I blame it on the crazy ‘Stages” idea NASCAR has imposed on us.. Martin Truex qualified in his Toyota in eighth place and he never showed up among the top ten finishers at the end of either of the first two Stages – but he actually took the lead for the first time on lap 25 of the 90-lap race, on the restart after the first Stage interruption. And, after that, he was pretty much in control the rest of the way to the checker at the end of the 90 laps.

Truex had set himself up by pitting a few laps before the end of the fist Stage. Given that he had already won three races before this one and that gave him a guaranteed spot in the season-end playoffs, he had little need to concern himself with Stage points. Pitting before the end of a Stage cycled him around to the front when the others pitted during the Stage and he was able to take the lead on the restart.

He followed the same idea the next time, pitting on lap 38, just before the pits were closed in anticipation of the end of Stage 2. Once again, he cycled back up to the front when the others pitted during the Stage 2 yellow - -and he on the restart, he was back in control.

This was a race which ran with no yellows other than the two that came out to mark the end of each of the first two Stages. The final Stage was 50 laps long and this would require a cycle of green-flag pit stops during which the cars stopped for more fuel and tires.

It seems as if some of the racers do not understand the cardinal rule for pitting on a road course – which has a long lap time which enables you to pit and get out again without going a lap down – ‘Pit as soon as you can make it to the end of the race after the pit stop so that you don’t get trapped at the tail of the field if a caution comes out before you have pitted.’ Truex was one do the first to come in when the fuel window opened but Kyle Busch, who was running in second place, waited a few more laps. Busch did not get trapped by an unpredictable caution but Truex had made such a fast pit stop that he was able to regain the lead as soon as Busch pitted.

From there on , Truex was in control as the final 24 laps counted down and he took the flag by a 1.8-second margin over Busch. Ryan Blaney was third, Matt DiBenedetto fourth and Denny Hamlin was fifth.

Kyle Larson had won the pole but he was passed by William Byron – who had started alongside him – on the very first lap. Byron led every lap in the first 20-lap Stage, winning it, but he got lost in the shuffle at the end of Stage 1 and he was never seen again near the front of the field. He finished the race in 19th place. Had this race been run without the novelty of the Stages, you have to think that Byron might well have been able to hang onto his track position a lot better and finish near the front of the field.

“I just dug down deep and tried to be smooth and hit my marks,” said Truex. “Luckily I began with a big enough gap where I could get away and not feel too much pressure. It was definitely a battle going on, as far as the race there at the end for us on tires. It felt terrible the last 20 laps. The last 10 it just felt like it was on ice — just no grip anywhere. I’m really proud of all these guys and everyone on this team and everyone back at JGR.

“What a season we’ve turned this into. This is great, man, unbelievable. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS race from Sonoma.

The next MENCS race will be held next week, on June 30, at the Chicagoland Speedway.

PHOTO WWTR NGOTS watermelon 062219Ross Chastain, driver of the CarSheild.com Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the CarShield 200 (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images/NASCAR)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks CarShield 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway
• Redemption for Chastain; he wins here after his DQ last week in Iowa.

Madison, IL, June 22/19 (GRW): A week ago, Ross Chastain won the NGOTS race at the Iowa Speedway – a win that included a $50,000 bonus – and this win made it almost certain that he would qualify for the championship playoffs at the end of the regular season. Then, NASCAR officials determined that the nose of his truck was too low to comply with the rules and they took away his win – and the bonus money – and his eligibility for the playoffs. A very tough row to hoe for the watermelon farmer from Florida.

So what could he do? The team went home and they worked hard to get their act together for this next race, here at the track previously known as Gateway Motor Speedway, which is just across the river from St. Louis. He qualified seventh quickest, not a commanding position. In the race he ran in that region early on, finishing the first Stage in sixth and the second Stage in eleventh place.

But during the pit stop sequence at the end of Stage 2, he and three others took on only two tires and this saw him coming out of the pits in third place – ahead of all those who had received four tires.

Now he was racing Christian Eckes for the lead. But he was still playing catch up after the next caution which came three laps after the restart from the Stage 2 turn-around. Eckes seemed to be in command as he led for a run of 45 laps. Chastain led a single lap under a final cycle of green-flag pit stops. Eckes gave up the lead when he pitted on lap 132 of the 160-lap race and Chastain pitted on the next lap – crucially, Chastain’s crew chief gambled that he could go the rest of the distance without taking on fresh tires – fuel only. This quicker pit stop gave him a crucial advantage over Eckes – if his tires were up to the job.

Burton, Austin Hill and Kyle Benjamin each led a few laps but inevitably, as they made their pit stops, the duo of Chastain and Eckes moved back up to the front – running in that order. A final yellow flew with 13 laps left to go when Burton got together with Sheldon Creed.

Chastain lined up for the restart on the preferred high groove alongside Eckes on the lower groove. He shot out into the lead on the restart which came with only seven laps left to the checker. On the final lap, Stewart Friesen was making a run for the front when he hit Eckes and spun him. Chastain cruised home the rest of the lap to win the race over Todd Gilliand by a 0.7-second margin. Friesen was third, Chandler Smith fourth and Brett Moffitt (who had inherited the win the previous week at Iowa) was fifth.

Once again, Chastain displayed one of his watermelons – and he received the $50,000 bonus which was on offer for the third and final time – and he now has that so-important win which makes it almost certain that he will qualifying for the championship playoffs at the end of the regular season. This time Chastain’s truck was given the all-clear signal with no issues in inspection after the race.

“I didn’t want to take tires and then it was up to me to freakin’ hold ’em off,” Chastain said of the fuel-only stop that left him with worn tires for the final sprint. “I don’t know how, but oohhh, I’m going to take that money home and they’re not taking it from us this time.”

Chastain had won another truck race earlier this year – at Kansas in early May. He could not count that race towards eligibility for the NGOTS playoffs because he was registered for Xfinity points at that time. That win had given him the idea to switch his championship aspirations this year to the truck series and he was starting from scratch since he changed-over his points eligibility. He does need to find himself in the top 20 in points at the end of the regular season, but the way he is going, that does not look like an insurmountable hurdle for him.

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS from St. Louis.

The next NGOTS race will held next Friday, June 28, at Chicagoland Speedway.

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