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Race Weekend Review: July 11-12-13-14, 2019

Race Weekend Review: July 11-12-13-14, 2019

Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England

• Another Mercedes one-two sweep; Hamilton’s sixth British GP win

 

Silverstone, England, July 14/19 (GRW): The Mercedes team delivered another crushing blow to the opposition here in the British Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton won the race, having led most of the race distance while his teammate Valtteri Bottas was second. It was Hamilton’s sixth time winning on his home circuit, more times than any other driver. And, as if to rub salt in the competition’s wounds, on the very last lap – on well-worn hard tires, he set the fastest lap of the race.

By now, it looks almost certain that Hamilton will collect yet another world F1 championship, his sixth – more than any other driver I history except for Michael Schumacher who won six titles. The pressure has to be building in the UK for the Queen to add to his honours with a knighthood – now, not later.

In qualifying, Bottas had pipped Hamilton for the pole. When the race started and the cars charged into the first corner, Hamilton got ahead of Bottas but Bottas was able to get back past him and consolidate his lead. For a while it looked like this was going to be Bottas’ race to win – Until Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa-Romeo spun off and got hung up in a gravel trap bringing out the safety car on lap 18 of the 52-lap race.

Bottas had already made the first of two planned pit stops for tires but Hamilton had not. This gave Hamilton a crucial advantage. Bottas’ pit stop had handed him the lead and he was now able to pit during the yellow and take on the hard tires obviating the need for a second pit stop. This brought him back out a full second ahead of Bottas, who was now in third place – and if things went according to plan without further incident, Bottas was not going to be able to catch and pass Hamilton before the end of the race. And things played out exactly like that. Hamilton held the lead from there to the checker.

The original plan had been for both Mercedes drivers t make a second stop for tires. Bottas eventually came in eight laps from the finish while Hamilton chose to stay out on his hard tires and skip the second pit stop – which gave him a huge margin over Bottas. He crossed the line 25 seconds ahead.

While that had been going on, the other four drivers for the Big Six teams were having an interesting day of it. At the start, Sebastian Vettel who had qualified in sixth place, got past Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) for fifth. On lap 11, Max Verstappen, who had started in fourth place, made an attempt to get past Charles Leclerc – which failed.

Now several cars made their first pit stop for tires. Gasly got past Vettel for fifth but he pitted on the next lap – as did Leclerc and Verstappen. This temporarily made race order Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen – until Bottas pitted on lap16 and dropped from the lead to third. At this point, we expected Hamilton would be pitting very soon and that would have completed the first round of pit stops among the front runners and the race order would have been restored – with Bottas back in the lead ahead of Hamilton. Unfortunately for Bottas the Safety Car yellow came out just then and this gave Hamilton his chance to take control.

After the track went back to green, the order was Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Gasly, Verstappen and Leclerc. Verstappen was hounding Gasly and he was soon past him into fourth place behind Vettel. Next Leclerc got past dropping Gasly to sixth.

On lap 37, Verstappen got by Vettel into third place – giving him hopes of a podium finish. Vettel was having none of this and he charged up behind the Dutchman – but he misjudged his attempted passing manoeuver. In a scenario reminiscent of the Ricciardo-Verstappen crash in Baku last year, Vettel came up behind Verstappen too fast and too close and he lost the downforce on his tires – and he was unable to slow enough to prevent slamming into the rear of the Red Bull. Vettel spun off and resumed – but at the back of the field – while Verstappen’s car was able to continue despite damage to the floor. But what had looked like a probable podium finish for Verstappen now saw him in sixth place a further eight seconds back. He was able to continue and finish the race in fifth place behind Leclerc and Gasly.

This was a continuance of Vettel’s string of bad luck. The stewards penalized him ten seconds but he was so far back now that the time penalty was of no real consequence.

Canada’s Lance Stroll, who had started in 18th place, ahead only of the two sad-sack Williams cars, finished in 13th place, out of the points.

photo britishgp hamiltonFormula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, British GP 2019. Lewis Hamilton (© Daimler AG)

Hamilton said, “I remember my first win here in 2008 and the feeling that I had coming out of Brooklands and going down the straight and seeing the crowd, it felt so reminiscent of that today - the excitement and happiness and joy that I felt were exactly the same as back then. I've done so many races now, and you would think that after so many races you'd get used to it and the feeling would numb down, but it felt like it was the first win I ever had. Valtteri drove a very strong race and we had a really good fight in the beginning; I nearly got him going into Turn 7, but he was next to me and I couldn't really close the door. After that I backed off a little and waited for the pit stops, hoping that I could maybe overtake him in the pits. I extended my first stint for a few more laps, then the Safety Car came out and that was perfect timing for me as I came back out in front of Valtteri.

“I'm really grateful to all of those people that have helped me achieve this today; I have this incredible team behind me and it's really amazing to be a part of it, to be breaking down walls and records and pushing the limits and boundaries every weekend.”

Click HERE for the results of the British Grand Prix.

The next round in the F1 world championship series will be held at Hockenheim, Germany in two weeks time, on July 28

 PHOTO INDYCAR TORONTO 6C 6845 1Start of the Honda Indy Toronto -- Photo by: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

NTT INDYCAR Series Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place
• Pagenaud wins from the pole

Toronto, ON, July 14/19 (GRW): Simon Pagenaud, who already had two wins this year (both at Indianapolis), was in charge here in Toronto, winning the pole and going on to control the race, leading all but five of the race’s 85 laps on the way to the race win. Scott Dixon, who had started alongside him, ran in second place for most of the race and he finished a mere 0.137 seconds behind him.

The race started with a bang when on the second lap there was a pile-up of five cars in the tight right-hander at the end of the Lakeshore straight. This put Matheus Leist a lap down but the others were able to get going at the tail of the lead lap – albeit their hopes of winning the race were out the window. This included Will Power, Graham Rahal and Colton Herta. Rahal and Herta were able to recover and finish ninth and seventh respectively but Power’s race was to end in a crash into the barriers on the penultimate lap. This incident brought out the full-course caution and the race ended under yellow.

Before that, Dixon had closed in on Pagenaud and he was reeling him in. He closed to within a second of the race leader but then he started to drop back a bit. The yellow for Power’s crash put paid to his hopes of catching the Frenchman.

Alexander Rossi qualified in fourth place and finished third, while Joseph Newgarden qualified in fifth place and finished in fourth. Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe continues to be a crowd favorite here in Toronto. He qualified back in 14th place but he was able to record a fifth-place finish. His teammate Robert Wickens, who suffered a back injury in an accident at Pocono last year, is continuing with his rehab in hopes of being able to race again. Here at Toronto he was behind the wheel of a specially-equipped (think Alex Zanardi) Acura and he drove a couple of fast laps in front of the crowd.

Although Pagenaud controlled the lead for the entire race, Dixon’s continued presence right behind him challenging for the lead made it an exciting race. This is an event which is often marred by many incidents and cautions, This race, once we got past the initial pile up on the second lap, was thankfully free of such incidents until Power’s trouble which effectively ended the race.

"I needed that time off (between Road America and Toronto) to just reorganize my team around me - my personal team, not Team Penske - and find time for myself to refocus on the game and we did just that,” said Pagenaud. “Ben Bretzman (engineer) has been really good at steering me in the right direction, also. I think it was a team effort, really. It looked like we were dominating today and I can't thank these guys enough because they come in the morning with big smiles on their face, every day same thing. We just are working together and that is why you have days like today. The whole race I was waiting for that yellow. For sure there is going to be a yellow with five laps to go; we're going to have a restart. But no matter what, we had the best car. When we had to push, we could go faster than (Scott) Dixon, match anyone, save the fuel. It was just an amazing day. Dixon made it interesting in the end and that was fantastic for the fans.”

Click HERE for the results of the IndyCar race at Toronto.

The next IndyCar race will held next Saturday evening, July 20, at the Iowa Speedway.

PHOTO MENCS KS KuBuCheckeredFlag 71319Kurt Busch takes the checkered flag ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Quaker State 400 (photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway
• Kurt Busch barges part his brother Kyle for a dramatic finish

Sparta, KY, July 13/19 (GRW): If there had been a prize for the most exciting race finish of the weekend, without question it would have gone to the Cup race here at the Kentucky Speedway. The race went into overtime and on that final restart, Kurt Busch shot up from the second row to challenge his brother Kyle, who had taken the restart on the front row, for the lead. For the remainder of the final lap-and-a-half they fought it out. Coming off the final corner, they were side-by-side but Kurt was not going to give in. The cars banged together and sparks flew, but Kurt held onto his tiny lead and he took the checker barely ahead of his brother.

Afterwards, Kurt Busch was ecstatic. This was his first win since moving to the Ganassi team this year and it puts him in the playoff picture – and it went a long way towards making up for his disappointment at not winning in that muddled finish last week at Daytona. He had run well throughout the race, leading 41 laps.

Meanwhile his younger brother Kyle (who already has four wins to his credit this year) had a glum look on his face as he struggled to make the appropriate sounds to congratulate his brother on the win. Indeed the one-two win by the brothers – and in such spectacular fashion – was a great event even if Kyle may have had trouble seeing it as a positive outcome.

“Hell yeah! Hell yeah!” Kurt Busch exulted after climbing from his car on the frontstretch. “I’m proud he (Kyle) gave me a little room on the outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall, and he probably would have got it.

“What an awesome run. Whatever last week was, we got the ‘W’ now! That was epic. I was hopeful that we would get a shot, just one more restart. We got that yellow … with my little brother — it’s the best guy in the world to go race against.”

Joey Logano had been first for that final restart but he failed to launch and he dropped back and back, eventually finishing in seventh place after the final two green-flag laps. Erik Jones was credited with third while Kyle Larson was fourth.

Kyle Busch had qualified tenth but he led for 72 laps in the 267-lap race, the most of any driver. Daniel Suarez started from the pole and he led the first 49 laps until the first caution. On this stop, his crew chief opted to change all four tires while the rest only changed two – or none. This dropped him back to 14th for the restart and he was never a real contender again. He finished in eighth place.

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

The next MENCS race will be held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, next Sunday, July 21.

PHOTO NXS KS CusterLeadsPack 071219Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway (Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway
• Custer out drives Bell to score his fifth win this year

Sparta, KY, July 12/19 (GRW): As the season moves on toward the much-anticipated championship playoffs, three drivers are seen as the strong contenders: Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick. Here at Sparta, they finished one-two-three in the order Custer-Bell-Reddick, illustrating just how close this championship race is likely to be. Add into that mix, Michael Annett, who finished fourth here, and you probably have the card for the playoff battle at season’s end.

The race’s starting lineup had Austin Cindric and Bell on the front row while Custer was back in fifth place. Reddick had qualified eighth fastest. On the start, Bell took command ahead of Cindric and they finished the first Stage, at lap 45 of the 110-lap race, in that order. Custer was back in seventh place. During the pit stops at the end of this Stage, Justin Haley took only two tires and he lined up for the restart in the lead.

Unfortunately, almost immediately Cindric tangled with Haley, damaging the cars and bringing out the third caution. Brandon Jones took the next restart with Bell alongside and Bell soon took the lead – and he held it for the next 25 laps through the next yellow to mark the end of Stage 2.

Bell had a slow pit stop and he came out in fifth place behind Chase Briscoe, Jones, Custer and Justin Allgaier. Both Custer and Bell now stared working their way to the front past the others and on lap 111, Custer took the lead with Bell close behind – initially just a third of a second back. But in the remaining 40-or-so laps , Bell could not match Custer’s pace and Custer was able to hang onto the lead.

There were no pit stops in the final stage but everyone had to make a green-flag pit stop for fuel. This let Bell close up a bit on Custer but it was not enough and Custer, once again, built his lead leaving Bell behind. At the checker, Custer had a 1.6-second advantage, having dominated the final 110-lap Stage of this race.

“It’s been unbelievable,” said Custer, who won for the first time at Kentucky and the fifth time this season, breaking a tie with Bell for most in the series. “This one just goes to my team. That car was just unbelievable, and they knew exactly what to do with it when the track changed, and I was just lucky to drive it there at the end.”

Up to this race, Bell was probably considered to be the one most likely to win the Xfinity championship but Custer’s convincing win here -- and his total of five wins so far this season – may have tipped the balance of opinion in his favour now.

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

The next Xfinity race will be held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Saturday, July 20.

PHOTO NGOTS KS AnkrumRacing 0711Johnny Sauter, driver of the #13 Tenda Heal Ford, races, Tyler Ankrum during the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway
• Young Ankrum blows away the veteran drivers for the win

Sparta, KY, July 11/19 (GRW): This race was won by a youngster named Tyler Ankrum who only turned 18 earlier in this race season. He won this race in a DGR-Crosley entry and despite his having missed three races due to being under the age requirement earlier in the season, he has been given a waiver by NASCAR and he will be a contender in the championship playoffs at season’s end – making for one less opening for the more experienced drivers who have yet to win a truck race this year.

Sheldon Creed started on the front row and he led the entire first 35-lap Stage. When they lined up for the restart to begin the next Stage, Grant Enfinger was alongside Creed. The second caution came a couple of laps after that restart, shuffling the order again. On this restart Enfinger took the lead over Brandon Jones but another quick caution brought on another restart – and then another – when Ross Chastain, back in sixth place spun. On this restart the two trucks on the front row Jones and Enfinger tangled, bringing out the fifth caution – and ending the second Stage which finished under yellow. Meanwhile, young Ankrum was moving forward. He was in fourth place at the end of the second Stage and he did not pit. This put him into the lead at the start of the final 80-lap Stage.

This Stage was 120 miles long, so everyone was going to have to pit – but they had a big window of opportunity when they could make their pit stop. Ankrum was one of the first to make a pit stop and this dropped him out of sight for a while. This early stop might have been problematic for him had a caution flew soon after, trapping him a lap down. But as the laps counted down, no more cautions came, and as the others had to make their green-flag pit stops he gradually worked his way forward.

By lap 126 of the race’s 150 laps, he was up into third behind Brett Moffitt and Ben Rhodes. Rhodes had a tire failure and he had to pit for a replacement – but Ankrum was still ten seconds behind Moffitt.

Now the fuel strategy began to play out. Ankrum had taken on two cans of fuel when he pitted but Moffitt had only taken on one can of fuel when he pitted later. It was going to be tight on fuel for Moffitt but, with his big lead, he could save some fuel and hope to make it to the end. Disturbingly, a couple other trucks on the same plan ran out of fuel. Moffitt’ plan failed with two laps to go when the No. 24 truck sputtered and slowed, allowing Ankrum to take over the lead. Moffitt crossed the line in seventh place.

Steward Friesen was the next truck behind Ankrum – but some distance back. He finished in second place, seven seconds behind Ankrum. Take note: this win was no fluke; it was won by a capable driver and a crew chief who had a well-executed plan. We are going to hear more from this young contender before long.

“I can’t believe it. This is a dream come truck,” said Ankrum, last year’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion. “One of my biggest faults is I’ve always doubted myself. Tonight, I kind of felt all that wash away.”

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS race at Kentucky Speedway.

The next NGOTS race will be held at Pocono Raceway in two weeks time, on Saturday, July 27.

PHOTO PINTYS TAGLIANIThe winning Team 22 Racing #18 EpiPen-RONA/St Hubert Chevy Camaro ZL1 at Princess Gate. (photo: Tagliani Autosport)

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Grand Prix of Toronto at Exhibition Place
• Tagliani wins from the pole

Toronto, ON, July 13/19 (GRW): Alex Tagliani had a near perfect race here on the Toronto street circuit which runs through the CNE grounds. He started on the pole and led every lap but three on his way to an overtime win here. Kevin Lacroix was second and Andrew Ranger was third.

The start of the race was delayed by over an hour by thunderstorms which, at times, brought lightning and heavy rain.

The race’s first caution came on lap 10 of the scheduled 35-lap race. On this restart, Ranger got the better of Tagliani and he led for three laps before Tagliani regained control of the race lead. A pair of cautions late in the race sent the race into overtime but Tagliani maintained his lead to the checker.

"The team gave me a really good car this weekend and we scored maximum points, said Tagliani. “I am really proud of the guys especially after a season debut that did not go as well as I had expected on oval tracks. They rolled up their sleeves and gave me a great car that enabled me to offer this performance. It shows they have pride. I was happy to see them all smiles and jumping for joy when I entered the pits after the race.

"There were some good fights during the race. Restarts were tough because of the nature of the track that makes the corners feel like you are entering a funnel. This is very inviting for those who want to pass you. The leader sets the tone with his breaking, but if you don't block enough, you invite the driver in third place to jump ahead of you, like Andrew (Ranger) did on lap 15. If you block too much the car behind you in third place, you open the door to the driver on the outside.

"I am not complaining about being first on restarts, but it's very stressing. The battles I had with Andrew, who was driving very aggressively but cleanly, are what makes car racing exciting. Today's feuds were similar to those we had last year, a battle that I lost, but not this year. This victory reduces the gap to the leader in the point standings. Overall, a very satisfying weekend.”

Click HERE for the results of the Toronto Pinty’s race.

The Pinty’s Series competitors will now be heading to Saskatchewan for their western swing of three races. The next stop will be at Saskatoon for the Wyant Group Raceway Twin 125s on Wednesday, July 24.

 

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