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Race Weekend Review: July 20-21, 2019

Race Weekend Review: July 20-21, 2019

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
• Harvick holds off Hamlin for his first win of the year.

Loudon, NH, July 21/19 (GRW): Kevin Harvick finally broke out of his wins slump by taking the checker here at New Hampshire, beating Denny Hamlin to the line by a mere 0.2-seconds margin. Harvick, a popular favourite to win the championship, had not won prior to this in 2019 and his most recent race win was at Texas last November and he has not won the Cup title since 2014.

Harvick started 14th on the grid and he never led a lap until lap 112 of the 301-lap race. When he took the lead on lap 267, he had only led six laps up to then – but now he was in charge and he held on to the lead the rest of the way. Harvick took the lead at this time when Kyle Larson crashed and brought out the race’s final yellow flew on lap 266. Most of the cars pitted for fresh tires during this caution but Harvick and a couple others stayed out. This saw him lining up for the restart in the first row alongside Erik Jones, who had also not pitted.

On the restart, Hamlin vaulted up from the second row to challenge Harvick for the lead – but Harvick was able to maintain a small advantage. Coming into the final two laps Hamlin made a run and dove under him, alongside for a moment – but Hamlin was able to pull ahead and cross the line only a few metres ahead. But that was good enough for the race win.

Kyle Busch had started on the front row alongside pole-sitter Brad Keselowski. On the start he asserted himself immediately and he led the first 18 laps. He was to go on to lead a total of 118 laps, the most of any driver in the race. He ran consistently in the top ten for the first two-thirds of the race but, on lap 215, he slammed into the outside wall bringing out the seventh caution. Although he was able to continue, he was not able to recover from this setback and he ended up in 18th place after a promising run earlier in the race.

“I really didn’t want to see that traffic there at the end,” Harvick said. “It made my car tight when (Hamlin) got to me. He tried to move me out of the way down there and I knew that was coming, as close as he was. So I just stood on the brakes — half-throttle down the back straightaway. I was like, ‘You’re not getting under me again,’ and he drove to the outside of me and I waited until he got to the outside of me and put a wheel on him.”

Denny Hamlin led almost as many laps as Kyle Busch, 113 laps. He did not pit during the caution which marked the end of the second Stage – and he was able to take the restart on the first row alongside Harvick and he gained the race lead and went on to lead for the next 113 laps – until he lost the lead to Harvick coming off the race’s final caution.

Erik Jones finished third, while Ryan Blaney was fourth and Matt DiBenedetto was fifth. Brad Keselowski who had the best pit stall placement by virtue of his pole position, often was the first one out of pit lane during yellow-flag pit stops but he seemed to lack the race speed to capitalize on his good pit stop performance – and he ended up in tenth place at the end.

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

The next MENCS race will be held at Pocono Raceway next Sunday, July 28.

PHOTO NXS NHMS ChristopherBell MagicMile 072019Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem-Watts Toyota, races during the ROXOR 200 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR Xfinity Series ROXOR 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
• Bell takes charge; he dominates the race

Loudon, NH, July 20/19 (GRW): Cole Custer won the pole for this race but Christopher Bell started alongside him – and he took charge on the start and he led for 186 of the race’s 200 laps, including the final 153 laps of the race. This was Bell’s fifth win of the year, tying him with Custer who also has five wins now – but considering Bell’s dominant performance in this race, he looks to have the momentum as it gets closer to the playoffs which will determine the series championship.

Except for the two Stage ends during the race, this race was relatively caution-free – with only three other cautions. The first caution came on lap 33; Brandon Jones opted to stay out and take the lead when the others pitted – as did a number of others. Bell did stop this time and dropped to ninth for the restart while Jones continued to lead until the end of the first Stage. Now Bell was able to stay out and resume the lead – and he was never seriously challenged for the remainder of the race.

Custer finished second, four seconds back, while Justin Allgaier was third and Tyler Reddick was fourth. So far this year, these four drivers have been in charge and it seems certain than one of them – probably Bell or Custer – will end up winning the championship in Homestead at year’s end.

It was a hot day here and Bell thanks the fans for their support. “Thank you, guys, for coming out,” said Bell to the fans in the grandstands. “I know it was hot, it was hot inside the car, but thank you, guys. You guys are the reason we race.”

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race at New Hampshire.

The next NXS race will be held at Iowa Speedway next Saturday, July 27.

PHOTO IMSA WT RD LMP 19 370Northeast Grand Prix: #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM: Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook ,#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM: Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller (Richard Dole/LAT Images)

IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park
• A three-stop strategy plus fast driving by Westbrook earns the win for a Ganassi Ford GT

Lakeville, CT, July 20/19 (GRW): The WeatherTech race here in this 1.5-mile circuit was limited to entries from the GT classes (GTLM and GTD) and the absence of the prototype prima donnas which usually tend to steal the show meant that we focused on the racing among the GT cars – and we were rewarded with a great race – in both classes.

So far this year, one or the other of the two Porsche GT Team entries has won every race they were allowed to enter – except for the season-opening Daytona 24-hour race which was won by the Rahal Letterman BMW – making for a run of five consecutive wins alternating between the No. 911 car and the No. 912 car. Here at Lime Rock, this pair of Porsches gave every appearance of being the fastest cars here and on their way to yet another one-two win.

For starters they were the fastest two cars in qualifying, while the Ganassi Fords qualified back in fourth and seventh places – bracketing the two Corvettes. In the race the No. 912 Porsche led the No. 911 Porsche until they made their first pit stops which came on laps 50 and 51. They quickly resumed their places at the front in the order 912-911 but, during this pit stop exchange, the No. 67 Ford had taken over third place with the No. 66 Ford in seventh place, 17 seconds back of the leader.

The Porsches continued to lead the race until they made their second round of pit stops. Ryan Briscoe had pitted the No. 67 Ford several laps earlier and handed over to Richard Westbrook. Now, when the Porsches stopped, Westbrook took over the race lead and he soon had a 40-second lead over the two Porsches, which were still running in close order.

But the plan was for the No. 67 car to make a third pit stop and hope that having newer tires would enable them to catch and outrun the Porsches before the race reached its conclusion. Westbrook came into the pits for this third stop and gave up the lead to the Porsches.
Initially, when Westbrook came back out from his third pit stop he was behind the pair of Porsches and the No. 4 Corvette.

The No. 4 Corvette was on a similar three-stop strategy and it had been running in second [lace behind the No 67 Ford and ahead of the Porsches – but it also came in for their third pit stop and, after that, it was out of contention. This left the two Porsches running one-two in front ahead of the two Fords but on older tires – and the No. 67 Ford was now a mere 2.1 seconds behind the leader.

For the remaining laps, Westbrook hung in and harried the No. 911 Porsche of Pilet. The Porsche bobbled as it came up on slower traffic and Westbrook was through into second. Now he closed up on the leading No. 912 Porsche but it was not going to be easy getting past on this tight circuit. Finally, on lap 175 (of what turned out to be a 182-lap race) he closed in on him and overtook for the lead. Sometime earlier, on lap 158, both Westbrook and Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford had gotten past the No. 911 Porsche into second and third place. When Westbrook passed the No. 912 Porsche in the closing laps, he set up the finishing race order: first, No. 67 Ford GT (Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook), second, No. 912 Porsche (Earl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor), third, No. 66 Ford (Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller), fourth, No. 911 Porsche (Patrick Bamber/Nick Tandy).

“This place is just so tough,” said Briscoe, who makes his home in nearby Hartford, Connecticut. “We didn’t think we’d have the pace, so we went into the race with the goal of doing a three-stop strategy. We knew the tire life on two stops was going to be really difficult for everyone, so we just committed to it and knew we had to put the lap times in on fresh tires when everyone else was falling off and it worked out.

The racing in the GTD class behind was equally close-fought. For most of the race, the contest was between the No. 86 Acura of Mario Farnbacher/Trent Hindman, the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG of Ben Keating/Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 9 PFAFF Porsche of Dennis Olsen/Zacharie Robichon. Initially the No. 86 Acura led over the No. 33 Mercedes with the No. 9 Porsche fourth in class. Mid-race, during a sequence of green-flag pit stops (there were no caution periods during the race), the No. 33 Mercedes held the lead and stayed out in front ahead of the No. 86 Acura and the No. 9 Porsche for 50 laps – but eventually he pitted and fell behind the other two.

For the remaining laps, the No. 86 Acura led the No. 9 Porsche - but by a tiny margin. With only seven laps from the finish the No. 9 Porsche closed on the Acura and passed for the lead. Shortly before that the No. 33 Mercedes had run off the road and had to pit for repairs, falling out of contention.

Click HERE for the results of the IMSA WeatherTech race at Lime Rock.

The next WeatherTech race will be held at Road America on Sunday, August 4.

PHOTO IMSA MPC galstad LRP 0719 60860Lime Rock Park 120 Race Start: #46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG, GS: Owen Trinkler, Hugh Plumb (Jake Galstad/LAT Images)

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Lime Rock 120 at Lime Rock Park
• The No. 46 Trinkler/Plum Mercedes-AMG dominates

Lakeville, CT/July 20/19 (GRW): The two hour race for GT4-spec cars was won by the No. 46 Tean TGM Mercedes-AMG driven by Owen Trinkler/Hugh Plumb. The No. 39 Audi R8 driven by Tyler McQuarrie/Jeff Westphal finished second, 0.377 seconds behind while the third place car, the No. 56 Mercedes-AMG of Jeff Mosing/Eric Foss finished another 0.144 seconds back. The Audi had led for 28 of the race’s 124 laps mid-race.

“Really it’s all about the Team TGM guys,” said Plumb. “It’s the team. I do a very small part of this. I was given a car by Owen Trinkler, the best in the business, and really just had to go out and do my job. My hat’s off to all the TCR guys. All of them stand on the gas and they’re absolute professionals. It really went our way today. I’m so happy for Mercedes, obviously Ted Giovanis, everything he provides to us, and the Michelin tire, what a great tire through and through.”

“It’s just the strategy Joe Varde, the engineer, did over this weekend,” Trinkler added. “We worked on long run pace. I’m just so happy for my guys. We’ve struggled a lot this year and we kept fighting together as a team. In those moments, things might kind of start separating, but we got stronger during that period and it shows now. We’re going to be a contender for the rest of the season. I knew that going in we had the keys to win and it’s good to come back to a place where we got two in a row.”

The other class in this race was for the TSR-spec ‘touring’ cars. This class saw some close racing and these nimble smaller cars at were at times able to compete with the pace of the GS (GT4) cars. The class-winning TCR car was the No. 98 Hyundai Veloster of Mark Wilkins/Michael Lewis which finished 11th overall. Second in class was the No. 54 Audi RS3 driven by Michael Johnson/Stephen Simpson which finished 3.3 seconds behind the class winner. The No. 21 Hyundai driven by Mason Filippi/Harry Gottsacker was third in the TCR class.

Click HERE for the results of the IMSA Michelin Pilot race at Lime Rock.

The Next Michelin race will be held at Road America on Saturday, August 3 in conjunction with the WeatherTech race on the same weekend.

PHOTO INDYCAR NEWGARDEN JGS 2019 IOWA 200874 1Josef Newgarden -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

NTT INDYCAR Series Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway
• Newgarden scores another dominant win at Iowa Speedway

Newton, IA, July 21/19 (INDYCAR) - The hour of day at Iowa Speedway was different, but the domination by Josef Newgarden was not. And this time, he won the Iowa 300. For the fourth time in five years, Newgarden led the most laps in the race at the NTT IndyCar Series' smallest track. Last year, he led 229 of the 300 laps but settled for a fourth-place finish. This time he went to victory lane by leading 245 laps in Team Penske's No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet. Newgarden capped this victory, his fourth of the season and the 14th of his career, at 2:14 a.m. ET due to a pair of rain delays.

In 2016, Newgarden led 282 laps in an Ed Carpenter Racing car - he won that race -- and in 2015 he led 111 laps and finished second.

The start of the race was delayed four and a half hours due to severe weather, including lightning and heavy rain. The green flag finally waved at 11:45 p.m. ET. A brief shower at 12:12 a.m. ET led to a red flag at Lap 55. Newgarden was leading then, having passed teammate Will Power amid traffic in Turn 1.

Newgarden admitted being sour after qualifying third Friday behind his teammates, polesitter Simon Pagenaud and Power. But he regrouped and refocused, channeling that energy to getting the car ready to race.

"I'm much happier tonight, I can tell you that," Newgarden said. "I was really a little bit frustrated yesterday just because I knew we had a pole-winning car. We didn't put it together. It's competitive."

The victory allowed Newgarden to extend his series points lead to 29 over Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi, who finished sixth. Newgarden lapped Rossi on Lap 185, although Rossi battled back to make it interesting for a few laps.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon finished second for the fifth time this season in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda after falling a lap off the pace early in the race. The recovery came as a result of smart pit strategy initiated by the crew - they gave him new tires on Lap 268 -- and it keyed Dixon's 45th career second-place finish. The five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion has now finished first or second in 90 of his 316 career starts (28.4 percent).

It was quite the comeback.

"Huge credit to the team," Dixon said. "They (left) me out pretty long before the last caution. It enabled us to stay on the lead lap, get that lucky yellow, get new tires. (We) had a good restart, were able to (pass) some cars. ... We were actually probably going to be happy with a top 14 or 15 (finish), so that was pretty stellar."

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe, who won last year's race, finished third in the No. 5 Arrow Honda. The top-three finish was his first since this race a year ago.

"For all the fans that stayed out, weathered the storm - literally - huge thanks," Hinchcliffe said. "I think it was well worth the wait. Hopefully everybody that did come and stayed for the race enjoyed the show. It felt pretty exciting from where we were sitting."

Click HERE for the results of the Indy car race at Iowa Speedway.

Next up is the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next Sunday, July 28.


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