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Race Weekend Review: July 27-28, 2019

Race Weekend Review: July 27-28, 2019

Formula 1 Mercedes-Benz German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring
• Verstappen wins a rainy race; Vettel second after starting at the back

Hockenheim, Germany, July 28/19 (GRW): After a season mostly marked by the repetition of Mercedes wins race after race, we finally saw something completely different. The race was disrupted by rain which came and went and which made tire choices virtually impossible to manage. The post -ace podium saw Max Verstappen on the top step with Sebastian Vettel second and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) third. Hamilton took the checker in 11th place while Valtteri Bottas crashed out of the fourth place with eight laps remaining. But the intermittent rain meant that this was by no means a straightforward race.

For starters, in qualifying Vettel had an engine problem and he unable to run a single timed lap, putting him 20th and last on the starting grid. His teammate also had an engine problem which saw him fail to record a time in Q3, so he started in tenth place. Hamilton put his car on the pole ahead of Verstappen and Bottas.

No all that far to the west at Spa-Francorchamps they were running the annual Blancpain GT4 24-hour race under a lot of heavy rain conditions. There, the rain fell so hard that they put out the safety car for several laps just before dawn on Sunday and then they decided to red-flag the race for about six hours until the conditions improved. The rain was never so heavy or fell for so long at Hockenheim but, for sure, it disrupted things and helped produce an unusual result for this season.

It was raining when the race was scheduled to start and they made the cars follow the pace car around for about three formation laps before they were gridded for the start. Give the lack of a refueling protocol these days, this forced them to reduce the race distance to 64 laps from the planned 67 laps.

The cars were lined up for a standing start and Hamilton took the lead ahead of Bottas when Verstappen had a poor start. On the second lap, Racing Point driver Sergio Perez slid on the wet surface and crashed out of the race bringing out the first of what was to be four Safety Car periods during this race. During this yellow nearly every driver pitted for tires – during the race it seemed like every driver ran on every type of tire available – full wets, intermediates and soft slicks.

When the racing resumed, the order was Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen and – had been a normal race – this might have been the race order to the finish – but this was no ordinary race.

The next round of pit stops began with Verstappen and Bottas pitting, which let Leclerc up into second place behind Hamilton – but Leclerc soon slid off the track. The Safety Car came out again as his Leclerc’s car was removed and this set off a second wave of yellow-flag pit stops. Hamilton slid off in the final turn and wrecked his front wing. He was able to keep going and he made a sharp turn into pit lane where the car was fixed. Unfortunately he came in “on the wrong side of the bollard” and he was given a five-second penalty for this.

Verstappen benefitted from having pitted first and he took over the race lead when Hamilton came in for tires.

The next Safety Car yellow came when Nico Hulkenberg, who was in fourth place at the time crashed out of the race. This generated another wave of pit stops – and, given that the rain had let up a bit, many switched over to slicks at this point. Hamilton was assessed his time penalty when he pitted this time and he dropped to 12 place in the running order.

Lance Stroll had pitted a lap before the others and he cycled up towards the front when the rest made their pit stops. Indeed, the television scoring showed him in first place momentarily. The official lap chart never shows him in the lead – but he was scored in second place behind Verstappen for three laps. How could this anomaly arise? Had the TV gotten it wrong? The explanation lies in the fact that the television uses continuous live scoring while a conventional lap chart (like the official one reported by F1) records the positions at the end of each lap. Apparently Stroll got past into the lead when Verstappen and then Hamilton pitted but Verstappen ran him down to regain the lead on that very same lap and Stroll never crossed the S/F line in the lead.

Soon after, the usually unbeatable Hamilton made another excursion off the track; he stopped for fresh tires and he fell to the last place among those still running – 15th place.

With the laps counting down to the finish there was yet another Safety Car yellow when Bottas slid off into the barrier in the first turn and they had to move his car to a safe position.

On lap 56 – eight laps to go – Bottas had been in fourth place while Vettel was back in sixth. The track went back to green on lap 59 and Vettel began his final charge towards the front. By the time the checker flew he had passed everyone in front of him but Verstappen, dropping Kvyat to third on the penultimate lap.

After the race, the two Alfa-Romeos were penalized 30 seconds each for violation of an esoteric rule that is intended to discourage teams from using their on-board computers to help them launch better at the race start. When they were penalized, this moved Hamilton up to ninth in the final classification.

Lance Stroll was credited with a fourth-place finish and Carlos Sainz was fifth. Pierre Gasly, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate went out with damage to his car with three laps remaining. He was scored in 14 place – apparently as a race finisher but labeled as a DNF.

PHOTO F1 PODIUM AP 213AK61KD2111 newsHockenheim podium: Vettel, Verstappen and Kvyat ((Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

This was Verstappen’s second win of the season, his first having come in Austria (home of Red Bull) earlier in the month. This makes the winning score: Mercedes, nine wins, Red Bull, two wins.

“To come out on top after a race like that is amazing and for the Team to win for the second time this year with Honda is incredible,” said Verstappen. “I don’t know exactly what happened at the start but it seemed that everyone on the right side of the grid had a bad getaway and low grip. I had a particularly poor start when I released the clutch but stayed calm and followed the Mercedes cars closely. It was hard to pass due to the dirty air and the tires started to struggle as the track dried. From there onwards we always made the right decisions. Even though the first slick tire was maybe a bit hard and I had a few moments, with a 360 spin, I luckily kept going. Once I was back on the Intermediates and in the lead I was able to control the race and really show the pace of the car. Once you are ahead you can take a few less risks and everything feels a bit nicer. The conditions were very tricky and it was all about survival. It was definitely not an easy race and very tricky with the changing conditions. The team made all the right calls. They were giving me the right information and keeping an eye on all the other teams and sector times. They were really on top of things and everyone worked so well together. It has been one of my most difficult races and it is great to come out on top. For sure I enjoy driving in the wet but also you need a good car for that. You can find a bit of pace in yourself but today we had both things right and I’m very happy with the result.”

If it takes a weird on-again-off-again rainy day like this to produce a break from the Mercedes one-two monotony, let the rain come.

Click HERE for the results + points of the German GP

The next F1 race will be the Hungarian GP, next Sunday, August 4.

PHOTO INDYCAR DIXON 19 MDF 3 0864Scott Dixon (Matt Fraver/INDYCAR)

NTT INDYCAR Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
• Dixon holds off his teammate Rosenqvist for the win

Lexington, OH, July 28/19 (GRW): Scott Dixon held off Felix Rosenqvist in the final lap of the 90-lap Honda Indy 200 to win the race by a tenth of a second margin. Ryan Hunter-Reay was third ahead of Will Power and Alexander Rossi. Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe finished back in 22nd place, three laps off the race winner’s pace. The race ran the full distance without a caution.

Power started from the pole hoping for a good result after a run of bad luck in recent races. Rossi started alongside on the front row. When the race was green-flagged down the back straight, Marcus Erickson was bumped by Graham Rahal and he went sideways into his teammate James Hinchcliffe’s car. Both cars were damaged and they were out of contention.

The race distance was such that teams could opt for either a two-stop or a three-stop strategy, the two stop giving them fewer options on when to pit and the risk that they might run short on fuel – but, with the race running without any cautions, this made for a scattered pattern of pit stops throughout the race and made it tricky to be sure how these different pit stop strategies were going to unwind at the finish.

Power traded the lead with Rosenqvist until the first cycle of pit stops – when Josef Newgarden (who was on a two-stop strategy) took over until he made his first pits top, handing the lead to Rosenqvist. There was a fueling problem with Newgarden’s car and this cost him time dropping him back out of contention.

When Rosenqvist made his pit stop on lap 46, Dixon inherited the lead ahead of Power but, after he returned, Rosenqvist was able to get past Power into second place – but about 15 seconds back of Dixon. The final cycle of pit stops saw Rosenqvist back in the lead for a few laps until he handed back over to Dixon who led the final nine laps to the checker. In those final laps, Rosenqvist, who had been seven seconds behind, was able to close back up on his teammate and he crossed the finish line almost side-by-side with Dixon.

“I really want to credit Chip (Ganassi, team owner) for letting us race,” said Rosenqvist. “The last lap, I think everyone really enjoyed that. We were enjoying it. We were banging wheels in Turn 2 there, (it) was a bit exciting. But Scott (Dixon) is always going to fight you hard, but fair, and I think I did the same, and maybe one more lap we could have got him. But yeah, it was awesome."

In those final few laps Newgarten had recovered from his earlier problem and he was running in fourth place right behind Hunter-Reay. Coming into the final lap, Newgarden was right up on his tail and pushing to get past. He made a banzai move coming into the top of the keyhole but he collided with Hunter-Reay's car. Newgarden ended up stopped on the side of the track, unable to continue, his shot at a good finish gone -- and losing championship points to Rossi. After Mid-Ohio, Newgarden's points lead had shunk to a mere 16-point margin over Rossi -- who had earned more points by virtue of his fifth-place finish (30 points to Newgarden's 17 points).

Click HERE for the results of the Mid-Ohio Indy car race

The Next IndyCar race will be run at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 18.

PHOTO MENCS PR2 Hamlin VL3 072819Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Gander RV 400 (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Monster Energy Cup Series Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway
• Hamlin wins in overtime

Long Pond, PA, July 28/19 (GRW): Denny Hamlin won here in overtime by a 0.341-second margin over teammate Erik Jones with another Joe Gibbs teammate (Martin Truex) third. Hendrick driver William Byron was fourth and Ganassi’s Kyle Larson was fifth. This was Hamlin’s third win of the season.

The race saw seven cautions, including the two for the end-of-Stage conclusions. There was a brief yellow on lap 93 of the 163-lap race for rain.

Kevin Harvick started from the pole with Joey Logano alongside – and he led the first 39 laps of the race. The first two Stages of this race were 125 miles long and the final Stage was 150 miles long - so every Stage was too long for a car to be able to run the full Stage length without a pit stop for fuel - so this disrupted the pattern of pitting at the end of each Stage – and produced a few rounds of green-flag pit stops during the race.

Kyle Busch took over the lead during the first round of green-flag pit stops but Harvick regained the lead at the end of Stage 1. Twenty laps later Busch caught and passed him to retake the lead.

A light rain brought out the yellow but racing resumed four laps later. Busch opted to pit just before the end of Stage 2 but things got confusing when Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney tangled – resulting in Blayney spinning a bringing out the yellow just when the Stage was scheduled to end. Because Busch was already on pit road when the yellow flew he was trapped down mid-field and he was never able to make his way back up into contention.

It looked like he was okay when he actually was scored in the lead again after Ryan Preece lost control and crashed heavily in Turn 1 – but this was an illusion because his front-of-the-line position came from not pitting when the rest did – and he was going to have to give that back when he eventually made his pit stop on lap 133 and he fell back to the mid-field.

Hamlin had been in fourth place but he caught and passed Truex and Jones – and took over the lead on lap 144, Busch having already pitted.

There were two more yellows, the final one coming so late that it sent the race into overtime. Hamlin lined up for this final restart with Jones alongside below him but he had little trouble out running Jones into the first turn and he led the rest of the way to the checker.

“You just want to know that you’re a race winner,” said Hamlin. “You just want to know that you can contend for wins. Yeah, you’re looking for momentum, but you’re just looking for wins week-in and week-out. We really fought for it last week and came up short, so it feels really good to kind of redeem ourselves this week and have such a strong car. Once we got behind there, we were able to make up positions on the 19 (third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr.) and 20 (Jones).”

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

The next MENCS race will be held next Sunday, August 4 at Watkins Glen International.

PHOTO Iowa2 NXS CBriscoeLeadsPack 072719 Chase Briscoe leads a pack of cars during the U.S. Cellular 250 (Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

Xfinity Series Race U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway
• Briscoe holds off Bell for his first win of the year.

Newton, IA, July 27/19 (GRW): Chase Briscoe is a Ford development driver who win his first Xfinity race last year on the Charlotte ‘roval’. Here are Iowa, he took the lead from Christopher Bell seven laps from the finish and hung onto the lead to the checker, crossing the line a second to the good.

John Hunter Nemechek was third ahead of Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick. Bell’s main challengers for the championship this year are Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick. Custer finished this race in 29th place, 90 laps down after crashing out of the running.

When Bell won the pole with Briscoe alongside fans could be excused for thinking that this was going to be another Bell win - but, in the end, Briscoe upset that expectation.

Bell actually led for 234 of the 250 laps on this 7/8th mile oval. Zane Smith led a couple of laps when Bell and most to the others pitted early before the end of the first 60-lap Stage but Bell was soon back in the lead. He continued to lead thought he pit stop cycle at the end of Stage 2 but he gave up the lead to John Hunter Nemechek when he came in during the fifth yellow which came on lap 153 of the 250 -lap race. Six laps later Bell was back in the lead – but Briscoe does not even show up on my top-ten lap chart (He had been given a penalty earlier for driving over his air line.)

Briscoe was up to tenth on lap 200 when Michael Annett spun, bringing out the seventh yellow of the race and he took the restart from that position. But now he was on the move an he was soon up into fourth place – and he came out of the final caution on lap 229 in the same place. Now, with 20 laps remaining, he took the green lined up behind Bell – and he soon passed Nemechek for second and closed up on Bell.

In the final ten laps or so, he moved closer and closer – and , on lap 244, he swung under him and passed him for the lead. Bell had nothing for him and he had to settle for second a few car-lengths back. This win was Briscoe’s first win of the year and it will guarantee Briscoe a spot among the playoff-eligible drivers.

“It’s nice, for sure, to kind of silence everybody,” said Briscoe. “We definitely are still not near where we need to be, but I feel like we’ve been way closer, these last couple weeks especially. So we’ve still got to get better if we’re gonna beat the ‘Big Three,’ but I feel like we’re slowly getting into that conversation of being that fourth guy.”

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

The next Xfinity race will be held on Saturday, August 3 at Watkins Glen International.

 PHOTO NGOTS PR2 Chastain PitRoad 072619Ross Chastain stands on the grid during qualifying for the Gander RV 150 at Pocono Raceway (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)Pocono Raceway

Gander Outdoors Truck Series Gander RV 150 at Pocono Raceway

• Another truck win for Chastain, the Watermelon Man

Long Pond, PA, July 27/19 (GRW): Ross Chastain – after a mid-season adjustment – now has his sights set on winning the truck series championship. Before this weekend he had already won in this series twice but the first win did not count towards truck series championship eligibility because he had signed on to contest the Xfinity Series championship. However, once he won his first truck race this year, he switched his goal to a winning the championship here.

Since switching over, he has won twice more and he meets the other NASCAR criteria to be qualify for the season-end championship playoffs – with two eligible wins and standing 18th in the points.

Here at Pocono, Chastain led for 54 of the short race’s 60 laps, taking the checker by a one-second margin over the rookies Tyler Ankrum (who already has one race win) and Harrison Burton. Christian Eckes was fourth and Brett Moffitt was fifth

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS race

The next truck race will be held on Thursday of this week on Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway dirt track. Given his experience on the dirt, look for a winning performance from Stewart Friesen.

PHOTO PINTY EDMONTON DSC 5222At the LUXXUR 300 at Edmonton International Raceway(Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR)

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Western tour: Saskatoon and Edmonton
• LP Dumoulin and Andrew Ranger Win Big in Saskatoon
• Ranger wins again in Edmonton

Saskatoon, SK, July 25/19: In Saskatoon there were a pair of 125 lap races run on the 1/3-mile oval here – both on the same day, a Thursday.

In the first race, Kevin Lacroix started from the front row and he led the first 83 laps of the race – through the first two cautions. Then the polesitter, L.P. Dumoulin took over and he led the remaining laps until the race was red-flagged off after 116 laps when rain began to fall.

Andrew Ranger was credited with third ahead of Alex Labbe and Jason Hathaway.

After the rain had passed the second 125-lap race as run under the lights. Ranger started from the pole and he led the first 63 laps until D.J. Kennington got past and led for 16 laps. Ranger re-passed him and he led for the next 13 laps. Kennington had one more turn at the front, leading a further six laps but Ranger regained the lead and led the final 27 laps to take the win by a three second margin over Kennington.

Brett Taylor finished in third place, L.P. Dumoulin was fourth and Lacroix was fifth.

Edmonton, AB, July 27/19: After the Saskatoon double-header, the entourage moved further west to Edmonton where they ran a single race on the following Saturday.

Andrew Ranger qualified third quickest behind Lacroix and Kennington. Lacroix took the lead at the start and he led for the first 13 laps of the scheduled 300 laps race distance. Kennington took over for the next eight laps until Ranger came to the fore and led for 205 laps. Coming off the final caution on lap 227, L.P. Dumoulin led a single lap before Ranger regained the lead.

After that, Ranger held onto the lead the rest of the way to the race’s premature finish. The rain was flagged off early 25 laps short when, once again, rain stopped the race. Hathaway was credited with second ahead of Dumoulin, Labbe and Donald Theetge.

Click HERE for results of Saskatoon race #1.
Click HERE for results of Saskatoon race #2.
Click HERE for results of the Edmonton race.

The next race in the Pinty’s series will be at Trois-Rivières, QC, on Sunday, August 11.

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