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Race Weekend Review: August 1-3-4, 2019

Race Weekend Review: August 1-3-4, 2019

FIA Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring
• Hamilton drives down Verstappen for the win

Budapest, Hungary, Aug 4/19 (GRW): For much of the race it looked like it was Verstappen’s to win but an alternate pit strategy and brilliant driving by Hamilton saw him catch and pass Verstappen in the closing laps to steal the win. Verstappen who had won the pole and who had led much of the race had to settle for a second-place finish.

Worse for the Ferraris, among the big six teams they finished behind their rivals. Sebastian Vettel who had started in fifth place behind his teammate Charles Leclerc came home in third while Leclerc was fourth. McLaren driver Carlos Sainz was fifth and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was sixth. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas started from the front but he ended up a distant eighth.

At the start, Bottas made contact with Leclerc and he had to pit for a replacement front wing. This dropped him to 20th place and he was playing catch-up the rest of the race. Verstappen and Hamilton soon pulled away from their Ferrari rivals and, for the rest of the race, the attention was focused on the duel between these two front-runners.

In the first stint, Verstappen maintained a lead of just over two seconds until he pitted on lap 33 of the 70-lap race – taking on hard spec tires with the intention of running the rest of the laps without another pit stop. Hamilton took over the lead until he pitted on lap 31 and he too took on hard tires. He came out of the pits behind Verstappen and he was soon running within a second of Verstappen’s pace. Close but no cigar. He could never manage to get close enough and fast enough to get around the Dutchman.

Now the Mercedes team made a strategic decision. They brought Hamilton in for a second pit stop and put him on medium spec tires. When he returned to the track, he was just over 18 seconds behind Verstappen. But the Red Bull driver was stuck with a one-stop strategy. If he were to stop for fresh tires he would inevitably come back out behind Hamilton and he would have, at best, equal tires and little change of regaining the lead. So all he could do was hope that he could maintain enough speed on his rapidly-aging hard tires to keep him ahead of Hamilton to the checker – with many laps to go.

At first it looked like it was going to work out for Verstappen. Despite his best efforts. Hamilton made little progress in closing down that 15-second or so gap. But then, with ten laps to go he started catching the Red Bull. Verstappen radioed in to say that his now-worn tires were finished. Now Hamilton was able to reel him in and he passed him for the lead on lap 67.

There was nothing Verstappen could do to retaliate. He did immediately pit and he put on soft tires which enabled him to set the fastest lap of the race but this was small consolation as Hamilton walked away and took with yet another win – this time by a 18-second margin.

F1 Qual Podium HungaryF1 qualifying podium: Bottas, Verstappen (polesitter), Hamilton, (Will Taylor-Medhurst/Getty Images)

“I’m so grateful to be a part of it and for the team for continuing to believe in me, push the limits and take a risk,” said Hamilton. “We struggled a little with the brakes today, so I was trying to save as much as I could for when I had a chance to pass Max. It was very, very difficult to get by. I wasn’t sure if I could close the 19-second gap, but the team said to just get your head down, so I did. I kept pushing, the gap closed and the laps were like qualifying laps. I was on the limit all the way. I take my hat off to the team and I think if Niki (Lauda) were here today, he would take his hat off too.”

Click HERE for the results and points from the Hungarian GP

This race marks the end of the first half of the Grand Prix season. The teams will now take a four-week summer break. The next Grand Prix will be Belgian GP on September 1.

PHOTO WGI MENCS VLCelebration 080419Chase Elliott celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Go Bowling at The Glen (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International
• Elliott holds off Truex for the second year in a row

Watkins Glen, NY, Aug 4/19 (GRW): A year ago Chase Elliott won his first Cup race here at the Glen, coming home eight seconds ahead of Martin Truex. This year, Elliott started from the pole – his seventh Cup pole – and he led 80 of the race’s 90 laps holding off Truex for the win again – but this time his margin of victory was a mere half-second. Despite Truex’s strong challenge – especially in the final stint after both drivers had made green-flag pit stops, Elliott demonstrated his mastery this day. After this – and his win at Talladega earlier this year – there can be no doubt that this second-generation driver has arrived as one of today’s stars.

On a day when many other drivers had mishaps and mistakes, Elliott was in command at the front of the field. He led all the way to the end of Stage 1 and he was the first out of the pits. Given that the short 20-lap (50 mile) first two Stages gave options on when to stop for fuel, Kyle Larson opted to not pit at the end of Stage 1 and this gave him the lead over Elliott for a handful of laps until her eventually pitted.

This put Elliott back into the lead and he carried on to win Stage 2 at lap 40. Martin Truex was also having an untroubled run and he took over second place after the pit stops during the second yellow which fell on lap 34. After that, the order was effectively Elliott-Truex the rest of the way.

Truex did lead one lap - lap 59 – when Elliott pitted a lap sooner than he did, but that Elliott-Truex order cycled back to normal when Truex pitted on the next lap. Paul Menard was credited with leading three laps during this round of green-flap pit stops – which turned into a caution when Jimmie Johnson went off at Turn 5 (the loop) – but as soon as he pitted, the Elliott-Truex train was back in front.

From there, it was Truex trying his best to run down Elliott and pas him. He cold get close but not close enough to challenge for the lead. This was Elliott’s day for sure – and with a second win here , he must now be considered to have mastered this road-racing style.

“This is wild,” exulted Elliott. “Thank you, guys, that was pretty awesome. I’ve never been so far from home and thought I was at my house. Thank you. What a day! We had such a bad fast Camaro, and we stayed mistake-free. Martin was a little quicker those last two runs, but track position was king, and I didn’t mess up in (Turn) 1 this time, so that was good.”

This race was pretty physical. It started on the second lap when Kyle Busch, who had started in third place, got together with William Byron who had started just ahead and he spun around in Turn 1. That would explain why Busch, when he caught back up to Byron near the end of the first Stage, seemingly brake-checked him and Byron ran into the back of his car wrecking his front-end bodywork – and spinning off the track at the bus-stop chicane. Repairs to Byron’s car and a speeding penalty to Busch saw both of them fall to the back of the field and neither of them was able to recover from this setback.

While our attention was on the Elliott-Martin battle for the lead and their final round of green-flag pit stops – and Johnson spinning off into the Turn 5 barrier (with a little help from Ryan Blaney) – something must have happened to trigger Busch’s ire against Darrell Wallace. The first thing we noticed was that, coming off the final turn, Busch turned to the right and pushed Wallace right over against the pit wall barrier. Wallace had little option but to respond by pushing back and he pushed back enough that he sent Busch spinning down the front stretch. One has to believe that we will see more of this budding Busch-Wallace bad temper in upcoming races. Busch finished in 11th place, remarkable given his travails this day but not much of a result for the guy who thinks he is the best driver on the track.

Denny Hamlin was third, Erik Jones fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.

Click HERE for the results of the Watkins Glen MENCS race.

The next Cup race will be held at Michigan International Speedway next Sunday, August 11.

PHOTO WGI NXS ACindric 080319Austin Cindric during the Zippo 200 at The Glen (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at The Glen
• Cindric runs down Almendinger to take his first series win

Watkins Glen, NY, Aug 3/19 (GRW): Kyle Busch started from the pole and it looked like he was in command of the race until a broken front suspension part failed and knocked him out of the race after 35 of the race’s 82 laps. After that the race came down to a battle between Austin Cindric and A.J. Almendinger.

When the sixth caution came on lap 70 – just 12 laps to go to the finish – Cindric pitted for fresh tires. This dropped him back from first to ninth while Almendinger took over the lead. Almendinger was still in the lead when the eighth and final caution ended on lap 72. Over the remaining laps, Cindric closed up on him and bumped his way into the lead on the second-last lap.

After the race, Almendinger’s car failed post-race inspection; it was disqualified and dropped to last in the race finishing order. This elevated Christopher Bell to second ahead of Justin Allgaier, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick.

This was Cindric’s first win in 54 starts in the Xfinity Series. Previously, he won the truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2017, his only win in that series. With this gritty performance at the Glen, perhaps we need to start to consider Cindric to be a front-running competitor in the Xfinity Series and a serious challenger for the season-end championship.

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race at the Watkins Glen.

The next Xfinity race will be run next Saturday, August 10 at Mid-Ohio.

PHOTO IMSA WT galstad RA 0819 82095IMSA Road Race Showcase #55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi, DPi: Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Checkered Flag (Jake Galstad)

IMSA WeatherTech Road Race Showcase at Road America

• A third win in a row for Mazda; the Bomarito/Tinknell No. 55 wins again

Elkhart Lake, WI, Aug 4/19 (IMSA): On Sunday morning, all involved with Mazda Team Joest were thinking they’d have a third-place finish at best in the two-hour, 40-minute IMSA Road Race Showcase at Road America.

After all, Acura Team Penske – and specifically the No. 6 ARX 05-DPi shared by Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya – had been the class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) field throughout the weekend. The No. 6 led all three pre-qualifying practice sessions and Cameron took the Motul Pole Award on Saturday afternoon to lead a front-row qualifying sweep.

The No. 7 Acura DPi shared by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor led another 1-2 sweep in the Sunday morning warm-up. And when the green flag dropped on the race shortly past 1:30 p.m. local time Sunday, it was again the pair of white and dayglow orange Penske Acuras showing the way for most of the first half of the race.

But long, green-flag runs happen to be the Mazda RT-24P’s strong suit. And as luck would have it for the Mazda team, this race would run its entire distance without a full-course caution.

Harry Tincknell took the lead for the first time an hour and 14 minutes into the race in the No. 55 Mazda DPi he co-drives with Jonathan Bomarito. He did it in Turn 1, sweeping past Montoya – who combined with Cameron to lead 20 laps of what would be a record 83-lap race (the previous distance record was 76 laps set in 2015) – in the No. 6 Acura.

Tincknell’s move turned out to be a turning point in the race. Once he got the lead, he only surrendered it two times for two laps each time as the DPi pit-stop sequence played out.

But Tincknell had his hands full in the final two laps of the race, with Cameron hot on his tail. Tincknell even ran wide exiting Turn 5 on the final lap, briefly opening the door for Cameron to pull alongside. There was slight, side-to-side contact between the two cars heading into Turn 6, but Tincknell kept the lead.

He then won a final drag race uphill to the finish line, taking the checkered flag just 0.227 seconds ahead of Cameron to secure Mazda Team Joest’s third consecutive WeatherTech Championship victory.

“Fantastic race,” Tincknell said. “I couldn’t believe it. On the cooling down lap, I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe we had done it. All weekend we had been there, or thereabouts, but never the ultimate pace. I think we saw that a little bit in qualifying. Honestly going into the race today, I thought P3 would be a really a strong result, but it was very clear very early on the Penskes weren’t pulling away. Once we got into third and on the back of the Penskes, I thought maybe there was a chance.

“We came in right behind them when I jumped in the car. I saw the one car had an issue and we were up to second. We were both saving fuel. Obviously, we knew there was going to be quite a lot going for a splash at the end. We tried to minimize that as much as possible.”

It was the second win of the season for Tincknell and Bomarito in the No. 55, as they scored the first victory for the Mazda DPi program two races ago in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen along with endurance co-driver Olivier Pla. It was the team’s third straight win, as Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis won the most recent DPi race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 7th.

“It was just a flat-out race, no cautions,” Bomarito said. “It was managing traffic, managing rear tire wear, managing fuel numbers. And pushing like crazy the whole time trying to keep pace with Penske, build gaps in traffic.

“We had no AC in the car at one point. It was super-hot and very physical. Just a tough race. We really had to work for that one today. To come through again on top, we were talking about it on the way (to the post-race news conference). This one almost feels more special because (at) Watkins we had the pace, and it was kind of ours to lose. We just had to fight so hard. It’s almost a little more of a rewarding feeling in the end. What an amazing day.”

While they narrowly missed out on winning the battle at Road America, Cameron and Montoya may have taken another crucial step in winning the season-long WeatherTech Championship war. Their runner-up result was their sixth consecutive podium finish, helping extend their lead in the DPi championship standings to seven points, 239-232, over defending champion Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani with two races remaining on the season.

Nunez and Jarvis combined to deliver the third straight double podium for Mazda Team Joest with a third-place showing in the No. 77. The consecutive podiums have helped them vault from eighth in the DPi standings following Round 5 at Detroit’s Belle Isle in late May to third following Sunday’s race.

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Nasr and Derani came home fourth, keeping them in contention for the DPi championship. Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor rounded out the top five with a fifth-place run in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

In the LMP2 class, the No. 52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA co-driven by Matt McMurry and Patrick Kelly scored the victory by 31.356 seconds over the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA shared by Cameron Cassels and Saturday’s LMP2 Motul Pole Award winner, James French.

It was the fourth consecutive victory for McMurry and the PR1-Mathaisen team, enabling him to extend his lead to five points, 200-195, over Cassels with two races left on the season. Kelly, meanwhile, was a winner in his first race in the series.

“It was just perfectly executed by everyone on the team,” McMurry said. “Pat made a huge comeback, coming from not running for nine years and jumping right back in and holding the gap to Cassels. He did exactly what he needed to do, holding the gap to him. I got back in and did what I needed to do by holding another gap back.”

“I’ll tell you, it’s hard to describe,” Kelly added. “I think the last race I was in was Laguna or maybe it was Sebring in GTC, remember when we had the (Porsche 911 GT3) Cup cars that ran in the class. I was in a really horrible crash with a school bus driver who was texting and swerved into oncoming traffic.

“I was just about a year ago able to be cleared to go back. I just said I have to keep a clear head, do what I need to do, do decent lap times, don’t do anything stupid and foolish and just hand it over to Matt in one piece. I’ll admit, it was hard to stay relaxed.”

Click HERE for the results of the WeatherTech race from Elkhart Lake.

Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 25. The race will include just the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. The next race for DPi and LMP2 will be the penultimate round of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 15.

PHOTO IMSA MPC galstad RA 0819 75069 1#71 Rebel Rock Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, GS: Frank DePew, Robin Liddell (Jake Galstad)

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Road America 120
• Rebel Rock Camaro wins in the hands of Liddell/DePew

Elkhart Lake, WI, Aug 3/19 (GRW): The No. 71 Chevrolet Camaro of Robin Liddell/Frank DePew won the two-hour GT4 race here beating the No. 75 Compass Racing McLaren of Paul Holton/Kuno Wittmer by a margin of 0.07 seconds. The No. 56 Mercedes-AMG of Jeff Mosing/Eric Foss was third in the GS class and overall.

The top finishing TCR entry was the No. 89 Honda Civic of Chad Gilsinger/Ryan Eversley.

Click HERE for the results of the IMSA Michelin Pilot race at Road America.

The next IMSA Michelin race will be held at Virginia International Raceway on Saturday, August 24.

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