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Race Weekend Report – September 7-8, 2019

Race Weekend Report – September 7-8, 2019

Formula 1 Gran Premio Heineken d’Italia at Monza Autodrome
• Leclerc win’s on Ferrari’s home turf to make it two wins in eight days

Monza, Italy, Sept 8/19 (GRW): It has been nine years since a Ferrari win in Italy but Charles Leclerc scored a decisive – if close – win over the mighty Ferraris to the joy of the masses of assembled tifosi here. This was Leclerc’s second win this year, his first having come a week earlier in Belgium. Despite this, there is no sign that the Mercedes juggernaut will fail to win both championships this year; they finished two-three close behind the Frenchman, Valtteri Bottas in second with Hamilton in third place.

PHOTO F1 MONZA PODIUMMonza Podium: Bottas, Leclerc, Hamilton (Ferrari S.f.A)

It was a good day for the Renault team, Daniel Ricciardo finishing in fourth place while his teammate Nico Hulkenberg was fifth. Alexander Albon, having replaced Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull was sixth. Max Verstappen had had to start from the back of the field after changing an engine and the best he could do was an eight-place finish.

Sebastian Vettel had the form of a rookie rather than that of a four-time world champion. He finished in 13th place, a lap down, just behind Canadian Lance Stroll.

On Saturday, qualifying came to a strange conclusion when seven of the Q3 finalists failed to record their final lap time, leaving the pole to Leclerc. In short this was caused by the need to slipstream to get the best time and everyone waited until someone else went out ahead to willingly – or not – give them a tow. This plan only worked out for Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The others failed to record a time for their final hot lap. We saw this same kind nonsense earlier this year when the same scenario was playing out in NASCAR. After an embarrassing race or two, NASCAR reverted to one-at-a-time qualifying on the ‘drafting’ tracks. I doubt that any of the F1 officials had noticed the lesson of the NASCAR qualifying mess earlier. Lesson learned?

Despite the anti-climatic finish to qualifying, the two Mercedes cars – Hamilton and Bottas – lined up two-three ahead of Vettel.

At the start Leclerc got away a bit slowly but he beat Hamilton into the front-stretch chicane and took command. And the field formed up in the front-four qualifying order. That is until Vettel made an unassisted error in the Ascari chicane on the back stretch and spun off the track. In his haste to get back going again he did not notice that Lance Stroll was coming into the kink and he drove out onto the track and clipped the Canadian’s car, sending him spinning and clipping Pierre Gasly in turn.

It would be hard to feel much sympathy for Vettel and his ham-fisted mistake but at least the tifosi had Leclerc to cheer on. The stewards awarded Vettel a ten-second stop-and-go penalty for re-entering the track in a dangerous manner – and they further gave him three penalty points on his licence for a total of nine this year – another three before the end of the season and he will be sitting out a race.

This was to be a one-stop race. Hamilton pitted on lap 19 of the 53 lap race and switched from Softs to Mediums. Leclerc came in and took on Hard tires. This might have been the better choice for the long run but it gave Hamilton an edge at first and he closed right up on Leclerc. A few laps later Hamilton made a run at him but Leclerc defended approaching the second chicane and pushed Hamilton onto the grass. The stewards chose to give Leclerc only a cautionary black-and-white flag for this indiscretion. (How was this different from Hamilton’s move in Montreal, which cost him a five-second penalty?)

The two continued their one-two battle until, on lap 36, Leclerc locked up going into the first chicane and went straight through. Hamilton closed the gap but he was not able to get past into the lead. Leclerc gave no hint of thinking of handing over the lead because of this mistake – and the stewards seemed content to let the red Ferrari continue ahead of the Mercedes.

Eventually Hamilton had his own off in the same place and Bottas was able to get past him into second place. Bottas now took up the chase to catch Leclerc but, while he got within DRS distance he was never able to close the deal, finishing 0.835 seconds behind in second place.

Meanwhile Hamilton had made a second pit stop to take on Soft tires in the quest for the point for the fastest lap – which he claimed on lap 51.

Click HERE for the results and points following the Italian Grand Prix.

The next F1 race will be in Singapore in two weeks time, on Sunday, September 22.

PHOTO IMS HARVICKKevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, leads the field during the Big Machine Vodka 400 (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard
• Harvick ends the ‘regular season’ with a dominant win; playoff drivers set

Indianapolis, IN, Sept 8/19 (GRW): Kevin Harvick started from the pole and dominated the Brickyard race, leading 118 of the race’s 160 laps to take the win. Joey Logano won Stage 1 with an alternate pit strategy but Harvick won Stage 2 and led most of the final Stage to take the checker by a six-second margin over Logano. Ryan Blaney took the lead on a restart mid-stage but, in the end, Busch prevailed and Blaney ended up in seventh place.

“I can’t tell you how much coming to Indianapolis means to me,” Harvick said. “As a kid, I watched Rick Mears win the Indy 500 and got to be around him as a kid. He was my hero. My team built a great race car. I can’t say enough about everyone on (this team). They built a heck of a race car. It’s the same stuff that we took to Michigan and had a real good weekend there, obviously, and went to Victory Lane. I know how much this means to (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and all the guys who work on this car. We’ve been so close at winning here before.”

Darrell Wallace finished third ahead of William Byron and Clint Boyer.

Given that this was the final race in the regular season, the lineup of 16 playoff eligible drivers was set after this race. Daniel Suarez’ playoff hopes were dashed when he lost out to Ryan Newman by just four points after chasing him for position unsuccessfully over the closing laps. Jimmie Johnson also fell short, finishing one position (39 points down) in the points standings behind Suarez. His hopes of qualifying for the playoffs were crushed when he was involved in a crash with Byron and Kurt Busch on lap 105 and he was unable to continue.

PHOTO MENCS IMS Playoff Photo 090819The 16 playoff drivers in the MENCS series (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The 16 drivers who will participate in the first round of the 10 playoff race series are: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, Harvick, Logano, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Byron, Aric Almirola, Bowyer, and Newman.

Click HERE for the results of the Brickyard 400.

The next race, the first race in the 10-race playoff series will be run at Las Vegas next Sunday, September 15.

PHOTO NXS KyBUSCH BRICKSKyle Busch, driver of the #18 Combos Toyota, celebrates after winning with his wife Samantha and son Brexton following the Indiana 250 (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Indiana 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
• Kyle Busch takes the win after a late-race crash knocks out leaders

Indianapolis, IN, Sept 7/19 (GRW): With seven laps to go in the 100-lap race, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick were fighting for the race lead when they crashed out of the race – bringing out the red flag while the track was cleaned up. This all let Kyle Busch take the lead for the final restart and, with the benefit of clean air, he went on to win over Justin Allgaier by a 0.132-second margin.

“It was really tough to pass, even when you had a run on a guy,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “You could pass the guys who were set up for long-runs on the straightaways but some of those other guys, like (Bell, Brandon Jones) and the JGR guys, they were stupid fast. We got back in traffic and just really fought the handling of this thing and got stuck around fourth place. I’m real proud of this team. This Toyota Supra was awesome today, and glad we got to take it to Victory Lane.”

Noah Gragson finished third with Jeb Burton fourth and Justin Haley coming home in fifth place.

Busch started from the pole and he led 46 laps, more than any other driver. Allgaier led 24 laps, the next most laps in the lead.

After this race Reddick held onto the regular season points lead by 50 points over Bell and he needs only score 11 points next Saturday to clinch the regular season title (a rather meaningless honour given the emphasis placed on the playoff results).

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

The next Xfinity race will be run on Saturday, Sept 14 at Las Vegas. This will be the final race of the regular season before the seven-race playoff series begins a week later at Richmond.

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