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Race Weekend Review; September 20-21-22, 2019

Race Weekend Review; September 20-21-22, 2019

NTT IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
• Young Herta wins the race; Newgarden crowned the champion

Monterey, CA, Sept 22/19 (GRW): The rookie driver Colton Herta had turned heads when he won his second IndyCar race ever at COTA (Austin) last spring. Here in the season finale when so many drivers where racing hard in hopes of winning the championship, Herta was the dominant factor in the race, starting from the pole and leading 83 of the race’s 90 laps – holding the lead though every round of green-flag pit stops.

“Yeah, it was a perfect race,” Herta said. “Whenever you win an IndyCar race, it has to be a perfect race. You can't really make mistakes and get away with it, just because there's always two or three other guys on that day that can win. For sure there was a few guys that could win today, and we just outdid them. We had the pace on them and we were definitely the best today, so we definitely deserved to win.”

This was the first Indy car race at this classic west coast circuit since the CART Indy car series ran here last in 2004. Herta’s father is known for having been passed here by Alex Zanardi in the Corkscrew complex of turns in 1996 – but he later went on to win here twice – making it three Indy car wins here for the father-son Herta combination.

Josef Newgarden had come into the race with a comfortable lead in the championship points standings with 593 points to Alexander Rossi with 552 points and Simon Pagenaud with 551 points. In the race, Newgarden did not such a competitive car, running in the back of the top ten most of the race. At the checker, he finished in eighth place – but that was good enough to clinch the championship, his second after winning it previously in 2017.

PHOTO NEWGARDEN JGS 2019 LAGUNA SECA 297104 1Josef Newgarden wins the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Championship -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski

“Josef, a great champion. You can see it in his eyes,” team owner Roger Penske said. “You could see it the first time he won with us, and with Will and Simon, who just had an outstanding season, when you think about three wins and certainly the Indy 500 is the crown jewel that all of us want to have every year.

“But the season was great, the poles and the competition. We've got a lot of young drivers coming up, (Felix) Rosenqvist came in, Colton Herta outstanding, and then it's the (Scott) Dixons and the rest of them that you have to race every single day, and Michael (Andretti) has got a great team, Chip (Ganassi) does, and obviously the folks over at Arrow, and it's just on and on and on. I probably missed somebody. But the competition has never been better.”

Will Power finished second, 0.6 seconds behind Herta. Scott Dixon started on the front row and finished third. During the race, Simon Pagenaud had looked like the driver most likely to beat out Newgarden for the series title but he finished fourth while Newgarden had an eighth-place finish – not good enough. Pagenaud finished second in the season-end championship points standings, 25 points behind Newgarden, with 616 points to 641.

Click HERE for the results of the IndyCar finale at Laguna Seca.

This race was the final race of the 2019 season. The next IndyCar race will be the 2020 season-opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 15.

PHOTO F1 FERRARISingapore Grand Prix 2019 - Charles Leclerc & Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari S.p.A)

Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

• Vettel wins again – finally! Leclerc relegated to second

Singapore, Sept 22/19 (GRW): Sebastian Vettel had not won a Grand Prix since the Belgian GP at the end of August last year. Meanwhile his new teammate Charles Leclerc had won the previous two rounds of the 2019 championship. But, here in Singapore, Vettel, won the undercut, took the lead from Leclerc and hung on to win the race. Leclerc finished second, 2.6-seconds back while Max Verstappen was third.

The seemingly invincible Mercedes cars finished in fourth and fifth – Lewis Hamilton over Valtteri Bottas, while the second Red Bull driver, Alexander Albon, rounded out the top six.

While Hamilton, with 296 championship points to Bottas’ 231, seems destined to win the championship again this year, things have tightened up behind the two Mercedes drivers. Leclerc is now tied with Verstappen for third-place points at 200 points. Meanwhile Vettel is down in fifth with 194. No one else is even close.

Leclerc had won the pole over Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen and that is the way they took off at the start. On lap 19 of the 61-lap race, both Vettel and Bottas pitted. Leclerc came in on the next lap but, already his goose was cooked. Vettel had the advantage of fresh tires one lap sooner and the extra speed this gave him enabled him to stay ahead of Leclerc a lap later when the Frenchman came out of the pits (the ‘undercut’). Leclerc was not happy with this but he was told to suck it up and he dutifully followed Vettel around for the rest of the race.

Bottas pitted two laps later, initially dropping to ninth place. Hamilton stayed out for another four laps but he was able to make up time and he came out ahead of Bottas after he pitted (the ‘overcut’).

It took several laps for everything to cycle around after everyone had made their pit stops for tires. On lap 33, Vettel was in the lead ahead of Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas.

Given that the Mercedes drivers had pitted later, there seemed to be a chance that they might have better pace as the race went on and everyone else’s tire degraded before theirs’ did. But two ‘safety car’ sessions meant that several laps were run under yellow and the hoped-for late-race superiority of the Mercedes cars never worked out for them – leaving them stranded back in fourth and fifth – off the podium.

“After yesterday, when I wasn’t able to get everything out of the car, I am pleased with the way everything went today, said Vettel. “It was about time! The last few weeks have been far from simple for me, but in the end, I knew I could turn things around. I never stopped believing in myself and today, with the great help of the team here and in Maranello, we got the result we should always be aiming for.

“I was playing a waiting game until I got the call on the radio to pit for new tires. I had not expected to stay out so long but the decision was key, because I was able to rejoin with a clear track ahead of me and I could run at my own pace making up ground on all the others, to the extent that I was in the lead by almost five seconds at the time the Safety Car came out. From then on, the race was continually interrupted, with a further two restarts, but I still managed to maintain concentration and avoid making any mistakes.

“It’s too early to say if this win means we can be competitive on all the coming tracks. Here, whoever is in front sets the pace, almost like in Monaco and on used tires, Hamilton seemed stronger than us, which means we still have work to do when it comes to our race pace. Certainly the upgrades we brought here worked well and made us competitive, which means we are working in the right direction.”

Click HERE for the results of the Singapore Grand Prix.

The next F1 race will be the Russian Grand Prix a week from now, Sunday, September 29.

 PHOTO MENCS RR PitStop 092119Martin Truex Jr. pits during the Federated Auto Parts 400 (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Monster Energy Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway
• Truex makes it two playoff wins in a row

Richmond, Va, Sept 21/19 (GRW): For much of the race, it looked like Kyle Busch was set to win here – but, with 26 laps remaining in the 400-lap race, Martin Truex caught and passed Busch to take the race lead and go on to win the race.

This win was Truex’ second in the two playoff races run so far. He has six wins so far this season; the drivers with the most wins after him – Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin – each have four wins . Busch finished second and Hamlin third. The fourth Joe Gibbs driver, Erik Jones, crossed the line fourth behind his three teammates but his car failed post-race inspection and he was scored in last place (38th) in the official race results.

Jones’ penalty elevated Brad Keselowski to fourth and Ryan Newman to fifth in the final race standings.

This was a ‘spin-and-win’ result for Truex. On lap 315, Ricky Stenhouse, who had just pitted under green and taken on fresh tires, came out of the pits and, attempting to stay on the lead lap, ran into the rear of Truex – who was running slower because he had not yet pitted for fresh tires – and spun him around. This brought out the race’s fifth and final caution. Everyone came into the pits and Truex was able to come back out in third place behind Busch and Hamlin. About 50 laps later, Truex was able to reel in Busch and take the lead – and go on to win the race.

“Luckily I didn’t hit anything,” Truex said of his spin. “I just tried to keep it off the fence, tried to get spun around and get going, and we ended up—because we were pretty far up front, we got going in a pretty good spot and left pit road in a good position and then good adjustments at the end again by (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and (engineer) James (Small) and the guys.

“This is just freaking unbelievable. So we came here to get bonus points and damn sure we did that. … Had a heck of a race with Kyle and Denny all night long, really, and we just kept plugging away at it, kept plugging away at it, as we always do. We just keep digging and we never quit. Next thing you know, catching the 18 (Busch) for the lead, I’m like, ‘Cool, all right, here we go.’ Man, to sweep Richmond finally is pretty awesome, as much as we’ve led here coming into this year, and just thanks to everybody. It’s pretty amazing.”

With six race wins including two wins in two playoff races so far and that amazing recovery from his spin, Truex must be optimistic about his chances of winning a second Cup championship this year.

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS race at Richmond.

The next MENCS race, the third race in the first elimination round of three races will be run on the Charlotte ‘ROVAL’ next Sunday, September 29.

 PHOTO NXS RR Race BELL 092019Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the GoBowling 250 (Sean GardnerGetty Images)

Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway
• Bell takes command of the playoffs

Richmond, VA, Sept 20/19 (GRW): Christopher Bell entered the seven-race Xfinity playoff series as the favourite and, with his dominant performance here, he gave notice that he was gunning for the title. Although he started from the second row, he took the lead from Austin Cindric after just six laps of the 250-lap race – winning both Stages and leading the final 165 laps to the checker.

In short, he demolished the competition. At the finish, the polesitter Cindric had closed to within less than two seconds, but that was only good enough for a second-place finish.

The other two popular favourites to win the series title, Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier, finished third and fourth. Chase Briscoe was fifth.

Once Bell took the lead, he was never seriously challenged again. At the end of the first Stage, Brandon Jones led briefly when everyone pitted and he opted to not take on any fresh tires; this advantage only lasted until the green flew again. Cindric had actually beaten Bell out of the pits this time but Bell immediately passed both of these challengers and resumed his command of the race lead – a lead he was never to give up again in the remaining 165 laps.

“That one was pretty special,” said Bell. “Going 92 laps straight there (on the final green-flag run) was really difficult. We were sliding all around. I felt like, if I could get through traffic, I would be in good shape because my car could really move around good. I could run up (the track) and I could run down. The No. 00 (eventual third-place finisher Cole Custer) was keeping pressure on us pretty good, but this Supra was too good.”

The Xfinity playoffs consist of two three-race elimination rounds followed by the finale at Homestead. This was the first race in the first round of Richmond, Charlotte and Dover. Bell’s win here guarantees that he will move on to the second elimination round which will begin at Kansas on October 9.

Click HERE for the results of the Richmond NXS race.

The next race, the second race in the first elimination round, will be run at the Charlotte ‘ROVAL’ next Saturday, September 28.

PHOTO PINTYS LOUDON RANGERAndrew Ranger claims his fourth win of 2019 (Matthew Manor/NASCAR) 

NASCAR Pinty’s Series New Hampshire 100
• Andrew Ranger Steals Dramatic Victory

Loudon, NH, Sept 21/19 (Alex Gallacher/nascar.com): In a season that has seen one of the series’ most intense championship battles to-date, Andrew Ranger entered New Hampshire in a must win situation. Though he trailed Kevin Lacroix by only two points, New Hampshire was a track where Lacroix has been nothing short of dominant.

In both qualifying and practice, Lacroix picked up right where he had left off last year in terms of speed. In a league of his own all weekend, the 30-year old won the pole and appeared almost untouchable. Leading the first 92 laps, everything changed when Ranger and Alex Labbe began to close the gap. Following a dramatic final 10 laps, Andrew Ranger was able to steal the victory in the Visit New Hampshire 100 claiming his fourth win of the season and series leading 28th of his career.

“Yesterday we had some problems with the car and I wasn’t too comfortable with the car,” said Ranger. “We came into the pits to get fuel and make an adjustment, after that my car was a rocket.”

Despite starting in the back after pitting for fuel on the first caution, Ranger battled his way through the field. Charging past everyone he came across, he caught the back bumper of Lacroix with about 15 to go. Lap after lap, he tried everything he could to get around Lacroix. With eight laps to go, Ranger’s N0.27 MOPAR Dodge made the pass and checked out holding on for the win.

When claiming the checkered in Loudon, Andrew Ranger has won at every active track in the Pinty’s Series. “Lap after lap we were catching Kevin Lacroix,” Ranger added. “We made the pass and got the win, so I’m very happy for my MOPAR team and now we are the points leader.”

After losing the lead, Lacroix was locked in a tight battle for second with Labbe. The two fought side-by-side before making contact coming to the checkered. Lacroix spun into the inside wall, coming to rest a mere 30 metres from the finish.

Following a dominant performance last race at Saint-Eustache, Alex Labbe rode the momentum into New Hampshire. Having driven here twice before in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he held on for a runner-up finish. This result was Labbe’s sixth top-five of 2019 and his best finish of the season.

D.J. Kennington has had a very consistent 2019 season. Qualifying on the outside of the front row, he would score a third place finish. Kennington’s Castrol Edge Dodge heads into Jukasa next week as the defending winner.

Click HERE for the results of the Pinty’s Series race from NHMS.

Following the Visit New Hampshire 100, Andrew Ranger will carry an 11-point advantage in the championship race over Lacroix heading into the season finale Pinty’s Fall Brawl at Jukasa on Saturday, September 28.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series will close out their season next week at the Jukasa Motor Speedway, where a champion will be crowned. Will Ranger pull ahead to claim his third championship or will Kevin Lacroix rally back to steal his first?

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