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Race Weekend Review: October 12-13, 2019

Race Weekend Review: October 12-13, 2019

FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka
• Bottas wins; double championship will go to Mercedes

Suzuka, Japan, Oct 13/19 (GRW): Valtteri Bottas took the lead at the start and he held on to win the race ahead of polesitter Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton, who had started fourth alongside Bottas in the second row finished third. Alexander Albon was fourth in the Red Bull while Carlos Sainz was scored in fifth place.

Bottas said, “I had an excellent start today, one of the best ones in my career, and managed to take the lead in the very beginning. We expected our car to be quick in the race, but it’s really tricky to overtake on this track, so we knew that we’d have to try and take the lead at the start and I’m very glad it all worked out.”

Charles Leclerc crossed the finish line in sixth place but a pair of penalties arising from his first-lap collision with Max Verstappen dropped him to seventh behind Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen retired from the race due to the damage his car had sustained in that accident.

PHOTO F1 PODIUMOn the Podium: Vettel, Bottas, Hamilton (Daimler AG)

The points standings now showed that only Hamilton and Bottas had a mathematical chance of winning the driver’s title and that Mercedes had already clinched the manufacturer’s title – the ‘double’ for Mercedes for the sixth consecutive year.

Saturday’s qualifying session was postponed to Sunday morning due to Typhoon Hagibis which made landfall near here on Saturday. By Sunday, the storm had moved on and the event was able to go ahead. In qualifying, the two Ferraris – Vettel and Leclerc – took the front two positions with Bottas and Hamilton qualifying on the second row, while the two Red Bull drivers – Verstappen and Albon were on the third row.

When the cars were lined up for the start Vettel’s car inched forward before the lights went out for the start. This was reviewed by the stewards but they did not call it a jumped start because he had stopped before he had moved out of his starting box. However, this false start cost him the jump on the others and Bottas shot past him into the lead. Verstappen got ahead of Leclerc going into the first turn but the Ferrari drifted wide in the right-hand turn and collided side-by-side with Verstappen.

This contact knocked Verstappen off the road and left Leclerc with a damaged wing shedding pieces of carbon fibre as it continued around the track. Leclerc kept going for three laps before he pitted for a new wing and this dropped to last place. During the race he worked his way back up through the field making two stops for tires like most of the other runners. On lap 46 of the 53-lap race he stopped a third time for soft tires in hopes of being able to earn the point for fastest lap – but he failed in this attempt. After the race, the stewards gave him two penalties – for his collision with Verstappen and for failing to pit for repairs to his bodywork immediately – and this dropped him from sixth to seventh place in the final standings.

After Leclerc pitted for repairs the order settled down to Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Sainz and Albon and when it was over the finish order the same, except Albon came in ahead of Sainz.

Sergio Perez, who was running in ninth place tangled with Pierre Gasly and crashed out of the race on the final lap but a technical glitch saved him his ninth place in the results. The scoring system showed the checkered flag one lap early, sowing confusion, but this error meant that they had to declare the race officially competed one lap early – that is, at the end of lap 52 which meant that, technically, the Perez crash had come after the race had been completed.

Click HERE for the results of the Japanese Grand Prix

The next round of the F1 championship will be the Mexican Grand Prix in two weeks time, October 27.

PHOTO MENCS Talladega CheckeredFlag 10142019Ryan Blaney takes the checkered flag ahead of Ryan Newman to win the 1000Bulbs.com 500 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series 1000bulbs.com 500 at Talladega
• Race rain-delayed to Monday; Blaney wins by a whisker

Talladega, AL, Oct 13-14/19 (GRW): In a race which was run over two days due to rain on Sunday, Ryan Blaney, with help from Aric Almirola, crossed the line a few centimetres ahead of Ryan Newman to claim the race win. As it commonplace here, the race saw a series of big wrecks, the last one coming almost within sight of the checkered flag.

Coming off that final caution, Blaney took the green in the lead with two laps to go ahead of Almirola, Ty Dillon and Newman. The cars spread out into three lanes and Newman pushed past into the lead. Indeed, he shot so far ahead that, he lost the advantage of a push from any other car and as they closed on the finish line, Blaney and Almirola paired up and shot forward. Blaney crossed the line almost even with Newman but it was good enough for the win.

Denny Hamlin finished in third place with Almirola in fourth almost alongside Hamlin (see photo). Michael McDowell was fifth. Among the title hopefuls, Chase Elliott finished in eighth, and Joey Logano finished in 11th place – by the end of the race it seemed as if most of the cars in the field had sustained damage in one or other of the big wrecks.

The first Stage, which ran on Sunday, was rather uneventful. Blaney was leading when the first caution flew and he came into the pits too hot and spun around. He was able to recover and take on tires and fuel and come back out again – so his race was not over. William Byron squirted forward just at the end of this Stage to win it on lap 55 of the 188-lap race. Then the rain came –and then it came harder – and they called off racing for the day.

The race resumed in the early afternoon on Monday, starting with the beginning of the second Stage. On lap 108, the race saw its first big wreck, a pile-up which involved 11 of the race’s 40 cars – including Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman. Bowman had been in the lead when Logano came flying up to pass him. Bowman turned up to block him and they touched setting off this melee.

The third Stage began on lap 110 as a part of that third caution which had began on lap 108. The race saw three cautions of little consequence.

Then the second big wreck came on lap 164 when Byron lost control and spun up into Logano. Eight cars were involved in this one. Almost as soon as the track went green again, a flat right rear tire caused Daniel Suarez to spin. This yellow finished on lap 175. Hopefully the track would stay green for the few remaining laps. But it was not be.

After racing resumed, Kyle Busch jumped up into the lead in front of his brother Kurt. The elder Busch brother gave Kyle a slight push but, instead of pushing him forward, it turned the Toyota up to the right and into Brad Keselowski. Chaos ensued. Eleven of the cars still running were caught up in this big wreck. Brendan Gaughan’s car turned sideways and it was hit by two cars at once, This caused it to flip up into the air and turn a complete 360 barrel-roll before it landed back on its wheels in the middle of the mess of wrecking cars. Among the cars involved were Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse, Kyle Busch, Buescher, and Matt DiBenedetto.

When this was all cleaned up, the walking wounded lined up for the final restart behind Blaney and they fought it out the final two laps to the checker. Even then, there was a wreck back in the pack between Chris Buescher and Parker Kligerman but, given that it happened behind the other cars on the white-flag lap, NASCAR did not throw the yellow and Blaney was able to take the checker without having to go through another restart.

“Yeah, It was an amazing effort the last two days to be honest with you," said Blaney. "We spun out early yesterday and missed some big ones today. We were able to weave our way through. I can’t thank Aric Almirola enough for helping me out there at the end. That big push that Newman and the 11 got I knew I wasn’t going to be able to block it. They were coming so fast and they wanted to split me. I wanted to stay to the bottom and kind of pulled the 11 off the 6 and then had a big enough run to get to the six. We kind of hit above the line and that pushed me below the line. That is a big judgement call. You never know. I definitely wasn’t going to go below the line before we made contact."

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

The next race will be run at Kansas next week, on October 20. That Kansas race will be the third race in the current three-race elimination round. After that the four playoff drivers at the bottom of the points standings will be dropped and the remaining eight will move on to the final three-race elimination round. After those three races, four more drivers will be eliminated and the top four will go on to Homestead to fight it out for the 2019 series title.

 PHOTO NGOTS Talladega CheckeredFlag 10122019Spencer Boyd, driver of the #20 Alabama Roofing Professionals Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the Sugarlands Shine 250 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Sugarlands Shine 250 at Talladega
• Boyd declared the winner after Sauter penalized

Talladega, AL, Oct 12/19 (GRW): Spencer Boyd, a relative unknown in NASCAR, crossed the finish line in second place behind Johnny Sauter ... but Sauter was penalized for going below the yellow line with all four wheels in an attempt to block Riley Herbst and he was sent to the back of the lead-lap trucks. This elevated Boyd to winner of this race. In the official results, Todd Gilliland was shown as finishing second and Herbst third. That is a sign of how close the racing was as they came around to take the checkered flag (note the photo).

Sauter was surprised by the penalty which cost him the race win “I went down to put a little block on him but then when I did, I got hooked sideways, but that’s just plate racing. You know, I didn’t block his advance or anything like that… I just hate it for my guys. They deserve better than that.”

Brett Moffitt and Stewart Friesen were scored fourth and fifth – an amazing recovery from a pair of penalties that had threatened to relegate them to mid-pack finishers at best. On lap 53 of the 94 lap race, well into the final stage, Friesen and Moffitt were running one-two clear of the field. Indeed, they were running in close order but to most observers they were honouring the ‘no locking of bumpers’ rule. Unfortunately the NASCAR officials, in their wisdom, saw it differently and they handed out a pair of ‘locking bumpers’ penalties to them, forcing them to make a pass though at pit-lane speed down pit lane.

Now, the lap at Talladega is so long that they were able to come out ahead of the lead pack – but only just. Given the lack of being part of a drafting pack, inevitably they were going to be passed and go a lap down. And, once they went a lap down, their chances of regaining the lead lap and then fighting their way back to the front looked poor. And with the way playoff points are awarded it looked like this might be the end of their hopes of emerging from this elimination round to contest the championship at the Homestead finale. Bad news indeed – and it was made worse by the feeling that NASCAR had been too quick to hand out this game-changing penalty.

Things looked brighter when the race’s sixth yellow flew on lap 83. Moffitt, who was running ahead of Friesen at this point got the ‘lucky dog’ and he was back on the lead lap again. A few laps later there was another yellow – a yellow which turned into a red while they cleaned up the track – and Friesen got his lap back this time. As they lined up for the restart, Moffitt was in eighth place and Friesen in 14th.

Then, on lap 94, Gus Dean, who had been running near the front, spun bringing out the seventh and final caution – which being on the last lap of the scheduled race distance, sent the race into overtime. Now Moffitt was in third place with Friesen back in 13th. The green flew and a ‘white’ and a ‘checker’ later, the race was over. As noted above, Moffitt ended up in fourth place and Friesen in fifth. It was almost as if they had never been handed those controversial penalties.

With two more races left to run in this elimination run, Moffitt came away from Talladega at the top of the playoff standings with Friesen in second place – so they live to fight another day.

After the race, both drivers where still puzzled about the penalties they had been given.

“I would love to see it, love to see where we locked bumpers because I was very conscious of it and staying off him, giving him a bubble,’’ Moffitt said. “I would love to see proof. Everyone’s pushing the limit.’’

“I don’t really know what to say about anything,’’ Friesen said, “I didn’t see it. I have no idea, no clue. But we were fortunate to get back to the lead lap and get a fifth out of it.’’

Click HERE for the results of the NGOTS race at Talladega.

The next race will be held at Martinsville two weeks from now, on October 26.

PHOTO IMSA WT ROAD ATLANTA levitt PLM 1019 24469#6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Simon Pagenaud, team (Michael L. Levitt/LAT)

IMSA WeatherTech Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
• Whelen Engineering Cadillac wins; Penske Acura takes the DPi championship

Braselton, GA, Oct 12/19 (IMSA): The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi did everything it could in an attempt to repeat as Daytona Prototype international champions in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Even by winning Saturday’s thrilling Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the No. 31 couldn’t unseat the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi from the 2019 season title. By placing fourth on Saturday, No. 6 drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya held on for the DPi crown by five points. And along with third driver Simon Pagenaud, they sealed the team title in the Acura Team Penske program’s second season.

In a race that saw a record 465 laps completed on the 2.54-mile Michelin Raceway road course (1,181.1 miles) – 22 laps more than last year’s previous standard. But it came down to a 25-minute trophy dash to the finish following the last of four full-course cautions in the iconic 10-hour race to close the WeatherTech Championship season. The final restart saw the No. 31’s Action Express teammate, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi, take the green flag in the lead with Filipe Albuquerque at the wheel. Pipo Derani, celebrating his 26th birthday, was in the saddle of the second-place No. 31 – which needed to win the race and have the No. 6 finish ninth or worse to pull off the championship repeat. Derani hounded Albuquerque until the No. 5 suddenly skidded off track in Turn 10 with just under 20 minutes remaining. As the No. 31 zoomed into the lead, the No. 5 pulled into pit lane, the victim of a badly damaged left front brake rotor that ended its night. From there, the No. 31, shared in the race by co-drivers Derani, Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran, took the checkered flag .996 seconds ahead of the defending race champion, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. shared by Renger van der Zende, Jordan Taylor and Matthieu Vaxiviere.

“I’ve been trying to win this race for the last three years,” Derani said. “I finished second on my first time here in 2016, and last year I was close for the overall win and it slipped away in the last few minutes on both occasions. To finally have it this year is fantastic. Unfortunately we couldn’t take the full championship but we’ll take a strong end to our season that can hopefully be the success we carry on for next year.

The victory was the second of the year for the No. 31, as well as its fifth podium result of 2019. Curran earned his 10th career IMSA victory, Derani his seventh and Nasr his third. The No. 31 also overtook the No. 10 to win the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup that awards points at different junctures in the four endurance events on the schedule.

“I’m pretty happy with the final result and the victory itself,” said Nasr, who joined the WeatherTech Championship full time in 2018 after two years in Formula One. “Just looking back at how the weekend started, from the time we hit the track, the work we did through every session, Action Express Racing did an amazing job to get the car together in every kind of condition out there.”

Cameron and Montoya wound up five points ahead of Derani and Nasr in the driver’s championship, the same gap that the No. 6 defeated the No. 31 by for the team title. Cameron earned his third WeatherTech Championship crown, following the GT Daytona title in 2014 and the Prototype championship in 2016 – ironically with Action Express.

“It’s cool to just win the championship for something you’ve had so much influence in its development and its growth,” Cameron said. “It’s a nice rebound from the learning year we had last year to come back and win three races and win the title, it’s fantastic. For me, it’s the first time to be in this tight and in-depth with a manufacturer, so it’s something I’m excited to be a part of. I think Juan and I said earlier in the year we were excited to come to this program because it had potential. We fell a bit short of it last year and this year we got it to the level it should have been all along.”

For Montoya, whose many racing accomplishments include two Indianapolis 500 wins and seven Formula One victories, it was his first season championship of any kind since taking the CART title in Indy cars 20 years ago. The thought of it brought a smile to the 44-year-old’s face.

“I think it’s great, I think it’s fun,” Montoya said. “When you join Team Penske when you come to this program and with Acura, they expect this. It’s great that we won it, but if we didn’t, they’d be disappointed. As hard as everyone works in the program, and how well we prepare the cars and how everything is done, it’s great. You’re so proud of the guys. They are so pumped.”

GTLM: In the weeks leading up to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, all eyes were on the four full-season manufacturers in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. There was the last IMSA race for the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, in anticipation of the 2020 competition unveil of the C8.R; the swan song for Ford’s GT factory program; and Porsche’s Coca Cola-themed throwback livery ahead of its championship-winning efforts. But throughout the weekend, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 stole much of the attention.

Starting on Friday, James Calado qualified the car on the pole position for the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans. Then on Saturday, Calado and co-drivers Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra combined to lead over one-third of the laps, 157 of 434, to secure Risi Competizione’s first victory in exactly three years, as the team’s last WeatherTech Championship win came at Michelin Raceway in 2016.

“It’s one of the hardest races in all the series,” said Calado. “The track is very much a driver’s track. You can easily go over the limit and going over the limit is a gravel barrier. Concentration levels are seriously high. We’ve won together before, and we’ve won together today. Thanks to Ferrari. It will be nice to go to (the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January) and try to win again.”

“This is my first time at Petit Le Mans,” added Pier Guidi. “I was happy to be here and have the opportunity to fight for this amazing race. Every time I come to the U.S., I see a lot of fun and a lot of people loving motorsports. It’s fun to be in front of these people. It’s something special. It’s something that will stay in my heart for a long time.”

Second place, 7.8 seconds behind the No. 62, went to the No. 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and co-drivers Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon in the program’s final race of its four-year tenure in the GTLM class. They capped it off by taking driver, team and manufacturer honors in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup as well.

In third place were Connor De Phillippi, Tom Blomqvist and Colton Herta in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE.

It wasn’t a smooth race for the season champions – the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR pair of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor. With endurance driver Mathieu Jaminet, the car ran mid-pack for the majority of the race and in the closing minutes was involved in a spin following contact with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi that wound up the overall winner.

However, with the checkered flag, Bamber and Vanthoor finished with three victories and four additional podium results in 2019.

“We fought our hardest at the end of the race there for a podium and it didn’t quite come off,” Bamber said. “So that was a tough day. We managed to do what we did all season and be right there and be in the points, make no mistakes all day long and score points. Tomorrow it’ll definitely sink in. I think it is definitely one of the toughest championships to win here. Everyone’s at the highest level and I’m super thrilled to take the championship home for Porsche.”

GTD: On Saturday night, the now-51-year-old matched Scott Pruett's record for the most IMSA victories by a driver at 60 following a spectacular performance to win the in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. It came down to the final 10 minutes of the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans, the season finale for the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season. In the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, Auberlen had been hunting the leader, Felipe Fraga, in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Following a restart with 25 minutes remaining, Fraga impressively kept Auberlen at bay. But on the final lap, Fraga suddenly drove off course in "The Esses" and Auberlen was able to get by to earn the record-tying victory. Fraga, who pitted seven minutes sooner than Auberlen's final stop, ultimately ran out of fuel. The victory, to which Auberlen co-drove with Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern, had been hard to come by for the IMSA veteran. He sat at 58 wins for nearly two years before collecting 59 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

"I'm so glad BMW still sees I can get it done," said Auberlen. "To tie 60 wins with Scott Pruett, it just shows how great of a career BMW has allowed me to have — winning in these BMWs day in and day out. Now to be tied with the most wins in America. When you look back, you get to see how many unique wins there have been. When I look at my trophy case and I get to add this to it, all of it is a bunch of great memories. I'll never forget all the joy it brings from the camaraderie. Every single weekend you go to battle with a group of guys who would die for you and you would die for them. You come with everything you have, and to get to do that with BMW for 23 years now, it has been a great road that I wouldn't trade for anything. "

Saturday's results put Auberlen and Foley in another tie – for second place in the final GTD championship standings. The duo and Zacharie Robichon both own 262 marks apiece and two victories this season, but the No. 96 BMW scored one runner-up finish at Watkins Glen International in June to break the tie.

Finishing second on Saturday but also looming large in Auberlen's mirror during the closing laps was the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Christopher Mies, Daniel Morad and Ricky Feller. Rounding out the final podium of the season was the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Robichon, Scott Hargrove and Lars Kern.

Meanwhile, entering Saturday's race with a 32-point lead in the GTD standings, Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman locked up the 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTD title merely by taking the green flag in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. The race didn't quite go as planned, however, as the No. 86 was forced to retire midway through the race after debris broke through the front of the car and caused several mechanical issues.

Click HERE for the results of the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

This was the final race of the 2019 season. The 2020 season will begin with the Rolex 24 at Daytona Beach on January 25-26.

PHOTO IMSA MPC lepage 191011 ratl 19727#15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4, GS: Austin Cindric, Sebastian Priaulx (Scott R LePage/LAT)

 

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Fox Factory 120 at Road Atlanta
• Cindric and Priaulx take the Multimatic Mustang to victory

Braselton, GA, Oct 11/19 (IMSA): A pair of young guns took the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge field by storm on Friday during the series’ season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Austin Cindric and Seb Priaulx paired up this weekend in Multimatic Motorsports’ No. 15 Ford Mustang GT4 entry. Michelin Raceway marked the fourth race of the Pilot Challenge season for Multimatic and the team’s first since Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

Making his North American racing debut, Priaulx qualified the No. 15 Ford in second place, a remarkable feat for the 18-year-old and son of three-time World Touring Car Cup champion Andy Priaulx. Making only his second start of the year was the younger Priaulx’s co-driver and NASCAR Xfinity driver, Austin Cindric. The 21-year-old previously competed at Daytona – finishing fifth – before recording his second career Pilot Challenge win on Friday. His involvement with IMSA has stemmed back to 2014 but after a three-year hiatus returned last season as part of the Ford Performance Development Driver program.

“I’ve had a lot of fun when Ford Performance brings over the NASCAR Xfinity guys and we get to do some of these races in the GT4 cars,” said Cindric. “Multimatic kind of kickstarted my career. It took off in a lot of different directions and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I see the same thing with Seb. They believe in him and he’s done an awesome job.”

“Thanks to Austin, he did a great job to get the car home in first place,” added Priaulx. “It was a good race. We had good pace at the start, not to get the P1 spot but it was good enough to win the race today, so I’m really happy. Thanks to Multimatic and Ford Performance to give me a chance to race this car and with Austin.”

Finishing second place for their best finish of the season – and fourth podium finish – was Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus in the No. 69 Motorsports In Action McLaren GT4. Third place went to the 2018 GS champions, Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb in the No. 46 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4, who whose finish clinched the manufacturer’s championship for Mercedes-AMG.

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

This was the final race of the 2019 season. The next race, starting the 2020 season, will be at Daytona Beach on January 25, 2020.

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