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Race Weekend Review: October 26-27, 2019

Race Weekend Review: October 26-27, 2019

FIA Formula 1 Gran Premio De México
• Hamilton an unexpected winner but not title yet

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 27/19 (GRW): When qualifying was finished on Saturday, Max Verstappen was on the pole and he was the favourite to win the race. With the Mercedes situated well back on the grid – Lewis Hamilton in fourth and Valtteri Bottas in sixth – the prospects for the Mercedes team did not look promising – and Verstappen looked set to take his hat-trick third win in a row here.

But that’s not the way it turned out. Bottas crashed in the last turn on his last lap of qualifying. This nullified what had likely been his fastest qualifying lap and it brought out a waved yellow flag to cover the incident. The location of this incident meant that an approaching driver could not see the yellow until he was almost on the crash scene. Verstappen was focused on setting an even faster lap to win the pole and he never let off as he completed this final lap. Naturally, the stewards did not approve of this and he was penalized three grid positions which saw him starting on the second row in fourth place – while the two Ferraris – Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel started in second and third place on the grid.

Given Verstappen’s recent history here and Leclerc’s recent race wins, they seemed to be favourites to win this race – but it did not work out that way. In the end, Hamilton was the race winner by a 1.8 second margin over Vettel with Bottas coming in sixth in his hastily rebuilt car. Leclerc finished fourth while Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon was fifth with Verstappen a distant sixth.

At the start, the two Ferraris pushed out into the lead while Verstappen tried to get past Hamilton into third. But the Mercedes driver hung on and the two of them touched side-by-side with Verstappen taking a wide run off the course and rejoining back in eighth place. In a couple of laps Hamilton was up past Carlos Sainz into fourth place.

Meanwhile, Verstappen had sustained a right-rear puncture and he had to cruise around back to the pits for a replacement. He came back out behind the whole field and any hopes of a win for him were shot.

So the order settled down as Leclerc, Vettel, Albon, Hamilton, Sainz – with Bottas on his way forward from seventh place. By lap nine of the 71-lap race, Bottas was up into fifth place behind his teammate and the three front-runners.

Of these front-runners, Albon was the first to pit for tires, coming in on lap 14. Already the field was spaced out enough the he only lost two places on the road. On the next lap, the race leader, Leclerc, pitted and he came out in fourth place ahead of Albon but behind Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas.

The three front-runners opted to wait much longer for tires. On lap 23, Hamilton came in and fitted hard tires, looking to go the rest of the race distance on this set of tires. Vettel and Bottas were left to lead the race until they came in for tires themselves. This did not happen until Bottas pitted on lap 36 and Vettel came in on the next lap. They came back out in fifth and fourth place respectively – with Leclerc now in the lead over Hamilton.

That did not last long because Leclerc soon came in for a second pit stop, taking on hard tires like Hamilton. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a long stop – and he was down in fifth place, 15 seconds back, when the dust settled. He goose was cooked.

Albon, had worked his way back up to third place in all this but he pitted on the lap after Leclerc did and he dropped back to fifth, 15 seconds off the pace.

Now the order at the front was Hamilton, Vettel, and Bottas. Hamilton had been complaining over the radio that he thought that they had pitted him for tires too soon. Given this, this Ferrari contingent was hopeful that Hamilton’s tires would go off late in the race, giving Vettel a chance to get past and take the race win. But, hope as they may, this did not happen.

PHOTO F1 HAMILTON MEXICOHamilton salutes the crowd in Mexico (Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz)

“I had a crazy first couple of corners today,” said Hamilton afterwards. “I was pushed on the grass at the start and then Max hit me. It was not easy to recover from that afterwards - I had a massive chunk of my floor missing, so the rear end was moving a lot and I had to really change the dynamic of how I was driving. I don't know how I managed to keep it going, but I did.”

Hamilton was able to maintain a gap of about two seconds over Vettel right to the checker. Hamilton’s race win extended his points lead over Bottas by a slight margin it was not enough for him to clinch the driver’s title here. Leaving Mexico, Hamilton has a 74 point lead over Bottas. With 25 points going to the winner of each race and three races yet to be run, it looks likely that the title will be settled in Hamilton’s favour after the Austin race next week.

Click HERE for the results + points after the Mexican Grand Prix.

The next race will be the United States Grand Prix at Austin, Texas, a week from now, on Sunday, November 3.

PHOTO MENCS mvs2 mencs checkeredflag2 102719Martin Truex Jr. wins the the First Data 500 (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway
• Truex in charge; qualifies for the Homestead championship finale

Martinsville, VA, Oct 27/19 (GRW): Denny Hamlin qualified for this race on the pole and he led the first 30 laps of the 500-lap race – but, after that, it was all Martin Truex. He led all but six of the remaining 470 laps to take the checker by a 0.4-second margin over William Byron. This win locks Truex in as one of the four playoff drivers who will fight it out for the season title at Homestead. Brad Keselowski was third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.

Truex does not have a reputation as a short-track driver, but this dominant win here may change that perception. “I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out,” Truex said. “Who knows? But just really proud of everybody, and after last year, we talked earlier, everybody wants to keep talking about last year, and I’m like, ‘We’ve got work to do.’ I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that and being able to put it all together today when it counted.”

Given that each of the first two stages were about 65 miles long, the cars pitted on each of the first three pit stops – and Truex Came out in the lead each time. When the fourth caution flew on lap 253 – at the half-way mark of the race and only a few laps before the end of Stage 2, Larson who was a lap down but in the ‘lucky dog’ position, opted to stay out while all the lead-lap cars pitted. This meant that he was able to take the wave around and then take over the lead when the other cars pitted.

This strategy saw Larson in the lead for the restart and he went on to become the winner of Stage 2 when it ended three laps later. Larson fell to the back of the lead-lap cars when he pitted under this yellow – but, he had scored valuable points as the Stage winner. At the end of the race, he was still on the lead lap, albeit in ninth place.

Once the race moved into the third Stage, the action increased. We saw six more cautions before the end but Truex never faltered and he held the lead the rest of the way to the checker thought all those cautions.

A pair of cautions saw several cars sustaining damage. The one on lap 363 started when Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola tangled and it saw Almirola and Jimmie Johnson, who was an innocent victim, knocked out of the race. Almost as soon as the race resumed, there was another caution, involving Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman, knocking them out of contention.

The tenth yellow came out after a seemingly minor incident when Denny Hamlin, who was running in fifth place, crowded Joey Logano up against the wall and both cars sustained minor damage. Unfortunately, the contact cut a tire on Logano’s car and he spun losing more time. By the end of the race both drivers had recovered most of their lost positions – Hamlin in fourth and Logano in eighth place and both still up in the top four in the playoff points standings. Nonetheless, after the race, Logano went over to speak to Hamlin about the incident. Apparently he was not pleased with Hamlin’s response – and this triggered a scuffle which at first involved the two drivers but then included a number of crew members. It was all a tempest in a teapot but it did create some excitement in the post-race festivities.

This Martinsville race was the first race in the final three-race elimination round. After the next two races in this round – Texas and Phoenix – four drivers will be eliminated and the top four in points will transfer to the Homestead finale.

Click HERE for the results of the Martinsville MENCS race.

The next MENCS race will be run next week at Texas Motor Speedway, on Sunday, November 3.

 PHOTO NGOTS MVS2 NGOTS KyBuschTGilliland 102619Todd Gilliland, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Toyota, is congratulated by Kyle Busch in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 at Martinsville Speedway
• Gilliand finally wins for Kyle Busch; a “demolition derby’ crash-filled race

Martinsville, VA, Oct 26/19 (GRW): Coming into Martinsville, Todd Gilliland had a dubious record: the most starts – 46 – without a win. Presumably his owner Kyle Busch had grown tired of waiting and he has already dropped him for next year. But here at Martinsville, Gilliland finally scored his truck win – in a race that saw 12 cautions and ended in overtime.

On the final restart in the race, he started alongside Ross Chastain, who had already led for 68 laps of the 200-lap race distance, but he held him off for those last three laps and he took the checker nine-tenths of a second ahead.

On that final restart Harrison Burton, starting in the second row made a move to dive under Chastain to take second place. Chastain held his ground and Burton went spinning, dropping to 18th place for the finish.

Busch is wont to criticize his drivers if they fail to perform up to his expectations and Gilliland has been the brunt of such attacks. After the race he radioed in that Busch should just stay in his hauler. Afterwards , in the press room, he did acknowledge that, given his long history of not winning, Busch’s criticism had some validity.

“I wish we had won two years ago, just like everyone else thought we would,” Gilliland said. “I thought we would, too. We went through some growing pains. (Marcus) Richmond was my crew chief, and we got rid of him, and then he came back and was helping us again. He’s really great here at Martinsville. I’m just so proud of these guys. Man, this is a long time coming. Hopefully, this will get some momentum rolling and open up some doors for next year.”

Newly crowned ARCA champion Christian Eckes started from the pole but playoff contender Brett Moffitt passed him on the second lap and he led the next 80 laps – through the end of the first Stage. By the end of this Stage, everyone had pitted – and given the shortness of this 100-mile race, everyone could now make it to the finish without another pit stop.

However, when the third caution flew on lap 80, nine trucks stayed out while the ones that had been out front pitted. This left Moffitt taking the start back in tenth place while Grant Enfinger was lined up in first place alongside Sam Mayer for the restart. This shuffled race order was a recipe for chaos and that is what followed.

Mayer is a 16-year-old driver who will be driving full-time for the GMS team next year – at least as many races as his juvenile age will allow (i.e. not the superspeedways). He looked impressive as he ran at the front holding off Enfinger to win the second Stage.

Three laps after the restart, there was another yellow, involving Moffitt. He got going again after repairs but then he was caught up in the big wreck which came just 12 laps after this restart. Nine cars were involved and they put out the red flag for 15 minutes while they cleaned up the track. Moffitt’s day was done.

Two other playoff hopefuls, Tyler Ankrum and Austin Hill, were also involved in this wreck. They both continued after repairs but their damage was too much for them to continue and they soon went behind the wall. Meanwhile, another playoff hopeful, Matt Crafton, had stopped during the second stage with an ECU problem. By the time they got him going again he was laps without any hope of a decent finish. In the end , he was scored 23rd, eight laps down.

The ninth caution flew when Johnny Sauter ran into the back of Stewart Friesen’s truck. Friesen stopped for repairs and he was able to stay on the lead lap, but at the back of the field.

Chastain had taken the lead on lap 122 and he held on through the flurry of cautions - until the 11th caution on lap 181. On the restart, Gilliland shot ahead from the second row and took the lead, leading the rest of the way to the overtime checker on lap 201. Chastain, after resisting Burton’s attempt to get past, hung on for second while Sauter finished third. Friesen made a good recovery from his incident to finish sixth.

Click HERE for the NGOTS box score results from Martinsville.

There is just one more race left in this final elimination Round of Six. As things stand now the six playoff drivers are ranked as Moffitt, Friesen, Chastain, Hill, Crafton and Ankrum. After the next race, which will be run at Phoenix in two week’s time, the bottom two will be dropped and the top four will advance to Homestead for the finale. Of these four, the one who finishes highest will be declared the 2019 NGOTS champion.

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