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Race Weekend Review: November 2-3, 2019

Race Weekend Review: November 2-3, 2019

FIA Formula 1 Emirates United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas
• Bottas wins Mercedes one-two; Hamilton is the 2019 champion

Austin, TX, Nov 3/19 (GRW): A race fan coming to COTA on race day might have expected to see a Red Bull or a Ferrari diver on the top step of the podium at the end of the day – but that is not how it turned out.

The starting grid saw Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel on the front row, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the second row with Lewis Hamilton starting fifth from the third row alongside Alexander Albon. But when it was all over, the Mercedes duo were one-two – Bottas and Hamilton. Bottas taking the win by a comfortable four-second margin and Hamilton clinching the driver’s title again, completing the double championship, manufacturer’s and driver’s for the Mercedes camp.

At the start, Bottas surged out into the lead with Verstappen right behind – but it was Hamilton in third place at the end of the first lap. The Ferraris were sluggish off the mark and Leclerc came around in fourth place behind Hamilton while Vettel was down in seventh place.

Despite the fact that neither Vettel nor his team could see any obvious reason why his car was slow, it was well off the pace of the front-runners. On lap 8 of the 56-lap race, he ran wide off the first few corners (as is common practice) but when he went across the curb on the second corner his right-rear suspension failed and his day was ended.

This left the battle for the win effectively between just four drivers: Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton and Leclerc – but Leclerc was also having trouble matching the pace of the three ahead of him.

Verstappen pitted for hard tires on lap 13 and Bottas came in for hards a lap later. This handed the lead over to Hamilton ahead of Bottas until he pitted on lap 24. This elevated Bottas and Verstappen into first and second for the next 11 laps until Verstappen made a second pit stop which allowed Hamilton back up into second. A lap later, Bottas came in as well, letting Hamilton regain the race lead.

It seemed clear now that most of the runners would be making a second pit stop for more tires but that Hamilton might try to do it as a ‘one-stopper’. After all any decent finish was going to clinch the championship for Hamilton no matter what the others did – so he could take the gamble.

After that, the only question was whether Hamilton would be able to go the rest of the distance without a second pit stop and whether, as his tires wore down, would he be able to stay in front of Bottas.

We could see that Bottas was slightly faster than his teammate as the race went on and he closed up on him and, after a few tries, he got past using DRS. Once past, he was able to pull ahead and cruise home to the win. Meanwhile Verstappen was closing on Hamilton, who was hampered by his worn tires, and he might have been able to get past for second on the final couple of laps but, just as he was getting within DRS distance, Kevin Magnussen went off and stopped in the gravel trap. This brought out the waved yellow in this area which prevented Verstappen from making a pass here – and he had to settle for a third-place finish.

Leclerc, despite his car seemingly being off colour, finished in fourth place, albeit nearly 50 seconds back of Verstappen. Albon was fifth, another 25 seconds further back.

PHOTO USGP HAMILTON BOTTASUSGP: Hamilton and Bottas (LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix)

Valtteri Bottas said, “First of all huge congratulations to Lewis – six championships is an impressive achievement! He had a strong season and he deserves the title, he was better overall. Lewis is a tough opponent, he has very few weaknesses, makes almost no mistakes and drives very consistently. But I've been gaining some good momentum, so I'm looking forward to another close fight with him next year. It's been a really good weekend for me and the team.”

“It's such a privilege and honour to work for this team, to be able to go out there and have the platform to put in performances like today,” said Hamilton. “And Niki, I miss him so much. Today, he'd have taken his cap off. I wouldn't have been able to do this without Niki, he's here with us in spirit.

“I saw my parents right after the race and seeing my dad's smile, it says it all. It’s just overwhelming if I’m really honest. It was such a tough race today. Yesterday was really a difficult day for us. Valtteri did a fantastic job, so huge congratulations to him. Today I really just wanted to recover and deliver the one-two for the team. I didn’t think the one-stop was going to be possible but I worked as hard as I could. I’m just filled with so much emotion.”

Click HERE for the results and points after the USGP.

The next Grand Prix will be the Brazilian GP in two weeks time on November 17.

PHOTO MENCS TMS2 MENCS Harvick FL 110319Kevin Harvick crosses the finish line to win the AAA Texas 500 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
• Harvick has a strong finish to win the race

Fort Worth, TX, Nov 3/19 (GRW): A full field of 40 cars contested this 500-mile (334-lap) race which too nearly four hours to run – but you might not have noticed if you have been watching the television broadcast given that they focused completely on the permutations of the drivers championship eliminations. Eleven different drivers held the lead at one time or the other during the race. Kevin Harvick started from the pole and he led 119 laps, including the final 21 laps of the race. His win guarantees that he will transfer into the championship final shoot-out at Homestead in two week’s time.

The race began in dramatic fashion when Chase Elliott crashed on the tenth lap. He was able to continue but he finished in 32nd place, 22 laps down – and, unless he wins at Phoenix next week, his championship hopes are over.

Near the end of the first Stage, which ended on lap 85, Brad Keselowski lost control and spun up into the outer wall, wrecking his car. Ricky Stenhouse, who was close behind, reacted and he too crashed into the wall and Keselowski’s car, reducing them both to scrap metal. This was the end of the race for both of them – but neither had been still in contention for the championship any more, so we shed no tears for them.

The track operators, following the lead of a number of other similar tracks, opted to put down traction compound on the middle groove through the corners. This created an unpredictable traction effect on the track as the cars took different lines though the corners – and this no doubt contributed to the nine racing cautions (as opposed to the end-of-Stage artifacts) which slowed the racing action and reduced a number of cars to rubble.

Just a few laps after Keselowski’s crash, Denny Hamlin, who had been running in the top ten, lost control of his car and he spun down onto the grass in the tri-oval start-finish area. This ripped off part of his splitter and did miscellaneous damage to the car, dropping him laps down and he finished in 28th place. Hamlin had come into this race second in the playoff points standings but this poor result here dropped him to fifth, 20 points behind Joey Logano – and his chances of making the transfer to the championship finale four looked grim after this. All he can do now is hope he wins at Phoenix next week.

The race finishing order was Harvick, Aric Almirola, and Daniel Suarez, all Stewart-Haas drivers. Behind them came Logano, Alex Bowman and Martin Truex. Truex is already assured of being included in the final four at Homestead by virtue of his win at Martinsville last week.

“Texas has always been so great to us, and what a race track the last few years,” said Harvick. “It’s just been a lot of work put into this race. We knew this was a good race track for us. Felt like it fit the styles of our cars, and, man, did it.”

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS race from Texas Motor Speedway.

The next MENCS race will be run next Sunday, November 10, at Phoenix.

PHOTO NXS TMS2 NXS Bell Trophy 110219Christopher Bell poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway
• Bell looks like a champion-in-waiting with his win at TMS

Fort Worth, TX, Nov 2/19 (GRW): Many expected Christopher Bell to win the Xfinity championship last year in his rookie year, but, despite winning seven time in all that year, he finished fourth in the final standings. This year again, he has looked like the favourite to win the championship, having won seven times this season coming into the Texas race. But, despite his good win record, he has had too many disappointing days, days when his magic did not deliver a win for him. Here at Texas this time, he started from the second row behind Tyler Reddick and Harrison Burton. He took the lead from Reddick on the sixth lap of the 200-lap race and after that he led off-and-on for a total of 101 laps, on his way to the race win.

This win for Bell assures him of a spot among the four finalists in the Homestead finale shootout in two weeks time. If he can turn his ability win the most races into a good result in the finale, he should come home from Miami the series champion.

This race was far from a straightforward walk in the park for Bell. He led most to the first Stage to the Stage 1 win. But, soon after the restart going into the next Stage, there was another caution and Reddick came out ahead on the restart. He and Bell traded the lead back and forth for the next few laps but Bell also won Stage 2 over Justin Allgaier and Reddick.

Austin Cindric, another playoff contender, opted to pit out of sequence and he stayed out at the Stage 2 turnaround, taking the lead as the final Stage began. Given that quite a few drivers had stayed out during this Stage-end caution, Bell was down in eighth place behind the out-of-sequence drivers.

This let Cindric hold onto the lead for several laps while Bell and the others who had pitted at the end of Stage 2, worked their way back up towards the front. Ross Chastain, who is ineligible for points in this series, having opted to go for the NGOTS championship instead, took the lead on lap 142 and he led for the next 29 laps as Bell reeled him in.

The eighth caution came on lap 151 and it led to a five-minute red flag while the debris was cleared up. Chastain continued hold the lead though the ninth and final caution on lap 162 when Reddick crashed out of the race. On this final restart Bell was in second place alongside Chastain – but Bell charged past him into the lead – a lead he held the remaining 30 laps to the checker. Cindric finished third ahead of Brandon Jones and John Hunter Nemechek.

“I knew we were very competitive, and then I began having brake problems," said Bell. "And then whenever I got those brake problems, I just wasn’t as good. I couldn’t keep the car underneath me and I was really loose. So I had to work a little harder, and that red flag helped me and my brakes came back. We were able to drive away.”

There is one more race in this Round of Eight, the race next week at Phoenix. After that race, the bottom four will be dropped and the top four playoff drivers will transfer to the finale at Homestead.

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

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