Race Weekend Review: Sept. 3-4

Written by George Webster on .

F1 Italy M40289 D320873

Formula One Gran Premio Heineken d'Italia at Monza Autodrome
Rosberg cruses to win after polesitter Hamilton makes a bad start

Sept. 4, 2016: Lewis Hamilton looked set to win yet another Grand Prix here in Italy after he beat Nico Rosberg to the pole in qualifying. But a bad getaway at the start of the race saw him fall to sixth before he got going and he could never recover enough to challenge Rosberg who won the race by a 15-second margin over Hamilton. This closed up the championship points race – Hamilton’s lead has shrunk to a mere two points.

On the start, Hamilton suffered from wheel spin and by the time he got going he had dropped to sixth place. Meanwhile Rosberg had shot into a clear lead and he led – except for his single pit stop – the rest of the way to the checker.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel started from third but moved up into second after Hamilton’s start-line problems. Hamilton caught and passed him for second mid-race and he had to settle for a third-place finish six seconds behind Hamilton but this, combined with a fourth for teammate Kimi Räikkönen, was worth cheering for by the fanatical Italians.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) had qualified in sixth behind Vaitteri Botas’ Williams, managed to reverse this order in the race, finishing in fifth.

Ricciardo’s teammate young Max Verstappen, who had qualified in seventh place, dropped to eleventh after the start and he spent the rest of the race working his way back up to a seventh-place finish. The two HAAS cars finished in 11th and 13th, out of the points.

Tire strategy played its role in this race. Both Mercedes teams opted for a one-stop strategy using softs and then mediums, while the Ferraris stopped twice using super-soft tires for two stints before switching to softs for the final stint.

The next race will be the Singapore Grand Prix to be held as a night race on Sept. 18. The race will be broadcast in Canada on TSN5. Given the 12-hour time difference, the race will be live on Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. ET.

2016-6-Heures-de-Mexico-Adrenal-Media-GT7D8108 hd

FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Mexico at Mexico City
Porsche bests out Audi to win the P1 class; in GTE Pro the Ford GT overwhelmed but he opposition

September 3, 2016: The No. 1 P1 Porsche 919 Hybrid survived the 6-hour endurance race at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. The car was driven by the team of Mark Webber/Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. The No. 7 Audi R18 ( Fässler/Lotterer) was second just over a minute behind on the same lap while the No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid (Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi) was third, eight second behind the Audi. The second Porsche, the No. 2 Dumas/Jani/Lieb also finished on the lead lap – all four cars having completed 230 laps in the four hours.

The No. 1 Porsche held the lead until it was given a drive-through penalty for crossing the demarcation line during an aborted pit stop. Then the No. 8 Audi (Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) held the lead through to the fourth hour when the a fairly heavy rain started to fall. Just at this time, a wheel bearing failed on the No. 8 Audi and he crashed out of the race.

Now it was the turn of the No. 1 Porsche to lead. Bernard had a scare when he slid off course in the rain which returned in the closing minutes of the race but he was able to continue and hold onto the lead over the No.7 Audi. Lotterer –who was on tires better suited to the level of rain – was closing on the Porsche but a broke problem for the No. 7 Audi saw it slide off course into the wall. He pitted for replace his flat-spotted tires and was unable to catch the leading Porsche in the closing minutes.

The G-Drive No. 26 BR01-Nissan (Rusinov/Rast/Brundle) was heading for the P2 win when that car had a front brake failure and the subsequent pit stop lost them eight minutes. Now the No. 43 Ligier-Nissan was fighting it out with the No. 36 Alpine-Nissan. The two battled for the class lead until the closing minutes but Filipe Abuquerque in the No. 43 car took the checker ahead of the No. 36 car which was on the same lap.

In GTE-Pro, the Ford GTs, which had won at Le Mans earlier this summer were never a challenge for the others. The No. 66 and the No. 67 Ford GTs were the slowest of the GTE-Pro qualifiers. In the race the No. 66 car had trouble early on and it completed only 181 laps compared to the 202 laps of the winner. The No. 67 car (Franchitti/Priaulx/Ticknell) had better luck but it could never match the speed of the competitors finishing fifth in class a lap down on the first three finishers in this class. GTE-Pro was won by the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 (Stanaway/Turner) with the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE (Bruni/Calado) second in class and the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage (Thiim/Sørensen) third in class.

The GTE-Am class was won by the No. 88 Porsche 911 (Long/Quabaisi/Heinemier-Hansson).

The next round of the WEC will be the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas (paired with an IMSA WeatherTech race) on Sept. 17.

Dixon WGI 16C 4017-1

IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen presented by Hitachi, Watkins Glen International
Dixon dominates at the Glen; Powers’ championship hopes dampened

September 4, 2016: Scott Dixon had a perfect weekend here at Watkins Glen. He won the pole in qualifying and he led 50 of the race’s 60 laps on his way to winning the race by a 17-second margin over second-place Josef Newgarten. After the race Dixon announced that he was donating his prize money to a fund in support of Justin Wilson’s family; Wilson was fatally injured at Pocono last year.

This was Dixon’s fourth win at the upstate New York circuit, his second win of 2016 and his 40th Indy car win – which moves him into fourth on the all-time Indy car winners list.

The third and last caution ended with 18 laps remaining making it time to try to save enough fuel to run to the finish. This worked for Dixon and Newgarten but Castroneves and Daly had to stop for a splash of fuel and but they still finished in third and fourth. James Hinchcliffe was also trying to gamble on fuel to gain a good finish but, while he was running in second place, he ran out almost in sight of the finish line and ended up scored a lap down in 18th place.

Coming into this race, the championship battle was effectively down to Simon Pagenauld and Will Power who, on the strength of recent wins at Toronto and Pocono, had closed to within 28 points of Pagenauld. Pagenauld seemed to be struggling all weekend. He qualified in seventh and finished in the same position. Meanwhile Power had qualified in second place and he was running ahead of pagenauld when he tangled with Charlie Kimball and crashed heavily. Now out of the race, he was credited with a 20th-place finish. This increased Pagenauld’s points lead to 43 points. But worse was to come for Power. After the race we were told that he had been diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms. This means that he will not be allowed to race again until he is cleared by the medical staff. After the Watkins Glen race, these two were the only ones with a chance to win the championship. It is possible that Power might not be allowed to race in the finale at Sonoma in which case Pagenauld would be the champion. If Power is able to race, the championship is still open and the finale counts for double points.

The race’s other yellows came on lap 14 when Mikhail Aleshin had a tire explode putting him out of the race> The second came on the restart for the first when Graham Rahal Rahal was crowded by Kimball coming off the first turn and he turned straight into the barrier on the inside of the tune; another retirement. Kimball was to continue to and contributes to Power’s problems later in the race.

This Watkins Glen race was added to the 2016 calendar only recently as a replacement for the cancelled Boston race which was originally to have run on this Labour Day date. For my money, this is a vastly superior place to run an Indy car race but the series had stopped coming here after this event had trouble attracting a big enough crowd. Given the late notice of this year’s event, the crowd was pretty good and the track’s efforts at hosting the event were first class. IndyCar has signed a multi-year agreement with the Glen, so let’s hope that next year they are able to get out a good solid crowd to ensure that this race stays at this excellent venue for years to come.

There is just one more race left in the 2016 IndyCar schedule, the Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway just north of San Francisco on Sept. 18.

DR NSCS Checkered 090416

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Truex the winner after pit stop troubles cost Harvick the win

Sept. 4, 2016: Kevin Harvick was the class of the field here on Sunday night but a pair of bungled pit stops which left him back in 12th place after the round of pits stops during the caution on lap 280 of the 355 lap/500-mile race probably cost him the win. After that, Kyle Larson led for 45 laps but in the end it was Truex who took the lead with 17 laps to go.

Surprisingly, Harvick, who had fallen so far back after the bad pit stop had worked his way back up to second but, while Harvick clipped the wall once without much consequence, Truex never wavered and he held on to take the checker 0.6 seconds ahead of Harvick. After this win for Truex, both Harvick and Truex have two race wins, so they both have solid positions for the late-season Chase for the championship.

Not surprisingly Harvick was upset about the pit stop problems which he believed had cost him the race win –and was outspoken in his resolve that these pit stop problems had to be solved before they get to the serious stuff – the late season Chase for the championship.

Tony Stewart continues to be a controversial figure reminiscent of his driver hero AJ Foyt. In what appeared to be a fit of pique over an innocent near-miss when he was trying to go under Brian Scott, he came back up behind him and nudged him into a spin, wrecking the Scott car. Asked about this after the race he just smiled. Perhaps he was a little more repentant when he talked to the NASCAR officials after that. It is clear that many NASCAR rans want to honour Stewart for his career in NASCAR now that he has announced his intention to retire at the end of this season, but nasty little incidents like this make it hard to join in the accolades as he gets ready to step off the NASCAR stage.

The Darlington Raceway is NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway. The one-and-a-third-mile banked oval was built in 1950 – nine years before the Daytona Speedway was built – and it quickly took on the status as a major – if not the major – event in the NASCAR year. As more big tracks were built and the calendar grew, it remained one the most important races in the calendar. However, things changed in the late nineties. NASCAR’s quest for big audiences from the urban population – in contrast to the sport’s Southern rural roots – and its seeming belief that there was no limit to how big that urban fan base could reach saw NASCAR more-or-less casting the old Darlington race track aside. There was no way that this venue set in the midst of the cotton fields in rural South Carolina was going to become the go-to destination for this new wave of urban NASCAR fans. NASCAR stripped if of its spring date and then took away the traditional Labour Day Southern 500, giving it instead the Saturday night before Mothers’ Day.

Well, now we know that those dreams of an unlimited growth of an urban fan base were never going to work out, NASCAR finally has turned back to its traditional fan base – and to a renewed attention on the classic Labour Day race at Darlington. It seems that everybody seems committed to restoring the status of this historic event – something that resonates with its traditional long-term fans. The name – Southern 500 – is back and they are glorifying the races tradition and history. This year, like last, most of the cars arrived in special livery that recalled various famous cars from NASCAR’s history. It all seems to be working – most of the seats were filled on Sunday night.

Just one race remains in the Sprint Cup Series before the Chase for the championship begins. That race will run at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10.

DR NXS VL 090316

NASCAR Xfinity Series VFW Sports Clips 200 at Darlington Raceway
Sadler wins one for Dale Junior

Sept. 3, 2016: The veteran driver Elliott Sadler, despite hitting the wall here at Darlington on the second-last lap, somehow held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin to win by a half-second margin here on Saturday. After the race, he dedicated this win to his team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr, who has been sidelined by concussion-like symptoms which will see him out of the driver’s seat for the rest of the year at least.

Daniel Suarez finished third, Kyle Larson was fourth and rookie driver Brendan Poole (a Ganassi teammate to Larson) was fifth in the 147-lap/200-mile race run on Saturday afternoon.

Hamlin was driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota and he, Sadler and Paul Menard were the front runners in the first half of the race. About mid-distance Larson, practising taking the high line and the low line around this historic NASCAR track, came into contention taking the lead on lap 91.

Larson was due for his next pit stop and he swung down to enter the pits ten laps later. It is tricky making the turn into pit lane here without spinning like he had last year - and, again this time, he did a 360 and completely missed making it into pit lane. That precipitated some other collisions and the caution flew. No harm done to Larson except he fell way back in the field. After it went green again , he was able to make up a lot of his lost positions quickly and with 35 laps to go, he was in fourth but he could never improve on that position and he had to settle for that.

There are two more Xfinity Series races before that Series’ Chase begins – Richmond and Chicagoland. The Richmond race will run on Sept. 9.

CTMP NCWTS Finish 090416

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Nemechek crunches Custer for the out-of-bounds win

Sept. 4, 2016: “Action” in the final corner on the last lap of the race has become a bot of a tradition in the truck at CTMP. This time we saw the most dramatic finish so far in the four year history of the truck races here.

Coming to the checker in the first “overtime” session of the race, Cole Custer was leading over John Hunter Nemechek as they came into the final Turn 9-10 complex leading to the short start-finish straight. Nemechek bumped Custer in Turn 9 – and then he rammed int him in the final turn, pushing him right off the racing surface. Relentlessly, he held his foot to the gas and shouldered Custer up against the guard rails as they roared along towards the flag stand – where Nemechek’s truck crossed under just inches ahead of Custer’s.

Initially there was some confusion about the result. Given that the first two trucks had crossed the imaginary finish line on the grass, they had not passed over the timing loops and the computer scoring showed third-place Daniel Hemric as the winner. Afterwards, Hemric conceded that he knew that he had finished in third place but that he wasn’t going to say anything. After a few minutes of deliberation, NASCAR declared the result the way we all knew it was going to be – Nemechek, Custer, Hemric.

Needless the say, Custer was mad – his chances of qualifying for the post-regular-season Chase for the championship were running out and a win here would have put him in. Nemechek, by virtue of his win at Atlanta earlier, was already locked into the Chase.

Nemechek had not waited for any official declaration before he did the customary burnouts under the flag stand and then he got out of the truck – but he still kept his helmet on as if he was expecting something. And something did happen. Custer came running up at him like a madman and tacked him, knocking him to the ground. The skirmish didn’t last long but it gave everyone something to talk about.

Custer had started from the pole and he had command of the race in the early running. Nemechek, by virtue of an alternate fuel-stop strategy took over the lead on lap 38 of the race’s scheduled 64 laps - and led for the next 19 laps until the fourth caution. On the restart, Nemechek was on the inside and he pushed Custer well over to the edge of the track coming out of the first turn. A wreck caused later on that same lap when Rico Abreu spun in Turn 5 collecting Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton brought out another yellow but coming out of that melee Custer was scored in the lead again.

After the next restart it looked like Custer was going to be able to cruise home to the win ahead of Nemechek, but Travis Kvapil spun off Turn 9 and brought out the final caution – and pushed the race into overtime. Custer was still in the lead for that final restart but he failed to get far enough ahead of Nemechek to forestall him “rubbing” his was to victory on the final lap of the race.

Canadian driver Cameron Hayley finished in ninth place while Gary Klutt, in a one-race drive in a Kyle Busch truck, finished in eleventh place.

NASCAR usually announces post-race penalties a couple days later. The two pugilists, Custer and Nemechek, have already had a talking to in the NASCAR truck after the race, but there is some precedent set after a similar on-track fight between John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher at Gateway last June. In that case, despite some firm talk ahead of the announcement, they fined each driver a relatively puny amount. In this case, even though the fight was totally instigated by Custer, expect both drivers to receive similar punishment. Many observers believe that NASCAR, while publicly decrying the fighting, secretly like it because this notoriety helps make their product more exciting for the fans. They have suspended drivers like Harvick and Kyle Busch for deliberately hitting other trucks (interestingly it was trucks in both those cases) but I don’t expect anything like that this time,

The next truck series race – and the final chance for anyone else to qualify for the Chase will be held at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 16. Maybe Custer will get his win there.

Pintys Lacroix CTMP           

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Can-Am 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park
Lacroix wins handily after Tagliani sidelined

Sept. 4, 2016: Kevin Lacroix scored his second win of the season taking the checker with a four-second margin over second-place L. P. Dumoulin. Rookie Cayden Lapcevich was third and he extended his points lead over Andrew Ranger after he fell out with engine trouble just past mid-distance in the 51-lap race. This finish gives Lapcevich a 30-point lead over Ranger with just two races remaining in the 2016 season.

Alex Tagliani had looked like the man to beat here this weekend. He won the pole ahead of Lacroix and Ranger and he led the race until his first pit stop. He came back out in fourth place but he stopped again on lap 25 and his crew worked under the hood to fix a power steering problem. By the time he returned to the race he was laps down and out of contention.

After that the order settled down to Lacroix, L.P. Dumoulin, Lapcevich, Jason Hathaway and Robin Buck. The order remained that way thought the race’s second and final caution – except that on the restart Buck passed Hathaway for fourth place. And that is the way the race finished after 51 laps.

This result dropped Tagliani to fifth in the championship points standings behind third-place Lacroix and L.P. Dumoulin.

There are only two rounds remaining in this year’s Pinty’s championship – St-Eustache, QC, and Fraserville (Peterborough), ON – both short track ovals. The St-Eustache race will run next Saturday weekend on Sept. 10.

Photo credits:

NASCAR Pinty's: Matthew Manor/NASCAR
NCWTS: 1om Szczerbowski/NASCAR/NASCAR via Getty Images
NXS: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
NSCS Harvick: Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing © GM Company
NSCS Truex: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images/NASCAR
IndyCar: Chris Owens 2016/©IMS Photo 2016
WEC: © Gabi Tomescu - AdrenalMedia.com
F1: Steve Etherington, ©Daimler AG

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