Race Weekend Review: Sept. 16-18

Written by George Webster on .

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Formula One Singapore Grand Prix
Rosberg holds off Ricciardo for the win; he’s back in the points lead ahead of Hamilton

Sept. 18, 2016: After Nico Rosberg won the pole for the Singapore Grand Prix while his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton placed third behind Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, it looked like Rosberg might have a chance to regain his lead in the championship points standings.

That’s how it worked out. Rosberg won the race but by a mere 0.5 seconds ahead of a charging Ricciardo while Hamilton finished in third ahead of the two Ferrari drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel. Max Verstappen, who had started in fourth place but who had a slow start, recovered to finish in sixth.

At the start Verstappen’s slow start contributed to a jam-up in the mid-field and Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India car was knocked sideways in to the wall and heavily damaged. This brought out the race’s only Safety Car session.

After that the teams concentrated on their tire strategies, trying to outdo their competitors. Mercedes looked to have a winning strategy – one that might even have given Hamilton the win but concerns with brake temperatures on both Mercedes cars forced them to moderate their pace.

On lap 33 Hamilton clouted a curb and lost third place to Räikkönen. Hamilton could have gone the rest of the distance on his current set of soft tires but a change in plans saw him pitting for super-softs. Hamilton’s speed on the fresh tires was so much better that the Ferrari strategists opted to call in Räikkönen for new tires as well. This stop enable Hamilton to “undercut” the Ferrari driver and regain third place.

Meanwhile, in a similar tire strategy move, the Red Bull team called in Ricciardo for super-softs. Rosberg was out ahead by a margin of 25 second but any thought that he too should change to super-softs evaporated as he soon ran into traffic and his opportunity to avoid the undercut was gone, So he was left nursing his older and harder tires home ahead of Ricciardo. Ricciardo gradually reeled in Rosberg, who was having to manage his brake temperatures as well as his older tires. It was a close thing but, in the end, Rosberg was able to take the checker by a mere half-second over Ricciardo.

Rosberg’s first against Hamilton’s third vaulted him into the lead in the championship points race by an eight-point margin. With six more races to be run in the 22-race season, this championship battle is far from settled.

The next race will be the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lampur in Malaysia on Oct. 2.

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FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
Porsche prototype wins; Aston Martin wins both the GTE Pro and Am classes

Sept. 17, 2016: Yet another win for the Porsche 919s in the six-hour race at Austin, Texas, further solidified their hold on the manufacturer’s points lead. The No. 1 Porsche, driven by Mark Webber/Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley scored its third win in a row. The No. 2 Porsche of Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb, which had been the winning car at Le Mans, finished fourth here.

The first part of the race was dominated by the two Audi R18s. The No. 7 of Andre Lotterer/Marcel Fassler/Benoit Tréluyer had led in the early going with the No. 8 Audi of Lucas di Grassi/Loic Duval/Oliver Jarvis following behind but it took over the lead mid-race. In the final couple of hours it all changed for Audi. A full-course yellow fell to the advantage of the No. 1 Porsche which took over the lead with an 18-second margin. As the No. 7 Audi tried to fight back it clipped the No. 66 Ford GT driven by Olivier Pla and it was left stuck in the gravel trap. Meanwhile the No. 8 Audi had its electrics crash and it lost time while the computer was rebooted. At the finish, the No. 8 Audi was in second, 23 seconds back, while the No. 7 Audi was sixth, six laps down.

The No. 6 Toyota TS050 of Stéphane Sarrazin/ Kamui Kobayashi/Mike Conway finished in third place, two seconds behind the second-place Audi.

In LMP2, the class was won by the No. 36 Alpine A460 driven by Nicolas Lapierre/Gustavo Menezes/Stéphane Richelmi. It finished in eighth place overall, 14 laps down on the overall winner.

The GTE Pro class was won by the dominant No. 95 Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim Aston Martin Vantage V8, finishing in 16th place overall, 23 laps down on the overall race winner. The No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni/James Calado was second in this class. The No. 67 Ford GT finished fourth in class while the No. 67 sister car’s troubles saw it scored as the very last car to be classified, finishing in 29th place.

The GTE Am class win went to the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 driven by Pedro Lamy/Paul Dalla Lana/Mathias Lauda.

There are three more races to be run in the World Endurance Championship, the next is the 6 Hours of Fuji (Japan) which will run on Oct. 16.

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Verizon IndyCar GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway
Pagenauld wins the race and clinches the championship

Sept. 18, 2016: Simon Pagenauld finished his IndyCar season in a convincing manner. He won the pole and the race here at Sonoma and he extended his lead over Will Power in the championship points standings to solidly clinch his status as the 2016 IndyCar champion.

Even coming into this race, Pagenauld looked to have a lock on the championship. He had already won four races this season and he was leading Power by 28 points. With the double points awarded for the Sonoma finale, Power could have won the championship with a top finish and an early DNF for Pagenauld. But that was not to be. Pagenauld took command of this event, winning the pole by a 0.16-second margin over his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, while Power, another Penske teammate, qualified fourth fastest some 0.4 seconds back.

In the race, Pagenauld was in command all the way, holding the lead for 76 of the race’s 85 laps. Power was running in second place until a clutch malfunction mid-race left him stranded out on the track. He was towed in and he did resume racing but he finished seven laps in arrears in 20th place, the lowest-placed of the cars still running at the end. This was the only full-course caution of the race

The nineteen cars ahead of Power all finished on the lead lap. Graham Rahal was second just 3.3 second behind Pagenauld. Juan Montoya was third. Alexander Rossi was running fourth until he ran out of gas on the final lap; this let Ryan Hunter-Reay pass him for fourth leaving Rossi to finish in fifth place.

With his trouble in this race Power finished some 127 points behind Pagenauld but this was still good enough for second place in the championship standings. Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarten and Graham Rahal were ranked third through fifth in the final championship standings. Indy 500 winner Rossi was named the rookie of the year.

This Sonoma race was the last race on the 2016 IndyCar calendar. The next race will be the 2017 season -opener at St. Petersburg in Florida next March 12.

 

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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Circuit of the Americas
Taylor brothers win prototype class for Chevrolet; Porsches win in GT Le Mans class

Sept. 17, 2016: The Taylor brothers – Ricky and Jordan – won the 2 hour and 40 minute WeatherTech race at COTA in their No. 10 Chevrolet Prototype by a mere 1.4 seconds over the No. 31 Dane Cameron/Eric Curran Action Express Chevrolet. The No. 5 sister Action Express car of Christian Fittipaldi /Joao Barbosa completed the 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep of this race.

The Taylor brothers had been trailing the Action Express cars in points but this result closed them up to within seven points of the leading No. 31 car going into the series finale, the Petit Le Mans at Road America in two weeks time.

The No. 70 Mazda Prototype of Tom Long and Joel Miller finished in fourth place almost a full lap down.

In the GT Le Mans class, a pair of Porsche 911 RSRs took the first two places – the No. 912 of Erik Bamber/Frederic Makowiecki and the No. 911 of Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy. The No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen was third in class. The No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella/Toni Vilander took the lead immediately at the start of the race and this car held control until late in the race when electrical problems left them stranded on the track for a while. They were able to make it back to the pits but they had to settle for eighth in class, a lap behind the class winner.

Ryan Briscoe had put the No. 67 Ford GT on the GTLM pole but the Briscoe/Richard Westbrook car had a minor collision with the No. 4 Corvette which damaged the steering. They lost time with a long pit stop and finished 12 laps down. The other Ford GT, driven by Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller collided with a BMW in the opening laps and fell out of contact with the class leaders. It finished sixth in class, a lap down on the class winning Porsche.

The PC class was won by the No. 8 Starworks ORECA of Renger van der Zande/Alex Popow which finished the race in fifth place overall.

The No. 96 Bret Curtis/Jens Klingermann BMW M6 GT3 won the GT-Daytona class, finishing in 22nd place overall.

The next and final round in this year’s IMSA WeatherTech series will be the 10-hour Petit Le Mans which will be run on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Road Atlanta.

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IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas
Maxwell and Johnson take another strong win to extend their lead in the championship standings

Sept. 17, 2016: The Multimatic team’s duo of Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson, driving their No. 15 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R-C, won the Circuit of the Americas 150 race here by a margin of 27 seconds over the second-place finisher, the No. 12 Trent Hindman/Cameron Cassels Porsche Cayman GT4. Their real challenge had come from the No. 33 Danny Burkett/Marc Miller Porsche GT4 which came into this race trailing them by a mere 20 points (35 points for a win). Maxwell had put the Mustang on the pole again but Burkett qualified a mere two-tenths of a second behind him.

The race’s only caution came at the end of the first lap and after that it ran under green the rest of the way. The Maxwell/Johnson duo led ever lap but three, only giving up the lead when they made their two pits tops for fuel and tires. The No. 76 Paul Holton/Pierre Kleinubing Mustang GT 350R-C took the lead briefly on both those occasions.

During the first stint it was the No. 76 car running in second place behind Maxwell with the No. 33 Porsche in third. After the first round of pit stops, Johnson in the No. 15 car regained the lead but the No. 33 Porsche had taken over second place ahead of the No. 76 Mustang. Now Johnson extended his lead over the rest of the field – all but for Miller in the No. 33 Porsche, who managed to stay within three or four seconds of the leader.

After the second round of pit stops, which came with 42 minutes to go in the 2.5 hour race, Johnson was still in the lead but Miller was edging closer as if he was getting ready to challenge the Mustang for the lead. Just as he had closed the gap to under two seconds, catastrophe struck and the No. 33 Porsche suffered severe damage to the rear suspension – seemingly the result of crossing too far over a bumpy line of curbing – and the car was forced to retire. This left Johnson with a huge lead over the No. 12 Porsche which, even thought Miller was able to close up the gap somewhat in the closing laps, gave Johnson a comfortable win.

The No. 33 Porsche was left with a 25th-place finish, leaving the Maxwell/Johnson pair with an even larger lead over them in the points battle. With only one more race left in the 2016 series, barring any unforeseen troubles on their part, they look certain to emerge from that race with the championship title.

That next and final race in this series will be run at Road Atlanta on Oct. 1.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Teenage Mutant Turtles 400 at Chicagoland
Truex wins first Chase race in overtime

Sept. 18, 2016: Martin Truex has had his share of bad luck this season but his luck turned when he won the first round of the 2016 Sprint Cup Chase here. Rookie Chase Elliott had looked like being the likely winner for much of the second half of the race but a slightly slow pit stop saw him coming out of the pits behind Truex. On the subsequent restart during the first “overtime” session, Truex charged forward past three cars which had not pitted and took the lead. Behind him Elliott was able to pass the cars on older tires but Joey Logano passed him on the final lap to take second, leaving Elliott to finish third – another disappointing finish after his loss to Kyle Larson at Michigan a few weeks ago.

Jimmie Johnson had looked like the driver to win this race. He first took the lead on lap 53 of the 267-lap race. And he led a total of 118 laps through to lap 177. Then he lost the lead to his teammate Elliott who was in control for the rest of the race – up to that final pit stop. Meanwhile Johnson stayed in contention, running in second behind Elliott but he was busted for speeding on lap 235 when he pitted during a green-flag pit stop. After that he was out of contention – he finished on the lead lap but down in 12th place.

After that round of green-flag pit stops was completed, Elliott still held the lead but Truex was running in second place close behind. Truex had closed down to within a second when the final caution flew after Michael McDowell had a blown tire and crashed bringing out the final caution on lap 264 – which set up the overtime finish.

The rookie Ryan Blaney was one of three drivers who opted to not pit for tires at this point and he led the field for the restart. But those on fresh tires had the advantage and, even though they only had two laps to the checker, the fresh tires won out giving Truex, Logano and Elliott the top finishing positions over Blaney.

After all the interest in Chris Buescher’s improbable qualification for the Chase on the strength of his unusual win in the fog at Pocono, his result was consistent with his real performance this year – he finished in 28th place, two laps down. Maybe he might win rookie-of-the-year but he has no realistic chance of winning the overall championship.

This race was the first of the ten races in this year’s Sprint Cup Chase. The bottom four of the 16 challengers will be eliminated after the first three races – Chicagoland, New Hampshire and Dover – leaving 12 drivers to fight out the next three-race elimination round.

The next race in the Sprint Cup Chase will be at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25.

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NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for Safety 300 at Chicagoland Speedway
Erik Jones holds off a charging Larson for the win

Sept. 17, 2016: For quite a while it looked like Kyle Busch was going to score a second win here after his truck race win the day before but a tire problem sent him to the pits and out of contention. This left his protege Erik Jones in the lead with nine laps to go and he held off a hard-charging Kyle Larson for the win.

In this race, Busch started from the pole alongside his Joe Gibbs teammate Daniel Suarez. For a bit these two traded the lead back and forth but eventually Busch seemed to be the one to beat after he took the lead on lap 41 of the 200-lap race. In all he led a total of 154 laps before a tire failure caused him to spin out and sent him to the pits with two flat tires with 17 laps to go. He could not recover from this setback and he finished in 13th place.

Elliott Sadler inherited the lead for the next few laps but Jones had been charging up through the field and he passed him for the lead with nine laps to go.

Meanwhile Kyle Larson, had been a strong contender all race until he was sent to the back as a penalty for speeding on pit lane during the sixth caution which ended with 84 laps to go. By the time Busch had his tire problem, Larson had already worked his way back up to seventh and he came out of the pits in fifth place, counting Sadler and Clint Boyer who had not pitted during this, the final, caution.

When the green flag flew with 14 laps to go, Jones made a charge for the lead and passed Sadler five laps later. Meanwhile Larson had also made a great restart and he was now up second place behind Jones.

At the final few laps wound down, Larson was clearly the faster car and he closed right in on Jones. He even dove under him and came half-way alongside Jones with a lap to go, but then he slid high and scraped the wall on the final lap and his challenge was spent.

Larson finished in second behind Jones. Sadler was third, Suarez fourth and Justin Allgaier fifth.

This was the final Xfinity race before their Chase for the championship begins and it did not do anything to change the list of qualifiers. Jones, who, unlike Busch and Larson, is eligible for the Xfinity Chase had already won three Xfinity races this year, so this fourth win only strengthens his confidence that he is the favourite to win the Xfinity championship.

Twelve drivers go forward to the next round of eliminations, the first elimination round in the Chase itself. They are Jones, Sadler, Suarez, Ty Dillon, Allgaier, Darrell Wallace, Brendan Gaughan, Brendan Poole, Ryan Sieg, Ryan Reed, Brandon Jones and Blake Koch. Only three of these 12 have won an Xfinity race so far this year – Jones, Sadler and Suarez – and it seems unlikely that anyone other than one of these three will win the title this year. Of course you have to keep in mind that the “Chase” system has been designed to keep as many drivers as possible with a chance to win the title – and for it to come down to that last race at Homestead when fate could play a big hand in determining the final outcome.

The next race is the first round of the seven-race Chase. It will be run on Sept. 24 at Kentucky Speedway.

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NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series American Ethanol e15 225 at Chicagoland
Kyle Busch dominates yet another truck race

Sept. 16, 2016: Kyle Busch may have only qualified back on eighth place but he soon asserted himself, taking the lead on lap 9 of the 150-lap race. In the end he took the checkered flag in an overtime session having led for a total of 95 laps, including the final 28 laps of the race.

Actually he was passed by his Joe Gibbs teammate Daniel Suarez – driving a Kyle Busch Motorsports entry in this race – on lap 12. Suarez held the lead for the next 36 laps but after a caution followed by a red flag when Ben Kennedy crashed collecting several other trucks as well, Busch was back in the lead and he was in command the rest of the way.

This was the last race for the trucks before their own version of the Chase for the championship begins at their next race – at New Hampshire next week. Despite lots of TV commentator hype speculating about who might or might not qualify for the Chase nothing changed here at Chicagoland. Cole Custer, who lost his chance to win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park two weeks earlier when he was knocked out of the lead in the final corner by the already-qualified John Hunter Nemechek, saw his hopes of winning here – and, thereby, qualifying for the Chase – when he lost time for repairs after being involved in a tangle on lap 119 and he was unable to challenge for the lead after that.

The eight drivers who have qualified for the seven-race Chase series are William Byron, Matt Crafton, Nemechek, Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, Kennedy, Daniel Hemric and Timothy Peters. Byron, with five wins so far this year, has to be the favourite to win the championship.

The next race in the truck series and the first round of the Chase is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 24.

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NASCAR Pinty’s Series Kawartha 250 at the Kawartha Speedway
Hathaway ends his career with a win: Lapcevich begins his with a championship

Sept. 18, 2016: It came a day late but when the finale of the 2016 Pinty’s Series season was run at Kawartha Speedway on Sunday it marked two significant milestones. Jason Hathaway, who has competed in every Pinty’s Series race so far – 121 races – had already decided that this race would be his last – and he won it. At the other end of the scale, 16-year-old Cayden Lapcevich driving his family-entered car, came home second in the race and capped off the season by clinching the championship title. Actually, his points lead coming into the race was such that all he needed to do to claim the championship was just start this final race of the season. He can now lay claim to being the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR championship.

In addition to winning he championship, the young Lapcevich also won the rookie-of-the-year title.

The race was originally scheduled to be run on the Saturday but rain forced it to be postponed until Sunday afternoon. Donald Theetge had won the pole on the 0.375-mile oval ahead of D.J. Kennington and Gary Klutt. Lapcevich started fourth while Hathaway was seventh in the starting lineup.

In the race, Hathaway fought his way towards the front. When the first caution flew on lap 64 of the 250 lap race, Hathaway, Klutt and Labbé stayed out and took over the spots at the front. The next caution came when Andrew Ranger spun in the first turn on lap 145. The leaders pitted under this caution letting Alex Tagliani take over the lead while Hathaway dropped to eighth place for the restart.

After the green, Tagliani starts losing positions. Hathaway regains the lead on lap 174 and starts pulling away from Labbé and Lapcevich and by lap 205 he has a lead of about 10 car-lengths. Lapcevich closes in on Labbé and passes him for second but he can’t get the better of Hathaway who goes on to win the race by a five-second margin. Labbé was third with Kennington fourth and L. P. Dumoulin fifth.

This race is the final race of the 2016 Pinty’s Series. The schedule for the 2017 version of the Pinty’s Series has not yet been formally announced.

Photo credits:

NCWTS Busch: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
NXS Chase: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images
NSCS: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images
NPS: Matthew Manor/NASCAR
F1: Steve Etherington/©Daimler AG
WEC: © Marius Hecker - AdrenalMedia.com
IMSA WeatherTech: IMSA/©2016, Richard Dole
IMSA Continental: IMSA/©2016, Jake Galstad LAT Photo
IndyCar: IMS Photo/Chris Owens 2016

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