Race Weekend Review: Oct. 15-16

Written by George Webster on .

WEC-Fuji

World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji at Fuji Speedway
Finally, Toyota squeaks out a win over Porsche at its home track

October 16, 2016: Toyota won a closely-fought battle with Audi winning the 6 Hours of Fuji by a margin over 1.4 seconds over the Audi which had dominated most of the race. The No. 6 Toyota TS050 driven by Stéphane Sarrazin/Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi beat of the No. 8 Audi R18 of Lucas Di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Oliver Jarvis. It was the first endurance series win for Toyota since its win at Bahrain in 2014 and it was doubly rewarding given that the Fuji circuit is owned by Toyota.

Four LMP1 cars finished on the lead lap at the end of the six-hour race. The No. 1 Porsche 919 of Timo Bernhard/Mark Webber/ Brendon Hartley was third, 17 second behind the race winner while the second Toyota, the No. 5 car driven by Anthony Davidson/Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima, was 54 second back in fourth place.

The No. 8 Audi had set the pace for most of the race but the No. 6 Toyota crew won on pit strategy. On their second last pit stop they short-filled the tank and then on their final stop they did not change tires. This gained then several seconds on the leading Audi because the tires cannot be changed until the fuelling has been completed. It gave Kobayashi a 13-second lead over the Audi with 45 minutes left to run in the final stint, but the Audi, on fresh tires, was quicker and Duval was able to close up the gap as the minutes ticked down. A renews charge from Duval saw him close right up on the Toyota in the closing minutes but, in the end, he had to concede to the winning Toyota.

The WEC points leaders Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb finished fifth a lap down. With two more race yet to be run this season the trio holds a 23-point lead over the three drivers of the winning Toyota.

In the closely-watched LMGTE-Pro class, the Ford GTs finally won a WEC victory, their first since the controversial win at the Le Mans 24-hours. The US-based Ganassi team won at Le Mans but this win was taken by the UK-based Ganassi team.

The class win was taken by the No. 67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell with the No. 66 Ford of Stefan Mücke/ Olivier Pla second in class 15 seconds back. The two had been running close together for most fo the race until Pla spun the No. 66 car with about a hour to go. The No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni/James Calado was third in class another ten second back of the No. 66 car.

In LMP2 the No. 26 ORECA 05-Nissan driven by Roman Rusinov/Alex Brundle/Will Stevens won the class by a margin of 1.4 seconds over the No. 43 Ligier JS P2-Nissan of Ricardo Gonzalez/Filipe Albuquerque/Bruno Senna. The No. 26 ORECA led most of the race but Senna in the No. 43 car beat Stevens out of the pits on the final round of pit stops. Stevens fought back down the front straight but he was deemed to have gone out of bounds in front of the pit wall and he had to give the position back – but he was soon able to re-pass his rival setting the No. 26 car up for the win.

The LMGTE-Am class brought up the tail of the field, the winning car, the Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda finishing in 24th place overall but a lap ahead of the Ferrari F458 which was second in class. Dalla Lana is a Toronto-based entrepreneur.

The next race in the 2016 World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Nov. 6.

Harvick KS NSCS Board 101616

NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
Harvick’s win guarantees his a pass into the next Chase elimination round

October 16, 2016: This race looked like a benefit for two of the Joe Gibbs drivers – Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards – but in the end SHR driver Kevin Harvick came through to lead the final 30 laps of the 267-lap race and he took the win 1.2 seconds ahead of Edwards. Under the Chase rules a win in this round gives Harvick an automatic pass into the next elimination round of the Chase. Given the nature of next week’s Talladega race which usually has many big wrecks which can knock many front-runners out of the race, all the drivers know that one of these big wrecks could end their championship hopes. Harvick – and last week’s winner, Jimmie Johnson, know that, no matter what happens at Talladega, they are assured of making it into the next elimination round of the Chase which begins the week after that at Martinsville.

Kenseth started on the pole and he dominated the early laps of the race, leading all but nine of the race’s first 116 laps. But then Harvick came through to take the lead for the next 43 laps. After that it was Edwards who led for a total of 61 laps until Harvick passed him with 30 laps to go and Harvick held on to take the win.

Many of the other Chase hopefuls saw trouble here. Denny Hamlin had mysterious handling problems early on and it took three pit sops under caution before the problem was fixed but by now he was struggling mid-field. Later he recovered to run up as high as sixth but then he faded back and finished in 15th place.

Martin Truex’s day went bad when the crew was unable to completely fill his fuel tank on pit stops and he was forced to come in more often to top up with fuel. This might have been disastrous, but the way the yellows fell after that they were able to make their more-frequent pit stops without losing too much track position. He finished in 11th place still in the hunt for the championship.

Things were looking good for rookie title challenger Chase Elliott who fought his way past Harvick to take the lead on lap 169. Just as the Elliott fans were starting have fantasies of this young scion of Bill Elliott having a real chance at the title, he pitted four laps later with his left rear tire smoking. He continued but far down the field. The cause of tire problem seemed to be somewhat of a mystery and he had to pit one more time with the same problem. This left him finishing three laps down in 31st place – and with little or no hope of making it past next week’s elimination race at Talladega.

On lap 221, Brad Keselowski, who had been running in tenth place, crashed. He had tried to slide up in front of Hamlin and then his car made a wiggle. Hamlin tapped him and Keselowski went spinning down into the infield grass tearing up his car. He did return to the race briefly but he was only able to finish 38th – vowing to win next week at Talladega and make it all okay again.

The Kansas Speedway only has grandstands on the front stretch opposite the pits but there was a good crowd, filling most of the available seats.

The next race is the third and final race in this the “Round of 12" and four of the current 12 Chase drivers will be eliminated after this race, eight going forward to the next elimination round, the “Round of 8". That race will be held at the Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 23.

Kyle Busch KS NXS VL 101516

NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway
Kyle Busch beats out the Xfinity Series championship hopefuls

October 15, 2016: Kyle Busch has won more ‘Xfinity Series’ races than any other driver and, despite being an established star in the Cup series, he still can’t stop entering the junior series’ races and creating havoc amongst the series regulars. Now that the Xfinity Chase is in full swing, the championship hopefuls are looking for a win to help them make it past the current round of eliminations and the presence of Cup drivers like Busch or Kyle Lawson only makes their task harder.

In the race, Busch dominated, leading for 150 of the race’s 200 laps – including leading the final 14 laps of the race to take the checker over Xfinity regular Elliott Sadler. Daniel Suàrez was third, with Cup drivers Joey Logano and Larson fourth and fifth.

If this Chase concept was invented to make us more interested in the racing, don’t all these Cup regulars racing for the win distract us from the supposed main event – the championship elimination battle? With Busch so dominant and Larson driving aggressively close behind, all eyes were on them.

Erik Jones, who many expected to cruise home with the title, continued to have his troubles. Early in the race he was able to run up front with his teammates Busch and Suàrez and he did take the lead briefly twice in the race. The second time came after the race’s eighth (of ten) cautions. He took the restart in sixth place but he was able to shoot ahead and take the lead two laps later. He held the lead through the next quick caution but on that restart he was tapped by Larson and he had to go to the pits to take care of the damage to his car. This dropped him a lap down in 19th place and out of contention. In the final run to the checker he was able to regain a few positions but he had to settle for a 15th place finish. It is not over yet, but he would probably need to win the next race to avoid elimination.

My other two favourites to win the championship – Sadler and Suàrez – did as well as could be hoped for here, finishing second and third behind the charging Busch.

On the other hand, Roush Ford driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who was hoping to avoid elimination after the next two races, saw his hopes dimmed when he was involved in a five-car wreck mid-race and was unable to continue.

The next race, the second of the three races in the second elimination round, the “round of eight”, will be held on Nov. 5 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Photo Credits:

WEC: © Ade Holbrook - AdrenalMedia.com
Harvick: Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing
NSCS: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images/NASCAR
NXS: Chris Trotman/Getty Images/NASCAR

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