F1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps
Hamilton holds off Vettel to close in on his championship lead
Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Aug. 27, 2017: In this, the first F1 race after the now-traditional mid-summer break, Lewis Hamilton came out swinging. He won the pole with a new lap record and equalled Michael Schumacher’s record number of poles. In the race, he held off a strong Sebastian Vettel, giving up the lead only once, for two laps, after he made his first pit stop. And, despite Vettel’s best efforts, he came home the winner by a margin of 2.4 seconds over Vettel. This result allowed Hamilton to close to within seven points of Vettel (220 to 213) with nearly half the season’s races yet to be run. This race was truly a reset for Hamilton’s hopes of winning his fourth F1 championship this year.
At the start, the front six qualifiers went into the first corner in order – Hamilton, Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Just eight laps into the race Verstappen slowed with mechanical problems and pulled off the track to retire, disappointing the huge crowd of Dutch fans – perhaps as many as 100,000 – who were there to cheer him on. Räikkönen became another victim of this unfortunate twist of fate when he was given a stop-and-go penalty for failing to slow for the yellow flags waved for this incident. This dropped to seventh -place in the running. He was soon able to make it back up to fifth place, albeit over 50 seconds behind Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso had started in tenth place but he jumped up to seventh place by the end of the second lap. After that his bubble seemed to burst as he lost positions lap after lap. Eventually, while struggling back in the teens he seemed to lose heart and he pulled into the pits and retired. Afterwards Honda engineers said that they could find nothing wrong with the engine (except, perhaps, a significant lack of power compared to their rivals ...).
The two Force India drivers continued to provide their kind of ‘action’. On the opening lap, on the run down to Eau Rouge they touched wheels and sent up a burst of smoke but they both continued. Later, on lap 26 of the 44-lap race, they came together again, Sergio Perez crowding over on Esteban Ocon breaking Ocon’s front wing but Perez’ rear tire was punctured. Both continued around to the pits despite the damage but their reputations as professional drivers and teammates was shattered. Before long a team spokesperson said that this (kind of inter-teammate jousting) would not happen again. Just how they will achieve this result remains to be seen.
All the debris from this accident brought out the safety car and closed up the field. This allowed Räikkönen , who was still running in fifth place to close up on Daniel Ricciardo. On the restart, Bottas fumbled a bit, going off wide at Raidillon and dropping to fifth place. Meanwhile Vettel who was on stickier tires than Hamilton, made a strong run up the hill and, while it looked like he had a chance to overtake him at the end of this straight, he just missed out and Hamilton held onto the lead – and lead he did for the remaining few laps.
The next round is the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sept. 3.
Verizon Indycar Series Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park
Newgarden nudges his teammate aside to take the win and increase his championship points lead
Madison, IL, Aug. 26, 2017: Josef Newgarden, who has joined the Penske team this year, is looking more and more like the one most likely to win the series championship this year. Here at Gateway, he led for 170 of the race’s 248 laps including the final 31 lap on his way to the checker.
There are four Penske drivers and they all have hopes of winning the championship. Last year’s champion, Penske driver Simon Pagenaud beat Newgarden out of the pits on the final round of pit stops which came during the fifth and final caution. A few laps after the restart, Newgarden dove under Pagenaud and touched wheels as he took the lead. In the confusion of this pass, Scott Dixon was able to get past the Frenchman into second place. And that’s the way the race wound down to the checker.
The other two Penske drivers, Helio Castroneves and Will Power finished in fourth and 20th respectively – Castroneves had a strong run mid-race, leading 52 laps. Unfortunately, when Castroneves pitted under green during the third round of pit stops his engine stalled and he lost time while it was being restarted – and he was never able to recover from that misfortune. This bobble on Castroneves’ part was what had let Dixon up into third behind the two other Penske drivers.
Before the race, Power had looked like the favourite to win, starting from the pole – his 50th pole -- but he lost traction on the first lap as he exited the second corner and crashed, collecting Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato. All three were eliminated from competition.
Once Newgarden barged past Pagenaud for the last time he was in command and he took the checker by a 0.7 second margin. After this race, and with just two more races to go, Newgarden has a 31-point lead over Dixon (547 to 516).
The 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park which was built to give CART a rival venue to the Indy 500 at the height of the IRL vs CART wars in the 1990s had become something of an orphan track, only hosting some truck races there. Recently it has been bought by a new owner who is committed to making the oval – as well as the drag strip behind it – more successful. After a recent test session there, the Indy car teams complained that the track surface was too bumpy and the owner paid out to have the whole racing surface repaved. It was obvious that there had been a strong campaign to sell tickets for this event and the grandstands along the front stretch were filled. It was good turnout and it looked good on television but, in reality, the grandstands in Turn 1-2 which can hold nearly as many people were empty. So it was a good crowd but not a sellout.
The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 3.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Johnsonville 180 at Road America
Clements wins his first Xfinity race at Elkhart Lake after 14 years and 256 race starts
Elkhart Lake, WI, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017: When the NASCAR series visits traditional roads course circuits like Road America we often see unexpected results and this race followed that pattern. No one would have predicted that the race would come down to a collision in the final corner of the next-to-final lap that would see underdog Jeremy Clements bump past Matt Tifft for the win. Neither of these two drivers had ever won a NASCAR touring series (trucks or Xfinity) race before in their careers and they had started this race in 24th place and 13th place respectively.
But the race was settled in that final corner. As things wound out after the final sequence of green-flag pit stops, Tifft had been leading for six laps but his tires were starting to give out and Clements, who had made the most recent stop for fresh tires was closing in on him. Clements made an attempt to pass Tifft on the inside but, when he got his nose up alongside, he tapped him and spun himself and Tifft off the track. Clement got his car gathered up first and he got going again before the next car – Michael Annett – came through while Tifft dropped in behind Annett for third. And that’s the way they took the checker.
Under NASCAR’s quirky rules, this flukey win gives Clements a spot in the season end playoffs despite his unimpressive results prior to this race.
The starting lineup was set on owners points after qualifying was rained out earlier on race day. This put Austin Cindric in the Penske No. 22 Ford on the pole alongside James Davison in the Joe Gibbs No. 20 Toyota. At the start of the race, Davison took the lead into the first corner ahead of Cindric, who was making his first Xfinity Series start. Davison, who has a resume in Indy car racing and who showed well at Mid-Ohio recently, led every one of the laps in the first 10-lap Stage while Cindric dropped to third behind Justin Marks, who had won at Mid-Ohio last year. Unfortunately Davison was penalized for speeding in pit lane when he pitted during the Stage-end caution and was sent to the rear of the field while Cindric had a lengthy stop for bodywork repairs which also dropped him to the rear for this restart.
So the second stage saw new front-runners. Daniel Hemric emerged as the leader on lap 17 and he won the second Stage which ended on lap 20 of the 45-lap race. By now, Davison and Cindric had worked back up to seventh and eighth respectively and their chances were looking better again. Hemric cycled out of the end-of-stage pit stops still in the lead while Davison stayed in the pits for repairs to his car after it was damaged in a melee into Turn 6 at the top of the hill – a mess that also collected Cindric and Marks. Davison was unable to continue but Marks was able to keep going after repairs – and he eventually finished in fourth place behind Tifft. Cindric sustained only slight damage and he kept on going but, when the pits opened on the next lap at the end of the second Stage, a mis-communication saw him continuing around without pitting. This boosted him back up into the top ten but he as still going to have to pit some time before the end of the race.
On lap 26, Hemric pitted under green – which would have set him up to run the rest of the way to the finish – and was given a pass-through penalty for speeding. Cindric made his belated pit stop now and his chances still looked good. As the other cars, one after another peeled off and made their final pit stops, it looked like Tifft and Cindric might cycle back up to the front after all the pit stops were done.
By now Clements was leading the race, having opted to stay out while the others made their pit stops. He led eight laps, from lap 28 to 35 before he stopped and took on fresh tires. Meanwhile Cindric was dicing with Cole Custer back a few cars until he suffered a cut tire – he was able to make it back around to the pits for a new tire but, by now, it was too late to make up the lost time. Meanwhile, Clements had returned to the track in seventh place – but on fresh tires.
After that, the race resolved itself down to Tifft in the lead with Clements closing in on him on his fresher tires until that fateful collision and spin at the end of the penultimate lap.
Brendan Gaughan finished in fifth place while Custer was eighth. Cindric ended up in 16th place.
After this unusual race on the Road America road course, the Xfinity Series will return to a more traditional speedway – the Darlington Raceway – on Sept. 2.
IMSA WeatherTech Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway
Corvette comes through to beat Ford and Ferrari at VIR
Alton, VA, Aug. 27, 2017: The No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia only led the 160-minute race for nine laps but they were the ones that counted – the final nine that took them to the checker ahead of their rivals.
Early in the race the No. 25 BMW of Alexander Sims/Bill Auberlen held the lead ahead of the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller and the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner but after the mid-race round of pit stops the No. 3 car was running in third place behind the No. 25 BMW and the No. 62 Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella/Toni Vilander with the No. 66 Ford close behind.
In the closing laps, this shuffled when the other three had to pit for more fuel letting Garcia, who had been able to conserve enough fuel after making his previous pit stop a bit late, through into the lead while the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook came through to finish in second place ahead of the No. 62 Ferrari.
The No. 66 Ford GT team was poised for a podium result before a late-race incident between Mueller and Milner in the No. 4 Corvette sent both cars off course. The No. 66 team recovered to finish fifth, one spot behind Sims and Auberlen after the No. 25 BMW’s late pit stop dropped them to fourth. Sims/Auberlen had combined to lead for most of the first two-and-a-half hours.
"It was another long day at the office, but it was a good one,” Garcia said. “It is definitely good to have competitive pace and remain up front. That was something we weren't used to in the last few races. We had a really, really tough middle stint where Ferrari and Ford were strong, but I was able to keep up with them. I didn't know how much fuel they were saving, so I didn't know what pace we were doing. I think the key was stopping one or two laps longer than the Ferrari and the Ford because I had really clear laps from those two, in the low 1:42s that made me so close to the Ferrari and especially to be ahead of the Ford coming out of the pits. That was 90 percent of the race… that pit stop and being able to get in front of them. It was a very hard two laps coming out of the pits on cold tires but I knew if I was able to do that most of the race would come down to that. It was keeping the pressure up on the Ferrari to force a mistake, and we didn't allow the BMW to run very slow to make it to the end. That is part of racing. I think we definitely deserve this one."
This race result gave the Magnussen/Garcia duo a lead of 16 points over the BMW Sims/Auberlen pair.
The GTLM cars were the featured class here at VIR, given that the prototypes had the weekend off. In the other class here, the GTD cars, the No. 16 Lamborghini of Jeroen Mul/Corey Lewis finished first in class, ninth overall.
The next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series race will be open to all the classes, including prototypes, and it will be at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 24.
IMSA Continental Tire Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix at VIRginia International Raceway
A Porsche Cayman beats the Camaro and the Mustang
Alton, VA, Aug. 26, 2017: While other car makes had been scoring wins, the duo of Dillon Machavern/Dylan Murcott in their No. 28 Porsche Cayman had been taking the lead in the championship points race. They entered this event with a four-point lead over another Porsche paring, Trent Hindman/Cameron Cassels.
This time they came home the winner 2.8 seconds ahead of the No. 57 Camaro of Matt Bell/Robin Liddell and the No. 59 Mustang of Dean Martin/Jack Roush Jr.
The No. 59 Mustang started on the pole ahead of the No. 57 Camaro and the No. 28 Porsche – and Roush led the first 27 laps until the No. 57 Camaro took the lead during the first caution and through the second one which came almost immediately after that. Coming off the second caution, the Porsche grabbed the lead after the Camaro suffered body damage and they held on to it until the finish.
The next race in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge is at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 23.
F1: Daimler AG
Verizon IndyCar: Chris Owens/IndyCar
NXS: Stacy Revere/Getty Images/NASCAR
IMSA WeatherTech: Richard Prince for Corvette Racing
IMSA Continental: Jake Galstad/LAT Images/IMSA
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