Racing Roundup: Weekend of July 20-25 2016

Written by George Webster on .

Hungary F1 Hamilton rosberg

Formula One: Hamilton wins at Hungary and takes over the points lead

Sunday, July 24: After Nico Rosberg won the first four rounds of this year’s Formula One season, it looked like he had a real chance to best his teammate and rival Lewis Hamilton for the championship this year. But the tables have turned. Since then Rosberg has won only once – at Baku – while Hamilton has scored five wins. His win here over Rosberg moved him up into the points lead by a six-point margin over Rosberg.
    And the way things have been going in this series, that’s about it for news as these two Mercedes drivers continue to dominate, winning every race this year but one – and they had to crash each other out of the race in Spain to open the door for Max Verstappen’s surprise rookie win.
    Qualifying was made confusing by rain which saw four red flags in the first qualifying session. In Q3, the two Mercedes drivers were coming down to the final seconds when Hamilton, who was running behind Rosberg caught a yellow flag and had to abort his run leaving Rosberg to claim the pole.
    But, come race day, Rosberg’s lead was short lived. On the green, Hamilton shot ahead and Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull briefly took the lead before he was passed by Hamilton and Rosberg. Rosberg momentarily regained the lead when Hamilton made his first pit stop but that was it – Hamilton led the rest of the way to the checker with Rosberg coming in second, two seconds adrift.
    Behind them there were two Red Bull Ferrari battles, which saw Ricciardo holding off Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel for third some 26 seconds behind, while a duel between Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) saw Verstappen finishing fifth another twenty seconds behind Vettel.
    The next round in this series will be at Hockenheim in Germany next Sunday, July 30. After that they will take the now-traditional summer break with the next race not coming until August 28 at the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.

IMS NSCS KyBusch WinnerSticker 072416 

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Kyle Busch runs the table at Indianapolis

Sunday, July 24: It had to be the perfect weekend for Kyle Busch at Indianapolis. On Saturday, he won the pole for both the Xfinity race and the Sprint Cup race and he won the Xfinity race on a trot. Then, on Sunday, he totally dominated the Sprint Cup race, easily coming home the winner despite two “overtime” runs when anything could happen. This was the first time a NASCAR driver had swept all four marks on a single weekend. But there’s more. Last year he almost achieved the same sweep, winning the pole and the race in Xfinity and winning the Cup race on Sunday.
    This weekend, they honoured two retired/retiring drivers, Indiana stalwarts Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, and deservedly so, but we need to start recognizing that Kyle Busch is the new superstar of NASCAR racing.
    Last year Busch sat out the first part of the season but he came roaring back to win seven races and the championship. So far this year, he has already won four Sprint cup races and seven Xfinity races. And he is nurturing a whole new generation of young winning drivers like Erik Jones and William Byron and Christopher Bell.
    The Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt, are the kind of drivers that are easy to hate. In the past both have been overconfident and aggressive, pushing aside older, more respected drivers in their quest for wins and more wins. Perhaps the low point for Kyle came when he slammed Ron Hornaday into the wall under yellow in a truck race. But marriage, a child, becoming a team owner and winning his first Cup championship seems to have given him a new focus. As with Dale Earnhardt, there will always be the Kyle Busch haters in the grandstands – but they better get used to him. At 31, he looks set to be a dominant force in NASCAR racing for years to come.
    As for this race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there’s not much to tell. Busch led essentially every lap of the race, only giving up to the lead to Keselowski and Logano briefly during pit stop exchanges because they were on a different pit stop strategy. The race was scheduled for 160 laps (400 miles) and the closest we had to the “big one” came on lap 155, bringing out the red flag while they cleaned up the track.
    After a long cleanup session, they restarted on lap 159 and Busch shot out into the lead again but another crash called for yet another yellow and again on the restart Busch charged out well ahead of his challengers, taking the checker on lap 170 over two seconds ahead of his teammate Matt Kenseth. All the Joe Gibbs entries – Busch, Kenseth, Edwards and Hamlin as well as associate team driver Martin Truex – were strong performers this day underlining the strength of this team and the chances that one of these Toyota drivers – Busch? – will ultimately win the series championship this year.
    Tony Stewart, driving his final NASCAR race here at Indianapolis finished 11th while Jeff Gordon, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr, who is sitting out a few races with “concussion-like” symptoms, was 13th.
    The next Sprint Cup race will be next Sunday, July 31 at Pocono Raceway.

IMS NXS KyBusch WinnerDecal 072316 

NASCAR Xfinity Series: Kyle Busch wins part one of his two-race sweep

Saturday, July 23: Kyle Busch got his remarkable sweep of the two NASCAR races at Indianapolis off to a start by dominating the Xfinity race leading every lap but one on his way to the race win.
    This weekend’s Xfinity race followed the two heats and a main format of the “Dash for the Cash” events. Busch won the first 20-lap heat over Kyle Larson and Joey Logano while Busch’s protege Erik Jones wont he second heat race over Kevin Harvick and Justin Allgaier.
    They all came together on the grid for the 60-lap main, with Busch on the pole. Busch led over Jones until Jones slid wide up into the wall and had to pit for tires. But there must still have been a problem because, on lap 49, Jones spun, bringing out the race’s first caution. Restart, another caution which lasted until lap 61, an overtime restart – but through it all Busch remained in command and came home the winner on lap 63.
    Kevin Harvick was second, Paul Menard third, Kyle Larson fourth and Justin Allgaier fifth. The top four finishers were all Cup regulars ineligible for the Xfinity championship. Daniel Suarez, who finished seventh, leads the championship points standings and he has one win making him eligible for this series’ late-season chase for the championship. Elliott Sadler also has one win while Jones, who is in fifth place in the points, already has two race wins.
    Counting his win here, Busch has already won seven times this year, including the last three races in a row. Since his first race in this series in 2003, he has contested 321 races and won a record 82 times. It does kind of overshadow the efforts of the Xfinity Series regulars who are trying to make a name for themselves.
    The next round of the Xfinity Series is on Saturday, July 30th at Iowa Speedway. Busch will be otherwise occupied racing at Pocono that weekend, so the series regulars will have better prospects.

Tagliani Pintys Edmonton 

NASCAR Pinty’s Series: Tagliani makes it two wins in two weeks at Edmonton

Saturday, July 23: Alex Tagliani won his third race of the 2016 season, the Alberta Has New Energy 300,  Round 6 of the NASCAR Pinty's Series, held Saturday night at the one quarter-mile paved oval Edmonton International Raceway. Starting on the outside of Row 2 following the lone qualifying session held earlier that afternoon, the Laval, Québec driver was shoved aside at the start of the race and lost a few positions before he started to climb up the field.
    On lap 60, he was back up to fourth place behind pole-sitter Kevin Lacroix, Louis-Philippe Dumoulin and race-leader Cayden Lapcevich. After disposing of Lacroix, Tagliani dove inside Dumoulin for second place at the restart on lap 86 of the 300-lap race. Two laps later, he took command of the race and he would never relinquish the lead until the chequered flag.
    LP Dumoulin of Trois-Rivières finished second, four seconds back, followed by Cayden Lapcevich, Jamie Krysik (of Grande Prairie, Alberta) and Mark Dilley to complete the top five. Eighteen drivers started the race and 12 crossed the finish line, with seven on the lead lap.
    Tagliani won his first-ever series race in Edmonton back in 2008, when it ran at the Edmonton City Centre Airport. Last year, in his second race on the Edmonton oval, he finished seventh.
    Following this win and, despite missing the season opener, Tagliani has moved from fifth to third in the driver standings with 223 points. Andrew Ranger, who finished sixth here, is still the championship leader with 249 points, but his lead over rookie Cayden Lapcevich has been reduced to nine points.
    The next race in this series will be run at the Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon, SK, on Wednesday, July 27.
(Thanks to Max d'Orsonnens, Tagliani Autosport)

imsa No 4 Corvette Lime Rock

IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship: Corvette C7R’s to the fore at Lime Rock

Saturday, July 23: Given the small size of the Lime Rock circuit – a 1.5 mile more-or-less oval road course a bit reminiscent of the original layout at Shannonville, the 160-minute Weathertech series race here did not include the fast premiere class, the Prototype class. This left the so-called Prototype Challenge cars, a spec design, as the fastest class present. Even here, they had to share the spotlight with the glamour class, the GT-Le Mans class which while a bit slower, had the advantage of more name drivers and high profile manufacturers and the glamour of being a class that races in the Le Mans 24.
    The Prototype Challenge cars are all ORECA FLM09s with spec small-block Chevy engines. Seven of these cars qualified for the race and four of them won the top four finishing positions. Alex Popow (VEN) and Ranger van der Zande (NLD) were the winning drivers.
    The main interest in this Lime Rock race was focussed on the GTLM class cars, given the rivalry among the manufacturers – Ford GT, Corvette C7R, Ferrari 488 GTE, BMW M6 and Porsche 911 RSR. The Chip Ganassi Ford GTs came here having won in the last four of their starts – Laguna Seca, Le Mans 24, Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. It seems like IMSA adjusts the BOP after every race, so it is hard to predict how the performance of these different cars will compare at each new event.
    This time, the No. 67 Ford GT (Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook) was the fastest qualifier ahead of the BMW M6 (Bill Auberlin/Dirk Werner), the No. 4 Corvette (Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner), the Ferrari which had finished second to the No. 67 Ford at Le Mans (Giancarlo Fisichella/Tony Vilander), the No. 66 Ford GT (Joey Hand/Dirk Müller) and the No. 3 Corvette (Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen) – and more to a total of nine starters in this class.
    At the start, Westbrook’s Ford GT went off in a scrum at the first corner, letting the BMW, the Ferrari and the No. 4 Corvette past to head up the field. By the one hour point, the order was pretty much the same except that the No. 912 Porsche (Bamber/Makowiecki) was now in fourth behind the Corvette and the No. 67 Ford was up to fifth in front of the sister car. Then the Porsche pssed the Corvette to take over third in class.
    Just as it looked like this was settling into the race order, at one-hour-to-go mark, the No. 912 Porsche made an overly ambitious move on the BMW coming through the downhill right-hander (they’re essentially all right-handers here) onto the front straight. This eliminated the number two and number three cars, leaving the Ferrari leading the class ahead of the No. 4 Corvette and the two Fords. Before long the No. 3 Corvette was able to insert itself into fourth between the two Fords. The Ferrari went off the track a couple of times losing the lead. The No. 3 Corvette was able to get past the No. 67 Ford GT, to take second place behind the other team car, finishing one-two. This win marks the 100th victory for Team Corvette.
    However, the Ford GTs were able to save some honour in defeat, the No 67 car coming home in third, a “podium” place.
    Andy Lally/John Potter won the GT Daytona class in their Audi R8, while Robin Leddell/Andrew Davis in another Audi R8 were second and Ben Keating/Jeroen Bleekenmolen were third in a Dodge Viper GT3.
    The next round of the Weathertech Championship (as well as for the Continental Challenge) will be at Road America on the August 5-7 weekend.

IM Maxwell Lime Rock

IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Maxwell and Johnson beat the odds to win at Lime Rock

    Scott Maxwell had not been expecting to win the GS class of the Continental Challenge at Canadian Tire Motorsports park the week before, but he and co-driver Billy Johnson were able to bring their heavy, though powerful Ford Shelby GT350R-C home first ahead of the lighter more-nimble Porsche Cayman GT4s. But CTMP with its long high-speed straights and swoopy corners was one thing, the little bullring of a track they call Lime Rock is another. Surely this track was going to favour the Porsches and the Multimatic Mustang team’s goose would be cooked.
    Well, it didn’t turn out that way in the end.
    In qualifying Daniel Burkett, driving the No. 33 Porsche, was quickest, by a margin of 0.016 seconds over Maxwell in the Mustang. The next quickest Porsche was the other CJ Wilson team car, fourth fastest, 0.6 second slower than Burkett. But, when the race started, Maxwell took the lead and he held it for the first seven laps before Burkett came past him. But Maxwell was able to keep him in sight, running about five seconds in arrears, until Burkett pitted at about the one-hour mark of the 150 minute race and made the driver change to Marc Miller. Maxwell made his pit stop a few laps later, Billy Johnson taking over. When all the pit stops were completed, Johnson had the lead by a small, but significant margin, a mere two or three seconds – but he was able to stay ahead until the second round of pit stops. This time Johnson came out leading Miller by a margin of about 15 seconds. With about 40 minutes left in the race, Johnson was able hold onto his lead as Miller chipped away at it. By the end of the race, the Mustang still had the lead by a margin of five seconds. Pretty good considering how pessimistic the two Multimatic drivers had been going into the Lime Rock race.
    Afterwards, Maxwell gave full credit to the Multimatic pit crew for their excellent work. Indeed the total time for their two pit stops was 20 seconds less than the combined time for the No. 33 car. But credit must also be given to the Multimatic drivers who were able to pretty well match the pace of the flying little Porsche. It remains to be seen how this BoP stuff works out at the next race – Road America in two weeks.
    While there were only seven of the faster GS cars in the race, there were 29 ST entries. The twisty Lime Rock circuit seemed to favour the Gen 3 Mazda MX-5s. The Chad McCumbee/Stevan McAleer MX-5 won the ST class ahead of another two MX-5s.


FIA World Endurance Championship: Porsche beats Audi at the Nürburgring

Sunday, July 24: The six-hour race here in Germany was the first round of the WEC championship after the Le Mans 24 where the Porsche 919 scored a surprise victory after the leading Toyota failed on the final lap. This time, they need no such dramatics to win, the Porsche of Mark Webber/Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley taking the honours.
    The next two finishers, running together about a minute back were two Audi R18s, followed by the other Porsche 919 in fourth. After their crushing disappointment at Le Mans, the best the Toyotas could manage here was fifth and sixth a lap down after six hours.
    The P2 class was won by an Alpine A460 Nissan 16 laps behind the race winner.
    With the attention that has been focussed ln the new GTLM Ford GTs, the competition in this class took on special meaning. It seemed like the competition among the different manufacturers was pretty even with the Ferrari 488 GTEs of AF Corse sharing the lead with the No. 66 Ford GT of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla. Billy Johnson had teamed with these two to win the class honours at Le Mans but a conflict with his obligations to drive the Multimatic Mustang at Lime Rock saw him sitting out the German race.
    In the end the two Ferrari came in one-two, Gianmaria Bruni/James Calado in the winning car. The Ford was running in third until a pit stop penalty dropped them back, off the podium in fourth place. The other Ford GT suffered a big fire in the pits while being refuelled and lost time while it was repaired, dropping it out of contention.
    In GTLM-Am, Toronto-based Paul Dalla Lana, with teammates Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, won the class in an Aston Martin Vantage V8.
    The next round in the WEC championship will be the Six Hours of Mexico in Mexico City on Saturday, September 3rd.

 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Larson wins at Eldora

Larson 24 and Freisen 15 at Eldora

    Kyle Larson, the young Ganassi Sprint Cup driver with a reputation as a dirt track racer, finally made good, winning the NCWTS race at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway. Christopher Bell, who won here last year and who continues in this series as a regular Kyle Busch Racing driver, challenged Larson for the lead in the closing laps but he had to settle for second, less than a second behind.
    Rico Abreu, who has already made his mark as a dirt track racer and who is running the full truck series this year, hung on through adversity and finished third in his Thor Sports entry. Jake Griffin, driving as a stand-in in the #11 Red Horse Toyota formerly driven by Ben Kennedy, was fourth while Brad Keselowski driver Tyler Reddick was fifth.
    After all the preliminary qualifying races were run, Larson started the main in seventh place and was soon challenging the dirt track ringer Bobby Pearce for the lead. He took the lead on lap 35 of the 159-lap race and it looked like he was in command until a flat tire on lap 53 spoiled his plans. Penalized by NASCAR and put a lap down for deliberately bringing out the yellow flag, he was able to make good use of the “lucky dog” provision and he was soon back on the lead lap. Once there, he demonstrated his prowess in this discipline and he was soon challenging for the lead. It looked like Pearce was going to be able to hold off Larson to the end but he slid wide with about 32 laps to go and, ironically, he too suffered a flat right-rear tire which cost him dearly and he finished in 25th place 24 laps down.
    Early in the race there was a big pile up which caused NASCAR to red-flag the race on lap 39. Calgary’s Cameron Hayley was caught up in the carnage but suffered little damage and was able to continue, running as high as fourth at times and winding up in a solid seventh place. Stewart Friesen, a dirt track specialist from Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario who runs on the upstate New York dirt tracks, was impressive, running up in the top ten but a late-race accident saw him finishing in 28th place.
    When the “SuperTruck” Series was first created in 1994 it was envisioned as a novelty act which would allow some of the smaller tracks across the country to get a NASCAR series race. The series is no longer a novelty act, often running on superspeedways as part of Sprint Cup weekends. But the introduction of the dirt race as part of the championship points schedule in 2013 had to be viewed as yet another novelty act. The race throws together series drivers with serious dirt track credentials and others with no dirt track experience at all, combined with a few highly-experienced dirt track ringers like Pierce, who finished second last year and who nearly won it this year. For sure, the dirt race is a hit with the NASCAR fans and it looks like it will remain a fixture on the truck series calendar for years to come.

Photo Credits:
Daimler AG
Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo credit: Brian Lawdermilk/2016 Getty Images
©2016 Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR Pinty's Series

©2016, Jake Galstad LAT Photo/IMSA

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