Formula One German Grand Prix at Hockenheim
Hamilton extends his points lead with another win
July 31, 2016: When Nico Rosberg stole the pole position from Hamilton in qualifying, it looked like he had a chance to get his own back on his rival teammate and regain the points lead he had lost at Hungary. But that was not to be. In the race, Hamilton made a perfect start, spurting easily into the lead in the first corner while Rosberg was slowed by wheel spin. This let the two Red Bull cars – Verstappen and Ricciardo – though into second and third and that pretty much told the story of the race.
Hamilton remained in control the rest of the way and came home the winner by a margin of seven second over the next car, the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. Max Verstappen was third while Rosberg ended up an inglorious fourth. Behind that foursome, came the two Ferraris – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen – in fifth and sixth. Vettel was some 17 seconds adrift of Rosberg and 33 seconds behind the race winner. Going into the midsummer break it looked like the Red Bulls were getting close to the performance of the Mercedes cars while the Ferraris were not quite in that class.
Early in the race Verstappen was able to stay ahead of his teammate Ricciardo but later on the tire selection (super softs for Ricciardo) seems to favour the Australian and he took command of second place. Meanwhile Rosberg made a brave run on Verstappen at the hairpin and forced him wide – off the racing surface – as he took over third place. Unfortunately for Rosberg, the stewards ruled this pass illegal and assessed him a five-second penalty. He served this penalty on his next pit stop but an unfortunate fumble with the stop watch timing of this saw him delayed a bit more even. After this, Rosberg was relegated to fourth and he could never again challenge Verstappen.
This result gave Hamilton a 19-point lead in the drivers' championship race (217 to 198) going into the four week midsummer break. Ricciardo is third with 133 points while the often underrated Räikkönen is fourth (122) with Vettel fifth (120). Verstappen, who was only promoted to the Red Bull team in time for Monaco, is sixth (115).
The next round of the series comes in four weeks time – the Belgian Grand Prix at a real road course circuit, Spa-Francorchamps, on August 28.
Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Points-leader Pagenauld beats Power to win his fourth race of the season
July 31, 2016: Simon Pagenauld has been leading in the points race most of the season, having started of with three early wins but recently others have been closing in on his points lead – notably Penske teammate Will Power who missed the first race at St. Petersburg but who had closed to within 47 points of Pagenauld coming away from Toronto.
But here at Mid-Ohio, Pagenauld showed his determination to hold on to the championship points lead. During the second of only two cautions in the race, which came on lap 61, Power got out of the pits just ahead of Pagenauld. But Conor Daly had pitted a few laps before this round of yellow-flag pits stops and he inherited the lead when the leaders all pitted. It looked like if Daly could run to the finish without making another stop for fuel he might be able to hold on for the win.
Behind Daly, Pagenauld had another idea, his main goal was to finish ahead of the other challengers for the title, especially Power. Immediately, on the restart, Pagenauld began to challenge Power for the position – at the keyhole, at the esses and finally he drew alongside coming into the last corner, the Carousel, and banged wheels with Power as he pushed ahead of Power coming onto the front straight. After that, Power was never able to regain his lost position, falling farther back as the laps wound down.
But Daly had a solid lead over Pagenauld which grew to nearly ten seconds. Daly knew he was going to have to pit again and he did so on lap 84 of the 90-lap race, handing the lead over to Pagenauld – who went on to win the race by a margin of four seconds over Power. Carlos Munoz, worked a fuel strategy to wind up in fourth place ahead of Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.
For a while it looked like Mikhail Aleshin might win the race – or, at least, get a top finish. He was showing good speed and he managed to get out in the lead in a sequence of green-flag pits stops and was able to regain the lead when the Power-Pagenauld made their green-flag pit stop on lap 26. Things were looking good when he was able to pit first ahead of everyone under the second caution but, just as he was waved out from his pit stall, Josef Newgarten was turning left into his. The two collided and their hopes of a good finish evaporated. Newgarten finished in tenth place while Aleshin was 17th.
Early in the race, Scott Dixon, who had qualified back in 11th place made an aggressive move inside Helio Castroneves at the Keyhole and crashed heavily destroying his left-front suspension. His hopes of a good finish to make up for recent bad luck at Toronto were dashed; he finished dead last in 22nd place.
Pagenauld left Ohio with an increased points lead over Power, 484 points to 426. Hinchcliffe, with his firth-place finish was seventh in the points standing with 329 points.
The next round of the IndyCar series will be held on August 21 at the Pocono Raceway.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway
Rookie Buescher wins Monday’s rain-delayed fog bowl
August 1, 2016: It seems like this week we are talking about “young guns” in NASCAR. Chris Buescher, who won the Xfinity championship last year driving for Jack Roush, was the lucky winner of the August Sprint Cup race here at Pocono and as a Cup rookie at age 23 he has to qualify as one of those young guns.
The 160-lap race was run on Monday after rain washed out the original plans to run the race on Sunday. On Monday, the race was delayed while they completed track drying and then mid-race it was put under caution for six laps when a light drizzle fell on the the track. On lap 133, the track went yellow again, this time for fog which had come in from the east and made it impossible for NASCAR officials or the team spotters to see the back half of the race track. After six slow laps behind the pace car, they called the cars into pit lane and went red. After another hour-and-a-quarter of standing around, NASCAR finally decided that they had had enough and called it a day.
Buescher, who had been on a unique pit stop strategy as the result of a collision early in the race which saw him pitting for repairs out of sequence, happened to be leading when the final caution flew - and he waited it out until NASCAR declared the race over and him the winner.
This win almost puts him into the list of those eligible for the season-end Chase for the championship but he also needs to be among the top 30 drivers in the points standings. After Pocono, he was just six points short of that but he was confident that now he would be able to make up that deficit. I wouldn’t be surprised if his mentor Jack Roush or Ford might help him obtain a more competitive car or cars to run in the rest of the season. After all, neither of Roush’s regular Cup drivers have qualified for the Chase yet.
This race was marked by a variety of pit stop strategies which saw different drivers showing up at the front of the field in rotation. When that final caution flew, Brad Keselowski, who was then looking like the driver with the winning strategy, was in second place. Behind him came Tommy Baldwin driver Regan Smith – a lucky turn of affairs for him. And then Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and Kyle Larson. Had this race followed a more usual story line, Kevin Harvick, who seemed to be the fastest on Monday, might well have been the winner.
There was lots of bad luck to go around. Martin Truex Jr started from the pole and was a favourite to win but after the first round of pit stops, a damaged valve stem caused his tire to deflate and he slammed hard into the first turn, effectively ending his day. Joey Logano had been looking good but he got tangled up with Chase Elliott trying to clear traffic after the sixth caution ended on lap 103, relegating them both to back-of-the-field finishes.
Jeff Gordon had a bad day. He started 24th in the No. 88 car but he never was able to work his way up very far in the field. And then, his seat belt buckle came undone and he had to slow until he managed to re-fasten it. By that time he was at the tail of the lead lap and with the final caution coming out, he never had a chance to improve his position. It is beginning to look like it could be some time before Dale Earnhardt Jr is ready to resume the driver’s role, so Gordon’s relief stint could go on for some time, hopefully giving him a chance to get his mojo back.
This will be short week back at the shop for the Cup teams. They will need to be ready to go at Watkins Glen next Friday, getting ready for next Sunday’s Sprint Cup race on the upstate New York road course.
NASCAR Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway
Erik Jones battles back from slow pit stops to take his third win of the season
July 30, 2016: In the end, the twenty-year-old Kyle Busch protege Erik Jones won the race in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota but not before he had to overcome a series of slow pit stops which saw him having to fight to regain the lead after each of his three stops. This 250-lap race was being run in Iowa while the Truck and Cup races were being run as a double-header at Pocono. Different teams made different arrangements. For example Elliott Sadler's JR Motorsports Car was being serviced by the pit crew that attends to Chase Elliott's Cup car, flown in to Iowa for the Saturday evening race – and they performed flawlessly getting Sadler out ahead of Jones every time.
Jones, and his teammate Daniel Suarez, had to make do with pick-up pit crews and their inexperience showed. On the last round of yellow-flag pit stops Jones came out third behind Ty Dillon and Sadler. Jones was able to get past Sadler fairly quickly but Dillon was a tough problem – he hung onto the lead for 82 laps and it began to look like Jones, despite his earlier dominance, was going to be unable to catch Dillon who was hoping to end a long winless streak. But, catch him he did, with 15 laps to go and, once by, he was able to open up a comfortable gap, taking the checkered flag four second ahead of Dillon. Sadler finished in third ahead of Brendan Poole in a Ganassi Chevrolet and Dakota Armstrong in another JGR Toyota, subbing for Matt Tifft who recently underwent brain surgery for the removal of a tumour.
Jones JGR teammate did not fare quite so well. He had managed to stay in touch with Jones, running in second place, until that final caution when a slow pit stop saw him coming out of the pits way back –in seventh. On the restart Armstrong slowed unexpectedly in front of him and he slammed into the rear of the car ahead. Despite obvious damage to the nose of his car Suarez was able to continue mid-pack, but he must have damaged his radiator because he was retired with engine failure 75 laps short of the finish. This dropped Suarez from first to second behind Sadler in the points standings but, given that he has a win at Michigan, he should be a shoo-in for a chance at the end-of-season Chase for the championship.
Brad Keslowski proved that it was possible to race at both Pocono and Iowa on the same weekend. He flew down to drive the Penske Mustang but this car is still unable to match the pace of the fastest Toyota and Chevrolets. Driving a "work in progress" he finished eighth.
The next round in the Xfinity Series will run next weekend on August 6, the day before the Cup race at Watkins Glen International.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway
Byron scores his fifth Truck Series win of the season
July 30, 2016: The eighteen-year-old rookie William Byron took another step forward towards a seemingly inevitable Truck Series championship when he won here at Pocono, his fifth win so far this year. He was one of three Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers in the race – Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin being the other two. They finished 10th and 13th respectively. With all that young talent – along with Kyle Busch protege Erik Jones who won the series championship last year and who is going for the Xfinity championship this year – Busch and his Sprint Cup team owner Joe Gibbs must be wondering where they can find a place for them to move up to the senior series in the next few years. It seems unlikely that any of the current four JGR drivers – Busch, Kenseth, Hamlin or Edwards – all championship calibre are likely to step aside any day soon. It is a good problem for Busch, Gibbs and Toyota to have but with all that developing talent, Busch needs to find a place to let them take their place on the big stage.
It is doubtful that everyone has forgotten how Ford, to their regret, let Jeff Gordon slip out of their camp because they were not mapping out an aggressive plan to move him up to the Cup series fast enough. Remember, Gordon was driving a Ford for Bill Davis in the Busch Series before he signed on with Hendrick and Chevrolet. Perhaps Busch will need to create his own Xfinity and Cup teams alongside the Gibbs' teams or perhaps they need to persuade the affiliated Furniture Row team to add a second car for a driver from the new KBM dynasty.
Byron was in command of this Pocono race, leading all the way except when others followed a different pit strategy and led briefly when Byron pitted before they did. Calgary's Cameron Hayley, whose best finish so far this year had been a second at Atlanta, came to fore in the closing laps in his ThorSport Toyota, moving up into second place behind Byron with 16 laps left in the 60-lap race – and that's where he finished, matching his second at Atlanta. This result makes him eighth in the championship points race and, for the moment at least, into the end-of-season Chase for the series championship.
Brett Moffitt was third while Timothy Peters was fourth, putting Toyota into the top four finishing positions – and underlining how Toyota has become the dominant brand in this series. Rookie Cole Custer – another young rising star – in a JR Motorsports Chevrolet came home in fifth despite spinning and bringing out the caution early in the race.
Unfortunately the two Brad Keselowski entries, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick, who had been looking like contenders early in the race, were both involved in a collision about mid-race.
The next round in this series will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 17.
NASCAR Pinty's Series Velocity Prairie Thunder 250 at Wyant Group Raceway, Saskatoon, SK
Cayden Lapcevich becomes the youngest driver to win in the Pinty's Series
July 27, 2016: Sixteen-year old, second generation Pinty's driver Cayden Lapcevich won the race here at Saskatoon in his Ace Services Dodge, passing JP Dumoulin with three laps to go, coming home less than a second ahead of Dumoulin.
Andrew Ranger, who started from the pole, led the first 91 laps of the 250-lap race. After than Jason Hathaway and Lapcevich traded the lead for the next 245 laps until the final caution of the race flew on lap 237. Dumoulin took the lead when the green flew but Lapcevich got past and led the final two laps of the race. Alex Labbé finished in third place ahead of Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger. Hathaway collided with Tagliani on lap 75 and finished the race in 17th place, 27 laps off the pace.
This race result saw Lapcevich closing to within one point of the championship points leader Ranger (288 to 289). Tagliani is third with 263 points.
The next round in the NASCAR Pinty's Series will be the Can-Am 50 Tours at Trois Rivières, QC, on August 14.
Wolfgang Wilhelm/Daimler AG
Jonathan Moore/2016 NASCAR via Getty Images
Rainier Ehrhardt/2016 NASCAR via Getty Images
Matthew Murnaghan/NASCAR Pinty's Series