F1 Austria

F1 Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring
Bottas leads start to finish but Vettel extends his points lead over Hamilton

Sunday, July 9, 2017: Valtteri Bottas started from the pole and won the Austrian Grand Prix by a 0.658-second margin over Sebastian Vettel. In a rather processional race, these two led essentially from start to finish. Vettel finally got within DRS distance on the final lap but Bottas held him off with no problem.

Lewis Hamilton had qualified third fastest behind these two but he was given a penalty for a changed gearbox and he started in eighth place. In part thanks to Max Verstappen’s problems, he jumped to fifth on the start but the best he could do was fourth by the finish. He was challenging Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps but the Australian held him off for third and he stood on the podium alongside Bottas and Vettel. Kimi Räikkönen finished a rather lacklustre fifth.

Verstappen had qualified in fifth place right behind his teammate but a clutch problem on the start saw him fall to the rear – where he was collected in a collision between Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso. He never completed the first lap of the race – yet another disappointing retirement for the young driver.

In qualifying Lance Stroll failed to make it into the second round and he started in 18th place on the grid. Somehow he made a demon start and he was up to 11th place by the end of that first lap. He was able to maintain this and he finished in the points, in tenth place.

With Vettel finishing in second place to Hamilton’s fourth, he again increased his points lead over the Mercedes driver – 171 points to 151. Bottas is in third in the points standings with 136 points – with a cedible hope of catching the tow ahead of him.

There are just two more F1 races before the now-traditional summer break. Next up is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday, July 16. The Hungarian Grand Prix (Formula 1 Pirelli Magyar Nagydíj) will be held at the Hungaroring two weeks later.

Castroneves checkered Iowa

Verizon IndyCar Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway
Castroneves finally wins another IndyCar race

Sunday, July 9, 2017: I recall taking to a young Helio Castroneves at Gateway when he was a budding newcomer driving in CART’s Indy Lights series. Back then his name was still ‘Castro Neves’ – two words. Now he is an aging veteran Indy car driver with retirement looming on the horizon. He had not won a race since Detroit in 2014 and some were beginning to wonder if he ever would again. This week there were rumours that Roger Penske was going to start back in sports car racing and that Castroneves and Montoya would be two of his sports car drivers –raising the question of whether Penske was going to drop Castroneves from his lineup of Indy car drivers.

But that speculation was pushed to the background here at Iowa when the former Dancing with the Stars champion dominated the race here, leading 217 of the race’s 300 laps on his way to victory – his 19th win in Indy cars (including his CART years). This win puts him just eight points behind Scott Dixon (403 to 395) with Simon Pagenaud in third with 372 points.

The Iowa Speedway is a tiny oval by IndyCar standards, just seven-eights of a mile around – similar to the short Milwaukee Mike and the former Nazareth oval which claimed to be a mile around but was really a bit short of that mark. This produces a very short lap time and the cars buzz around lap after lap, completing the 300 laps in just under two hours.

JR Hildebrand equalled his best-ever finish result with a second, four seconds behind Castroneves. Ryan Hunter-Reay was third, polesitter Will Power fourth and Graham Rahal fifth. Last year, Josef Newgarden dominated here but this year, driving for Penske, he never had the same edge and he had to settle for a somewhat mediocre sixth place. James Hinchcliffe, in his last race before his home town Honda Indy in Toronto, was tenth.

Esteban Gutierrez, the former HAAS F1 driver, continues in his role as substitute for the injured Sebastien Bourdais. He made a credible showing on the unfamiliar short-track oval and Dale Coyne may be looking to find a third car for him when Bourdais returns. The Frenchman is making good medical progress and he is hoping to be back in his seat soon – perhaps by the time of the Indy car race at Watkins Glen on Labour Day weekend.

The next Verizon IndyCar race is the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place on Sunday, July 16.

imsa Cadillac DPi winner CTMP

IMSA WeatherTech Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
The Whelen Cadillac takes a surprise win after the dominant Taylor car crashes

Sunday, July 9, 2017: For the first half of the race here it looked like a repeat of the scenario we had seen so often before this year. The No. 10 Cadillac of the Taylor brothers – Ricky and Jordan – were dominant and they looked set to score yet another win, making up for their hiccup the previous week at Watkins Glen. But, in the end, it was the unlikely No. 31 Cadillac of Dane Cameron/Eric Curran taking the honours at the end of the 160-minute race.

Coming into Watkins Glen, the Taylors had won all of the first five races of the season but a first lap collision there had resulted in a lengthy pit stop and they were out of contention in that race. Here at ‘Mosport’ they were back on form and they started from the pole and led most of the race. They held their lead until the one-hour mark when the No. 85 ORECA of Stephen Simpson/Misha Goikhberg passed them for the lead and the No. 85 car was still ahead when both cars made their mid-race pit stop to change over their drivers – but the no. 10 came out in the lead.

Ten laps later and the no. 85 car, driven by Simpson now, regained the lead and pulled out a seven-second gap. Then a full-course yellow came out when the engine in Derani’s Nissan expired.

This changed everything.

During this caution, rain started to fall out on the back of the course – heavily on the back stretch. The leaders came in to the pits under yellow. Most took on rain tires but the No. 10 team opted to stay on slicks. No sooner had this cycle of pit stops been completed than the sun came out at the top end of the track. It looked like it had been the wrong choice to go to rain tires – and that this was going to hand the race to the Taylors – Jordan Taylor now behind the wheel. But it was still wet out back – hard rain at times.

When the green came out Taylor was handicapped by his slicks and he fell back to fourth, ten seconds behind the leader Simpson. Soon Simpson and Nunez (in the No. 55 Mazda) conceded and returned to the pits to take on slicks as well. So now it was “game over” again and Taylor was back in command with a 22-second lead over second-place No. 31 – in turn ahead of Simpson and Joao Barbosa.

Then it all changed again. Taylor made a sloppy pass going through Turn 4 and he clipped the No. 4 Corvette driven by Tommy Milner. The Corvette crashed very heavily into the barrier and the No. 10 car sustained damage to its rear wing – and perhaps some other hidden damage to the suspension. Another full-course yellow as the minutes ticked down.

Taylor came to the pits handing the lead over to Cameron in the No. 31 car. As much as Simpson tried to catch up to Cameron he was stymied by slower traffic and the race wound out to the end with Cameron taking the checker eight seconds ahead of Simpson. Ricky Taylor salvaged a seventh-place finish and the Taylor brothers continue to lead the points standings, now by a 19-point margin.

In the GT-Le Mans class, the BMW M6s finished one-two, the Alexander Sims/Bill Auberlen car finishing ahead of the Martin Tomczyk/John Edwards sister BMW.               Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook finished third in class in a Ford GT while the Corvette of Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen was fourth.

In GT-Daytona, Andrew Davis/Lawson Aschenbach were the class winners in their Audi R8 with the Acura NSX GT3 of Andy Lally/Katherine Legge finishing second in class on the same lap.

The next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series race is at Lime Rock Park on July 22.

IMSA Coninental CTMP 17-07-08

IMSA Continental Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 120 at CTMP
The Stevenson Camaro is victorious after the three front-runners falter

Saturday, July 8, 2017: It is unlikely that anyone watching the first half of this IMSA Continental race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park would have expected the Matt Bell/Robin Liddell Camaro to take home the honours. A pair of McLarens dominated the first half of the race driving away from the Mustang and the Camaro next in line. By the 45-minute mark of the two-hour race, the lead McLaren was leading the Camaro by almost a minute - but sometimes things change.

Going into the race, the local story centred around Scot Maxwell, a long-time race and development driver for the Multimatic organization. Earlier this year, he had finished fourth at Daytona, the first round in this year’s series, and, driving a similar car in KohR livery, he won at Sebring. But Multimatic has chosen to not contest this series this year and Maxwell was left on the sidelines after that. Now, with this series coming to his home town, a last-minute deal was made to put Maxwell back in the RohR car for one last race before he declared his racing career completed. For him to win here would have been a fitting end to the many successful years he has had driving for Larry Holt and the Multimatic organization.

But it was not to be. At the start of the race, the No. 69 McLaren driven by Jesse Lazare/Chris Green took the lead from the pole, leading the No. 76 McLaren of Paul Holton/Matt Plumb. The KohR Mustang, driven initially by Jack Roush Jr. was third ahead of the No. 57 Camaro in the hands of Bell.

In that first stint, the McLarens dominated – but the race ended early for the Roush/Maxwell Mustang when it pulled into the pits and retired after just 18 laps. The car had had a drive train problem the day before and a similar problem in the drive train knocked it out of the race. The day ended without Maxwell ever driving a single lap in this race. Perhaps he will get another chance later this year to finish off his racing career in style.

By now it looked like we were set for a McLaren one-two finish with everyone else relegated to also-ran status. But that changed when a full-course yellow flew at the 49-minute mark – on lap 33 of what turned out to be a 79-lap race. This closed up the field and let everyone make their pit stops to refuel and change drivers. The McLarens’s pit stops take longer because IMSA mandates that they can only use one air gun to change all four of their single-nut wheels.

Lazare retained the lead in the No. 69 McLaren coming out of the pits but now Liddell was in second place in the Camaro with Plumb in the other McLaren back in fourth place. On the restart Liddell took the lead as Lazare in the No. 69 McLaren fell back several places – perhaps due to cold tires. The No. 76 McLaren, which had been running in second place settled into second place again - but this time he was behind the Camaro.

A few laps later and the No. 69 McLaren was back up into second place ahead of the No. 76 McLaren. On the final lap, Dillon Machaven in the No. 28 Porsche Cayman, pipped the No. 69 car for second place – so the seemingly all-conquering pair of McLarens ended up in third and fourth at the end of the race.

The next IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race is at Lime Rock Park on July 22.

MENCS KS TruexLeads 07082017

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway
A dominant win for Truex at Kentucky; hard luck for Larson

Saturday, July 8, 2017: Martin Truex again demonstrated that the Furniture Row team, which operates out of Denver, is the strongest of the Toyota teams. He led 152 laps of the race which ran to 274 laps including two overtime runs – and he led the final 46 laps on the way to the checkered flag.

In a way, one might think that Kyle Larson should have won this race. He had to start from the back of the field after his crew failed to get the car through pre-qualifying inspection on time but, by lap 70, he was up to third behind the other two strong runners Truex and Kyle Busch – an impressive show of speed. But just when it looked like he was getting set to challenge for the race lead, a caution came on lap 82 and he was busted for speeding in pit lane. Back to the rear once again. And, once again, he showed an amazing ability to race his way back to the front on this ‘one-groove’ track. By lap 134, he was back up to fifth place and he was challenging once again.

This time it was taking him a bit longer to move up further to challenge the front runners, but by lap 207, he was up to second place behind Truex – but Truex had the upper hand with a 14-second lead over Larson. After a round of green-flag pit stops it was back to the Truex-Busch-Larson trio at the front and then, with 24 laps to go, Larson was into second behind Truex. But Truex still had a massive lead of over ten seconds.

Then it got interesting. The eighth caution flew on lap 267 – the race’s scheduled final lap – sending the race into overtime. Everyone dove into the pits for fresh tires – everyone but Truex. Larson came out in third place behind Erik Jones – both had taken on four tires and they took the restart two-three behind Truex.

Come the restart and Truex held them off until he reached the overtime line on the backstretch. Just then, all hell broke loose as the field erupted into a mass of wrecking cars behind the front runners – but the deed was done. The yellow flew and Truex cruised around the final lap-and-a-half to take the checker.

Larson was second, Chase Elliott third, Denny Hamlin fourth, Busch fifth and Jones sixth.

If NASCAR had anything resembling a normal championship formula –instead of its wild final-race-shootout of a championship, we could say that Truex and Larson were now the leading candidates to win this year’s championship, but given NASCAR’s propensity to keeping the championship in doubt until the final race at Homestead, who knows?

Next week the MENCS gang moves on to New England at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, racing on July 16.

NSX KyBusch Kentucky 17-07-08

NASCAR XFINITY Series Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway
Another Xfinity win for Kyle Busch

Saturday, July 8, 2017: Kyle Busch has won so many of these undercard races that you just expect him to win every time he enters one. But this time, his win was by no means inevitable and it was due a wise tire strategy – one might call it a gamble – and some bad luck for Ryan Blaney who had the fastest car in the final green-flag run of the 200-lap race.

Busch was leading over Penske driver Blaney and his Toyota teammate – and protege - Erik Jones when, with seventy laps to run, the seventh caution flew for suspected fluid on the track. Everyone pitted and took on tires – most took just two tires – planning to make one more stop before the end but Busch got four. This dropped him back to seventh for the restart but by the time the eighth and final caution flew on lap 168, he was right behind the race leaders – Jones and Blaney – and when they pitted he stayed out and inherited the race lead.

Unfortunately for Blaney, a mistake by his crew failing to properly keep control of a loose tire dropped him to the back – seemingly completely out of contention.

On the restart Busch had the lead over Jones but Blaney, now on four fresh tires, was on a tear and, by lap 177, he was up to tenth place. After that he kept on passing car after car until he was up to third behind Jones with nine laps to go. He closed in on Jones but he was not able to get past until the final lap. He finished in second place behind Busch and ahead of Jones – but who knows what he might have been able to do had he not had that unfortunate penalty. It has become apparent that we are about to see a major shift in the lineup of the top drivers in the Cup series – and Blaney’s recent performances have to make him a contender for a top Ford ride as this cycle of renewal turns.

The race was originally scheduled to run on Friday night but facing the prospect of rain and lightning at that time, NASCAR postponed the race until noon on Saturday, the same day as the Cup race here was to run. Even thought the Cup race was scheduled for the evening, one would have thought that NASCAR fans who were planning to attend the Cup race would take advantage of the unexpected turn of events and take in both race on Saturday. Amazingly, the grandstands were almost completely empty for the Xfinity race – probably there were fewer than five percent of the seats occupied.

The next Xfinity Series race is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15.

NCWTS KS BellOnTruck crop 07062017

NASCAR Camping World Trucks Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway
Bell living up to his promise; Kentucky is his third truck win of the year

Thursday, July 6, 2017: Christopher Bell is one of the future stars of NASCAR. Even though his car let him down when he did a guest appearance at CTMP in May, he continues to impress with his wins in the truck series this year. Despite a spin in the opening laps and being involved in a crash later, he led the final 37 laps of the 150-lap race at Kentucky Speedway – and he led for a total of 54 laps during the race, finishing 0.187-seconds ahead of Brandon Jones.

Justin Haley was third while Austin Cindric was fourth and Noah Gragson fifth.

Rain disrupted the schedule at the Kentucky Speedway on Thursday and Friday. The truck race was scheduled for the Thursday evening but rain, which started in the afternoon, persisted and there was nearly an three-hour delay before the race got underway – and by then it was well past ten o’clock. Once the rain stopped and track drying was completed, the race finally went green.

With qualifying rained out, the starting lineup was based on the points standings. Johnny Sauter was on pole with Bell alongside. Bell was one of those who pitted during the first caution, on lap 22, and he fell all the way back to 24th for the restart. And soon after, Bell lost control and spun bringing out the second yellow at lap 28th. But, having taken on fresh tires after this spin, he was able to skip the tire change during the caution at the end of Stage 1, and he was first back out of the pits – but still behind many who had skipped this round of pit stops entirely.

Ben Rhodes, who had won the first Stage, spun almost immediately after this restart and collected Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton. After this, Gragson took command and led for 32 laps, emerging as the Stage 2 winner. But he suffered from the Stage-winner’s curse, when he got together with Cindric and he spun almost immediately after the racing resumed. After this Bell regained command of the race and he led most of the remaining laps on his way to victory.

Jones’ shot at the win was compromised when he was penalized and sent to the back of the field. He eventually made it back on the lead lap and he worked his way up to third behind John Hunter Nemechek and Bell. The final restart came with 31 lap to go after a big crash was set off when Kaz Grala lost control – which put Jones alongside Bell for this restart. In the remaining laps, Jones hounded Bell but he was never able to get past him – and he had to settle for second place just behind Bell.

The St. Catharines driver Stewart Friesen was back after skipping a couple of the truck races. He had to start near the back of the field but he drove a steady race and finished in 12th place, his best result so far this year.

The next Camping World Truck Series race is at Eldora Speedway on July 19.


NASCAR Pinty’s Series Ecko Unlimited 75 at Circuit ICAR
Another win for Lacroix

Saturday, July 8, 2017: At the reconfigured ICAR circuit – which is based at the former Mirabel airport – Kevin Lacroix was second to Marc-Antoine Camirand going into overtime. But he took the lead on this final restart and he held off a charging Andrew Ranger to take the win, his second of the 2017 season. This win gave him a five-point lead over Alex Labbe (174 points to 169).

Ranger finished second, just 0.114 seconds behind while Camirand was third. Alex Labbe was fourth, while Alex Tagliani, who had led the first 61 laps of the 79-lap race, was fifth.

The next NASCAR Pinty’s Series race is at Exhibition Place on July 15 in conjunction with the Honda Indy Toronto.

Photo Credits

F1: Daimler AG
Verizon IndyCar: Chris Jones
IMSA Weathertech: Jake Galstad/LAT Images/IMSA
IMSA Continental: Jake Galstad/LAT Images/IMSA
MENCS: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images/NASCAR
NXS: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images/NASCAR
NCWTS: Jerry Markland/Getty Images/NASCAR
NASCAR Pinty’s: Matthew Manor/NASCAR                                                                                                                                             

Box Score Results                                                                                                                           

Results of F1 at Austria
Results of Verizon IndyCar Series at Iowa
Results of IMSA WeatherTech at CTMP
Results of IMSA Continental at CTMP
Results of MENCS at Kentucky
Results of NXS at Kentucky
Results of NCWTS at Kentucky
Results of NASCAR Pinty’s at ICAR