Welcome to week 19 – four races this weekend. Moto GP is in Italy at Mugello; NASCAR is on the short track in Dover, Delaware; Indycar and the USCC are together (different days) racing around Belle Island, Detroit, Michigan. Picks can be made at: http://www.roadracetracks.com/motorracinggame.shtml.
Scores from week 18:
F1 Monaco, WRC Portugal, NASCAR Charlotte, Indycar Indianapolis:
Lewis Hamilton dominated the F1 Monte Carlo GP, but didn’t win it thanks to a ridiculous decision by his team to bring him in for fresh tires during a safety car caution with just 10 or so laps to go. The commentators were incredulous, then tried to find some excuse as to why Mercedes might have made the decision, but at a track with practically no opportunity to pass, I didn’t see any reason for him to come in. It gave his teammate Nico Rosberg the lead and hence the win, followed across the line by Sebastian Vettal, then Hamilton. It cuts Hamilton’s championship lead to just 10 points. Daniil Kvyat had his best race ever with fourth place which he briefly ceded to Daniel Ricciardo who tried to catch and pass Hamilton in the closing laps, but Ricciardo gave the position back again (a gentlemanly act) in the final lap. Behind Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen was the top finishing Ferrari with sixth place. Our other pick, Valtteri Bottas finished 14th – he simply didn’t have the pace.
The WRC event in Northern Portugal was an interesting race with both Citroen and M-Sport (Ford) introducing new and they hoped more competitive cars to challenge the Volkswagen might. It seems like mission accomplished with five different stage winners in the first five stages. As championship leader, Sebastien Ogier was sweeper for most of Friday and Saturday and that put him down a bit in positions. But from the second loop of stages on Saturday he didn’t have to sweep and so started a charge that eventually took him to a second place finish. He was bested by his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala who held the lead from Friday afternoon through to the finish. Third VW driver Andreas Mikkelsen took the final podium position, but until the last stage it was very close for third with Kris Meeke – the only other driver who seemed to stay competitive with the VWs. But Meeke broke the rear sway-arm on the Citroen on the penultimate stage which meant he had to settle for a fourth place finish. Fifth was the Ford of Ott Tanak, and sixth the Hyundai of Dani Sordo. Sordo’s teammate Thierry Neuville had a miserable weekend; poor tire choices saw him down the standings after Friday, and then on the first stage of Saturday he rolled. He returned on Sunday under rally 2, but with the penalties could do no better than a 38th place finish.
The Indianapolis 500 was a nervous race for everyone, including me as TV spectator, after three horrible crashed occurred in the practice week leading up to qualifying. Three cars in solo crashes hit the wall and went airborne. Fortunately all three drivers were ok. But it prompted some rule changes for qualifying and the race to slow the cars down. Still, the crashes dominated the pre-race talk, and as mentioned, everyone was nervous for the race. A crash on lap 1 involving Sage Karam and Takuma Sato didn’t help. But after that the race settled down. There was a pit road incident involving Carlos Huertas, Pippa Mann, and Tristan Vautier, which unfortunately sent a crewman to the hospital, but apparently not a serious injury. There was one final nasty looking crash on lap 176 which took out Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti, and Sebastian Saavedra. After that is was an exciting final few laps with Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Charlie Kimball, and Scott Dixon battling for the win. Montoya passed Power with four to go and stayed ahead for the win – 15 years after he won it as an Indy rookie. Following him across the line was Power, Kimball, and Dixon in that order. Our other pick, Simon Pagenaud had a good race, being up front for stretches, but faded to a tenth place finish.
The NASCAR race in Charlotte is the longest of their calendar at 600 miles. And it was long to watch too. There was a smattering of crashes (nothing big), at least one engine failure, and mostly lead by Martin Truex Jr. But different tire/fuel strategies shuffled the pack in the closing stages when the race stayed green, causing some drivers, including Truex, to have an extra stop for gas and tires. Carl Edwards was not one of them, and by staying out he inherited the lead and won the race over Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Congratulations to me and my fifth win of the year, and back-to-back from last week. Drewe and Greased Lightning tied for second. For Drewe it was enough to edge back ahead of Sebastian in the season long standings…