In today’s Motion Motorsport Report, Dave Mathers is excited to report on a very busy weekend of racing! What a great weekend for motorsports enthusiasts!! NASCAR (x3), Formula One, IMSA, WEC and IndyCar!! Sensory overload for sure, for sure!!
NASCAR CUP SERIES: Apparently, the concerns about the reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway were well-founded. That work included repaving, an increase in the banking and a 15- foot reduction in track width (not sure about that last one!).
In 1975, Linda and I – along with our two boys – travelled in our motorhome to the Gatornationals and stopped at Atlanta to buy tickets for the Cup race the following weekend.
We pulled in and saw a huge mess outside the track. I saw a worker and asked what that was all about. He said that a tornado had hit the track and ripped out a bunch of the stands. He said they had ten days to get everything fixed.
We returned after being in Florida… and they had everything fixed up. That was when the track was a traditional 1 ½ mile oval before they made it into the D-shape that it is today. Neat track.
On the parade laps (yesterday) we saw that there was actually a camera mounted on the spoiler of Kurt Busch’s car; something I had never seen before. I wasn’t sure how long it would last but it did, even through some accidents.
Chase Briscoe started from the pole and led for a while. Noah Gragson spanked the wall hard on lap 24, offering a preview about what was coming.
Nine cautions for accidents took out about a dozen cars and damaged many others. They even wrecked at the checker with Bubba Wallace getting turned into the wall.
On lap 95, the most pleasant surprise of this season, Ross Chastain, blew a right-rear tire while leading and hit the wall, but not too hard. He would come back to finish a very strong second!!
Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch tangled near the half way mark, sending Dillon to the garage.
William Byron took the win over Chastain, both in Chevs, with Kurt Busch third in a Toyota.
Chase Elliott (0 wins) leads the points by 7 over Joey Logano (0 wins) and by 15 atop Chase Briscoe (1 win).
Their next race, Circuit of the Americas (COTA), is this Sunday at 3.30 P.M. on both TSN and Fox.
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: It looked like the Xfinity class would be relatively incident free like the truck race but, oh no, it was not to be!!
There were a couple of minor incidents but business really picked up with ten laps to go. Trevor Bayne, running second, moved up to block AJ Allmendinger but they just touched bumpers.
Bayne went up to the wall and came back down into the pack. Carnage ensued!! Ten cars were involved including Canadian Alex Labbé who recovered to finish 19th.
After the cleanup, another yellow came out with just four to go. Myatt Snider, on the restart, tried to block Riley Herbst resulting in Snider spinning onto the apron. That was all was it? Nope. Another yellow – that actually went red – resulted in a green, white, checker.
And, good news, we were able to answer that age old question – ‘Car 54, where are you’?? Well, in the winner’s circle!!
Another 19-year-old, Ty Gibbs, got a huge push from Allmendinger to move into the lead coming to the line. He got under Ryan Sieg allowing Austin Hill to finish second with ‘Dinger’ third. This was the second win this year for Gibbs.
Noah Gragson continues to the lead the points by 19 over a two way tie for second between Gibbs and Allmendinger.
Their next race, COTA, is this Saturday at 4.30 P.M. on TSN.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCKS: Canadian Stewart Friesen started from the outside pole at Atlanta and won Stage 1. He looked like he would win Stage 2 but pitted with a flat tire 7 laps before the end of the stage. He came back through the pack and ran pretty much top ten finally finishing 6th. He sits 4th in points!!
All the pre-race hype about the new pavement and the reconfiguration didn’t seem to affect the trucks too much. One of the incidents during the race happened when a tire came off a truck in the pits and was actually on fire.
At the checker it was 19-year-old Corey Heim with the win over Ben Rhodes and Ty Majeski. The first four finishers were in Toyotas followed by a Ford, another Toyota, two Fords and finally Chevs in 9th and 10th.
I was NOT impressed with John Hunter Nemechek, two laps down, running hard with the leaders at the checker. His father Joe will, I’m sure, talk to him about that!!
Chandler Smith leads the points by 13 over Tanner Gray and 17 ahead of Majeski.
Their next race, COTA, is Saturday at 1 P.M. on Fox Sports Racing.
FORMULA ONE: Quick Quiz!! Which sanctioning body imposed an extra 38 kg. to be added to every car ONE DAY before opening practice for their first race?
Wow, the soap opera known as Formula One does it again. And the new Race Director is going to enforce their Mickey Mouse ‘track limits’ rules.
How many people will they have to hire to watch every spot where ‘track limits’ could be exceeded? Let ‘em race for crying out loud. Aren’t these the best drivers in the world?
Ferrari seems to have recovered from their past two years of being ‘lost in the desert’!! They grabbed the pole and the third starting spot.
Is it time for another ‘power unit’ investigation? Just asking. The race started with our two Canadians in the last row – Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi.
Lots of observations from this race. Kevin Magnussen, replacing Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, gave Haas its best starting spot (7th) in several years. And he finished a very strong 5th!! Good to see Haas back again.
What’s with those little ‘fenderlets’ on the front wheels? Aerodynamics?
It appeared that Lewis Hamilton’s car had tire issues as he stopped early, twice before halfway. Apparently, the new side pods on the Mercedes are giving too much downforce resulting in some ‘porpoising’ and rapid tire wear. I’m sure they will sort it out. And about those new wings. The Red Bull’s spoilers looked like hammocks!! LOL
Charles LeClerc started from the pole and had a couple of serious moments with Max Verstappen swapping the lead with him on both laps 17 & 18.
Nevertheless, he held on and won the race ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz.
Mercedes finished third and fourth with their Mercedes cars. Unfortunately, Verstappen slowed with three laps to go and pitted with fuel delivery problems.
Teammate Sergio Perez appeared to have his engine seize causing him to spin on the last lap. It was later revealed that he had a similar problem to Verstappen.
Not a good start to the season for Red Bull!! Lance Stroll, in his Aston Martin, ended up 12th while Latifi finished 16th for Williams.
Overall, a good start to the new season. Old teams (Ferrari, Haas) coming back to their former glory? Hopefully it will NOT be ‘same old, same old’ again!!
Their next race is at Saudi Arabia this weekend. Hopefully they have fixed those ‘blind corners’!!
INDYCAR: The key word to describe the XPEL 375 at bad fast Texas Motor Speedway would be “exciting.”
With speeds floating around 220 MPH, the action and passing was non-stop. St. Petersburg winner Scott McLaughlin started second and immediately took the lead.
In fact, he ended up leading 186 of the 248 laps BUT Josef Newgarden, his Penske Racing teammate, nipped him coming off Corner 4 heading to the flag, winning by, wait for it, 0.0669 of a second!! Ouch.
The pre-race worries about the ‘traction compound’ (drag racing glue!!) that NASCAR requires turned out to be not that much of a problem. Only four caution periods slowed the action, three of them for single cars and the last one for three cars.
The biggest and best surprise of the race, you ask? ‘Seven-Time’ Jimmie Johnson, starting his first IndyCar oval race, started 18th and finished a very strong 6th, impressing a lot of people including me.
Another pleasant surprise had Santino Ferrucci fill in for the injured Jack Harvey. He started dead last (27th) and finished ninth. Marcus Ericsson finished a close third.
McLaughlin still leads the points by 28 over Will Power and by 30 atop Alex Palou.
Their next race is at Long Beach, April 10, a double header with IMSA.
IMSA: 53 entries at Sebring? Great news. There were 7 DPis (prototypes), 8 LMP 2s, 10 LMP 3s, 11 GT Pros and 17 GTDs.
The green flag flew against a backdrop of VERY black clouds in the distance near Tampa but the rain held off.
Polesitter Sebastian Bourdais encountered problems on the very first lap. The engine cover was removed, things were checked over, and he re-entered the race one lap down.
They feared damage to the axle/transmission but that turned out to be not the case. Later on, the car pitted again, and a new steering wheel was swapped in!!
The car laboured on but was never a factor finishing last in class.
Several other teams experienced problems in the first half hour possibly caused by the very rough racing surface. F1 has seen some ‘porpoising’ problems with their new race cars. Sebring has a similar problem with their track!!
Full marks to IMSA’s Live Timing system, probably the best in motorsports. You can select the whole field or just individual classes. Good stuff. Works very well with the Live Streaming, sadly the only way to watch it this year.
The new MW M4 GT3 cars looked what I would have to describe as ‘bulbous’ with their extra-large kidney grilles. But, having said that, they were bad fast!!
It seems that NASCAR doesn’t have a monopoly on single wheel nut problems, as more than one team experienced difficulties with them!!
What was up with ‘Pit Out’? It was all choked down to allow single file exiting but several cars went to the right around the barricades. Not sure what that was all about.
One thing about the top class is that there were seven entries, but five of them were Cadillacs along with two Acuras. If I were IMSA, I would be very nervous about a management change at the Ren Center resulting in those Caddy marketing funds being diverted to something like polo or tennis. It has happened in the past to ‘others’!!
It is really easy to pick out those very Cadillacs in the dark thanks to their unique ‘hockey stick’ taillights. Very cool.
We’re not going to list all the drivers for each car, just the one driving at the end. In DPi Earl Bamer in a Cadillac took the win followed by Tristan Vautier and Pipo Derani, both in Cadillacs as well.
Mikkel Jensen won LMP 2, Malthe Jacobsen took LMP 3, Antonio Garcia won GT Pro in a Corvette and, finally, Antonio Fuoco in a Ferrari 488 GT 3 won GTD.
Matt Campbell finished fifth in the Pro class driving the Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT 3R.
Their next race is at Long Beach, April 10, in a double header with IndyCar.
WEC: The FIA World Endurance Championship series ran Friday before Saturday’s IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring. They called the race the 1,000 Miles of Sebring which I find quite ironic.
After all, it is a series based in Europe where they use metric. And here again one can see the ‘identity crisis’ with their class names (constantly changing), a problem that sports car racing seems to suffer from.
Their top class, DPI at IMSA, is known as Hypercar and they had five entries in that class. Their next class is LM P2, similar to IMSA and there were 15 of them.
Next is LM GTE PRO, somewhat similar to IMSA and there were five of them.
Finally, was LM GTE AM and that class had 12 entries. 37 total entries, pretty good considering that most of them come from Europe.
The race win went to the Alpine (pronounced ALPEEN) Elf team, followed by the Toyota Gazoo team (awesome name!!) and team Glickenhaus.
The series runs six races and this was the first one of the year. They follow with Spa, LeMans, Monza, Fuji and Bahrain.
NHRA: Their next race is at Las Vegas, April 3.
NASCAR PINTY’S SERIES: They will open the season at Sunset Speedway on May 14.
APC SERIES: This fast growing series opens May 21 at Sunset Speedway.
SRX SERIES: Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham’s uber-successful six race Saturday night series returns again this year featuring racing on six straight weekends.
Action begins on the ½ mile Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida (or, as Junior Hanley always calls it, Pepsi-Cola!!) on June 18, the home of the popular long running Snowball Derby.
DID YOU KNOW…?
Next year is the 100th Anniversary of The 24 Hours of LeMans and to honour that Hendrick Motorsports is proposing to enter a Next Gen car (NASCAR Cup car) for the race.
It would pit from the Garage 56 spot, where ‘innovative’ vehicles outside the norm are allowed to showcase. I recall the Nissan DeltaWing from about ten years ago running from that spot and there have been other neat pieces over the years.
Until next week!!
- Dave Mathers