Racing Roundup: Pruett Prevails, Hamilton Handles, and Busch Wins... Again
It was another exciting weekend of auto racing from around the globe—from some great finishes at Daytona, to a first-timer at Watkins Glen, to a masterful drive in the rain in England. Let's get the recap started.
Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona
The stars of the Grand Am series lined up for their second visit of the season to the "Roval" at Daytona International Speedway. This combination of the famed high-bank oval and infield road-course was the location for the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, where Target Chip Ganassi Drivers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Dario Franchitti won in January.
The Thursday night race was much shorter, but proved to be just as good.
Defending Grand Am Daytona Prototype Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty were poised to win their second race of the season, after taking the win at rain-soaked Mid-Ohio two weeks prior.
Gurney was being closely pursued by Pruett as the cars rounded NASCAR 3 and 4 on the final lap. Gurney would take the low line, Pruett would side-draft him up high, and would complete the pass on the 99 car at the line. The margin of victory for Pruett was .08 seconds—the closest in Grand Am history.
Winn-Dixie 250 Powered by Coca-Cola
The NASCAR Nationwide Series took to the high-banks of Daytona Friday night for 250 miles of door-to-door action. Brian Clausen started on his first career pole, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. would soon assume the point, bringing the "Green Machine" to their feet.
Denny Hamlin was at the controls of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Toyota and would lead the most laps on the way to that car's ninth win of the season. Teammate Kyle Busch was second, with Junior coming home third. Points leader Clint Bowyer was fourth, and Brad Keselowski finished fifth.
Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola
Saturday the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup traveling roadshow put on a performance that fans won't soon forget. Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers Paul Menard Jr. and Mark Martin—following the announcement that he would be driving for Rick Hendrick full-time in the No. 5 car in 2009—took the front row.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. would take the National Guard/AMP Energy Drink Chevy to the lead and would trade it off with Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon. Junior would lead the most laps of the evening, but would fade at the end, finishing eighth.
Jeff Gordon showed the ability to lead anywhere on the track, but he performed best on the low line. With a handful of laps remaining, Gordon would defer the yellow line on the bottom to Kyle Busch, who took the lead when a late caution flew for a multi-car wreck on the SuperStretch, involving defending Sprint Cup champion Johnson.
The restart would be a green-white-checker finish, with Busch leading Gordon and Carl Edwards to the line. Edwards got a nose under Gordon, who attempted to block the Aflac Ford, resulting in the DuPont Chevy spinning into the infield and out of harm's way. Gordon would settle for 30th, after having the car to beat.
Busch held Edwards at bay as the white flag flew, and they raced into turn one side-by-side. Contact sent Michael Waltrip's NAPA Camry into a spin and the caution would end the race before the field reached turn two.
NASCAR would use video replay to determine that Busch had a half car-length lead over Edwards to take his sixth win of 2009. Matt Kenseth was third, Kurt Busch fourth, and David Ragan's fifth gave Roush-Fenway three cars in the top five.
Kenseth has driven his way to ninth in the points standings. Kevin Harvick slipped outside the top 12, trailing Tony Stewart by two markers. Stewart was replaced in the Home Depot Camry on lap 76 by J.J. Yeley, after suffering from flu-like symptoms.
Santander British Grand Prix
At the midway point of the 2008 season the Formula 1 World Driving Championship makes what will be its penultimate return to famed Silverstone. An announcement was made that the F1 British GP will relocate to Donington Park circuit for a 10-year deal beginning in 2010.
A strong run by McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen saw the young Finn capture his first career F1 pole. Mark Webber made a great run in Q3 stick for second starting position on the grid, with Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton sharing row two.
Rain was the great equalizer Sunday, and the field started the race on the intermediate-wet tires. On the start, Hamilton made a heroic dash to the inside of Webber, and he briefly bumped wheels with teammate Kovalainen in turn one. Hamilton would grab the lead shortly thereafter and would show masterful car control in the continually changing conditions.
Points leader Robert Kubica would roll off 10th, after mechanical problems sidelined his BMW Sauber in Q3. He would work his way forward in the race, only to spin off course and beach the car in a gravel trap.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa put on a torturous exhibition of pirouettes, spinning no less than five times on his way to a 13th-place result, two laps in trail of the leader.
But Sunday was Hamilton's day from the get-go. With his countrymen braving the rain, they would cheer him on to his third win of the season. Lewis showed the skill in wet that led to his victory in Monte Carlo, and the McLaren team wisely kept him on fresh intermediate rubber.
Hamilton would lap the field to third-place Reubens Barrichello, who had a brilliant drive in the Honda, using full-wet tires in the rain to get back on the lead lap, and get his first podium in years.
BMW's Nick Heidfeld would finish second, trailing Hamilton by over a full minute.
The result now has a three-way tie for the driving championship, with Hamilton and Massa at three wins each, and defending champ Raikkonen all with 48 points, while Kubica slipped to second with 46.
Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen
The IndyCar Series returned to road-course racing at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Sunday.
Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe showed his abilities in grabbing the pole, while his teammate Helio Castroneves suffered a failure in qualifying and would have to start shotgun on the grid.
The left and right turns of the scenic course would level the field and former Champ Car drivers took five of the top 10 positions.
A bizarre event occurred under caution as points leader Scott Dixon would spin in turn 10 and be hit by Briscoe. Both cars were able to continue after pit-lane repairs. Dixon would finish 11th but opened a 48-point lead over Castroneves, who finished 16th.
Dallas native Ryan Hunter-Reay would take the lead on lap 51 and never look back, scoring his first IndyCar win and first victory for Rahal-Letterman Racing since 2004. He was joined on the podium by Darren Manning, who also scored a team-best finish for ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing. Tony Kanaan finished third for Andretti-Green.
This coming weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup crews will run under the newly-installed lights at Chicagoland Speedway. IndyCar will race at Nashville Superspeedway, and the American LeMans series will take to the track at famed Lime Rock Park.
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