The Formula One and American LeMans Series opened their seasons this past weekend, and there was tremendous racing on all fronts. Past champions showed their old form, new teams and drivers impressed, and rookies turned heads.
Here's your F1, ALMS, and NASCAR Racing Roundup for the weekend of March 18th, 2007. (Happy birthday, sis!)
Formula 1 — Australian GP: Raikkonen Wins, Hamilton Impresses
That question about whether Kimi Raikkonen would make some noise after moving from McLaren to Ferrari during the offseason?
The answer is a definitive "Yes."
Raikkonen did something this weekend that hasn't happened in many years: He won his first race with Ferrari.
Teammate Felipe Massa had electrical problems and finished ninth after starting at the back of the field. The story of the race, though, was the stellar performance of Team McLaren-Mercedes, who is ushering in a new era with defending champion Fernando Alonso and rookie phenom Lewis Hamilton.
The two finished second and third, respectively, with Hamilton proving that his promotion to F1 was well-deserved. This result gave McLaren an early lead in the Manufacturer's Points race—and if the Aussie GP is a sign of things to come, Renault and Ferrari may have company on top of the podium.
Results of the F1 Australian GP can be found here
American LeMans — 12 Hours of Sebring: Audi Dominant, Acura Bests Porsche
The Prototype 1 (P1) class saw Audi hold on to an early lead, with Marco Werner bringing home the No. 2 R10 for the victory. Audi's other car struggled with mechanical issues and finished fourth overall, but the win was the team's eighth in a row at Sebring.
The story of the race came from the P2 Class, where Acura—led by Bryan Herta and Andretti-Green Racing's entry—paced the Audi for the first ten-and-a-half hours before finishing second overall in its inaugural run.
Adrian Fernandez and Highcroft Racing's Acuras finished second and fourth in the P2 Class and third and sixth overall—a superb showing in one of the toughest endurance races on the planet.
While Acura shone bright into the night, the Porsche RS Spyders of Penske and Dyson Racing had problems. The proverbial "50-cent part"—an alternator connection—was the issue for Team Penske. Penske's No. 7 car recovered to finish fifth overall, spoiling the class sweep for newcomer Acura.
In GT1, Corvette Racing was just about perfect, with the team car of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Max Papis finishing seventh overall and their teammates coming in eighth—only 17 seconds later.
The lone Aston-Martin DBR was a non-factor, and Corvette used the race as a warm-up for the 24 Hours of LeMans in June. Their pit stops in particular showed the strength of the team, and their clockwork precision was a model for the field.
The GT2 class featured the best racing, as the Ferrari 430GT of Jaime Melo nosed out the Porsche 911/GT3 of Jorg Bergmeister by a length after a dramatic battle on the last lap. The teams raced for the class lead throughout the event, with Mika Salo, blinded by the setting sun, spinning the Ferrari at one point.
It was the closest finish in Sebring and ALMS GT2 class history.
Results of the American LeMans Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring can be found here
NASCAR — Weekend of Repeats at Atlanta
Craftsman Truck Series: Skinner Bests Bodine
Mike Skinner won his second race in three tries in 2007, topping Todd Bodine at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Skinner shared the points lead with Jack Sprague after California, and now is alone atop the standings—69 points ahead of Bodine—after Sprague's Toyota finished a lap down in 23rd. Matt Crafton, Rick Crawford, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five Friday night.
Busch Series: Burton Goes Back-To-Back
Jeff Burton made a late pass to win last week in Vegas, but he didn't need the drama at Atlanta. He drove his Holiday Inn Chevy to an easy victory, cruising across the line ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Clint Bowyer.
Harvick moved into second in series points, even though he's running a partial schedule. Juan Pablo Montoya finished eighth, climbing within 34 points of fellow rookie Marcos Ambrose. After a rough start, Montoya has notched two top-10's in the last three Busch races.
Nextel Cup: Johnson Dominates...Again
The Lowe's/Kobalt Tools No. 48 team was celebrating for the second weekend in a row after Jimmie Johnson led the most laps en route to his 25th career victory. The win vaulted the defending Cup Champion to fourth in points, only 28 back of Mark Martin.
It was "Tool Time" at Atlanta, as Tony Stewart finished second in the Home Depot car while Matt Kenseth came home third in the DeWalt machine.
Jeff Burton finished fourth, but the surprise of the day (and the weekend) was Juan Pablo Montoya, who scored his first top-five in Nextel Cup competition. Montoya earned high praise for the effort, and the former open-wheel champ showed that he's ahead of the learning curve in stock cars.
Juan Pablo is now up to 15th in season points—and with the Car of Tomorrow debuting next weekend at Bristol, the questions surrounding his ability to adapt may be moot: All drivers will have to learn to handle the new machines.
Results and standings for the three series can be found at www.nascar.com.