It was hot just about everywhere this weekend, with record temperatures all over. Hot at Hockenheim, where the Formula 1 swells gathered for the Grand Prix of Germany; hot at Pocono, where the NASCAR Nextel Cup ran 507.5 miles (sometimes known as the 24 Hours of Pocono); hot at Pikes Peak, where the Busch Series panted in the thin air; hot at Memphis, where the Craftsman Truck Series paid homage to the “other” king (Presley, not Petty); hot at Milwaukee, where the IRL tried to defy gravity on the historic Mile; and reasonably hot in Seattle, where the NHRA did their best to refire Mt. St. Helens.
After all that heat, kick back with your preferred liquid refreshment and enjoy some cool results:
Formula 1: Raikkonen Falters, Alonso Wins at Hockenheim
Renault’s Fernando Alonso claimed his sixth victory of the season and further padded his championship lead in the Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheim on Sunday.
Alonso was running second on lap 35 of the 67-lap race when then-leader and polesitter Kimi Raikkonen suffered hydraulic failure in his McLaren/Mercedes and stopped on course, and Alonso cruised home with a 22.5sec margin of victory over Raikkonen’s teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya.
Montoya had started last on the grid after spinning off course during qualifying, spoiling a run that would have resulted in a certain front-row start. He said after the race he hoped today’s performance made up somewhat for his error on Saturday. His result propelled him to fourth in the championship.
BAR/Honda’s Jenson Button finished third to score the team’s first podium finish of the season. He fell behind Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher at the start and eventually was able to pass him on lap 45 at the hairpin turn, notably in front of a crowd of 1,000 guest Honda dealers.
Alonso’s teammate Giancarlo Fisichella overcame a broken rear wing endplate suffered in a lap-1 coming-together with Button’s teammate Takuma Sato and racelong braking problems to take fourth, sealing the deal with a pass of Michael Schumacher on the penultimate lap.
Schumacher wound up fifth, complaining of tire-grip and fuel-feel issues, followed by the Toyota of his brother Ralf and Red Bull Racing’s David Coulthard, with Sauber’s Felipe Massa claiming the final point.
Alonso now enjoys a 36-point lead over Raikkonen in the championship standings with seven races remaining, with Michael Schumacher four points further back. At this point, McLaren and Ferrari will need a remarkable change of fortune if either is going to entertain serious ambitions of winning the title.
Off the track, the big news was that the World Motor Sport Council has ratified the recommendation of the FIA Senate on July 14, and the seven Michelin teams who did not race in the United States Grand Prix will face no further sanctions.
There will be no rest for the weary as the teams have to turn the cars around quickly for the Grand Prix of Hungary at Budapest’s Hungaroring next weekend.
Grand Prix of Germany Top Five:
1) Fernando Alonso, No. 5 Renault, 67 laps
2) Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 10 McLaren/Mercedes-Benz, -22.569sec
3) Jenson Button, No. 3 BAR/Honda, -24.422sec
4) Giancarlo Fisichella, No. 6 Renault, -50.587sec
5) Michael Schumacher, No. 1 Ferrari, -51.690sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Fernando Alonso, 87; 2) Kimi Raikkonen, 51; 3) Michael Schumacher, 47; 4) Juan Pablo Montoya, 34; 5) Rubens Barrichello, 31; 5) Jarno Trulli, 31.
NASCAR: Kurt Busch Powers to Victory at Pocono
Defending Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Busch was the class of the field at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, leading 131 of what turned out to be 203 laps after the race was lengthened by three laps due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Busch fell to sixth during pit stops on lap 164 as a number of teams gambled with two-tire stops. That left Rusty Wallace out front on two tires, which was no contest. Busch got past on lap 182 and, despite a rash of late-race cautions that gave Wallace a few opportunities, never looked back.
Wallace hung on for second, with fellow veteran Mark Martin third ahead of Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards. Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Mike Bliss and Ricky Rudd completed the top 10.
Misfortune, or just plain bad cars, afflicted a number of prominent drivers at Pocono, which is a tricky track on its best day. Points leader Jimmie Johnson crashed his primary car in practice, and struggled with his backup to finish 12th, just ahead of teammate/car owner Jeff Gordon, who needed better. Greg Biffle led a bunch of laps but cut down a tire late and finished 17th, and in cutting down the tire collected Michael Waltrip, who was running eighth after starting at the back of the grid and sadly wound up 26th. Waltrip’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled all day as well, and finished 32nd.
There was a bit of a shuffle in the points standings, with Stewart leapfrogging Biffle to take over second, just 66 points behind Johnson.
The biggest off-track news this week was that Chip Ganassi has exercised his option on Jamie McMurray for 2006, which means that McMurray can’t move to Roush Racing’s No. 6 until 2007. That leaves Roush needing a driver, and Mark Martin has graciously agreed to stay one more year if need be. He doesn’t seem to be looking very much forward to another 38-race grind, though, and would rather be running the Craftsman Truck Series schedule that he had planned, not to mention all the hoopla expended over his “Salute to You” retirement tour this year.