It was a good weekend for road racing fans, with Formula 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix, the Crown Royal IROC series on the road course at Daytona (for their first road race in 14 years) along with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series at historic Lime Rock Park. For those who prefer their race cars to turn left only, NASCAR’s Nextel Cup and Busch series were also at Daytona, and the Craftsman Truck Series joined the IRL at Kansas Speedway. We got your results right here:
Formula 1: Schumacher Leads Ferrari 1-2 in Crash-Marred Indy Snoozer
Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher won his third race of the year, and the 87th of his illustrious career, on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race was a bit anticlimactic after the first lap, during which two accidents claimed eight cars, decimating the 22-car field.
The Ferraris of Schumacher and teammate Felipe Massa led away from the lights, Massa getting the jump on his pole-sitting teammate. The Ferraris had qualified considerably faster than the rest of the field, thanks to Michelin’s choice of conservative, hard tires in light of last year’s tire fiasco, which gave a big advantage to the Bridgestone-shod Ferrari team.
When the field reached the first turn, McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya ran into the back of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, setting off a fracas that claimed both McLarens, the BMW-Sauber of Nick Heidfeld (which dramatically barrel-rolled four times), the Toro Rosso of American Scott Speed, Mark Webber’s Williams and Jenson Button’s Honda. At the same time, Red Bull’s Christian Klein tried an overly optimistic move on Super Aguri’s Franck Montagny, taking out both cars. The safety car was deployed as the debris was cleared.
On the lap-6 restart, Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato and MF1 Racing’s Tiago Monteiro got together in Turn 1 and crashed, putting both out. Also failing to finish were BMW-Sauber’s Jacques Villeneuve (engine), MF1’s Christijan Albers (mechanical) and Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher (wheel bearing). Only nine cars were running at the finish, which is ironically only three more than last year.
Meanwhile, back at the front, Michael Schumacher took the lead from Massa on the first round of pit stops and never looked back. The Renaults struggled to keep up, with Giancarlo Fisichella getting past his points-leading teammate Fernando Alonso early and giving vain chase to claim third place. Toyota’s Jarno Trulli used a one-stop strategy to claim fourth ahead of Alonso. Honda’s Rubens Barrichello and Red Bull teammates David Coulthard (-1 lap) and Vitantonio Liuzzi claimed the final points, while Williams’ Nico Rosberg was the last car running.
It was a better race than last year’s disaster, but not nearly as good as it could, or should, have been. A nice-sized and enthusiastic crowd showed up, but whether they will be able to return to Indy next year remains to be seen, as IMS and Bernie Ecclestone continue to negotiate over contract renewal terms for the track to continue to host the event.
The series returns to Europe now, and will race at Magny-Cours in the French Grand Prix in two weeks, when normal service (with more competitive Michelin tires) will resume.
United States Grand Prix Top Five:
1) Michael Schumacher, No. 5 Ferrari, 73 laps
2) Felipe Massa, No. 6 Ferrari, -7.984sec
3) Giancarlo Fisichella, No. 2 Renault, -16.595sec
4) Jarno Trulli, No. 8 Toyota, -23.604sec
5) Fernando Alonso, No. 1 Renault, -28.410sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Fernando Alonso, 88; 2) Michael Schumacher, 69; 3) Giancarlo Fisichella, 43; 4) Kimi Raikkonen, 39; 5) Felipe Massa, 36.
NASCAR: Stewart Captures the Flag at Daytona
Two-time and defending Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart rebounded from two bad weeks with a win at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, his second of the year. He had the dominant car in the race, leading 85 of the 160 laps, but had to fight for the victory at the end when the field got jumbled up based on varying strategies on the final pit stops.
Stewart was leading when points leader Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte crashed with 12 laps to go. When the ensuing caution flag flew, most of the front-runners pitted, leaving surprise polesitter Boris Said and Casey Mears out front. Behind them on the restart were Greg Biffle, Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, J.J. Yeley and Denny Hamlin, all of whom took either fuel only or just two tires on the stop. Next were Jeff Gordon, who had swapped the lead with Stewart throughout the race, Matt Kenseth and Stewart, all of whom took four tires.
The race resumed four laps later, but Biffle got loose in Turn 2 and was hit by Yeley, setting off a multi-car crash that also collected Gordon, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards. On the final restart, Stewart hung back while Said took a big lead, and then swooped past with drafting help at the end of Lap 158, while Kyle and Kurt Busch also got past Said. On the final lap the caution flew again for debris, but Stewart had already taken the white flag, freezing the field and finishing order. Kenseth followed Said home for fifth, while Elliott Sadler, Mears, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.
Stewart did another of his fence-climbing celebrations, ascending to the flag stand and taking the checkered flag from the flagman. He descended the flagstand ladder only to find no gate back onto the track, and was mobbed by rowdy fans, but was rescued by his crew and security personnel.
Stewart’s win propelled him into the top five in points, while Johnson’s and Gordon’s misfortunes had the opposite effect. Johnson’s points lead was shaved to eight over Kenseth, while Gordon fell from 10th to 12th in the standings. For the popular road-racing ace Said, his fourth-place finish was “the biggest thing I’ve ever accomplished in racing,” he declared, and his shocking pole position in his brand-new team’s second outing guarantees him a spot in next February’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.
The teams will be back in action next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.