The NASCAR Nextel Cup got a rare weekend off, their last of the season, but most of the other major series were busy. Open-wheel fans had plenty to watch, with Formula 1 at Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix, Champ Car and the Atlantics on San Jose’s street circuit and the IRL at Michigan International Speedway. The Grand-Am was back in action at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, along with the Grand-Am Cup Series, and the NHRA finished up its western swing at Infineon (nee Sears Point) Raceway. Stock car fans had to settle for a Busch Series race in the shadow of St. Louis’ famous arch, at Gateway International Raceway.
Formula 1: Schumacher Leads Another Ferrari 1-2 in Germany
Seven-time World Driving Champion Michael Schumacher led teammate Felipe Massa home at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit on Sunday to score Ferrari’s second 1-2 finish in the last three races, closing the points gap on defending series champion Fernando Alonso.
McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen started from pole but wound up third in the race, forced by a fueling error during qualifying into a three-stop strategy that gave him light weight to qualify fastest but cost him time in the race. He finished ahead of Honda’s Jenson Button and Alonso. Alonso’s fifth-place finish equaled his worst result of the year to date, and pared the margin between him and Schumacher in the championship chase to only 11 points. Renault seemed to struggle all weekend, placing most of the blame on their Michelin tires, while the Bridgestone-shod Ferraris were so strong they admittedly ran at less than 10/10ths during the race.
Alonso’s teammate Giancarlo Fisichella finished sixth, with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Red Bull Racing’s Christian Klein filling out the points-paying positions. Trulli’s teammate Ralf Schumacher and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi (one lap down) completed the top 10.
This was Michael Schumacher’s third straight win, and what looked like a long shot for an eighth World Championship now looks much less so. Renault and Michelin are going to have to get their act together if Alonso wants to score a second title, but in any case it’s shaping up to be a fight to the finish.
No rest for the weary this week, as the teams have to turn the cars around and be in Budapest on Thursday for next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring.
German Grand Prix Top Five:
1) Michael Schumacher, No. 5 Ferrari, 67 laps
2) Felipe Massa, No. 6 Ferrari, -0.720sec
3) Kimi Raikkonen, No. 3 McLaren/Mercedes-Benz, -13.206sec
4) Jenson Button, No. 12 Honda, -18.898sec
5) Fernando Alonso, No. 1 Renault, -23.707sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Fernando Alonso, 100; 2) Michael Schumacher, 89; 3) Felipe Massa, 50; 4) Giancarlo Fisichella, 49; 5) Kimi Raikkonen, 49.
NASCAR Busch Series: Edwards Takes Popular Win at Home
As the NASCAR Busch Series race at Gateway International Raceway progressed on Saturday night, it was apparent that Denny Hamlin was the man to beat. Home state favorite Carl Edwards gave chase for all he was worth, but things looked futile until the last round of pit stops.
Edwards pitted early, taking on two tires, and was able to make up a lot of ground before Hamlin, who led 169 of the 200 laps, came in for his final stop. When he finally pitted, Hamlin was forced to take fuel only to preserve his track position. That left him vulnerable to Edwards’ fresher right-side tires, enabling Edwards to run him down and make the winning pass with eight laps remaining.
Hamlin hung on to second until Clint Bowyer snuck past to take the runner-up spot on the last lap. Reed Sorenson took fourth, with points leader Kevin Hamlin completing the top five. Scott Wimmer, David Green (one lap down), Kyle Busch, Kenny Wallace and Kevin Grubb filled out the top 10.
This was the first race for the Busch teams to use unleaded fuel, one of four races that have been mandated by NASCAR this season as the sanctioning body evaluates the use of unleaded in all its top series in the future. No teams reported any problems from using the new fuel.
The series heads to Circle City next weekend, where it will join the Craftsman Truck Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park while the Nextel Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Carl Edwards, No. 60 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 200 laps
2) Clint Bowyer, No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 200 laps
3) Denny Hamlin, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 200 laps
4) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 200 laps
5) Kevin Harvick, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 200 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Kevin Harvick, 3437; 2) Carl Edwards, 3119; 3) Clint Bowyer, 3050; 4) Denny Hamlin, 3007; 5) J.J. Yeley, 2826.
IRL: Castroneves’ Luck Turns at Michigan
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves’ luck hasn’t been all that great lately, but everything came right today at Michigan International Speedway. The affable Brazilian scored his fourth victory of the season and, thanks to bad luck befalling Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, found himself leading the championship standings at the end of the day.