Racing Results: May 9, 2005

May 5, 2005

By John Gardner

It was a pretty quiet weekend on the motorsports front, as most of the series don’t even attempt to compete with Mother’s Day. The NASCAR lads were down in Darlington , S.C. , and wrapped up by Saturday night in order not to incur Mama’s wrath, while in Barcelona , Spain , where they don’t celebrate Mother’s Day until December, it was business as usual for the Formula 1 teams.

We hope all you mothers out there had a happy day. Herewith, the news:

Formula 1: Raikkonen Reigns in Spain

McLaren/Mercedes’ Kimi Raikkonen totally dominated Sunday’s Grand Prix of Spain, taking pole and leading every lap on the Barcelona circuit, posting a 27.652-second margin of victory to score his third career F1 victory and the first this season for McLaren (and the first by anyone other than Renault).

Local favorite Fernando Alonso, winner of the previous three races and riding a huge wave of popularity after his impressive defeat of Michael Schumacher at Imola two weeks ago, finished second for Renault, ahead of Toyota teammates Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. Alonso’s Renault teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, winner of the season opener at Melbourne , was fifth. Filling the final points-paying positions were Williams/BMW’s Mark Webber, Raikkonen’s teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (back after missing two races with a shoulder injury), and Red Bull Racing’s David Coulthard.

Whither Ferrari? Michael Schumacher dropped out after 46 of the 66 laps after two successive tire failures. His teammate Rubens Barrichello ran a one-stop strategy and finished ninth. Since they are the only major team running Bridgestone tires, it looks like Bridgestone has some explaining to do.

Also missing was the BAR/Honda team, which was banned from this race and the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks’ time after having been found guilty of violating a number of technical rules in the previous race at Imola, where they finished third (Jenson Button) and fifth (Takuma Sato). The issue centered around a hidden, secondary fuel tank contained within the main tank, and whether that tank could allow the team to use fuel as ballast, which is against the rules, or run underweight during a race. The FIA ruling was handed down on Thursday and BAR/Honda announced that they would seek legal remedy, but nothing could be done before the race weekend, even though the team had already arrived. The team finally said they would accept the two-race ban (which included exclusion from the Imola results), packed up their trucks and headed for home.

Everyone (except BAR/Honda) will reassemble in two weeks at the world’s most glamorous racing event, the Grand Prix of Monaco, where the narrow streets will reverberate with the shrieks of 19,000-rp.m. V-10 racing engines and the tinkling of champagne glasses.

Grand Prix of Spain Top Five:

1) Kimi Raikkonen, No. 9 McLaren/Mercedes-Benz, 66 laps

2) Fernando Alonso, No. 5 Renault, -27.652 sec.

3) Jarno Trulli, No. 16 Toyota, -45.947 sec.

4) Ralf Schumacher, No. 17 Toyota, -46.719 sec.

5) Giancarlo Fisichella, No. 6 Renault, -57.936 sec.

Driver’s Championship:

1) Fernando Alonso, 44; 2) Jarno Trulli, 26; 3) Kimi Raikkonen, 17; 4) Giancarlo Fisichella, 14; 4) Ralf Schumacher, 14.

Complete Race Results

NASCAR: Biffle Charms ‘The Lady in Black’

Greg Biffle won his third Nextel Cup race of the season Saturday night at tricky Darlington Raceway, the NASCAR racer’s racetrack, coming home just ahead of the season’s only other three-time winner, Jeff Gordon, and future-star sophomore Kasey Kahne.

Biffle’s was the dominant car throughout most of the race, but with 50 laps to go, adjustments during a caution-flag pit stop brought a negative affect to his car’s handling. Biffle lost the lead to Ryan Newman and fell to fourth behind Newman, Gordon, and Kahne. The car eventually came back to Biffle somewhat and he was able to pass Kahne and Gordon to take second, but when Biffle’s teammate Mark Martin spun trying to pass Kahne for fourth with three laps to go, it set up a green-white-checker finish and posed a dilemma for Newman. If he pitted for tires, everyone behind him would not; and if he didn’t, everyone else would. The latter scenario unfolded, and left Newman a sitting duck.

New tires at Darlington are worth seconds a lap, and Biffle quickly dispatched Newman on the restart and led to the finish, followed by Gordon, Kahne, and Martin. Newman fell to fifth, with Jamie McMurray, points leader Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, and Tony Stewart rounding out the top ten.

Interesting side stories in the race were a series of on-track skirmishes between Michael Waltrip and Jeff Green and a tirade against NASCAR officials by defending champ Kurt Busch. All three were invited to speak with (i.e., listen contritely to) series officials after the race, and sanctions may be forthcoming this week.

Darlington is NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway, having opened in 1950. It is known as “The Lady in Black” and “The Track Too Tough to Tame” because of its unique egg-shaped configuration that requires drivers to drive right next to the wall and its abrasive, tire-destroying track surface. Although it is one of the tracks on which most drivers want to win and always provides an interesting race, the tiny market in which it finds itself and its 70,000-seat capacity may spell doom for the historic South Carolina facility as newer, bigger-market tracks with 100,000-plus seats clamor for additional dates. That would be a shame, but NASCAR makes no bones about where its bottom line lies. If this was in fact the last Nextel Cup race at Darlington , at least it was a memorable one.

Next up will be under the lights at Richmond on Saturday, which should be another good one.

NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:

1) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 370 laps

2) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 370 laps

3) Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Evernham Motorsport Dodge Charger, 370 laps

4) Mark Martin. No. 6 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 370 laps

5) Ryan Newman, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger, 370 laps

Driver’s Championship:

1) Jimmie Johnson, 1519; 3) Jeff Gordon, 1392; 4) Greg Biffle, 1371; 2) Kurt Busch, 1290; 5) Elliott Sadler, 1267.

Complete Race Results

Busch Series: Kenseth Shines Under the Lights at Darlington

Matt Kenseth hasn’t had a whole lot to celebrate since he won the Nextel (nee Winston) Cup championship in 2003. He did win two Cup races and three Busch races last year, but has seemingly languished outside the spotlight this year as his Roush Racing teammates Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and retiring Mark Martin have hogged the publicity. Kenseth reminded everyone that he hasn’t lost any of his skills on Friday night as he came from deep in the field to win the Busch Series race at Darlington Raceway, holding off Kenny Wallace and defending series champ Martin Truex Jr. to pick up his second series victory at the historic egg-shaped oval.

Kenseth started 24th and worked his way through the field, taking the lead for the first time on Lap 96. He led all but five laps from that point on and was able to maintain the lead through a spate of late-race cautions to deny Wallace his first victory since 2001. Truex emerged atop a great race for third with Biffle, while Jeff Burton came back from a four-tire stop with ten laps to go to rip through the field from 10th to fifth. David Stremme, Denny Hamlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Tony Raines, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top ten.

The race was surprisingly attrition-free, considering the track’s notorious reputation as a car-breaker and particularly in contrast to last weekend’s carnage at Talladega . The series will be back in action next Friday night, under the lights at Richmond .

NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:

1) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 147 laps

2) Kenny Wallace, No. 22 ppc Racing Ford Taurus, 147 laps

3) Martin Truex Jr., No. 8 Chance2 Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 147 laps

4) Greg Biffle, No. 66 Brewco Motorsports Ford Taurus, 147 laps

5) Jeff Burton, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 147 laps

Driver’s Championship: 1) Carl Edwards, 1612; 2) Clint Bowyer, 1469; 3) Reed Sorenson, 1456; 4) Martin Truex Jr., 1430; 5) Ashton Lewis, 1328.

Complete Race Results

Racing on TV This Week (all times ET):

5/13:

4:30 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Busch Series qualifying, Richmond International Raceway

6:00 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying, Richmond International Raceway

8:00 p.m., FX: NASCAR Busch Series race, Richmond International Raceway

5/14:

1:00 p.m., ESPN: IRL Indianapolis 500 Qualifying, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

4:00 p.m., ABC: IRL Indianapolis 500 Qualifying, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

1:00 p.m., espn2: IRL Indianapolis 500 Qualifying, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

7:00 p.m., espn2: NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series Qualifying, Atlanta Dragway (same day)

7:30 p.m., FX: NASCAR Nextel Cup race, Richmond International Raceway

5/15:

1:00 p.m., espn2: IRL Indianapolis 500 Qualifying, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

2:00 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, Mansfield (OH) MotorsportsPark

6:00 p.m., espn2: IRL Indianapolis 500 Qualifying, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

7:00 p.m., espn2: NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series Eliminations, Atlanta Dragway (same day)

11:00 p.m., Speed: FIA World Rally Championship, Rally of Cyprus (tape-delayed)

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