Racing Results: July 14-16, 2006

July 19, 2006

Normal service was resumed this past weekend, as most of the big series were in action. The action, and the weather, was hot just about everywhere, with Formula 1 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the inaugural French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours and NASCAR visiting lobster country with the Nextel Cup and Busch Series in New Hampshire while the Craftsman Trucks visited Elvis’ hometown. The IRL IndyCars played their tune in MusicCity, while the American Le Mans Series and Speed World Challenge tried out the new 4.5-mile MillerMotorsportsPark circuit in Utah and the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series reverberated the rarified air in Colorado.

Formula 1: Schumacher Wins Again in France

On a day when the French were celebrating the centenary of the French Grand Prix (in 1906, Ferenc Szisz’ Michelin-shod 12.9-liter Renault AK 90CV won the first-ever Grand Prix at Le Mans), a day when Renault and Michelin particularly wanted to do well in front of the home crowd at the Magny-Cours circuit, seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher and his Italian-based, Bridgestone-shod Ferrari team won their second consecutive race, producing much the same result as in the World Cup soccer final last week, in which Italy beat France.

The race was over for all intents and purposes at the first corner. Michael and teammate Felipe Massa qualified 1-2 ahead of points leader Fernando Alonso’s Renault, and Massa played the dutiful teammate on the start, blocking Alonso for all he was worth to allow Michael to build a gap.

After that it was all down to fuel and tire strategies. The Ferraris were on soft-compound Bridgestones with a three-stop strategy, while Alonso and teammate Giancarlo Fisichella opted for harder Michelins and two stops. In the middle of the race, when Alonso needed to outrun Michael to make up the difference, the Ferrari consistently set faster laps, pointing up obvious recent gains in development by both Ferrari and Bridgestone.

Alonso was able to get past Massa for second, and Ralf Schumacher demonstrated Toyota’s improved form (with thanks to Bridgestone) with fourth. McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen was fifth. Fisichella, Raikkonen’s new (and perhaps temporary) teammate Pedro de la Rosa and BMW-Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld (one lap down) completed the points-paying positions. Red Bull’s David Coulthard and Scuderia Toro Rossa’s Scott Speed completed the top 10.

Michael’s win was his eighth in the French Grand Prix, and the 88th of his record-smashing career. No big accidents this time as at Indy, but disappointing retirements for both Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, adding to a miserable year for Honda, as well as for Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Williams’ Mark Webber.

The series heads to Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix in two weeks, where Renault and Michelin will try to return the favor on Schumacher’s home ground.

French Grand Prix Top Five:

1) Michael Schumacher, No. 5 Ferrari, 70 laps

2) Fernando Alonso, No. 1 Renault, -10.131sec

3) Felipe Massa, No. 6 Ferrari, -22.546sec

4) Ralf Schumacher, No. 7 Toyota, -27.212sec

5) Kimi Raikkonen, No. 3 McLaren/Mercedes-Benz, -33.006sec

Driver’s Championship: 1) Fernando Alonso, 96; 2) Michael Schumacher, 79; 3) Giancarlo Fisichella, 46; 4) Kimi Raikkonen, 43; 5) Felipe Massa, 42.

Complete Race Results

NASCAR: Kyle Busch Wins at New Hampshire

Kyle Busch captured his first win NASCAR Nextel Cup win of the season, and the third of his career, on Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway. An extended late caution extended the race distance from 300 to 308 laps, causing a number of drivers to run out of fuel in the closing laps.

Busch was the man to beat today, leading the most laps, and crew chief Alan Gustafson made the winning decision with a fuel-only pit stop on Lap 211. He restarted seventh and was second behind Elliott Sadler when the leaders pitted on Lap 235. He worked past Sadler to take the lead three laps after the restart and led the rest of the way.

A crash involving Busch’s teammate Brian Vickers, who led a number of laps early in the race, and Clint Bowyer on Lap 298 that set up a green-white checkered finish, upping the stress meter for a number of drivers who were close on fuel. When Michael Waltrip ran into the back of Robby Gordon and then stopped on-track the caution was extended further, changing the stress to panic.

The green flag finally flew for the final time on Lap 307 and it was too late for three drivers in the top five, as Sadler, Denny Hamlin and Reed Sorenson all ran out of fuel. Carl Edwards was the primary beneficiary, claiming second ahead of his Roush Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Mark Martin (making his 600th consecutive start), with Kevin Harvick coming home fifth. Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, points leader Jimmie Johnson and Scott Riggs completed the top 10.

Bad luck also befell Tony Stewart, who was taken out by polesitter Ryan Newman while leading on Lap 91 and had to replace a radiator before returning to struggle to a 37th-place finish, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who lost an engine on Lap 136 and finished last (43rd). Poor Sadler, who has had a miserable year, fell from second to 25th, just behind Sorenson.

Busch’s win propelled him four places in the points chase to fourth behind Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Burton, while both Earnhardt (now seventh) and Stewart (11th) lost four places.

The teams will be back in action next weekend at the unique, triangular Pocono Raceway.

NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:

1) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 308 laps

2) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 308 laps

3) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 308 laps

4) Mark Martin, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 308 laps

5) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 308 laps

Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 2789; 2) Matt Kenseth, 2721; 3) Jeff Burton, 2478; 4) Kyle Busch, 2455; 5) Mark Martin, 2451.

Complete Race Results

NASCAR Busch Series: Edwards Gets Lucky at Loudon

Carl Edwards got his third NASCAR Busch Series win of the season at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, but he’d be the first to tell you that he got a lucky break to do it.

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