Martinsville Update: Jimmie Johnson strong again at ‘paperclip’

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Eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson is once again pacing the field after taking the lead just before halfway at the STP 500.

Pole sitter Kyle Busch led the opening lap, but the first caution of the day began just one lap later when Parker Kligerman crashed in an accordion-effect incident that left several drivers such as Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Kasey Kahne with damage on their own cars.

The green returned at Lap 11, but six laps later on Lap 17, Kyle Busch was forced to give up the point to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who quickly came up from sixth at the green flag. However, his time up front would not last as Johnson passed him for P1 on Lap 20.

Kenseth fell back multiple spots on the outside groove, while Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon (another eight-time winner at Martinsville) settled in the top two spots. Joey Logano would take second from Gordon, however, just before the competition caution at Lap 40.

Johnson would maintain the lead coming out of the pits, while Kahne, already in the back of the field, made slight contact with Brad Keselowski as he was coming into his box. Kurt Busch then clipped Keselowski’s car, leaving it with considerable front-end damage.

Eventually, it was decided that Keselowski needed to go to the garage and upon his return to action at Lap 77, he and Busch hounded each other repeatedly on the track.

While the former Cup champions tried to settle their dispute, Johnson maintained his grip on the race until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel-hopped in Turn 1 and bounced off the wall, bringing out the caution at Lap 103.

Kenseth won the race off pit road and took the restart ahead of the field at Lap 109, but Logano took the lead from him shortly before the yellow emerged again on Lap 114. Travis Kvapil spun Michael Annett, who in turn got in the back of David Gilliland and turned him around. However, all three managed to avoid the wall.

Logano drove away on the restart at Lap 120, but was quickly reeled in by Johnson and on Lap 133, he passed Logano low to retake control of the race.

While holding the point, though, Greg Biffle began to make his presence felt and moved past Logano for second at Lap 151. Then on Lap 156, Biffle put the bumper to Johnson and pushed him out of the way in Turn 1 to take the lead.

Also impressing at this point were Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger, who had moved into the Top 5. Ambrose (along with Aric Almirola) is looking to win for Richard Petty Motorsports, who are racing with heavy hearts after the passing of Lynda Petty earlier this week.

At Lap 170, Gilliland spun Casey Mears in Turn 1 to bring out another yellow, and in the ensuing pit stops, Ambrose was able to leapfrog Biffle for the lead. But Kenseth and Johnson once again showed their strength on the long run and on Lap 195, both of them were able to dust Ambrose for first and second respectively.

Five laps later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got into the left rear of Jamie McMurray that caused him to lose his tire and spin hard into the Turn 2 wall to trigger the caution.

Kenseth kept the lead through pit stops, but Johnson promptly took it from him at Lap 213. On Lap 219, caution No. 7 ensued when rookie Alex Bowman spun and hit the wall in Turn 4.

Even with the short green run, the leaders returned to the pits for fresh tires while others such as Earnhardt, Allmendinger and Kurt Busch opted to stay out. Earnhardt wound up inheriting the lead, while Logano lined up fourth after winning the race out of the pits.

After going green again at Lap 226, debris slowed the field again at Lap 231 with Earnhardt, Allmendinger and Kurt Busch ahead of Johnson. But Johnson was quickly able to dispatch the trio to reclaim P1 at Lap 245.

IMSA: Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Update – 3 hours in

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The opening hours of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring have been action-packed, with the early hours highlighted by racing that we would not expect from an endurance race.

For example, Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 ARX-05, currently fourth with Graham Rahal at the wheel, has had a couple run-ins with traffic, both from the Prototype and GT classes, as shown below.

Reports on happenings in the first three hours from all three classes are below.


Turn 1, Lap 1 proved to be a disaster for one of the contenders in Prototype. Olivier Pla, starting on the outside of the front row in the No.2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi, tried to pass polesitter Tristan Vautier, in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi-V.R, on the outside.

Vautier held his ground when Pla tried to pinch him against the inside wall, with the two making contact and sending Pla into a slide across the outside of the corner. Although he limped around back into the pits, the team ultimately uncovered a terminal gearbox issue, cause by the contact, and retired car, ending their race before it ever had a chance to get going.

The lone caution of the opening hours also came in the Prototype class. Sebastian Saavedra, in the No. 52 Ligier JS P217 Gibson for AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, spun exiting Turn 17. In trying to avoid, Frank Montecalvo, in the GT Daytona class No. 64 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Scuderia Corsa, drifted out wide, but made contact with the right-front of Saavedra, which launched Montecalvo airborne and into the tire barriers exiting the corner.

Montecalvo emerged unhurt from the spectacular incident, while Saavedra returned to the pits for a new front nose on the No. 52 Ligier, and continued on.

Vautier, meanwhile, continued on unscathed and led the opening stint.

Just over three hours in, Eric Curran leads in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac for Action Express. The No. 22 ESM Nissan sits second in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre, with Jordan Taylor third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac.

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

BMW Team RLL has dominated the opening hours of the 12 Hours of Sebring, with their No. 24 BMW M8 GTLM leading the way early on. Nicky Catsburg is currently behind the wheel.

Risi Competizion currently holds down second, with Alessandro Pier Guidi currently at the helm of their No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing holds third with Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford GT, though they had a clumsy run-in with the sister No. 66 in the pits early on, with both cars bumping each other exiting the pits.

However, no damage was done and both carried on.

GT Daytona

The polesitting No. 51 Ferrari from Spirit of Race also had a messy start to their 12 Hours of Sebring, with Daniel Serra getting together with the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, in the hands Jack Hawksworth at the time. The contact cut the right-rear tire of Serra, forcing an early pit stop. They now sit 16th in class.

Montaplast by Land Motorsport leads in the way in the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3, with 17-year-old youngster Sheldon van der Linde at the helm. Running second is Corey Lewis in the Paul Miller Racing No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with 3GT Racing sitting third with Kyle Marcelli in the No. 14 Lexus.