Iowa Update: Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves fighting for the front

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After taking the lead from Helio Castroneves on Lap 77, Tony Kanaan is your leader at the halfway point of the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway.

Kanaan led Castroneves by 1.1 seconds at halfway, with Ryan Briscoe in third, Will Power in fourth, and Sebastian Saavedra a surprising fifth.

Under threatening skies, the race began around 8:30 p.m. ET with Scott Dixon and Kanaan, both from Target Chip Ganassi Racing, on the front row.

Dixon narrowly held off Kanaan for the lead on the opening lap, but Kanaan went high and cleared Dixon off Turn 2 on the next lap.

He held the point all the way up to Lap 34, when a small shower began to fall on the 7/8-mile bullring. Five laps later, the caution went to a red flag and cars were brought down to pit road.

Luckily, the shower was a short one and after a bit of drying, engines were refired after a 26-minute delay. The pits opened at Lap 41, and in the ensuing wave of stops, Castroneves was able to beat Kanaan out for the lead.

The field was set for a Lap 49 restart but at the rear of the field, rookie Mikhail Aleshin went below the yellow line, lost control and took Takuma Sato into the wall to bring out the yellow again.

Aleshin and Sato had contact with each other during Race 1 of the Houston doubleheader at the end of last month. Sato’s car owner, A.J. Foyt, was frustrated after that Houston incident and he was of the same disposition after this one.

Both Sato and Aleshin were checked, cleared, and released from the infield care center, but Aleshin was spotted holding a bag of ice on one of his wrists. However, the Russian told NBCSN that there was “nothing serious.”

The green returned at Lap 64 with Castroneves holding off Kanaan for a time. But on Lap 77, Castroneves was held up by the lapped cars of Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Huertas.

That gave Kanaan the opportunity to strike, and he pulled to the inside of Castroneves on the front stretch before completing the pass in Turn 1.

While Kanaan took control of the race, Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya had the left rear wing endplate come off of his car. The endplate landed on the inside of Turn 3, and on Lap 89, the caution came out for the debris.

The leaders pitted again in this yellow, and this time, Kanaan was able to beat Castroneves out and retain the point. But Montoya had a slow stop, causing the Colombian to gesture noticeably from his cockpit before he finally left his pit box.

After two waved-off starts on Lap 98 and 99 (Lap 98 for a slowing Sebastien Bourdais, Lap 99 for a bad single-file formation), the field went racing again at Lap 100.

Kanaan quickly pulled away from Castroneves, who had to stave off a good challenge from Power for second. Briscoe was eventually able to drop Power for third, and a few laps before halfway, Sebastian Saavedra was beginning to put pressure on the Australian for fourth.

Penske drivers lament missed victory at Road America (VIDEO)

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Team Penske dominated the entire Kohler Grand Prix weekend at Road America, twice going 1-2-3-4 over the three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and then doing the same in qualifying, with Helio Castroneves taking pole from Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud.

However, race day represented a missed opportunity. Though Castroneves led early, it was Newgarden who emerged as their best hope for victory following a spectacular outside pass on Castroneves entering turn 1 on lap 19. That put Newgarden in the lead, and he seemed to be in full control.

Still, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon had been stalking the Penske foursome all race long, and sat behind Newgarden in second for a lap 30 restart. With Newgarden on primary blacks and Dixon on alternate reds, Newgarden was somewhat of a sitting duck, and Dixon muscled his way into the lead with an equally spectacular outside pass in turn 1, with Newgarden briefly falling to third behind teammate Castroneves.

Josef Newgarden led several laps, but could not find his way around Dixon for the win. Photo: IndyCar

Although Newgarden regrouped, overtook Castroneves during the final pit stop sequence, and closed to within a second following a restart with seven laps remaining, he was never close enough to make a move for the win.

Even though the Team Penske drivers all finished in the top five, going 2-3-4-5 with Newgarden leading Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Power, missing out on victory was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It stings a little bit coming home second when you feel like you have a winning car,” Newgarden revealed in the post-race press conference.

He added that an ill-timed lap 28 caution for a spinning Takuma Sato ultimately put paid his chances of victory. “The caution didn’t fall our way. You can’t predict that stuff. It hurts when it comes at the wrong time. That’s pretty much what happened today. With (Tim Cindric calling the strategy), I feel confident with all our decisions, everything those guys do on the pit box. Things just didn’t fall our way today.”

For Castroneves, a slight error before his final pit stop saw him pit earlier than the team wanted, due to an alarm that went off in the cockpit. However, as he explained to NBCSN’s Marty Snider, it was of little consequence to the outcome of the race.

“We mentioned in the debrief that if in turn 14, the blue lights come on, you are to come right away. So I came in. I am sure they had a little buffer, and they knew what exactly was going on. (Race engineer Jonathan Diuguid) said keep going but I couldn’t quite understand him. But at the end of the day it didn’t cost us anything in terms of a win or second place.”

Still, the strong results see Pagenaud and Castroneves sit second and third in the championship, while Newgarden and Power sit fifth and sixth, respectively.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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One of the crazier, most eventful Formula 1 races in recent memory took place at the Baku City Circuit today in Azerbajian.

That makes it a challenge to recap but it’s something NBCSN F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton, along with producer Jason Swales, attempt to do in the latest post-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass.

You can see it below. Thursday’s pre-race edition is linked here. A full roundup of Sunday videos from Baku is linked here.

 

Bottas gives everything in Baku fightback from a lap down to P2

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Valtteri Bottas says he “gave it absolutely everything” after falling a lap down and running last early on in Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Baku before fighting back to finish second for Mercedes.

Bottas qualified second for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, but dropped back after contact with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 2 on the opening lap, sustaining a puncture.

Bottas fell a lap down on the field immediately, but was waved past and able to get back onto the lead lap during the first safety car period.

From there, Bottas produced a stunning fightback, dodging the minefield of incidents through the race to eventually cross the line second after a drag race to the checkered flag with Williams’ Lance Stroll.

“Today was a crazy race, especially for me. I had a puncture on the first lap after the contact with Kimi on Lap 1,” Bottas said.

“I was a lap down, then had to overtake the field under the Safety Car. The second Safety Car after that really helped me out and, step by step, I moved forward from there.

“My main goal today was to fight for the win but that went out of the window after the first lap. I was actually last at one point, but I got my head down, gave it absolutely everything and tried to get the absolute maximum out of every single corner.

“We didn’t quite manage to win but P2 from where we were is a great feeling. Importantly for the team, we scored more points in the fight with Ferrari and I got some good points for myself as well.”

Bottas ultimately finished as Mercedes’ lead driver following Lewis Hamilton’s second pit stop when his headrest came loose, resigning the Briton to fifth place at the checkered flag.

F1: Azerbaijan Grand Prix race videos on NBCSN (VIDEO)

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Videos from today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit from NBCSN are linked below.

Daniel Ricciardo won a chaotic, crazy, bizarre race for his first victory of the season.

With a mix of post-race interviews and in-race highlights, there was a lot to digest. The post-race edition of Paddock Pass will also attempt to recap it all.

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS/FEATURES

Lewis Hamilton

Sebastian Vettel

Sergio Perez

Lance Stroll’s podium “shoey” with Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo’s “shoey” tradition

IN-RACE HIGHLIGHTS

Bottas, Raikkonen tag each other at start of race

Verstappen tries to force Perez into errors at Azerbaijan GP

Verstappen forced to retire in Azerbaijan GP

Fernando Alonso calls for a red flag due to debris

Vettel hits Hamilton in crazy restart

Repercussions possible for Vettel and Hamilton after contact

Ricciardo slings his way to third

Sebastian Vettel relinquishes lead due to penalty

Ricciardo drives to victory, Bottas steals second at the flag