Two drastically different styles of racing took part this Sunday

4 Comments

Nowhere are NASCAR and IndyCar more pronounced in their differences than what each series provided this Sunday.

IndyCar had the early start to the day – an 11 a.m. ET race from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race was the third of 10 street course races that make up the 19-race 2013 calendar, and is already being hailed as an instant classic.

You’d have to go back to “The Pass,” Alex Zanardi’s legendary move on Bryan Herta through Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s “Corkscrew” at the 1996 IndyCar race in Monterey, to find a last lap pass on a road or street course with such magnitude, gusto and guile as what James Hinchcliffe did to Takuma Sato in Brazil.

In terms of an entire road or street race, Sao Paulo’s plethora of passing, varying strategies and drama until the last corner of the race, events such as Long Beach 1998 (another Zanardi comeback) come to mind off the top of your head. But it’s hard to think of many quite of the caliber of what was witnessed at Sao Paulo.

By contrast, NASCAR was in Talladega, home to the inevitable “big one” accident, and a marathon for all involved given it was a 500-mile race to begin with, then interrupted by a three-and-a-half hour rain delay.

Denny Hamlin, who made his return to the cockpit after his injury before yielding to Brian Vickers, said in FOX’s Hollywood Hotel before the final “big one” of the day that with hot tempers, dark skies and barely more than a dozen laps to go, that, “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Hamlin was proven correct. Once Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley made contact, it precipitated the latest massive accident that so frequently occurs in restrictor plate races.

An upside of the restrictor plate races is that if you do survive the carnage, as an underdog team, you can get a decent result. Front Row Motorsports will steal this week’s early headlines with its shock 1-2 finish for David Ragan and David Gilliland, but Michael Waltrip (second start of the year), Regan Smith (underfunded Phoenix Racing) and Scott Speed (underfunded Leavine Family Racing) also scored top-10 finishes.

If you’re a connoisseur of both types of racing on offer, good on you. Right now, though, IndyCar’s street course product is hard to beat. Meanwhile, in Darlington next week, NASCAR returns to an oval where racing, rather than crashing, should take precedence.

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

Follow@KyleMLavigne