Trevor Bayne looks to take Nationwide lead in Fontana

Leave a comment

A steady start for Trevor Bayne has him one point behind Regan Smith for the lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, and he’s hoping to continue that consistency in tomorrow’s 300-miler for the NNS at Auto Club Speedway.

Bayne started the year with a third at Daytona, followed by another Top-5 at Phoenix and Top-10s at Las Vegas and Bristol. It’s led to a much closer fight for the top spot than at this time last year, which had Sam Hornish Jr. leading by 22 points over Justin Allgaier going into Fontana.

“Obviously, we want to contend for Top-5s every single weekend and I think we can do that,” Bayne said this morning at ACS. “The last race I ran here, last season, we ran Top-5 the majority of the day and got too loose at the end. Today, it is going to be all about making the right race adjustments as the track changes and being able to fire off quicker on restarts.

“I feel like that is where we struggled a little last year. Over the long run, we were pretty good. I think [crew chief] Chad Norris and I have a pretty good plan for this weekend.”

Smith has only collected two Top-10s in 14 career NASCAR national series starts at the two-mile oval, while Bayne’s best Nationwide finish there was a sixth back in 2011. However, both of them did log Top-10 runs last year in this event (Smith with a third, Bayne with a ninth).

Either way, they’ll both likely have to go through the Joe Gibbs Racing camp to contend for victory tomorrow. A Gibbs driver has won the last nine consecutive Nationwide races at ACS, and the team will have Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler going for a 10th trophy.

“They have been really fast and having the drivers that they do…They are able to bounce a lot of things off of each other,” Bayne said of the Gibbs teammates. “Normally, Kyle doesn’t need anyone to bounce it off of – he has just been fast on his own.

“We need to get our [Roush Fenway Racing] teammates up to speed a little and our car up to speed where we can try three different things in a weekend and figure out which package is going to be best and what direction we need to go. Hopefully, we are going to be able to do that.”

Last weekend at Bristol, Busch collected his second Nationwide win of the year and the 65th Nationwide win of his career.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.