Sprint Cup: Brad Keselowski leading at halfway in New Hampshire

Leave a comment

As today’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is moving into its middle stages, Brad Keselowski is taking control.

Keselowski started 10th on a restart at Lap 119 after taking four tires under the preceding caution. But in just 21 laps, he went all the way to the lead and holds the point at halfway over Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano.

Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag, but on Lap 7, Johnson suffered a left-rear tire failure and had to go to the pits under green.

Johnson came back to the track in 42nd place and one lap off the pace. Then on Lap 13, things went from bad to worse when Johnson had a second left-rear tire failure that sent him spinning into the wall.

Under caution, the Top 15 drivers on track chose to stay out. However, a group of more than 15 drivers chose to take advantage of the yellow to make an early stop.

The green came back out at Lap 21, and Kyle Busch proceeded to settle in as the leader until Lap 63, when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin got past him for P1 down the backstretch into Turn 3.

Green flag stops began just a few circuits shy of Lap 75, with Hamlin giving up the lead for service on Lap 74. However, Hamlin regained the lead by Lap 82 when the pit cycle played out among those that chose to go in on Lap 18.

On Lap 89, Keselowski – yesterday’s Nationwide Series winner – managed to get under Hamlin in Turn 3 and take P1. When the first green pit cycle had been completed, he was down two seconds to the leader.

Taking advantage of a car with great acceleration in the middle of the corners, Keselowski began stretching out his lead. The gap eventually grew to more than three seconds before the caution came out at Lap 113 for debris – the end of a 92-lap stretch under green.

Keselowski led the leaders to the pits under yellow, but while most of them decided to take two tires, Keselowski opted for four tires instead and fell all the way to 10th. Also, Kurt Busch was unable to get to his stall for service since Hamlin was coming out of his own; the Outlaw had to go back a second time and tumbled to 20th on the pylon.

Kyle Busch won the race out of the pits but Larson stayed out to get the lead on the restart at Lap 119. Larson was able to turn back a challenge from Busch in the opening laps of the stint, and on Lap 122, Kenseth was able to take second place behind the Sprint Cup rookie.

Kenseth moved in on Larson over the next several laps and on Lap 127, he moved to the inside of Larson down the frontstretch and cleared him off Turn 2 for the lead. But shortly after, Keselowski dropped Larson to third, continuing his march back up front on those four fresh tires.

Keselowski drew to within a car’s length of Kenseth, whose car was spotted with a piece of debris stuck to its grille. Then, on Lap 139, Keselowski went to the inside and re-claimed the lead while Kenseth used the airflow to knock his debris off the car.

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.