Auto Club Speedway track surface set to factor into MAVTV 500

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FONTANA, Calif. – One of the oddities of the Auto Club Speedway is that the track surface, while rough and tumble for NASCAR that has produced great racing in recent years, has made for one of the more challenging oval events for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

In particular, the track surface comes up and peppers the cars and drivers.

On Friday, drivers discussed the concerns they have about going through tearoffs and how they need to manage them throughout Saturday night’s MAVTV 500 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

“There’s something with the track and debris, it’s always been that way,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner. “I wish there was something you can do with the vacuuming with the extraction of the gravel. It’s literally gravel. I had marks on my hands.

“We’re gonna have to have a tearoff strategy, more than a fuel or tire strategy,” he added. “You’re gonna have to have restraint. Every one is priceless. If I had my way it’d be every 10 laps, but you’ll have to make it last a stint and a half. It’s not even dirt, I think it’s just particles of the track. Seems to be getting worse in recent years.”

Hunter-Reay tweeted this picture of the buildup after Wednesday night’s test session.

Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe said this is a serious issue that will need to be dealt with.

“I’m gonna try to track down thinner, multilayer, tearoffs, because I had to drive through the bottom of my visor,” he said. “My last one for 20 laps, the visor was written off. It’s a genuinely serious concern. The problem is what we’re seeing isn’t just dirt or dust. You can send a blower out, but it’s not normal debris we see at a race track.”

Ryan Briscoe offered a measured response.

“It seemed like a lot of sand the other night, but we didn’t notice it so much today,” said the driver of the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “I’m not sure if from the track, or the steel mill, but there’s a lot of it man. It’s like rain with spray, there’s a lot coming off the car.”

Less worried were Ed Carpenter and Charlie Kimball, a past Auto Club Speedway winner (Carpenter in 2012) and a driver who nearly won here last year (Kimball).

“I don’t think there needs to be the complaining, it’s the same for everyone,” Carpenter said. “We will just have to pass cars earlier than what I was hoping for.”

Added Kimball, “Vision could be an issue. With 22 of us to start. It’s gonna be challenging. But with attrition and as guys spread out, it shouldn’t be too bad.”

We shall see how the drivers handle the conditions on Saturday night.

F1: Lewis Hamilton roars back from starting 14th to win German GP, regain points lead

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Heading into Sunday’s German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton wasn’t given much of a chance after qualifying so poorly (14th) one day earlier.

But in one of the most significant rallies of the 2018 Formula One season, Hamilton roared back to not only win at Hockenheim, but also regain the lead in the F1 drivers championship standings at the halfway point of the season.

Ditto for Mercedes in the Constructors Championship.

“It was so tough out there,” Hamilton told Sky Sports/ESPN. “Conditions were perfect for business time. When it rained, I knew I’d have a good position, but you never know what’s going to happen behind the safety car.”

Despite rainy conditions for part of the race, not to mention wet overall conditions that caused a number of drivers to spin, Hamilton won the 66th race of his F1 career (44th with Mercedes AMG Petronas) in a time of 1:32.29.845 and took home 25 points for his fourth win of 2018.

It’s the furthest back a driver has come from back in the pack to win since Fernando Alonso started 15th and won the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.

The win comes just a couple days after Hamilton re-signed with Mercedes AMG through the 2020 season, leading him to pay an immediate return on investment, so to speak.

“It’s obviously very, very difficult (to win) from that position and highly unlikely, but you’ve always got to believe,” Hamilton said. “I said a long, long prayer before the race started.

“When we did the parade lap, I could see how much support we had and I just wanted to stay collected and stay calm. The team did such a great job today, the car was fantastic, I’m so grateful.

“I would never have thought you could do something like that today, but I kept pushing and kept believing and it happened, so I really manifested my dreams today. Thanks to God.”

It was also the 125th F1 podium finish of Hamilton’s career.

To make the win even sweeter, Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, finished second, the first time in German GP history that homeland team Mercedes has finished 1-2.

It’s Bottas’ fifth podium of the season, all being runner-up finishes.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third, 6.5 seconds behind Hamilton, followed my Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg. For Raikkonen, it was his 28th podium since his last win.

Sixth through 10th were Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, Marcus Ericsson and Brendon Hartley.

Kevin Magnussen finished 11th, followed by Carlos Sainz, Stoffel Vandoorne, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso was the last running car, finishing 16th.

Failing to finish (17th through 20th) were Lance Stroll, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (who made a mistake and crashed), Sergey Sirotkin and Daniel Ricciardo.

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