Logano, Hamlin in control halfway at Martinsville; wrecks take out Harvick, Kahne

1 Comment

After a fairly passive first 200 laps of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway, things started getting a bit dicey in the 50 laps leading to the mid-point of the 500-lap event on the half-mile bullring.

On Lap 229 of the 500-lap event, two of the eight drivers remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick, got together in a wreck.

It appeared unintentional, that Kenseth made a mistake, starting spinning and tapped the rear of Harvick’s car, spinning him as well. Unfortunately for Harvick, his car got the worst of the situation, smashing into the outside retaining wall, and was forced to the garage for repairs.

Also caught up in the wreck was non-Chaser Tony Stewart, but his Chevy suffered only minor damage and he, as well as Kenseth, were both able to continue on in the race.

At the halfway point, the top 10 were: Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick.

Prior to the Kenseth-Harvick-Stewart skirmish, there was another incident of note.

On Lap 216, Brian Vickers had an interesting experience – or was it payback for an incident that occurred about 60 laps earlier?

Having been spun around by Kasey Kahne earlier in an incident that that damaged the hood of his car, Vickers was coming around the track when, all of a sudden, the hood on his car came up and bent backward, covering his front windshield.

About eight laps later and after repairs were made, Vickers went back on the racetrack and appeared to intentionally get into Kasey Kahne’s car, spinning him into the wall and causing significant damage, leading Kahne to take his car to the garage.

Brad Keselowski was caught up in that wreck, but suffered only minor damage and was able to continue on.

Kahne wasn’t the only Hendrick Motorsports car that went to the garage after the run-in with Vickers.

Six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who was eliminated from the Chase last week at Talladega, was forced to come back into the infield right after an oil leak developed.

Johnson eventually got back on-track after repairs were made, but not before he was 38 laps behind the leaders.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.