IndyCar: Graham Rahal is halfway leader at Barber

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Thanks to pit strategy and timely cautions, Graham Rahal is the leader of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park after 45 of 90 laps (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver hasn’t pitted since Lap 19, and has led since a caution on Lap 35 sent the race leaders to the pits. He led 10 laps from when prior leader Josef Newgarden peeled off at Lap 35.

Rahal is followed by James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, Luca Filippi and Jack Hawksworth.

Tire fall off was a factor early, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, the two-time defending winner of the Barber race, making the decision to pit as early as Lap 12.

The day’s first full-course caution came on Lap 20 after Will Power collided with Takuma Sato while exiting the pits. The contact sent Power off track and through the gravel before making it back on course. Sato lost part of his front wing as he spun out.

Power would restart fifth but was given a drive-through penalty on Lap 25 after IndyCar judged his incident with Sato to have been avoidable.

The caution came out while race leaders Castroneves and Newgarden were on pit road. Castroneves’ tire changer experienced had trouble while working on the right-front tire. The delay was enough for Newgarden to emerge from the pits with the lead.

Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe restarted in P3 and P4 and spent the first few laps back under green harassing each other and trading spot back and forth. During the second caution, brought out on Lap 34 when Stefano Coletti collided with James Jakes while trying to pass him on the inside in Turn 5, Newgarden and Castroneves pitted while Rahal and Hinchcliffe stayed out.

Newgarden and Castroneves restarted 11th and 10th respectively.

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

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.