Lewis Hamilton (L) is congratulated on his 5th F1 championship by chief challenger Sebastian Vettel. Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton wins F1 title, Max Verstappen wins Mexican Grand Prix

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Lewis Hamilton won his fifth career Formula One championship with a fourth-place finish Sunday at the Mexican Grand Prix, a race dominated by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Hamilton’s season championship was all but assured, and after a brief bid for the lead off the start and a scary run off the track late, he finished off the title with a drive further into the F1 record books. The British driver tied the late Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina for second-most titles in F1 history. Only Germany’s Michael Schumacher has more with seven.

The 33-year-old Hamilton won titles with McLaren in 2008 and with Mercedes in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He also clinched last season’s title in Mexico City.

Verstappen earned his fifth career victory and defended his 2017 race win.

\Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the F1 Mexico Grand Prix.

At age 33, Hamilton can set his sights on something previously unthinkable: chasing Schumacher.

Hamilton’s championship this season arguably ranks among his best. For the second consecutive year, he fended off a strong challenge from Ferrari in a season when even Hamilton had to admit the Italian team often had the stronger car.

Title rival Sebastian Vettel finished second Sunday and Ferrari also took third with Kimi Raikkonen

Hamilton has won four of his five titles with Mercedes and he’s contract through 2020, a deal he extended this season. And even with Ferrari’s mechanical gains, Mercedes shows no signs of slowing down.

Hamilton’s drive wasn’t the Sunday leisure spin he’d hoped for as he complained of problems with the car and tires much of the race. He even had a drive off into the grass when he missed the corner out of the long straight at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. He got the car back on the track with any damage, except for a moment’s aggravation on his historic day.

“A very, very surreal moment,” Hamilton said of his championship. “I was just trying to bring the car home.”

Red Bull had dominated qualifying to earn its first 1-2 start of the hybrid engine era, but pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo was beaten off the line by Verstappen and Hamilton. Ricciardo’s race ended late with engine failure.

Hamilton could have let the Red Bulls ride off from the start, but he’d promised to look for a shot to grab the lead. He nearly found it when he saw a gap between the Red Bulls and tried to take it. The straight line power of his nosed his car in front until Verstappen cut under him at the first corner.

“The start was the key,” Verstappen said. “I was determined to win today.”

Hamilton could afford to back off because all he had to do to finish no worse than seventh to win the championship. And even that would have Vettel to win.

Hamilton’s primary goal was to avoid trouble. A bump from Vettel at the first turn punctured a tire which relegated him to ninth.

Vettel, a four-time champion himself, opened the season with a strong charge of two straight victories before Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the second half of the season.

Vettel will have the small consolation of beating Hamilton in the title-clinching race, passing him about midway through on a run down the long straight in a test of power between F1’s top two teams

Hamilton wrapped up the title with two races left.

“He did a superb job all year,” Vettel said. “I would have loved to hang in there a little bit longer.”

Christopher Bell wins third straight Chili Bowl

@cbnationals, Twitter
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Christopher Bell passed Kyle Larson on the final lap of the 55-lap A-Feature to win the 33rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Bell is only the second driver in event history to win three consecutive Golden Drillers, joining Kevin Swindell who holds the record with four.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to win the Chili Bowl,” Bell said at ChiliBowl.com. “To do it three straight times is just unbelievable, but man, I don’t even care about three straight. What about that race? I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of a last lap race like that, so I’m just glad that thing came out in the end.”

As the white flag waved on his eighth appearance in Saturday’s main event, it seemed Larson was finally going to walk away with his first Golden Driller. This was closest he’s been to the win.

Larson took the lead from Logan Seavey on Lap 21 after a five-lap hot pursuit. Bell moved into second for the first time on Lap 27 but a caution forced him back to third as the field realigned to the last completed lap.

On Lap 33, Bell passed Seavey again for second before another caution reset the field. On the next restart Bell road the rim diving to the hub in Turns 3 and 4. With Larson in sight, Bell started to think about where he was going to put his third trophy.

The final caution flag of the night waved with 20 to go to set up the Bell vs. Larson shootout fans had been waiting for since Larson retired early from the race last year. Larson pulled away on the highline in Turns 1 and 2. He switched to the low in 3 and 4.

With five laps to go Larson hit traffic. That gave Bell the opportunity to close the gap. With two to go Bell was on top of Larson and challenging for the lead. On the final lap Bell passed Larson in Turn 2 as they bumped tires. Glued together through the final pair of turns, they touched twice more before Bell pulled away on the final stretch.

The action wasn’t over, however. Bell wound up on his lid following the win. His donuts got a little out of control and he rolled his midget.

Justin Grant took third by passing Brady Bacon on Lap 36. Bacon followed for fourth with Zach Daum in tow to complete the top five.

Tyler Courtney was the hard charger of the night finishing sixth after starting in 22nd. Brad Sweet and CJ Leary finished seventh and eighth.

Seavey was able to hold onto third until late in the race but ultimately the pole sitter who led the first 20 laps faded to ninth.

Tanner Thorson rounded out the top ten.

Friday’s Main Event

1. Christopher Bell
2. Kyle Larson
3. Justin Grant
4. Brady Bacon
5. Zach Daum
6. Tyler Courtney
7. Brad Sweet
8. CJ Leary
9. Logan Seavey
10. Tanner Thorson
11. Danny Stratton
12. Jonathan Beason
13. Tucker Klaasmeyer
14. Colby Copeland
15. Rico Abreu
16. Michael Faccinto
17. Chad Boat
18. David Gravel
19. Cole Bodine
20. Robert Dalby
21. Jake Neuman
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Shane Golobic
24. Sean McClelland