Steven B. Wilson
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History was made in more than one way at Circuit of The Americas this weekend. Not only was the INDYCAR Classic the first NTT IndyCar Series race conducted at the track, but Colton Herta became the youngest driver to win an Indy car event when he took the checkered flag on Sunday.
The beneficiary of an opportune full-course caution period, Herta led the final 15 laps and won by 2.7182 seconds over Josef Newgarden. At 18 years, 11 months, 25 days old, the second-generation driver became the youngest to ever win an Indy car race, breaking the mark previously held by Graham Rahal, who was 19 years, 3 months, 2 days when he won at St. Petersburg in 2008.
INDYCAR CLASSIC: Official results
Sunday's race was just the third in the NTT IndyCar Series for Herta, who finished second in the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship before moving up to Harding Steinbrenner Racing this year. Herta was humbled to join the list of Indy car race winners that includes his father, Bryan, who won four times in a 12-year Indy car career and is now co-owner and race strategist for the car driven by Marco Andretti.
"Just to be up with the names of people that have won (a) race, I'm going to live and die an Indy car winner, which is spectacular in itself," Herta said. "Yeah, it's a great record at a young age. To be standing up here kind of feels surreal.
"We were not expecting (to win). I think we were going to get a podium (top-three finish) - I think we had the pace for that - but holy crap, man! ... It's spectacular!"
Driving the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, Colton Herta started the 60-lap race on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile permanent road course in fourth position. Pole sitter Will Power dominated the first three-quarters of the race, leading every lap under green-flag conditions until the only full-course yellow waved on Lap 44 after James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist made contact, sending the latter's car careening into the barrier on the inside of Turn 19 at the entrance to pit lane.
Fortunately for Herta, he'd made his final scheduled pit stop a lap earlier under green. Race leader Power, second-place Alexander Rossi and third-place Scott Dixon were forced to make their final stops under yellow after the field packed up behind the pace car. Once that trio headed to the pits, Herta assumed the lead for the first time in his brief NTT IndyCar Series career.
Holding off Newgarden on the Lap 50 restart, Herta pulled away to the history-making victory.
"On the restart, we were quick," Herta said. "We kind of sprinted off. I know we got the quickest lap on that first lap, which was pretty crazy to have the tires up to temp and everything ready."
The win was also the first for the team co-owned by Mike Harding and George Michael Steinbrenner IV. After fielding a car for Herta in Indy Lights in 2017 and '18, Steinbrenner partnered this year with Harding to bring the driving phenom to the NTT IndyCar Series.
"He did a phenomenal job," the 22-year-old Steinbrenner said of Herta. "Colton hit all his marks, he did everything right, the crew did everything they needed to do to keep us out in front of (Newgarden's) car the whole time. Everything went pretty much perfectly.
"I really can't believe we're sitting here. I'm shaking and it's a dream come true."
Newgarden was satisfied with a second-place finish coming on the heels of his win in the March 10 season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The driver of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet holds an 18-point lead over Herta after two of 17 races.
"We had a little luck (with the late caution), and I thought that could play into our favor to race for another win," Newgarden said. "The PPG car looked good and felt good, it just wasn't enough there at the end.
"A second place is big for us. We talked about the fact that you need to have podium finishes if you aren't winning races, and this goes a long way to our championship run."
Power's misfortune of seeing the late caution period ruin his chance for a win was compounded during his pit stop. The drive shaft broke on his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet as he attempted to leave the pit stall, relegating the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner to finish last in the 24-car field.
"I just released the clutch snap and I could kind of hear it grinding together," Power said. "I'm massively disappointed, man. You lead so many laps and work so hard all weekend to put yourself in position (to win). If the yellow didn't get us, the drive shaft did."
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. Graham Rahal wound up fourth in the No. 15 TOTAL Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, giving American drivers a sweep of the top four spots.
Other notable finishes came from: Sebastien Bourdais, who moved up 12 spots from his starting position in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan to place fifth; Marco Andretti, who advanced 14 positions to finish seventh in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajanian; and rookie Patricio O'Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champion whose 2019 NTT IndyCar Series debut in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet ended in eighth place.
Rossi, last year's NTT IndyCar Series runner-up, recovered from the pit stop under caution to finish 10th in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda for Andretti Autosport. Dixon, the reigning and five-time series champion, worked his way back to 13th place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday, April 7. Live coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Askew completes sweep of Indy Lights COTA weekend
Oliver Askew completed the perfect Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend Sunday at Circuit of The Americas, winning his second race from the pole position in as many days. The Andretti Autosport driver beat teammate Robert Megennis by 2.2256 seconds in the 20-lap race to collect the maximum weekend points available and take over the championship lead by four points over Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing).
- In three rounds of group qualifying at the .526-mile oval, Busch posted the second-fastest lap and started the race on the front row.
- Within 8 laps, Busch had made his way into the lead and he maintained that position at the front through the end of the first stage.
- Busch earned the stage win, and crew chief Rudy Fugle brought him to pit road following the stage for four tires, fuel and adjustments.
- Busch began the second stage in the second position, but soon took the lead.
- He reported that his Toyota Tundra needed to stay in the race track more, and under caution on lap 117, Fugle called him to pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
- The stop cost him track position and the owner-driver spent the remainder of the second stage in the third position.
- The driver of the No. 51 Cessna Tundra started the third stage in the third position.
- Busch and Fugle opted to conserve tires and ride in the third position until about 70 laps to go when Busch began to move toward the front. After a short battle with the No. 45, Busch retook the point position, which he maintained through multiple late race cautions and a last lap yellow flag that ended the race.
- In his 148th series start, Busch earned his 54th career victory and third of the season in three starts.
Kyle Busch is no stranger to success at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and the winningest driver in series history added to that record on Saturday with a win in the TruNorth Global 250.
Busch said that, after claiming the first 75-lap stage victory, it was a matter of staying patient during the middle portion of the race and allowing his team’s tire strategy to play out.
“It was a case of being patient. Obviously with trying to go 150 laps to the end of the race on one set of tires is a long way to go, so we just kind of wanted to bide our time and take it easy, make sure we didn’t push too hard,” Busch said. “We didn’t need to go up there and get any stage points or anything like that so the opportunity for us to just kind of ride was given to us.”
Once Busch re-took the lead in the final stage, it was just a matter of surviving a loose condition and some late-race restarts on the way to his second Truck Series victory at Martinsville Speedway.
“We just kept trying to make it turn the center better. That’s where it’s at, at Martinsville. You’ve got to be able to turn the center without getting too lose in and too loose off,” Busch said. “There during the race, a couple of times when I was underneath some guys I’d get loose. I saw other guys getting loose in the same kind of aspect. We were able to get by them and get through them and have enough tire there at the end to hold them off.”
Busch led four times for 174 laps en route to the victory.
Ben Rhodes, Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain and Stewart Friesen followed Busch home to round out the top-five finishers in the TruNorth Global 250.
As for the famous grandfather clock trophy, Busch said it was crew chief Rudy Fugle’s to keep.
“Yes, he can have the clock,” Busch said of Fugle. “This is his (Fugle’s) first win here at Martinsville. I’ve won here with two other crew chiefs I think so it’s pretty cool to get Rudy his first win at Martinsville.”
Following Busch’s TruNorth Global 250 win, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers hit the track for Virginia Lottery Pole Qualifying ahead of Sunday’s STP 500.
Logano posted a 97.830 mph lap in the final round of knockout qualifying to claim the top spot, edging fellow Ford driver Aric Almirola.
“It was a great lap,” Logano said. “I think we were able to get through the first couple rounds without putting many laps on our tires and that really paid a reward as we got to the third round. The car was pretty good.”
Logano’s fifth pole award at Martinsville Speedway comes in his 21st career Cup Series race weekend at the historic half-mile.
“We definitely work at it a lot and talk about it a lot and it’s just been a track for most of my career I’ve qualified pretty well at, but once I’ve been able to team up with Todd and Team Penske here I’ve really been able to turn those pretty close qualifying efforts to poles,” Logano said. “It’s something that it’s a challenging place to do it because there’s just so much that goes into each round and each lap.”
Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and William Byron round out the top-six starting spots, and will lead the field to the green flag from the first three rows.
Chase Elliott, the fastest car in STP 500 final practice, will start eighth in Sunday’s race.
The STP 500 will be run Sunday at 2 p.m. and tickets are still available.
Adult tickets start at $47 and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
Youth tickets for the STP 500 are $25 at any location in the grandstands.
- Lessard started the 131.5-mile event from the seventh position on the inside lane, but fell back two positions on the initial start of the race. He would settle into the ninth spot for the first 20 laps and then fell back one more spot to 10th, where he would remain when a one-truck accident on lap 64 brought the field to the end of Stage One.
- Lessard communicated to Shelton that his Spectra Premium/FRL Express Tundra was "tight center and free off" before hitting pit road. The over-the-wall crew executed a four-tire and fuel stop along with a trackbar adjustment in an attempt to improve the handling for their young driver.
- The No. 46 Toyota was scored in the 11th position when the field took the green flag to start Stage Two on lap 79. He was scored in the 13th position when one-truck accident slowed the field for the third time on lap 119.
- After Lessard reported that he was "super loose on entry," Shelton summoned his driver to pit road for another four-tire and fuel stop, this time using a wedge adjustment in an effort to improve the handling.
- With a handful of trucks electing not to pit, the Canadian driver took the lap-122 restart from the 15th position. He lost one more spot over the final 18 laps and crossed the stripe 16th to end Stage Two.
- Between stages Lessard reported that he still wasn't happy with the handling of his Tundra, so when pit road opened, he returned to pit road. Shelton elected to save his final set of sticker tires for later in the race and just called for his over-the-wall crew to make a chassis adjustment and fill the truck with fuel.
- The No. 46 Toyota restarted in the 13th position when the Final Stage went green on lap 152. Shortly into the stage, Lessard got put in a three-wide situation by Cup Series regular Austin Dillon and would end up falling back to the 17th spot.
- Lessard was running in the 16th spot when the field was slowed for the fifth time with 60 laps remaining. Shelton put on the final set of tires and made one more attempt at improving the handling of the Spectra Premium/FRL Express Tundra.
- The field would go back green with 53 laps remaining with the first-time driver scored in the 17th position. He remained in the 17th position when the field was slowed again with 38 laps remaining and was still scored 17th when the sixth caution of the day occurred with seven laps remaining.
- The final restart of the race came with three laps remaining. The young Canadian would battle hard to gain three positions before a caution on the final lap ended the race. At the end of the day Lessard had completed all 250 laps with his Tundra in one piece and earned a very respectable 14th-place finish.
Racing Engineering, one of the most successful European racing teams in recent history, will enter the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series with two cars, further raising the already ultra-competitive level of the European NASCAR Series. The Spanish team choose numbers #48 and #88 for its two Ford Mustang.
Founded in 1999 by Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón and based in Andalusia at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Racing Engineering rapidly surged to the highest level of motorsports both at national and international level. The team conquered 11 titles in eight years, spanning from the Spanish Formula 3 and GT championships to the World Series title in 2002 and the GP2 drivers title in 2008 and 2013. Racing Engineering was GP2 vice-champion team twice – in 2015 and 2016 – and fielded cars for some of the most talented drivers in the world.
In 2018, the team finished second in the European Le Mans Series and the ambition for the upcoming season can’t but be to compete with the best NASCAR teams in Europe.
“I am very happy to announce that we are joining the NASCAR family in 2019. It is a category I have always enjoyed watching and wishing to join at some point in our career. This is now a reality. Obviously we are looking forward to some great racing and doing the best we can. It will not be easy as there are some great drivers and teams, but first of all, let’s enjoy the racing and take it from there.”, said Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, President of Racing Engineering.
For the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, Racing Engineering’s debut is a testament to the ever growing interest surrounding the European NASCAR series and the incredible level reached by the championship in just 10 years of activity.
“It is great to have a world class team such as Racing Engineering starting a Euro NASCAR program! Our championship is now one of the most competitive in Europe and this will be a terrific addition to the field! It is also a true statement of the continual development of the series which gets bigger and better every year. Bienvenidos a NASCAR, Racing Engineering!” said NWES President / CEO Jerome Galpin.
Racing Engineering’s Euro NASCAR lineup will be announced at a later date. Meanwhile the team is hard at work to prepare for the April 13-14 NWES season opener on home soil, at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo of Valencia, Spain.
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series PR
Another exciting NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season is about to begin on April 13-14 at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain and the competition on and off the track will be outstanding. 33 cars from 19 teams coming from all over the world are expected on the grid for the NWES season opener, reaffirming Euro NASCAR’s popularity and its status as the best touring car championship of the Old Continent.
Team entries reached and all-time high during the winter and exceeded the 30-car limit fixed in the NWES rulebook. Bigger tracks like the Circuit Ricardo Tormo will allow the series to welcome a record-setting field to open the 2019 season.
“We are very proud of this 2019 grid, which is the biggest and the best in series’ history both for quantity and quality of the entrants. It is full of great teams, great competitors and great drivers, but also great friends. We will be really happy to see everybody in Valencia after a long winter. There’s no better way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the series! With NASCAR and all our partners we can’t wait to start another exciting season with our fantastic fans,” said NWES President / CEO Jerome Galpin.
2018 Teams Championship and ELITE 2 Division winning team RDV Competition, fielding two Ford Mustangs for the upcoming season, will face the toughest competition in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series history in their traditional rivals and in some prestigious new entries that will grant a unique show for the European NASCAR fans.
GP2 Championship winner Racing Engineering and touring car icon Team Bleekemolen will all add their names to the explosive mix of contenders highlighting the NWES grid. ELITE 1 Division winning team CAAL Racing, PK Carsport, Hendriks Motorsport, Mishumotors, Braxx Racing, Dexwet DF1 Racing and Racing Total will all field two cars, while Racers Motorsports and Alex Caffi Motorsport will enter three cars each.
Swedish team Memphis Racing will expand to field two Camaros, while NASCAR Cup Series team Go Fas Racing will return with one Ford Mustang for its European division. There will be one car each from Solaris Motorsport, The Club Motorsport, 42 Racing - Nocentini, Speedhouse 64 and returning Motorsport 98.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will visit seven top European tracks in 2019, touching seven different countries with a spectacular 26-race calendar, beginning in Valencia, Spain on April 13-14 and concluding in Zolder, Belgium on October 5-6.
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series PR
A late-race shuffle left Derek Kraus with an 18th-place finish on Saturday in his first visit to Martinsville Speedway and only his second NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race.
Kraus had charged up to 12th in Bill McAnally Racing’s No. 19 ENEOS / NAPA Toyota Tundra, but a restart with only three laps to go made way for some rough and tumble action that pushed him high on the track.
The 17-year-old NASCAR Next driver from Stratford, Wisconsin had qualified 11th earlier in the day. In the race, he got a lap behind and then battled to get back on the lead lap with about 50 laps remaining. He started picking off the competition from there, working his way toward the top 10 before the caution came out with less than 10 laps to go.
“We fell behind early and had to just work throughout the day to get back on the lead lap,” Kraus said. “Once we did, we were able to pass a lot of trucks with our ENEOS Tundra. We got back up there, but got caught up in someone else’s mess.”
Kraus acknowledged how tough it can be to race around the paperclip-shaped, half-mile Virginia track.
“It’s definitely a challenging place to race,” he said. “It can get frustrating at times, but overall it was a pretty good day for our BMR team.”
Saturday’s race marked BMR’s first truck race with ENEOS branding. ENEOS joined the team at the beginning of the year as a primary sponsor on the team’s Tundra – along with NAPA AUTO PARTS, NAPA Filters, and Toyota/TRD.
This is the first of four races in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series that Kraus is slated to compete in with BMR this year. The next truck series race on his schedule will be at Dover International Speedway in Delaware on May 3.
The four truck races are on off weekends from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, where Kraus is in his third full season competing for BMR – driving the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry. In addition, he is running select events this year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – where he won the season opener at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway as part of NASCAR’s Speedweeks.
In advance of the Martinsville event, the BMR team made a special visit for a store showing at a NAPA Store in Reidsville, North Carolina on Thursday. At the track on Saturday, a special VIP experience was provided for a group from NAPA Power Premium Plus, selected through a sales promotion. Activities included a VIP suite and a special chance to visit the garage area.
The race, which was won by Kyle Busch, was televised live on FOX and was also carried live on MRN radio.
Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang are set to start Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway from 15th place, although no starting positions are official until after inspection is completed Sunday morning.
Menard toured the tricky, paper-clip-shaped half-mile at 96.884 miles per hour on his fourth lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday afternoon. That put him 11th fastest and allowed him to advance to Round Two.
In the second round he posted a best lap of 96.699 miles per hour on his fifth lap, which was just .025 seconds per lap shy of being good enough to advance to the final round but left him 15th.
“It’s about where we expected,” Menard said. “We weren’t really strong in qualifying trim in practice, and our first run I thought that we could have picked up for the second round.
“We didn’t do any adjustments and just got pretty tight, so it kept getting faster as I ran, so stayed out a little bit too long probably for brakes, but it was pretty much where we were.”
Eddie Wood said he was encouraged that Menard’s Mustang was just a tick or two of the stopwatch away from a top-12 run in the second qualifying round and that the car performed well in the final practice session. Both practices were held on Saturday prior to qualifying.
Menard’s best lap in “Happy Hour” practice was at 96.538 miles per hour, which was fifth best on the speed chart.
“The car was good in race trim,” Wood said.
The STP 500 is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.