Saturday, July 27, 2013

Formula One Qualifying, GP2 and GP3, IndyCar's New Additions, Grand-Am at Indy, NASCAR at Indy

It has been a busy final weekend of July with the capital cities of Indiana and Hungary playing host to two of the biggest racing series in the world and their support divisions.

Formula One Qualifying
Lewis Hamilton took his third consecutive pole this morning, beating Sebastian Vettel by thirty-eight thousandths of a second. Hamilton is the defending champion of the Hungarian Grand Prix and looks for a record-tying fourth win in Hungary tomorrow. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was third fastest with Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg fourth. Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. Felipe Massa was seventh ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Scuderia Toro Rosso, McLaren's Sergio Perez and Mark Webber.

Force India's Adrian Sutil just missed out on the top ten and will start eleventh ahead of fellow German Nico Hülkenberg. Two-time Hungarian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button starts thirteenth ahead of Jean-Éric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas. Paul di Resta failed to make it out of Q1 with Esteban Gutiérrez, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. NBCSN's coverage of the Hungarian Grand Prix begins at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow.

GP2 and GP3
Russian Time driver, Frenchman Tom Dillman will start on pole for today's GP2 race. This is the Frenchman's first pole of the GP2 season. His Russian Time teammate Sam Bird was slated to start second but was given a three spot penalty for impeding Spaniard Sergio Canamasas in qualifying. Fabio Leimer, Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson were each promoted one position after Bird's penalty. GP2 points leader, Stefan Coletti of Monaco will start eighteenth. The two American drivers on the grid Alexander Rossi and Jake Rosenzweig will start ninth and sixteenth respectively.

For the GP3 race, Finland's Aaro Vainio took the pole position after beating American Conor Daly by 0.176 seconds. It is Vainio's first pole of the season. On row two will be the Russian Daniil Kvyat and Estonian Kevin Korjus with British drivers Jack Harvey, Lewis Williamson and Melville McKee taking the next three positions. Carlos Sainz, Jr. will start eighth ahead of the top two drivers in the championship standings Facu Regalia of Argentina and Tio Ellinas of Cyprus. Ellinas leads Regalia by nineteen points in the championship.

IndyCar's New Additions
Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing both announced new drivers yesterday. Let's start with BHA as this was expected. Alex Tagliani has been removed from his seat behind the #98 Honda and has been replaced by the Italian Luca Filippi. However, Tagliani will remain under contract with BHA for the remainder of 2013. Filippi, 27, has spend the better part of seven years racing in GP2, winning six races over his time in the Formula One feeder series and finished second in the 2011 GP2 champion to current Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean. Filippi will test the car on July 30th at Mid-Ohio where he is expected to make his IndyCar debut. JR Hildebrand is the favorite to drive the car at Sonoma with the final four races of the season still to be determined.

The surprising news from yesterday was the announcement Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will expand to two cars for Sonoma with veteran driver Lucas Luhr of Germany making his IndyCar debut. Luhr currently drives for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in the American Le Mans Series and the defending champion of the LMP1 class. Luhr and his German co-driver Kluas Graf are in great position to double-up and win the final LMP1 championship in American sports car racing for the near future as the German duo have a commanding lead over the only other full-time LMP1 team in ALMS, Dyson Racing.

Luhr's racing résumé includes two GT class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, five GT/GT2 class victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 2001 GT class winner and second overall at the 24 Hours of Daytona, overall winner of the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring and Spa, two-time ALMS LMP1 class champion including one with Audi in 2008, 2006 ALMS LMP2 class champion driving for Porsche and Penske Racing, three time ALMS GT class champion and 2011 FIA GT1 World Champion driving for Nissan. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will partner with USAC team RW Motorsports to field Luhr's car. RW Motorsports currently field Jerry Coons, Jr., Chris Windom, Bobby Santos III, Kyle O'Gara and Kevin Thomas, Jr. across the three divisions of USAC.

With the formation of United SportsCar Racing, it will be interesting if Luhr's one-off is a sign of the future and a potential move of Pickett Racing to IndyCar, Pickett Racing owner, Greg Pickett has already made it clear he will not run a Daytona Prototype in 2014. Pickett has been running an LMP1 car since 2011. Pickett uses Honda power in ALMS and Luhr's one-off could be Pickett dipping his toe to test the waters for 2014. The other LMP1 team in ALMS, Dyson Racing has not announced plans for 2014, although it appears the team will either run in the combined prototype class in USCR or move to LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The two full-time LMP2 teams in ALMS both use Honda power including Extreme Speed Motorsports, which is owned by 1996 co-IRL champion Scott Sharp.

Grand-Am at Indy
Starworks Motorsports and Alex Popow doubled-up and won the Brickyard Grand Prix for the second consecutive year. This year Popow won with his Scottish co-driver Ryan Dalziel. With the victory, Popow and Dalziel takes the points lead, ten markers ahead of the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing's duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogerty. Wayne Taylor Racing's Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor dropped to third in the standings, nineteen back of Popow and Dalziel. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finished second in the Brickyard Grand Prix and in doing so won the North American Endurance Championship by two points over João Barbosa.

In GT, Max Papis and Jeff Segal took the victory over John Edwards and Robin Liddell who took the GT North American Endurance Championship. Andy Lally and John Potter finished third retained their points lead, but only four up on the pairing of Edwards and Liddell.

NASCAR at Indy
The 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya led NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice over 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch and recent winner of the Truck race at Eldora, Austin Dillon. 2011 Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard was fourth with Kasey Kahne rounding out the top five. Other notables were Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in tenth, Brad Keselowski twelfth, Jimmie Johnson thirteenth, Jeff Gordon twenty-first and Tony Stewart twenty-fifth.

In Nationwide practice, Kyle Larson led the first session with Brian Vickers fastest in final practice.