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IndyCar Open Wheel

2017 Grand Prix at The Glen Preview

Momentum?  We are down to two more races for the season.  Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden currently tops the standings, but his lead is not insurmountable. It seems likely that a Penske driver will take the championship, unless Scott Dixon does.

Look Out For?  Speaking of Dixon, he has won at Watkins Glen four times, so it seems he is the one to watch.  Other former winners who will compete this weekend are Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Sentimental Favorite?  None at present.

Challenges?  As with most natural terrain road courses, the length of the long course, which is about 3.5 miles, can make it very dicey if the car runs into trouble. It can be an extensive trip back to the pits.

Quotes:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “Watkins Glen is a beautiful track. It has great history in Indy car (racing). It has lots of grip which makes it very interesting and very fast. We had a good car there last year and I’m excited to return. We had a good test there earlier and found a little pace in the car. The championship battle continues to be close and how we come out of Watkins Glen will certainly set the stage for Sonoma. The one thing I know, for sure, is that the Menards Chevrolet team will show up ready to go. I don’t think anything changes from what we’ve done all season. We’ll keep our heads down and continue to work.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m so pumped to head to Watkins Glen. After winning at Gateway and continuing to lead Verizon IndyCar Series points, the whole No. 2 Devilbiss Chevy team and I are really ready to get back on track. We’ve done well on road courses this season, so we definitely think we’ll have something for the competition. I also finished second there last year. But we know that as we get closer to Sonoma, the competition will be working hard to bring their best car just like us. It’s exciting to have my teammates also battling for the championship, too, so it just makes it even more of a challenge but we are ready for it. Watkins Glen is a really fun track with an equally fun crowd so it’s definitely an event I’m looking forward to.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Obviously coming off St. Louis, we all are feeling good and I’m just excited to get back to work. Watkins Glen is one of the best tracks on the schedule and it provides some incredible speeds/racing. The aim for the weekend is just to continue developing our car setup and finding speed one tenth of a second (or more) at a time. Hopefully we can find ourselves in the top five again by the end of the weekend.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): “Watkins Glen is a track that I really enjoy and that I’ve done very well at. I was competitive last year, but I had an interesting day with a spin at the start, but I came back surging at the end. Hopefully our car will be like it was at the Indy road course and Mid-Ohio, when I tested, and places like that because I think we can definitely do pretty well. Hopefully that will be the case and we can get the No. 18 car up front. It’s a track that is very physically difficult. It’s very, very high G’s with high-speed corners, but it’s a very interesting and exhilarating challenge as well, so when you get a good lap there, it’s very satisfying. I’m looking forward to it.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “I think no one has ever said that Watkins Glen is an un-favorite track. We all love it! This awesome track has a beautiful series of flowing, high-speed corners with great elevation changes, and overtaking is very possible. It’s just a fantastic road course. We had a productive test a couple of weeks ago, and I feel very positive for this coming weekend. We have been showing great speed but some unfortunate events have cost us results in the last two races. I am very hungry to have a strong finish this weekend.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): “We didn’t have a strong performance at Gateway, so we’re looking for a bit of a rebound this weekend in Watkins Glen. It’s almost like another home track for me, not being very far from Pennsylvania, so we will have a lot of support and UFD will be back on the No. 27 car. With the current aero kits, the track is super-fast and very physical, we’ve been working hard and training to be ready.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the First Half of the F1 Season

The Big Picture:  We love a professional racing series that has recess. And time outs. Well, the time outs are an exaggeration. At any rate, Formula One has a policy that no one works on the cars for one month right in the middle of the season. So, here without further ado, here is our mid-season version of What We Learned, featuring short summaries of the races that happened, and a listing of the 20 fulltime F1 drivers, their place in the points, and what they did on their summer vacations.

The Events:

  • Australia – Ferrari strikes back, and Sebastian Vettel wins the season opener.
  • China – Lewis Hamilton scores his first grand slam victory of the season!
  • Bahrain – And then it’s Vettel’s turn to win again.
  • Russia – Valtteri Bottas mixes it up when he claims his maiden victory.
  • Spain – Hamilton wins as Vettel fumes.
  • Monaco – Vettel wins again, while Hamilton fails to place on the podium.
  • Canada – Hamilton earns his third victory of the year and second grand slam of 2017.
  • Azerbaijan – Daniel Ricciardo gets his first (and so far, only) win of the season in F1’s version of Demolition Derby. Canadian rookie Lance Stroll earns his first podium.
  • Austria – Bottas gets to win again because Hamilton had to change his gearbox thus incurring a grid penalty. By the way, this is a dumb rule.
  • Britain – Hamilton earns his third grand slam of the year in front of his home crowd and his fifth win at his home race. Delirium ensues.
  • Hungary – Vettel’s performance of the year thus far came during an otherwise boring race when the German experienced steering issues but still brought home the win. Bottas and Raikkonen both podium in front of a crowd with numerous Finns in attendance. Delirium ensues.

The Drivers and How They Spent Their Summer Vacations:

  • Fernando Alonzo – 15th place, no wins. Checked on his new museum and went to the Greek Isle of Mykonos.
  • Valtteri Bottas – 3rd, two wins, a possible title contender. Chilled at home in his native Finland.
  • Marcus Ericsson – 20th place, no points. In the UK supporting his brother, who was racing.
  • Romain Grosjean – 13th, no wins. He posed upside down on a paddle board, no idea where he was.
  • Lewis Hamilton – 2nd place, four victories,definite title contender. Jet setting, including sailing and off-road racing. Worked with UNICEF in Cuba.
  • Nico Hulkenberg – 10th, no firsts. No idea what he did.
  • Daniil Kvyat – 17th, no wins. Boating and beaches with the girlfriend.
  • Kevin Magnussen – 14th place, no wins. Flying with his grandfather and befriending farm animals.
  • Felipe Massa – 11th. No information.
  • Esteban Ocon – 8th place, no wins. Beach holiday with friends in his home country, Spain.
  • Jolyon Palmer – 19th. Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.
  • Sergio Perez – 7th. Near the ocean and fishing.
  • Kimi Raikkonen – 5th place, four podiums. No idea what he did this summer.
  • Daniel Ricciardo – 4th place, a win, five podiums. Mountain biking and then beach vacay with teammate Verstappen.
  • Carlos Sainz, Jr. – 9th. He didn’t tell us about his vacation!
  • Lance Stroll – 12th place, a podium. Golfing vacation in Turks and Caicos.
  • Stoffel Vandoorne – 18th. Went to Montenegro with friends.
  • Sebastian Vettel – 1st place, four wins. Notoriously private Vettel, of course, isn’t talking.
  • Max Verstappen – 6th, five DNFs with a podium. Let’s see, had a vacation on the beach with Ricciardo, went boating with friends, and met his fans at a Red Bull event.
  • Pascal Wehrlein – 16th – Worked out and spent time on a boat.

 The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from ABC Supply 500 at Pocono

The Big Picture:  It’s a sprint to the finish for the remainder of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Four races to go including Pocono, with two ovals and two fabulous road courses. Pocono is a late-comer in the schedule but has much to offer the series in terms of being a competitive venue.

Event:  And yet, NASCAR also runs here, and in front of much larger crowds than IndyCar draws. If the series and the track are willing to take the time to build this into a quality event, the bones are there.

Qualifying:  It looked for some time as if Simon Pagenaud was going to take the pole with his two blistering laps. Then Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed during his run, injuring himself in the process. The only driver left to go was RHR’s teammate, Takuma Sato. Whether it was timing or track conditions, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 victor easily picked up pole position.

Race: The ABC Supply 500 may just be the event of the year. There were 42 lead changes among 10 different competitors, adding suspense with fans continuing to try and guess the winner almost until the end.  Four drivers led more than 30 laps: Scott Dixon, 51; Alexander Rossi, 44; Will Power, 34; and Tony Kanaan, 32. They all had solid performances and would have been deserving victors. Power prevailed, though, for  his 32nd IndyCar  triumph to put him  in sole possession of ninthplace in overall victories in series history. In addition, the Australian is the first ICS driver to win backtoback at Pocono.

Biggest Surprise:  Will Power’s come from behind victory. First, he had to pit for a broken front wing assembly on Lap 66, putting him a lap down. Later, he had to pit for a new rear wing. But he was able to get back on the lead lap and fight his way through the field, finally retaking the top spot for the final 10 laps.

Biggest Disappointment:  When the race was over.

Best Team:  Team Penske, mostly because they won the race but also because the four drivers work well together.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  ABC Supply, in addition to being one of A.J. Foyt’s major sponsors, also sponsored the race.

What We Learned:  That Will Power is still as awesome as he ever was. That under the right conditions, superspeedway racing can be the most exciting way to compete. Also, that this race deserves some serious investment because the quality is there.

Schedule:  On August 26th, the final oval of the year, when IndyCar returns to Gateway for hopefully a great race under the lights.

Quotes of the Weekend:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “What a crazy day for us. I mean, we had a really strong car. The Verizon Chevrolet was getting back to the front, and then suddenly, boom, the wing broke. Lucky I didn’t hit the wall. We went a lap down, and then I was thinking to be smart and anything can happen. You get your lap back and get through the field, and that’s exactly what we did. So very, very good day. Once I got my lap back, I was like, all right, it’s game on. I can definitely get back up there. I was thinking like top 5, but when I was pumping out like 217 laps, I’m like, okay, we’re going to make some serious hay here. The crew guys did a fantastic job in the pits having to do all that and still able to go ahead and win the race.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’ve been through 500 miles plenty of times, but I’m just beat after this one. It was a great run though, we started with a lot of downforce since we started at the back of the field. Because we didn’t have a final practice or warmup after qualifying, it took a while to get the balance of the car right. We started really slicing our way through it and I thought ‘Hey, we really have something here.’ We were leading at halfway. I thought it was going to be a good end to the race, but we just didn’t get enough downforce out of (the car). I was getting big runs on guys, but just couldn’t complete it. But I’m really happy to just get back in the car today and put the effort forward. We put on a good showing for DHL and for the fans out here, and that’s important. It was a test today; it was a mental test, no doubt, and a physical one as well. I was really glad to roll back into pit lane after the race and see the crew here with smiles on their faces.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): “The fuel mixture knob came off about two-thirds of the way through, so we didn’t have full power there at the end. We know these Honda engines have something for the competition. The Military to Motorsports car was great all day. The NAPA Know How crew was stellar all day. It’s a really good result, but when you come so close to a win, it’s sometimes difficult to swallow. Looking back to where we were at Pocono last year, when we had a strong car and didn’t finish, to come back to be on the podium is a testament to Andretti Autosport and the entire team and the work that they’ve done all year.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

2017 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

Momentum?  The current conventional wisdom is that Ferrari does better on tight twisty tracks like Monaco, and Mercedes excels at tracks with great sweeping straights and corners. If conventional wisdom is correct, Mercedes should win in 2017 and as it has done the past two years. But, this is a tight title fight between Vettel and Hamilton (and maybe Bottas), so we put the odds as even.

Needs A Good Run?  If we look at F1 driver salaries, McLaren’s Fernando Alonzo earns $40 million per year. For comparison, that’s about 10 times what Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen brings home. So we think that no one needs a good run like Alonzo does.

Sentimental Favorite? It’s stretching it a bit, but Canadian Lance Stroll likes to point out he has a Belgian mother.

Spa Challenges? Two, and both are equally important. The weather at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is wildly unpredictable. In fact, it’s totally possible to encounter rain in one part of the 4.3 mile track and sunshine in Eau Rouge. Also, tire wear is crucial due to all the curves on the circuit.

Quotes:

In Spa, I am heading to my second home race of the year. I am half Belgian, as this is where my mother was born, so I do have an affinity with the country. However, I have to admit that, unlike most Formula One drivers, Spa is not my absolute favourite. Having said that, I did win there last year in Formula 3, so I can’t complain about it too much. It is a very interesting track with some amazing sections and also there is always that air of uncertainty regarding the weather. You can have it raining in sector three and dry in sector one.” Lance Stroll, Williams driver.

“The summer shutdown came at the perfect time for us to make a step back and take stock of our season so far. It has been a good one – and has shown a lot of the qualities of our team. On paper, people will assume that Spa should suit our car because it is a circuit where aerodynamic efficiency is extremely important. But assumptions are dangerous – we have seen too many times already this season that the form book can be rewritten from one weekend to the next. So we will be making no assumptions; we have to tick off the items on our work list and make sure we do the best job to maximise our potential points score. The motivation and determination in the factory are greater than ever. Hungary showed the strength of our team – and we intend to use the second half of this season to prove that strength.” Toto Wolf, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“The first thing that hits you is Eau Rouge, it’s just incredible. You see it on TV, or on the on-boards, and it looks awesome but to drive it is simply immense. Nothing prepares you for heading flat out down the hill and then coming up the other side and down that straight. Pouhon will be an exciting corner this year, it brings a real challenge as it’s a very quick double apex left. Blanchimont is flat and leads into the Bus Stop chicane, which is a great overtaking place. I won a race in Spa back in 2008 in the Formula Palmer Audi series. I remember it was wet – which is fairly typical for Spa! I’ve been on the podium in GP2 there but missed the win in that class. I was on the front row in 2014 in GP2 and had a decent F1 qualifying last year. I’ve had some good memories but I’m driven to make some more.” Joylon Palmer, Renault driver

“I really like racing in Spa because it’s a track that has a bit of everything. It has very long straights where good overtaking can take place, but also very nice corners – Sector 2 in particular is very nice and flowing. It’s tough to find a compromise regarding the balance of the car and the set-up for the long straights and Sector 2, but I enjoy the challenge. There’s a corner there that’s maybe not as famous as some of the others, but that I like a lot and it’s one of the toughest. When you say Spa, everyone always thinks of Eau Rouge, but actually one of the most difficult corners in the world is Pouhon – we drive there at around 260km/h, in seventh gear, and it’s a turn to always keep in mind! Spa is one of my favourite tracks but, strangely enough, I’ve never finished an F1 race there…! I think the race in 2016 was even more frustrating than the one in 2015 because I had done one of my best first laps of my life – I started from P15 and I was P7 after lap 1 – but I suddenly got a puncture in the middle of the straight due to carbon fibre pieces… So unlucky! I remember being so motivated and suddenly all the highs of that first lap disappeared… I was quite annoyed. Third time lucky, they say… I remember that last year it was very warm during the race weekend, warmer than in Spain, so it was quite a special weekend, difficult to sleep at night because of the heat! We were in Belgium but it suddenly felt that we were somewhere in Spain, enjoying the summer! On the way to the track we drive past many bars and restaurants where you always see people enjoying some moules, waffles or fried chips… It makes you want to join them, but during the race weekend I can’t ever do that… Maybe this year I can try and get away with it and have a cheat meal there!” Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso driver

“I’ve won in every category I’ve raced there with the exception of Formula 1. I have many good memories from competing at Spa. Eau Rouge and Pouhon are probably the best sections, but the whole track is just amazing. It’s fast, challenging and fun.” Kevin Magnussen, Haas driver

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

2017 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Preview

Momentum?  It’s more like we are down to just three more races for the season, so every race is magnified in importance, and there is no clear favorite for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar championship.

Look Out For?  It’s a matter of what rather than who. Since Gateway is more of a NASCAR track, and geared for their slower cars, we need to be concerned about attrition, which has been minimal this year, except for Phoenix and Texas.

Sentimental Favorite?  This is the series’ return to Gateway, which is in Illinois but is closest to St. Louis, so no one.

Challenges?  The track owners repaved the surface to the tune of seven figures after IndyCar testing revealed “issues” earlier this year. Whether or not these improvements will mitigate the concerns remains to be seen.

Quotes:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s three fun weeks. We’re racing every week now. It’s crunch time for the championship. This is what racing is all about when you have to bring your ‘A’ game in tough situations. Gateway is a new track for me. It’s a fast, short oval. I think for our package, it’s going to be quite good. They just resurfaced the track and it’s beautiful. Everyone did a fantastic job. We’ll have the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet this weekend. It’s great to have them on board in their Midwest footprint and always great to go to victory lane with them and that’s what we hope to do.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really excited to go back to Gateway. Last time I was there, it was a really fun crowd and I can’t wait to see them all again. I’m one of the few in the Verizon IndyCar Series who have actually raced there since it’s been awhile since the series has been there. I feel that we have an advantage since we won there when we used to race there. However, with a new track surface, it’s anyone’s game. The No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy team and I know we have a lot of work to do to gain back some points, but we’re ready to perform well and make it happen.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I’ve been looking forward to the Gateway race since our first test there in May. I’ve really enjoyed the testing we’ve done there this year, and we’ve been quick every time on track, so I have high expectations for the weekend. It’ll be supremely close as INDYCAR weekends normally are, but I hope to be fighting at the front end of the field all weekend long.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): “St. Louis is going to be a difficult race for a lot of people. It’s a challenging place. We had a decent test there after the repaving, so I’m looking forward to going back for the race. Hopefully we can gain some points and have Lady Luck on our side and have a good weekend. The repaving was good. The track is extremely grippy on the racing line. If you get off line, it’s a bit slippery, but it’s grippy on line and it’s also very smooth. Curtis (Francois) and his team did a phenomenal job. Everybody is going to go there and have a great time. We will put on a great show. I think it’s going to be the best short oval show of the year because the straightaway is so long. In essence, Turns 3 and 4 are fairly easy so it makes for a very, very long straightaway. Turns 1 and 2 though are a lot like Pocono with very heavy loads, and things happen in the blink of an eye, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. INDYCAR will put on a good show for sure. Thanks to Fifth Third for their increased involvement in our program. I’m excited to race in their colors and put on a good show. They have been a great supporter of ours for a few years now but to see them step up the way that they have means a lot to our program. We’re going to go out there and try to make them proud.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Adding a new venue to the schedule always brings excitement. I only drove on the Gateway track a few laps when we tested there, so I was never completely up to speed, but I’m looking forward to this challenging track. Gateway is our last oval race for the season, and I hope we can show the speed there that we have shown at all the other ovals.

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s always exciting to add a new venue to the schedule, and I’m really looking forward to get to Gateway. The track did a great job with the repave, and I can’t wait to try it out. It will be fun seeing what the new track surface wants – setup-wise. I think it will be an exciting race with a lot of drafting, so I hope we can put on a good show for the fans

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I really love short ovals, so the addition of Gateway on the INDYCAR schedule was really good news. I’ve been looking forward to racing the DHL Honda there for quite some time. Gateway did an excellent job on the repave. I’m eager to see how the racing will be.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

2017 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Preview

Momentum?  Drivers don’t get much hotter than Tennessee’s Josef Newgarden with three wins thus far this season without boiling over.

Look Out For?  Will Power, Newgarden’s teammate who has won twice in 2017 and the defending racing winner comes to mind. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2015 race champion is also a possibility.

Sentimental Favorite?  This race started happening again in 2013, so there has not been much time yet to build sentiments.

Challenges?  A 500-mile race in the summer in hot, humid Pennsylvania would be physically taxing for anyone. Better conditioning would give drivers an edge.

Quotes:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m excited to head to Pocono. We’re leading the points and we’re in a really good spot as a team. We’re really coming together and my team continues to give me a strong No. 2 Fitzgerald Chevrolet. Pocono is a really unique track due to its corners and banking. They aren’t kidding when they call it the ‘Tricky Triangle,’ but we worked a lot on the car during the off weeks and are ready to put on a great show for the fans at Pocono.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Last year, Pocono went really well for the team. We have had great cars at the ‘Tricky Triangle,’ so we’re looking forward to hopefully unloading with another strong package on Saturday. The short weekend is always a challenge, but we’ll keep our heads down and focus on putting the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car into a position to fight for the victory.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): “The three corners are all very different at Pocono, and based on that, I think setup will be a compromise to really get the Gallagher car handling right. We need to make sure we’re in the mix at the end of the race, as this is a long 500-mile event. I’m looking forward to being back behind the wheel after a few weeks off.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “For us in 2013, it was a great moment to bring back open wheel racing to Pocono with a win and a 1-2-3 finish for the team. You have to put a lot of hard work into getting everything right on this track. Nothing is a given here. We’ve slipped to third in the championship with four to go here recently, but are only eight points out. This is the time to really start a string of strong finishes that will hopefully get you across the finish line in front of the other contenders.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I definitely had a great time off with (son) Beau and my wife, but am ready to get back on track. The No. 12 Verizon Chevy team put together a really awesome car at Mid-Ohio which produced a strong result. Now we’re going back to Pocono where we won last year. Another win there would be huge for us in the point standings, so we’re really going to give it our all. The team worked on the car a lot and we all feel it’s going to be another strong car.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Bobby Rahal Automotive Group Honda): “The team absolutely has momentum. I think we are the hottest team other than (Team) Penske right now, if you look at it across the board. We have been extremely strong at most races recently. We’ve got some big races coming up clearly and Pocono is going to be a big one that should suit the Honda really well. Coming out of Indianapolis setup wise, we should have some good knowledge that we didn’t have going into the month that we found very late in the month. We had very fast race cars and ran up front there, so hopefully we can carry that forward and do the same at Pocono this weekend. I think we have had a fast car there the last couple of years, particularly on race day, but last year we had a puncture to the underwing after Takuma (Sato) crashed which really hurt us. There have been a lot of things that have gone against us in the races. but hopefully we’ll have a good one. Every race for us now is huge points-wise and Pocono will be no different. Every week is make-or-break for us. It’s crunch time so we need to go out there and have the absolute best result that we can. If that’s winning, we need to win, and if we have a seventh-place car, we need to finish seventh at the worst. We’re 58 points out and I think we have been the most consistent car, so we’re hoping to continue that. I think the Penskes have had advantages at certain tracks in general, but Pocono should be one where we are very strong, so my hopes and expectations are very high. Hopefully we can make it happen.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’ve really been looking forward to getting back to Pocono. There’s no doubt the DHL Honda has been very strong here the past few years. Last year’s unfortunate electrical issue that occurred while (we were) leading sent us to the back of the field, yet we were still able to come all the way back through the field to finish third. As a team, we feel like we have unfinished business at Pocono. Certainly, one of our best chances at a victory over the past year slipped away, so we’re looking for redemption.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio 2017

The Big Picture:  It was back in 1983 when businessman Jim Trueman bought Mid-Ohio and about a nano second later when he began sinking funds to turn the facility into something world class. Of the major natural terrain road courses in the United States, this one has taken its place with Road America, Watkins Glen, and Laguna Seca since that year.

Event:  It’s a road racing festival in all the best senses of the word. There’s even time for two support series races!

Qualifying:  Will Power is one of the best road course qualifiers in Verizon IndyCar Series history, and so this competition was no great surprise to have him take his fifth P1 award of 2017. The Australian is now tied with Mid-Ohio icon Bobby Rahal in having 49 series poles to his credit. Starting next to Power will be his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, followed by Honda powered cars piloted by Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal.

Race:   Newgarden led 73 of 90 laps. What more can we say? There was only one caution for four circuits for a single car spin out by likely Rookie of the Year Ed Jones. It was a good clean event won by an American driver. (Yeah.)

Biggest Surprise:  Josef Newgarden’s back-to-back race victories, hard won because of the extreme competitiveness of the series.

Biggest Disappointment:  That Graham Rahal didn’t have the car to vie for the win at what is undisputedly his home track this year.

Best Team:  We must go with Team Penske again but an honorable mention to Andretti Autosports for continued improvement during the season so far. Penske took first, second, fourth, and seventh this week. That means a tremendous amount of quality work by the Penskes.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  Honda has remained loyal to this race as Title Sponsor since Indy Racing League days.

What We Learned:  That an American driver can lead the IndyCar points battle for the first time since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014. (Yeah). That Penske driver Josef Newgarden is having an easier time adjusting to the premier team than his teammate, the very talented Simon Pagenaud, did.

Schedule:  In three weeks, the series travels to Pocono Raceway for the second 500-mile race of the season on August 20th.

Quotes of the Weekend:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’ve got an amazing crew. When they give me a car like this, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s easier at least. I think we’ve been hitting on all cylinders, no pun intended. But these guys were awesome this weekend, had good stops. It was a really fast car. Reds (Firestone alternate tires), blacks (Firestone primary tires), it didn’t matter, the car was fast, so just tried to do my job. I think everyone’s going to want to drive this PPG car. I’m pretty sure it was lucky for (Simon) Pagenaud last year, think it’s lucky for us, so we’re probably going to be fighting over this car paint.” (About taking championship lead): “That’s great. We’ve just got to keep it up. No mistakes. If we don’t have any mistakes, we’ve got plenty enough to win this championship, so we’re going to keep giving what we got for the last four races.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “It was a good run and the Steak ‘n Shake boys did a good job in the pits. The strategy was fine. Our car had great pace today. We just could never quite get in clear air, but I’m really proud of everyone on the Steak ‘n Shake team. Obviously to be the only team in the top five other than a Penske speaks volumes to the quality of people we have in this organization. We’re going to keep our heads down, keep working hard. It was another good day for our United Rentals Turns for Troops program. We raised a lot of money to help the veterans today. We’ll be back strong in Pocono.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Hungary

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Team Rankings

2017 Constructor’s Championship After Hungary

  1. Mercedes (NC)
  2. Ferrari (NC)
  3. Red Bull (NC)
  4. Force India (NC)
  5. Williams (NC)
  6. Toro Rosso (NC)
  7. Haas (NC)
  8. Renault (NC)
  9. McLaren (+1)
  10. Sauber (-1)

The Rankings reflect one movement in Ranks from the last race in Britain due to McLaren’s landing of both its drivers in the top 10 is the cause. At the top, the Mercedes lead continues.

Driver Rankings After Hungary

  1. Sebastian Vettel’s lead over Lewis Hamilton grows to 14 points due to his win at the Hungaroring.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is still in second with a gap of 19 over Valtteri Bottas.
  3. Valtteri Bottas appears to have a lock on third place, making himself the second in command for the top team.
  4. Daniel Ricciardo remains in fourth but is only one marker over fifth place.
  5. Kimi Raikkonen stays in fifth.
  6. Max Verstappen is still in sixth.
  7. Sergio Perez leads his teammate Ocon by 11 points.
  8. Esteban Ocon remains solidly in the number eight position.
  9. Carlos Sainz no movement this race, still ninth.
  10. Nico Hulkenburg holds onto tenth. For now.

Our rankings resume in four weeks, after the Belgian Grand Prix.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Hungarian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  In 1986, Bernie Ecclestone made history when he and the Hungarian government began the Hungarian Grand Prix. Just 30 years prior, Soviet tanks invaded the country because a democratic government had been elected. Just five years after, the Soviet Union and Communism fell, and auto racing was finally acceptable in former Iron Curtain countries.

The Event:  Hungarians love to cook and to celebrate, so a Grand Prix in Budapest is a good enough reason to do both. Finns love to attend this race, so it was great for the crowd to see two Finnish drivers on the podium.

In Our Last Episode:  It was one for the ages two weeks ago at Silverstone when Briton Lewis Hamilton won his fifth British Grand Prix and a grand slam.

Qualifying:  Ferrari was fast all weekend, so their drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were easily able to take pole and the other front row place.

Start:  Having watched both this race and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio back to back, it was stunning to see how the Indy Car drivers were able to make it through the opening laps with no crashes while this one had two on Lap 1. Max Verstappen won the Worst Teammate of the Day award by crashing into fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Australian out of the race. The second crash was Romain Grosjean ultimately taking out Nico Hulkenberg.

Race: Ferrari won what was essentially another F1 parade in Budapest. We were told that Vettel was having steering problems during the contest, but even though he had inconsistent lap times, we didn’t see it. It was a Ferrari one-two and a Mercedes three-four. Got that? Not much of a race in our humble opinion.

Best Team:  Only because they were fast, Ferrari was the best team.

What We Will Remember:  Hungaroring still has parade “racing.” This was the race where McLaren strikes back! Both drivers finished in the points. Honda is no longer the bad guy, and Fernando Alonzo an idiot for driving for them. Lewis Hamilton is a class act. When he couldn’t overtake Ferrari as asked, he graciously gave his third-place spot back to his teammate Valtteri Bottas. This wins Hamilton Teammate of the Day.

Quote of the Weekend: “Everybody inside the team can be very happy and proud of what we have done today! Afterwards, I said to Kimi that I was sorry, because I was slow and struggling during the race. For Kimi it was not good to be there in the middle of a sandwich. It was a tough race that, in the end, kept a good shape. I developed a problem with the steering wheel and I don’t know why yet. We need to avoid it happening again of course, but during the race I didn’t have an option. It’s not like parking the car, check if everything’s all right and then fix the problem. It was quite annoying because it was a strange feeling. But then, at some point, I forgot about it and just tried to get used to it, which was tricky because it just kept changing and getting worse. However, in the end the pace was still there. More generally, I don’t like the short-term view that some people have, that after a good race everything is great and you are the hero, but after a bad race it is a disaster. It is not fair because people work hard spending a lot of time, working all together on the car. In my opinion, we have the best car and downforce which, hasn’t been the case for many years. In the end we can make a difference and we have done that so far. We have our testing days here next week and we have a lot of work to do. After that there will be the Belgian GP. Our car has been good there and I think we have some improvements, so it should be fine.” Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari driver

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend: “It was really tricky today. The pace was not so much a problem. But once you get within 1.5 seconds to the car in front of you it becomes so difficult to close the gap. And that track position was a big benefit for Ferrari today. Even though Sebastian was struggling, no-one could pass him. We tried as a team to swap positions, but Lewis couldn’t get past them either. We didn’t gain any points but I’m glad we tried it. I was promised that Lewis would let me back if it didn’t work out. I was struggling with the back markers so the gap to Lewis became bigger than I wanted. But Lewis and the team kept their promise and we swapped positions back in the last lap. I don’t think every team-mate would do that in a championship fight, so I think that was really nice of him and it shows that he is a real team player. Our situations still is not too bad with regards to the points and the championship standing. Lewis and me are still in the fight.” Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes driver

Schedule:  Every driver’s dream track at Spa-Francorchamps, the Belgian Grand Prix is in ONE MONTH. On August 27th. What kind of demented fool puts a one-month break into a racing schedule? Wait, don’t answer that.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

Momentum? The edge is Mercedes’ go ing into the final race before Formula One’s summer break. There is a distinct advantage in the Constructor’s championship, and Lewis Hamilton is close to overtaking the lead in the Driver’s.

Needs A Good Run?  Joylon Palmer has had snakebite all season, scoring no points and having the worst luck of any driver in the series.  One hopes that Hungary will not be his last Grand Prix.

In Our Last Episode?  Lewis Hamilton scored his fifth British Grand Prix victory at Silverstone and his fifth grand slam.

Sentimental Favorite?  The Finns love this race like no other, so our guess is that Kimi Raikkonen especially but likely also Valtteri Bottas are the most sentimental favorites at the Hungaroring.

Challenges?  Overtaking, overtaking, overtaking. It’s as difficult to execute a pass in Budapest as it is to go all day without making a rationalization. Go ahead, try it.

Quotes:

“Hungary 2014 was a cool victory. Of course I love winning but that was an awesome race. In order to win I had to pass Hamilton and Alonso, pretty much the best two so that was cool. I love that track and it has always been a good one for me. I’ve had some great weekends there even before Formula One. The Hungarian Grand Prix is always at the point of the season where summer is approaching so I’m always in a pretty good place and the car is normally getting better as well. It all kind of comes good by the end of July. We’ve got lots more grip this year so it’ll be a bit more fun. The second sector is going to be amazing. That’s one of my favourite sectors in F1. If Sunday is hot it’ll definitely be a physically demanding race, so I can’t make the mistake again of eating too much meat on Saturday night. This track means elbows out for sure as there are three key places where you can overtake. I’ve made some good moves in Turn 1 in the past. Turn 2 you can go inside or outside, as both lanes work and the hairpin is fun too. On Saturday night I normally plan a meal with a few of the guys from the team. That’s always a good one as it’s the end of the first half of the season and the atmosphere is cool so I’ll definitely been seen on the streets of Budapest.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull driver

“On paper, the Hungaroring presents one of the best opportunities for us this year. The short, twisty circuit means we are less reliant on outright power, and the drivers have to really depend on the capabilities of the chassis to get the best out of the lap. I always like returning to Budapest – we get to stay in the centre with great views of the river, and you feel like you’re really part of the city all weekend. The temperatures are high and it’s a testing weekend for the teams and drivers – especially since the summer break is so close, but a good result can be a great boost for everyone going into the shutdown period. The important thing for us, as always, is reliability. Even if our car could perform better in Hungary, we need to have a trouble-free weekend to take advantage of every opportunity for points. We made some big decisions in Silverstone in terms of taking grid penalties in preparation for this race, and hope that’s paid off so we can put ourselves in the best possible position for points this weekend.” Fernando Alonzo, McLaren driver

“I really like Budapest, it brings up some good memories such as when I won there in the GP2 Series in 2013. The track is different in nature to many others in terms of having a lot of slow speed corners. Once you brake for the first turn you don’t get much of a breather until you’re back round again and on to the straight. The entire circuit flows together and makes for an exciting lap, there is little room for error in terms of braking and turning points, everything has to go smoothly. It’s difficult to overtake there and it’s important to find a good rhythm. It’s fun to drive a lap, it’s usually good for racing, so hopefully I can have a change of luck and finally get some points. I have burnt the unlucky underpants, so they are now out of the way! I’m not superstitious, but you have to say this run of bad luck has to end. On the positives, there were certainly a couple of good things from Silverstone. My qualifying pace was decent and I managed my second best run of the season. I drove with the new floor in FP1 and it was working nicely, meaning I’m happy to have it for Budapest. Nico showed the benefit of the floor across last weekend with his strong qualifying and race pace. It’s exciting for the team as we looked competitive and ahead of our midfield rivals. That’s all I hope for in Hungary.” Joylon Palmer, Renault driver

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.