UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX WRAPUP

Kimi Raikkonen wins in Austin; delays Hamilton's title

Kimi Raikkonen had a big win. Chuck Flournoy

It was a gorgeous Sunday in Austin with everything looking as though it was set up perfectly for Lewis Hamilton and the Silver Arrows of Petronas Mercedes AMG. Starting Second on the grid was the number 7 car of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari had rolled the dice and placed Kimi on the Ultra Soft tires to start the race- opposite of what the rest of the top five had chosen. The gamble paid off as Kimi was able to take the lead through turn one. Lewis harassed Kimi for several laps but settled down knowing that Kimi would have to pit sooner due to his softer tires.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel who needed to stay within 7 points of Lewis to stay in the World Championship hunt, suffered a spin from 5th to 15th place after contact with Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, seemingly dashing any hopes of postponing Lewis’ 5th title.

Ricciardo’s chances of a podium finish ground to a halt as his engine failed, putting the entire grid into a Virtual Safety Car (VSC)  situation- which requires drivers to slow down and maintain gaps. The radio call to Hamilton was to do the opposite to Raikkonen- pit if he stays out, stay out if he pits. Raikkonen made a dodge towards pit lane but pulled away at the last moment as Hamilton went in for fresh tires. This caused Hamilton to lose only 9 seconds behind Raikkonen as opposed to the normal 20 due to the grid being slowed by the VSC.

Raikkonen pitted a few laps later leaving Hamilton in the lead. The race once again looked like it was Hamilton’s to lose, but the radio call from Ferrari to Raikkonen told him not to worry, Hamilton would have to pit again.  

During this action at the front Sebastian Vettel methodically made his way up to fifth place, meaning that Hamilton would have to at least finish second to win the title this day.

The prescience of Ferrari then came to pass as Hamilton’s tire blistered and he went in for fresh rubber at lap 38. When he came out he was in third place by 9 seconds and 12 from first. He quickly closed the gap leading to a furious battle between the top 3 of Raikkonen, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. On the second to last lap a slight error by Verstappen allowed Hamilton to pull alongside but brilliant defense by the Dutchman caused Hamilton to run wide thus preserving the positions. Vettel managed to pass Hamilton’s teammate Valteri Bottas into 4th place as Kimi crossed the line first.

Kimi Raikkonen scored his first victory in 113 Grand Prix to the uproarious cheers of the crowd. In so doing, he also managed to pass his Finnish countryman Mika Hakkinen into 15th on the all-time wins list. Sebastian and Ferrari live to fight another day and the championship moves on to Mexico City where now Hamilton only needs to score a further five points to win the championship regardless of any other outcomes.

 

NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400

FireKeepers Casino 400 preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week, NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400. This is one of the biggest tracks on the circuit as it is exactly two miles in length and has wide 18 degree banking in the corners making it one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. With the track being as wide as it is, we should be able to see a lot of green flag runs that could very well bring for more pit road strategy.

Like last week at Pocono, it will be crucial for these drivers to make no mistakes in pit road if they want any chance at victory.

Of course the main point of intrigue this week is how these cars will respond to NASCAR's new rules package. It seems like every week, there is always a question about how these cars are going to run. Overall, it would appear that no one has any idea what's going to happen this week. We very well could see a big pack of cars that run together in a draft or we could see the field get spread out like we have been seeing at tracks like this. As important as this rules package is, many drivers and fans are growing tired of talking about it. When last week's winner Kyle Busch was asked how he would rate it, he responded by saying "STOP ASKING ME PACKAGE QUESTIONS! I'M DONE ANSWERING THEM!"

While many people didn't appreciate his attitude towards the question, I think that he is right for the most part about how difficult it is to race under these new guidelines on tracks like Pocono. Last week's race was not good as there was no passing. Kyle Busch lead a good majority of the laps and when it was all said and done the whole field was two or three seconds apart. Now in a 36 race season, I understand that there are going to be races like this, it has been like that since the sport began but NASCAR has continued to talk about how much closer the racing would be under these new rules and a lot of the time most people have been disappointed. It will be interesting to see how it works this week at a similar track in Michigan.

The driver that I have winning this week is Kevin Harvick. While it may sound like I am picking a favorite here, This season has been somewhat of a disappointment for these guys. While they are fifth in the standings and are doing a good job of collecting points, he has yet to win a race this season. While they have had the speed and have been able to run around the top five, they just have not been able to seal the deal. In his five years with Stewart-Haas Racing, this is the longest Harvick has gone without a win. By anyone else's standards, they would kill to have a season like this but for Harvick, I know that he is not happy with where they are right now so I look for them to come to Michigan and finally get their first win of 2019.

Another driver I see doing well this week is Austin Dillion. Despite his issues in the past couple of weeks at Charlotte and Pocono, he has shown good speed this season as he has been able to run around the top 15. Now if you look at the stat sheet, it would tell you that Dillion has struggled here but over the last couple of races at the track, he has steadily improved. In last year's Fall race here, he was able to finish fourth in one of his better races of 2018. It should be a bounce back week for Dillion as he looks to get back in the hunt to make the playoffs.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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