Monday, June 16, 2014

13 Wins in 15 Years - Audi

It was quite a memorable 24 Hours at Le Mans.  All three podium finishers had major mechanical failures or accidents during the grueling race.  From the start, the race was full of surprises.  With only a 20% chance of rain, a downpour hit only 90 minutes into the race causing a melee on the track. The #3 Audi was lost in an accident and the very fast #8 Toyota of Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi had a serious wreck, but the pit crew was able to get it back out on the track and racing.

Midway through the race, the #7 Toyota was running extremely fast and had a nearly a one lap lead, but it just would not be for the Japanese entrant.   Shortly after the 12 hour point, a wiring loom problem retired the Toyota.   "It tears my heart out...I don't know what to say," was all that driver Kazuki Nakajima could muster. 

It then appeared again to be the year of Audi – possibly it’s 13th victory in the last 15 races.  The mighty R-18 e-trons were clicking off the laps in stoic Germanic style.  But at around 6:00 am, the No. 2 Audi was in first place and experienced turbo problems, conceding the lead to the #1 Audi.  Then, at around 11:00 am, the #1 came to a complete stop on the Mulsanne.  It moved again again, then slowed again.  The Audi went into the pits.  It was turbo problems again.

Could it be the the Porsche 919s on their debut race could take the overall win?  They certainly looked strong in qualifying, but we all know what the grueling sieve of the 24Heures du Mans can do to a nw car.  The #20 LMP1 car was three laps down when the Audi went to the pits and now it held the overall lead.  

With only two hours remaining could Timo Bernhard hold on?  On lap 339, the Porsche headed for the pits with what was reported a slow puncture.  The #2 Audi then claimed the lead with Lotterer at the helm.  He pitted for fuel only on lap 343 in order to widen the lead before handing off to Webber who brought it home for the win.  The #1 Audi finished 2nd and the #7 Toyota a distant 3rd.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Monster Throwing Stones?

DOVER, DELAWARE – Jimmie Johnson sure does like the Monster Mile, or maybe the Monster  likes Jimmie.  Either way, Jimmie earned his 9th victory at Dover this past Sunday.  You couldn’t tell that just a few weeks ago when Jimmie couldn’t win a race.  This week, he led 272 out of 400 laps in his Chevy.  Coming off a victory at the Charlotte 600, the fortunes of this Hendrick driver have certainly turned.  Brad Keslowski placed his Team Penske Ford in second place followed by Matt Kenseth in his Gibbs Toyota.  "It was an awesome race car," Johnson said. "The first run I wasn't sure we were really going to have the normal Dover magic here. Once the track rubbered in our car came to life and it was so good. It's amazing that we can stay on top of things here with the different generation car, different rules, different tires. This place just fits my style.”

The slow start for Johnson stemmed from the inability of the team to get their new, sixth-gen car ready due to Johnson’s off-season surgery and cancelled test sessions due to weather.  But based on the car’s debut at Dover, the team sure didn’t cut any corners in its development.  "We're getting closer," Johnson said. "We brought out a new-generation car that Chad just had a lot of faith in, put a lot of time and effort into. He told me I'd love the car, and sure enough, we unloaded and got on the track and it was right."

Kyle Busch set the pace from the front row leading 81 laps, but a mishap with Clint Bowyer on lap 124 put his Toyota into the wall dashing any chances for a victory.  Then only 10 laps later, AJ Allmendinger caused a multi-car wreck bringing out the red flag.  He also ended the day for teammates Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse.

Then, the most bizarre incident of the day occurred on lap 158 when part of turn 2 flew up and smacked Jamie McMurray’s car sending him into the wall.  Two laps later, the officials brought out the red flag again in order to allow workers time to patch the hole in the track.  "When I came off of the corner, it just felt like I hit something obviously heavy," McMurray said after the race. "Initially I thought I had blown a tire out, because when I hit (the concrete) it pushed the car out to the right. I got into the fence a little bit, and as I slowed down I couldn't figure out, first off, why I didn't hit the wall harder, and then what happened."I didn't see anything," he added. "It just hit the front end, ripped the splitter off and pushed the car to the right."