Welcome to Motorsports Monday, a recap of the thrills and spills from the weekend of racing. Today we cover the Belgian Grand Prix, Grand Prix of Baltimore, AdvoCare 500 and much more for the weekend of September 1-2, 2012. If you’re thinking about Tweeting out your telemetry, don’t.
Formula One – Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps: Jenson Button took victory on one of the most famous and technical courses on the Formula One schedule, but Turn 1 stole the show in a massive crash that affects the season championship and could ultimately change the face of F1 racing forever. Right off the start, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean dove to the inside and forced McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton off the road, making high-speed contact and sending them both careening down the track unable to stop. Grosjean plowed into Ferrari front-man Fernando Alonso and also collected front-row starter Kamui Kobayashi in a frightening mid-air wreck that poses the question of whether or not F1 racing is now too advanced for open cockpits that leave drivers’ heads exposed to the elements. Mandating closed cockpits would end sixty years of F1 history, but may be inevitable in this day and age. Formula One hasn’t seen a racing death since Ayrton Senna in 1994 and they won’t plan to end that streak anytime soon. Grosjean has been suspended for the race at Monza next week. Meanwhile, Alonso holds his championship lead by 24 points over second-place finisher Sebastian Vettel and Button moved into sixth place. To demonstrate the parity in F1 this season, Grosjean teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished with his third consecutive podium and sits in fourth place, despite having zero wins.
American Le Mans Series – Baltimore Sports Car Challenge: Level 5 Motorsports broke a four-year drought for the P2 class, surviving a first-corner crash (video here) and several cautions to take their twin Honda ARX-03b cars to a 1-2 overall victory at the Baltimore Sport Car Challenge. The GT Class saw a classic three-way battle as the Falken Tire No. 17 Porsche 911 GT3 survived challenges from both Corvette and Ferrari to take their first win of the season. The on-track action packed the tight streets of Baltimore, but all talk today is about a merger between ALMS and the Grand-Am Series that could drastically alter American sports car racing. We’ll keep you posted as details of the merger are expected to be released later this week.
IndyCar – Baltimore Grand Prix: After a disappointing DNF last week that all but eliminated him from the running, Ryan Hunter-Reay launched himself back into the title hunt with a victory at the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Point leader Will Power still holds a 17-point lead, but the two drivers (both Chevrolet drivers) will face-off in the season finale at Fontana to determine the championship. Power started on pole and consistently looked fastest, but Hunter-Reay found himself leading under caution and then led a perfect restart (Power is none too pleased - video here - by the way) to bring the race home. It capped a hectic 75 laps on the bumpy street circuit that included an impromptu tire-chicane on the back straight after Graham Rahal went flying in qualifying, but all ended well with eight disqualifications but no injuries. The season finale will be held as the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships at Fontana on September 15, where Simon Pagenaud will be named Rookie of the Year and the Power/Hunter-Reay rivalry will finally come to a head.
NASCAR Sprint Cup – AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Denny Hamlin became the first four-race winner of the 2012 season and wrapped up his No. 1 seed for this year’s Chase by bringing his Toyota out of pit lane first and across the checkered flag in Atlanta. Martin Truex Jr. led the field when the caution flag came out, but couldn’t hold on under a green-white checker and Hamlin seized the day. Jeff Gordon finished second and Brad Keselowski brought his Dodge to third.
NASCAR Nationwide Series – NRA American Warrior 300: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spoiled a great race for Kevin Harvick, passing the 157-lap leader on the final go-round to capture his fourth victory of the season. Stenhouse Jr. celebrated by sending his Ford into a smoke-filled burnout to the delight of fans. Nationwide didn’t do itself any favors, though, calling a questionable caution with twelve laps to go that bunched up the field and probably cost Harvick the race. Harvick complained that Brad Keselowski purposefully threw a water bottle onto the track to induce the caution, but officials say that didn’t cause the flag. Umm… then what did? High-octane racing is great, but not at the expense of fairness. Elliott Sadler still leads the championship standings, 12 points head of Stenhouse Jr.