Motorsports Update – September 3, 2012

GRAND-AM Road Racing
Next race: Continental Tire Sports Car Festival, powered by Mazda, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, September 7-9, 2012

American Le Mans Series
Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT
Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker led a 1-2 finish for Level 5 Motorsports on Saturday, the team’s second overall win in ALMS this year. Bouchut, the P2 pole-sitter in the No. 055 Honda Performance Development ARX-03b prototype, beat Luis Diaz in the No. 95 entry by 2.158 seconds as the two P2 cars led the way in a wild race on the streets of Baltimore.

Level 5’s finish was just one of a series of unpredictable and stunning race for the ALMS at the street circuit on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Thirteen cars from four classes finished on the lead lap in a topsy-turvy affair.

Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers were repeat winners in GT for Team Falken Tire in their No. 17 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Sellers held off Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin by 2.208 seconds as the Falken Porsche drove the last 70 minutes on a tank of E85 and same set of tires. Two caution periods in the last 16 laps helped the field – including the top five GT runners – stretch its fuel mileage. Henzler picked up two spots at the start in a Turn 1 melee that blocked a portion of the track. He was able to sneak to the inside and continue. He took Falken’s first lead 21 minutes in and pitted from the lead 22 minutes later.

And just as he did last year in a race against BMW’s Dirk Müller, Sellers held his own against one of the ALMS’ best in Gavin over the final 73 minutes. The two cars held their position throughout with the No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 unable to make a move on the Porsche. Sellers said he thought the Falken tires were better on restarts than the Corvette’s tires which allowed him to build a gap in the first handful of laps after a restart.

Extreme Speed Motorsports’ Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek finished third in class with their No. 01 Ferrari F458 Italia.

Up front, the two Level 5 cars led three times for 32 of the 67 laps in taking their second overall ALMS victory of the season.

Dyson Racing’s Eric Lux and Michael Marsal won the P1 race in their No. 20 Lola-Mazda. The duo recovered from an opening-lap melee that dropped it 25 spots and went clean the rest of the way. It was the first ALMS win for Marsal and first in P1 for Lux.

The No. 16 sister car of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith finished second in class and gained valuable championship points on Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr, who finished third in P1. The championship co-leaders lost five laps with a stuck gear actuator and couldn’t recover. That left the No. 20 car with the advantage.

CORE autosport’s duo of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel won in Prototype Challenge and finished third overall in their No 06 ORECA FLM09. It marked the second straight win for Popow, who won two weeks ago at Road America with Tom Kimber-Smith. RSR Racing’s Bruno Junqueira and Tomy Drissi finished second, 7.670 seconds back.

Popow made it through the Turn 1 madness unscathed, and Drissi was the only other PC car to do the same. Popow, the PC championship leader in the driver’s standings, and Dalziel led the entire race.

Duncan Ende and Henri Richard finished third in class driving Dempsey Racing’s No. 25 ORECA FLM09.

TRG’s Al Carter and Patrick Pilet won in GTC in their No. 68 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Pilet held off a late charge from Leh Keen in Alex Job Racing’s No. 22 Porsche as the top four cars finished within 1.696 seconds. Keen drove with Cooper MacNeil, the leader in the GTC driver’s championship.

Next race:
GP Aperol di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, September 16

AMA Pro Racing
Next race:
American Red Cross Devils Showdown, New Jersey Motorsports Park

World Superbike
Next race:
Nurbergring, Germany, September 9

Formula 1
Shell Belgian Grand Prix, Spa
Jenson Button salvaged McLaren’s day after an explosive start to the Belgian race saw team mate Lewis Hamilton eliminated along with championship points leader Fernando Alonso, Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

After debris from their collision was cleared away, and the safety car went back in, Button owned the race and sped home to a 13.6s victory – his first at Spa – over Red Bull’s Sebastian.

Behind them, car problems kept Lotus’s Kimi Raikkkonen from launching his expected challenge, but the Finn also took home valuable points on a day when Alonso’s lead suddenly began to look vulnerable. His team mate Grosjean was subsequently handed a one-race ban and a 50,000 Euro fine for triggering the first-corner mayhem.

Nico Hulkenberg battled and beat Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher in the early stages to run second, but ultimately had to settle for an honourable fourth.

Felipe Massa salvaged a little for Ferrari (after Alonso’s exit) with a hard-fought fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber, while Schumacher faded to seventh after a late tire stop and the loss of sixth gear on his Mercedes.

Grand Prix of Baltimore
For the seventh consecutive year, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship will be decided in the final race of the season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay made sure of that with a stirring victory in the second Grand Prix of Baltimore. Driving the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car, Hunter-Reay started 10th and overtook leader Ryan Briscoe on the front straight of a Lap 70 restart.

A full-course caution on the same lap for a four-car pileup in Turn 4 gave Briscoe, who won a week earlier at Sonoma, another shot. But Hunter-Reay used the last of his 90 seconds of push to pass on the Lap 73 restart and went on to a 1.4391-second win over Briscoe, who started 14th in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinishes Team Penske car.

Hunter-Reay made up 20 points on front-runner Will Power, who finished sixth in the 75-lap race on the 2.04-mile, 13-turn temporary street circuit and takes a 17-point lead into the finale Sept. 15 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval.

AdvoCare Atlanta
While Denny Hamlin whooped it up in Victory Lane for the second week in a row, Jeff Gordon lamented one that got away.

It might just cost the four-time champion a shot at winning his fifth title.

Taking advantage of a late yellow flag, Hamlin got a boost from his pit crew and held off Gordon in a green-white-checkered finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

Gordon, like a number of drivers in the race, desperately needed a win to boost his chances of getting into the NASCAR playoff.

He was right on Hamlin’s bumper heading into the turn three, right where he needed to be to pull off a dramatic pass for the win. But Gordon didn’t stick close enough to the leader to make his car a bit wobbly. Instead, it was the No. 24 car that drifted up the banking, allowing Hamlin to pull away for the victory by a couple of car lengths.

Brad Keselowski finished third.

Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis 
Top Fuel driver Spencer Massey earned the qualifying lead and won the inaugural $100,000 NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout during Saturday action at the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

Courtney Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Sources: series websites, press releases and various independent motorsports websites