Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: Johnson takes Texas, Hinchcliffe lucks out at New Orleans, Hamilton dominates China

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Dave von Falkenstein
April 14, 2015

It was a busy weekend of racing, and busy for me as well which is why I'm a day late on this. So, let's see who took the victories last weekend.


Jimmie Johnson recorded his fifth Sprint Cup win at Texas Motor Speedway (through his first win in the spring race) by taking the victory in Saturday night's Duck Commander 500. As has been the case in four out of the seven races this season, points leader Kevin Harvick finished second. Johnson, who led 128 of the 334 laps, took the lead with 14 laps to go for his second win this season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the third spot for the third time this season while Brad Keselowski took his sixth top-10 finish in a row with a fifth-place finish.

Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. extended their streaks of seven top-10 finishes in seven races with a third-place finish for Logano and a ninth-place for Truex.

Jeff Gordon finished seventh and is the only driver to have started all 29 Sprint Cup races at the track since it opened in 1997. Gordon has won at the track only once, at the spring race in 2009.

Tony Stewart, a two-time winner at the track, finished 24th. Stewart has not finished higher than 14th all season and is floundering in the 32nd points position.

—Janesville native Travis Kvapil was on the entry list as the driver for the No. 39 Chevrolet for Hillman Smith Racing, but the team withdrew prior to qualifying Friday. Kvapil is not on either entry list for this weekend's Sprint Cup or Xfinity Series races.

Erik Jones took the win in the Xfinity Series' O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway. Jones, who drives full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, finished ahead of Sprint Cup regulars Earnhardt Jr. and Keselowski.

—The next stop on the NASCAR train is the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee for the first of two races there this season. Kurt Busch and Gordon have both won the Bristol spring race four times and the last four races here have produced four different winners.

—Coverage for the Xfinity Series' Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 will begin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1. Coverage for Sprint Cup's Food City 500 will start at noon Sunday on Fox.


James Hinchcliffe took the win at IndyCar's maiden GP of Louisiana. More than half of the rain-soaked race was run under caution, which made for one of the most forgettable races in the last umpteen years of IndyCar. However, it was a great win for the popular Hinchcliffe, who left the powerhouse Andretti Autosport after last season and joined the much smaller Schmidt Peterson Racing.

—Hinchcliffe, who hasn't seen victory lane since 2013 when he took three wins, gave Honda its first win of the season. Helio Castroneves finished second and Hinchcliffe's teammate James Jakes rounded out the podium.

Simona de Silvestro, driving her second race with Andretti Autosport, took fourth in the race after starting 18th. De Silvestro is only scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 for the team in May, but there's hope that her run Sunday will enable her to get sponsorship for more races.

—The rain turned the 75-lap race to a 105-minute timed race that saw only 47 laps completed, with 26 of the laps run under caution. According to Racer.com's Robin Miller, that equated to only 31 minutes of green flag racing. Embarrassing.

—Storms on Saturday caused qualifying to get cancelled, so the field was set by driver's points which meant Juan Pablo Montoya started on pole. Montoya led 30 of the 47 total laps, but (many) untimely cautions shuffled him back and he finished fifth.

A multi-car crash between Simon Pagenaud (22), Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) and Sebastien Bourdais (11) towards the end of the Indy GP of Louisiana forced the race to end under caution. It also caused some finger-pointing.

—Perhaps most forgettable, the race finished under caution after a three-car crash involving Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais. Pagenaud blamed Hunter-Reay for pushing Pagenaud into the grass, which shot him back onto the track where he collected Hunter-Reay and innocent bystander Bourdais.

—IndyCar will pick up the pieces and head west for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an event the series has run on the streets of Long Beach, California, since 1984. Bourdais took three wins there between 2005-2007, while Will Power has won there twice and Montoya took the win in 1999. Castroneves, who won the race in 2001, and Tony Kanaan were the only other active IndyCar drivers in the field the year Montoya won. Current IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti took his last win as a driver there in 2002.

—Coverage for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starts at 3 p.m. Sunday on NBC Sports Network.


Lewis Hamilton dominated the weekend yet again, winning the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. It was Hamilton's 35th career win and fourth win at China. The win puts Hamilton 13 points ahead of Vettel in the drivers standings.

—Following the race, Rosberg accused Hamilton of holding him up during the race, allowing Vettel to close in. Hamilton denied trying to intentionally hold up his teammate.

—Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth, which shows that Ferrari is in fact getting closer to challenging Mercedes on a regular basis.

—The Williams-Martini team duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished fifth and sixth, furthering their “best of the rest” status behind Mercedes and Ferrari.

—The McLaren-Honda pair of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were underwhelming again, finishing twelfth and fourteenth, respectively. However, they did both finish the race, which is a step forward.

Max Verstappen, the 17-year-old wunderkind, was running eighth with two laps to go when his Toro-Rosso Renault engine expired, bringing out the safety car and causing the race to end under caution.

—The series will next head to the Middle East for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Alonso has won the race three times, while Vettel and Massa each have two wins there. Hamilton is the defending race winner.

—Coverage for the Bahrain Grand Prix begins at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on NBC Sports Network.


John Force took the win in the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. It was Force's record-extending 142nd victory. Force, 65, took the victory in his Chevrolet Camaro with a 4.148-second pass at 312.35 mph for his fifth victory at the track.

—One person was killed Sunday following a crash at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida. The accident happened when a Lamborghini that was part of an exotic racing attraction crashed into a guardrail, killing the passenger and injuring the driver. The track is due to close later in the year as part of a parking lot expansion project. The closure was announced earlier this year, prior to the accident Sunday.

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at [email protected].

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