Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: NASCAR's Harvick in a hole; IndyCar tests at Road America

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Dave von Falkenstein
September 24, 2015

Well, after the first NASCAR Chase race last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, maybe I was a bit premature in calling the championship for Kevin Harvick. Harvick ran into some trouble when he made contact with Jimmie Johnson, which led to Harvick blowing a tire and hitting the wall. He equaled his season-worst finish of 42nd and is now 43 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

Sure, there were some tiny post-race fireworks between Harvick and Johnson (a closed-fist push? Really?), but nothing like Kenseth's post-race tackle of Brad Keselowski at Charlotte last season. Fear not, there are still nine races to go and with every completed race, the race for the championship gets tighter and tempers get shorter.

For Harvick, unless he can pull off a win in the next two races, his chance to repeat as champion will be over. Unfortunately, the next two races will be at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. Harvick has one career win at New Hampshire and has never won at Dover. It's going to be tough for him to dig himself out of this hole. Maybe I should re-think my prediction?


Denny Hamlin was probably the one Joe Gibbs Racing driver heading into Sunday's race that people weren't paying much attention to. He was the lowest seeded driver of his team (11th) going into the race and had only one win this season. After spinning on the opening lap, Hamlin surprised everybody to come back and win the race. With a torn right ACL!

Hamlin's three teammates all finished in the top ten while Kyle Busch (who won Saturday's Xfinity Series race) led 121 of the 267 laps, the most of any driver. The four Gibbs drivers now control the top four points spots and have nine wins in the last twelve races. If they can continue this streak, nobody will be able to stop them.


Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel ruled the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday by leading every lap from pole to take the victory. Vettel's former teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished second for Red Bull while Vettel's current teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished third. It was Vettel's third win this season.

The usually bulletproof Mercedes team did escape with Nico Rosberg finishing fourth, but points leader Lewis Hamilton had a weekend to forget. Hamilton went into the weekend looking to equal his idol Ayrton Senna's mark of eight consecutive pole positions but could do no better than fifth. It was also the first time since June 2014 that a Mercedes driver did not start on pole.

The race had a strange incident in which a fan wandered onto the track, prompting a safety car period. Local authorities later arrested the fan. Seeing as though this happened in Singapore, perhaps he'll be sentenced to a caning? One can only hope.

Hamilton now heads to Japan with a 41-point lead over Rosberg with six races left in the season.


Following the announcement earlier this year that the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Elkhart Lake's Road America, the series held a test session there Tuesday.

Among the drivers participating in the test were newly crowned series champion Scott Dixon and former champions and Indy 500 winners Juan Montoya and Tony Kanaan. Many of the drivers hadn't driven the 4.048-mile track in over 13 years, but all of the participants were excited to be back at a track that many consider to be the finest in North America.

Along with the drivers and teams, there were a couple of thousand fans on hand to see the cars in action. After talking with my dad Tuesday night, I really wish we would have made the trip to check it out. Alas, we'll have to wait until the series returns for race weekend from June 24-26. Too bad that's over 275 days away.

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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