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Sunday Racing: Haley tops in trucks at CTMP, Vettel in F1, Power in IndyCar (Saturday, really), Latifi rocks F2 and race winner Tag unloads about Pinty’s Series rain tires

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Justin Haley won a barn-burner of a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park when he was handed victory in the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

As is usual with this race, there were fireworks at the final corner of the final lap. Todd Gilliland was leading going into Corner 10 but left a slight gap and Noah Gragson, who was running second, went for it. The two cars bumped together and then spun, allowing Haley, who was well behind in third, to scoot through to take the checkers in first.

The winner was driving a Chevrolet-powered truck in a race sponsored by Chevrolet. The two trucks that could have finished first and second but wound up off the podium were both Toyotas.

Before the last-lap histrionics, the fifth time in six truck races held at CTMP where there were last-second fireworks, there had been very little of the bashing and crashing of previous Silverado 250s. Just good, hard, rubbing and racing that separated the really good drivers from the merely good.

When the dust had settled, John Hunter Nemechek finished second and Brett Moffitt – driving a truck sponsored for this race by Don Valley North Toyota of Toronto – was third.

Canadians: Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a star of the DIRT circuits driving in his very first road race, arrived home seventh. Alex Tagliani of Montreal was making a strong run for the front when he was tapped into a spin at Moss Corner and fell back to 20th. He finished 10th. D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., was 12th. Jason White of Penticton, B.C., finished well back in 23rd.

Gilliland said he was very mad but could have been angry with himself for allowing Gragson to get beside him. For his part, Gragson, the winner of the first two stages, took responsibility and said he would apologize  to all concerned.

Haley said he expected something would happen going into the final corner. “I knew going in there that Gragson would do something not the smartest,” he said, “so I was ready and took advantage.”

Gilliland said he had the fastest truck but didn`t win again but would have to have a talk with his teammate. “I`d like to go fight him right now but I can`t. I have to get my emotions in check and go talk to him.”

“That one`s on me,” Gragson said in reference to taking out his teammate and himself. “I was going for the win and I apologize to Todd and I apologize to the 14 team but we`re in the playoffs and I was trying to get a win. It`s just unfortunate (what happened).”

The second stage of the race was highlighted by a hard charge by Canadian Friesen. He took the green flag in 20th place and by the end of the stage he was up to sixth.

Gragson, Moffitt and Haley finished in the top three. Strategy was kicking in toward the end of the stage, with Ben Rhodes and Gilliland both pitting for fuel and tires with only a few laps to go.

A comeback of sorts for Grant Enfinger also was a highlight. He left the pit with a fuel can attached – it finally fell off at the top of Turn 2 – and he received a stop-and-go penalty, which meant he emerged at the back of the 30-cars-still-running pack.  By the end of the stage, he was back up to ninth.

In the first stage, Gragson almost ran away and hid. He and Rhodes got a big jump on the field at the start and took off. Crafton also broke away from the pack to settle into third.

Myatt Snider would not get out of the way when he was being lapped and so Rhodes spun him out in order to stay in touch with Gragson. Dirt-track star Friesen, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, showed his inexperience on road courses by getting too hard on the throttle too quickly and spinning at Moss Corner.

At the checkers to end Stage One, it was Gragson, Rhodes and Haley.

Okay, change of subject. I am only going to say two things about Sunday morning`s Formula One race in Belgium, won by Sebastian Vettel, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. If you want to read all about it, please click here

First, I want to apologize to my good friend Juliana Chiovitt for even suggesting that a team other than Ferrari might win a Grand Prix. I wrote Saturday that Lewis Hamilton would win in his Mercedes and she wrote back that it would be Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari. She was right and I was wrong and I won`t make that mistake again.

On a more serious note, Fernando Alonso`s car landed on top of Charles Leclerc`s in that start-line pileup (photo above) and if it hadn`t been for the halo cockpit protector, Leclerc could have been injured – or worse. F1 acted fairly quickly following the death of Jules Bianchi and it`s paying off. I know that IndyCar is working on perfecting their version of the halo –  a canopy – but this should be an empetus to accelerate the testing and the introduction, hopefully in time for the 2019 season.

Here are some thoughts on Saturday night’s Verizon IndyCar Series race from Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, which was won by Will Power, with Alexander Rossi second and Scott Dixon third. Dixon still leads the championship with two races remaining – next weekend in Portland, Ore., and two weeks after that in California.

For a complete story on the race, in case you missed it, please click here.

The good news out of Gateway was a medical update issued by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to the effect that the grievously injured Robert Wickens is breathing on his own and talking with his family. That he needed such help is another example of just how badly the native of Guelph was beaten up when his car was launched into catch fencing at Pocono last weekend. It also illustrates how doctors are being very careful so far as prognosis is concerned. He has been in shock and the body takes time to recover. I am confident that he will recover fully but it could take a long time. James Hinchcliffe, his teammate and best friend, finished ninth in Saturday night`s race.

Will Power has tied the legendary Bobby Unser on the all-time Indy car victory list.  With all due respect, and even while acknowledging Will Power’s enormous talent, he is still no Bobby Unser.

IndyCar had better get a handle on something happening in oval racing or it is going to have another Robert Wickens incident. I could not believe the number of blocking incidents that took place Saturday night in St. Louis. Are they crazy? Even Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy seem to have accepted the concept  of “defending” a position. On a road course, maybe – although I don’t like it there, either. On an oval, though, it is suicide. In one incident, Scott Dixon moved up on Power and one false move on either of their parts could have resulted in disaster. Open wheel racing is dangerous enough without adding to it.

Okay, I have to say it. I try to bite my tongue – I really do – but I can’t help it: there weren’t just some empty seats at Gateway, there was an entire empty grandstand. I don’t get it.

If I hear the words “saving fuel” on an IndyCar telecast again, I’m going to scream. That is the sort of thing that puts people to sleep, or causes them to change the channel. Don’t drive fast, or hard, because you might run out of fuel. This is a race: give them all the fuel they want. Or need.

From start to finish, the final Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama race of 2018 belonged to series champion Zacharie Robichon. On an overcast Sunday morning at CTMP – and one day after he clinched the Platinum class title – Robichon started from the pole position and led flag-to-flag to capture his 11th Porsche GT3 Cup Canada victory of the season’s 12 races.
The only race Robichon didn’t finish atop the podium this season was Round 5 at Circuit Villes Gillenueve in Montreal back in June, which saw the victory go to his teammate Roman De Angelis of Windsor in the No. 78 Porsche. On Sunday, De Angelis took his second runner-up finish of the weekend after starting from the fourth position. The 17-year-old finished 44 points and runner-up to Robichon in the championship standings.

Nicholas Latifi of Toronto won the FIA Formula 2 Championship support race at the Grand Prix of Belgium Sunday in convincing fashion. Leading from reverse-grid pole to the checkers (Latifi had finished eighth in Saturday’s race), Latifi scored his first victory of 2018.

Disappearing into the distance in the opening laps, the Canadian was well ahead of a final-lap battle for second place that was won by Lando Norris who was able to hold off Latifi’s teammate Alexander Albon.

Latifi seemed untouchable at the front throughout the race, and despite Saturday winner Nyck de Vries’ best efforts, the Canadian was able to keep his lead completely intact before beginning to build it up even further in the final five laps.

The Formula 2 series will race again next weekend at Monza in support of the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy.

“Do you want the politically correct answer or the real one, asked Canadian racing star Alex Tagliani when I asked him, Andrew Ranger and pole sitter L.P. Dumoulin why the NASCAR Pinty’s Series hadn’t qualified in the rain Saturday?

As a result, the field was set on the basis of practice times recorded earlier in the day when it was sunny and dry.

Told that the real answer was preferable, Tagliani – a veteran of CART, Champ Car, IndyCar, sports car and NASCAR racing – took a breath and let loose. “It’s because the rain tires they give us in the Pinty’s series are shit,” he said, suggesting that to turn a gaggle of stock cars loose on a wet circuit at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park would result in damage to many of them.

“We have dodged a bullet,” never having to actually race in the rain in the Pinty’s series, he said. “But one of these days it will happen and it could be a disaster. There were so many yellow flags at Trois-Rivieres (when it was sunny and dry) that I shudder to think what would have happened if it had been raining.”

Tagliani, who was backed up in his criticism by both Ranger and Dumoulin, said other series under the NASCAR umbrella have proper rain tires and it’s a mystery why the Pinty’s Series doesn’t. “And it’s been that way for 11 years,” added Ranger.

Goodyear makes the tires for the Pinty`s Series but the rain tires, if you want to call them that, are grooved by hand.

Dumoulin suggested qualifying in the rain wasn’t fair across the board, either. “One group can go out and it`s really racing but by the time the next group goes out it might be starting to dry out. Qualifying has to be fair for everybody.”

In the end, though, all agreed it would be better to qualify regardless of the conditions – if the series had the proper tires in case it rains.

In the race itself, the TOTAL Quartz 200, Tagliani really didn`t have any trouble, taking the lead fairly early in the race and then controlling it the rest of the way. Kevin Lacroix fought his way up to second from his 15th starting position and pole-sitter L.P. Dumoulin was third.

Andrew Ranger, who started on the front row, was racy from the start but developed engine trouble and was never a factor thereafter, eventually finishing eighth. And there were a couple of incidents of cars going into tire walls, spins and so-on  but nobody was hurt and there was really nothing of consequence.

J.F. Dumoulin finished fourth, Anthony Simone was fifth, D.J. Kennington was sixth, Gary Klutt arrived home seventh, Ranger was eighth, Malcolm Strachan was ninth and Donald Theetge finished tenth.