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Image85Graham Rahal visits with Robin Miller and The RACER Channel after his wild win Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Pagenaud ledeIt might have been the decision that ends up helping Simon Pagenaud earn his first IndyCar championship, or at least allowed him to keep his lead with two races remaining.

When Graham Rahal pulled alongside Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan going into Turn 3 with six laps left at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, two things were looming:

The lead of the Firestone 600 or the wall.

rahal four wide

"When my spotter said 'four wide,' I knew that wasn't good and then Graham touched me and I touched James so I was actually loose going into the corner and had to back out of it or there was going to be a big wreck," Pagenaud explained after finishing fourth and extending his points lead over teammate Will Power to 28 heading to Watkins Glen.

"It was wild, it was fun and it was exciting. It reminded me of being chased by the cops as a teenager when I didn't have a license. I don't think I have any breath left."

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The Verizon IndyCar series points leader didn't have much wiggle room left going into the rain-delayed Texas event that was stopped in June with 177 laps left. Power has been on a tear and sliced Pagenaud's lead to 20 points heading back to Texas.

But the 32-year-old Frenchman showed he's still got plenty of fight with his performance on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval.

Restarting 15th, he lost a lap early but kept working with his HP Chevy and, suddenly, he found himself in fifth place on the lead lap with only eight laps to go. He actually got past Rahal and Kanaan and into second place on a Lap 240 restart before being shuffled into decision-making time.

"I really wanted to get that first oval win and after pitting for tires late I thought I had a good chance," continued the only four-time winner in 2016. "It was a helluva race and must have been a great show to watch."

When asked if he realized he was racing three drivers desperate for their first win of the season, Pagenaud smiled and said: "Hey, maybe I'm desperate too for that first oval win. But I think I probably made a good decision. I was proud of how we raced and we gained a few points on Will."

Then his engineer Ben Bretzman came up and gave Simon a good-natured slap on the back and congratulated him on doing the smartest driving of the night.

Max Verstappen hit out at Ferrari Formula 1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel after an incident-packed Belgian Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Verstappen collided with the Ferraris at the first corner as all three cars tried to get around the La Source hairpin side by side, and he had more run-ins with Raikkonen as they fought back through the field later in the race.

Raikkonen was heavily critical of Verstappen on the radio, saying "his only interest is pushing me off the circuit completely" and later calling his driving "f***ing ridiculous."

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Raikkonen was particularly unhappy with Verstappen moving late to defend his position on the Kemmel Straight, which he claimed forced him to brake at full speed to avoid an accident.

When asked by TV crews if he needs to tone down his driving, Verstappen said: "To be honest, it's a big lie. I'm just defending my position and if somebody doesn't like it it's his own problem.

"After Turn 1 when they do something like that, I'm not going to give up my position that easily afterwards."

Raikkonen added: "I'm all up for fair battles and close racing but when I have to back off on the straight when I'm making my move, that's not correct.

"I had to brake from full speed. I haven't had that with any other driver."

Verstappen/Raikkonen/Vettel collision, Belgian GP 2016, Spa

The teenager put most of the blame for the "ridiculous" first-corner collision on Vettel, who was on the outside going into the corner, with Raikkonen in the middle.

"My start wasn't great but I dived on the inside, I didn't lock a wheel, so I was easily making the corner," said Verstappen. "But they just kept squeezing me and at one point I was on the inside, Kimi was squeezing, but then Sebastian just turned in on both of us.

"He knows he is on the outside and he just turns into the corner where there are two other cars. That took my front wing, I had a lot of damage and my floor got destroyed, so from there the race was gone."

Verstappen could only recover to 11th, missing out on points, as he struggled for pace with his damaged car.

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Firestone 600 scenic LATStill catching your breath from Saturday night's Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway? Relive the thrilling final laps. 

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Don't just watch the race, feel it with the INDYCAR Mobile app. Enjoy live in-car cameras, real-time leader board and team transmissions.

 X4I2219Nico Rosberg clinched his first Belgian Grand Prix victory as Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton claimed a podium from 21st on the grid in a chaotic race at Spa.

Rosberg's win closed the gap to Hamilton in the F1 title race to nine points, but he would have been hoping for more given the reigning champion's back-row start, due to numerous penalties accrued for three power unit changes.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was sandwiched by the Mercedes duo to solidify his third place in the drivers' standings ahead of Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, who could only manage sixth and ninth following numerous incidents.

The field was reduced to 17 cars within just five laps and was red-flagged on lap nine for barrier repairs after a frightening crash that sent Renault's Kevin Magnussen to hospital.

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At the start, Red Bull's Max Verstappen was slow away from second and swallowed up on the short run down to the La Source hairpin by both Raikkonen and Vettel. As Vettel dived down the inside of Raikkonen and Vettel turned in, Raikkonen was left with nowhere to go in the middle and the trio made contact.

Vettel spun to the back, while Verstappen and Raikkonen were forced to pit due to damage sustained, with the Ferrari developing a small underside fire to add to the drama.

Later on the opening lap, Manor's Pascal Wehrlein ran into the back of Jenson Button's McLaren coming out of Les Combes, with both retiring.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr. was next out on lap two after sustaining a puncture along the Kemmel straight, and although the Spaniard tried to continue, he only succeeded in further damaging the car before pulling off track.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson, who had started the race from the pitlane due to the team working on cooling issues, also soon retired after losing sixth gear.

Penalized tail-end starters Fernando Alonso and Hamilton had reached 10th and 11th by lap six, when Magnussen plowed into the Raidillon barrier. Hurtling up through Eau Rouge, Magnussen appeared to take too much curb on the exit, sending the Dane into a high-speed spin across the track before ramming into the wall, resulting in a safety car period.

A flurry of stops for fresh tires followed over the first two laps under yellow, promoting Alonso and Hamilton up to fourth and fifth as they had no need to change rubber given they had started on the mediums at the back. But with the barriers severely damaged, FIA race director Charlie Whiting made the decision to red flag the race for 17 minutes to allow repairs to be carried out.

The running order at that stage was Rosberg ahead of Ricciardo, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Alonso and Hamilton, with Vettel 11th, Verstappen 16th and Raikkonen 17th.

Raikkonen and Verstappen would make contact again soon after the restart. When Verstappen blocked Raikkonen on the following lap at high speed down the Kemmel straight, the Finn again expressed expletive-laden anger.

Up front, Hamilton moved up to third on lap 18 of the 44 by passing Hulkenberg into Les Combes.

A slow pit stop three laps later dropped Hamilton to ninth, but as those ahead made their stops soon afterward he rose back into the top three behind Rosberg and Ricciardo.

The out-of-sequence championship leader then had to overtake Force India's Sergio Perez and Hulkenberg again after his third stop to clinch the final podium position, as Rosberg took the checkered flag by 14.1s from Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg and Perez finished fourth and fifth, bringing Force India ahead of Williams to fourth in the constructors' championship by two points.

The recovering Vettel and Alonso were sixth and seventh, with Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa eighth and 10th either side of Raikkonen.

Verstappen tried a different strategy for his comeback drive but could only reach 11th.

On his F1 debut, Esteban Ocon held off Felipe Nasr to claim 16th.

RESULTS - 44 LAPS:

PosDriverCarGap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h44m51.058s
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 14.113s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 27.634s
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 35.907s
5 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 40.660s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 45.394s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 59.445s
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m00.151s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m01.109s
10 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m05.873s
11 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m11.138s
12 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m13.877s
13 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m16.474s
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m27.097s
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m33.165s
16 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
- Kevin Magnussen Renault Spun off
- Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari Retirement
- Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari Retirement
- Jenson Button McLaren/Honda Collision
- Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes Collision

DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP

PosDriverPoints
1 Lewis Hamilton 232
2 Nico Rosberg 223
3 Daniel Ricciardo 151
4 Sebastian Vettel 128
5 Kimi Raikkonen 124
6 Max Verstappen 115
7 Valtteri Bottas 62
8 Sergio Perez 58
9 Nico Hulkenberg 45
10 Felipe Massa 39
11 Fernando Alonso 30
12 Carlos Sainz 030
13 Romain Grosjean 28
14 Daniil Kvyat 23
15 Jenson Button 17
16 Kevin Magnussen 6
17 Pascal Wehrlein 1
18 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
19 Esteban Gutierrez 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0
24 Esteban Ocon 0

CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP

PosConstructorPoints
1 Mercedes 455
2 Red Bull/Renault 274
3 Ferrari 252
4 Force India/Mercedes 103
5 Williams/Mercedes 101
6 McLaren/Honda 048
7 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 45
8 Haas/Ferrari 28
9 Renault 6
10 Manor/Mercedes 1
11 Sauber/Ferrari 0

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Rahal Texas win IMSSchmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe may have held the lead at Texas for 76 long days after the rain pushed the conclusion of the Firestone 600 from June to August, but the Canadian came up 0.0080 seconds short from sealing the victory as Graham Rahal won by a nose to capture the most thrilling IndyCar race of the year.

Rahal led only the final portion of the final lap as he knocked off Hinchcliffe, who took complete command of the race for all but a matter of inches when a restart with eight laps remaining turned the event into an old-school IRL pack race. Swinging high to fake Hinchcliffe before diving low on the run to the checkered flag made all the difference as Hinchcliffe – who led 188 laps – took a few moments to compose himself after Rahal's shocking move in the No. 15 RLL entry.

Indycar finish

Rahal and Hinchcliffe finished 1-2, earned Honda's second win of the season, and recorded the fifth-closest finish in series history as Tony Kanaan (-0.093) took third and championship leader Simon Pagenaud (-0.4773) took a step back from the insanity to capture fourth and extend his points lead to 28 over Will Power.

"James did a great job tonight; he deserved to win it, honestly," said Rahal, who dedicated the win to the late Bryan Clauson and Justin Wilson. "It was pretty intense. If Texas Motor Speedway didn't love that, they don't love racing. I'm so proud of this team."

"We started to lose [the tires] maybe with five or 10 [laps] to go but I knew I was going to be better than everybody else. I was just only concerned about TK on the fresh rubber. I didn't realize after he had pitted he'd be allowed to get all the way back up to us. I thought he'd be stuck behind the lapped cars and I thought it would come down to a duel between Hinch and I, but we fended him off. My car, my god, what a machine tonight."

The victory marks Honda's first win since the Indianapolis 500.

Rahal's win was his first sine Mid-Ohio in 2015, and prior to the wild finish, Hinchcliffe appeared set to get his first since New Orleans 2015.

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"To lead all day ...," he said as his voice trailed off. "The car was just a rocket ship but those yellows at the end just killed us. Congtrats to Graham; that was a great race. We led 'em all but the one that mattered. Just gutted for everyone."

A decent crowd returned for the conclusion of the Firestone 600, but Kanaan felt bad for all those who skipped the show.

"It was so much fun," he said. "I gotta thank the fans that came back. Whoever didn't come, you missed a hell of a race."

The race was close to being completed caution-free, but all that changed on Lap 213 as second-place Ed Carpenter and Scott Dixon – who was attempting to unlap himself – tangled entering Turn 1. The defending series champion, who held fourth in the championship coming into Texas, was unhurt, but his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy was finished after the right side of the car clouted the SAFER barrier.

When the race resumed on Lap 220, the pack racing insanity was back until Carpenter crashed on Lap 224 when the back of his No. 20 ECR Chevy wiggled and rotated. Championship contender Helio Castroneves was following behind Carpenter and incurred damage to his front wing and right-rear wheel pod when he hit the back of the No. 20 and lightly contacted the wall with the back of his car. Stops for repairs under yellow kept the Brazilian in the hunt, but he didn't have the speed to chase and pass down the leaders and settled for fifth.

The restart on Lap 231 saw Hinchcliffe enveloped by the field until teammate Mikhail Aleshin and AJ Foyt Racing's Jack Hawksworth crashed on Lap 232. Aleshin's solo spin took place in front of Hawksworth, who went hard into the wall in avoidance. The Briton received assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team to walk from the car to the ambulance.

Primed for a sprint to the finish line, the choice by Tony Kanaan and all those behind the top three to pit for new tires under yellow and forfeit track position was the big gamble of the race as Hinchcliffe, Rahal and Castroneves stayed out on their used Firestones. The restart with eight laps to go saw Pagenaud and Kanaan motor past Rahal and Castroneves and chase down Hinchcliffe.

The group soon went four-wide down the back straight, Pagenaud wisely backed out and let Rahal, Kanaan and Hinchcliffe take all the risks, and despite the fresh rubber, Kanaan was unable to use the advantage to get by the Honda duo.

Left to chase Hinchcliffe on his own, Rahal had the advantage of using a variety of lines and lanes to search for a way past the SPM driver, and after coming so close to winning in 2012 with Chip Ganassi Racing, redemption was in the air in Victory Lane.

While nine drivers are still mathematically eligible for championship with two races to go, it's most likely a two-horse race between Pagenaud (529) and Power (501). Kanaan now sits third (416) at 113 points back, and Castroneves is one point behind in fourth. Josef Newgarden, who entered the race third in points, slipped to fifth (406 points). 

UP NEXT: Watkins Glen – the penultimate round of 2016 – which starts on Friday.

Complete results can be found here.

Hinch Texas IMSFor 76 days, it was a running joke that James Hinchcliffe was still leading the Firestone 600 in what was most likely the record for time spent leading an IndyCar race. So for Hinchcliffe to dominate the way he did – leading 188 of 248 laps – and lose on a last-lap pass by Graham Rahal, it was bound to be disappointing.

"It was all going pretty well," Hinchcliffe lamented. "Pit stops were clean, in and out laps were good, car was great in traffic great on our own. We set up our car today to take care of the tires and be good over a stint and that's what we did and that's what put us, we lapped everybody but fifth place, I think so far before that first caution came out. The first [caution] didn't really worry me too much because we were built for long runs but as they kept coming and the laps got shorter and shorter I knew it was going to be harder and harder and then ultimately when [Kanaan and Pagenaud] stopped for tires and we didn't I think that was the nail in the coffin.

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"When we cleared Tony and it was just me and Graham coming down to the checkered, I thought the momentum is on the outside. I feel like I've kind of seen it here 10 times before in races in years past, and I thought we were still going to be able to do it.

"But man, he rolled through the center of [Turns] 3 and 4 with a whole lot of speed. I hadn't been next to a car all night that cleared me that quickly. That was the time to make that move.

"It's just tough. To have such a dominant car all day and to not walk away with a win is super upsetting, but I'm super proud of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys and happy with a Honda 1-2. It was great racing there at the end – it was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, I had an absolute blast out there, it was like the Texas of old, and it was definitely a better show at the end there for the fans than it would have been if it had stayed green all day.

Rahal, who picked up his first win since last year's race at Mid-Ohio, gave Hinchcliffe credit for an excellent run.

"I've got to tip my hat off to Hinch. He did a great job tonight," Rahal said. "He led that thing pretty well from start to finish other than a couple hundred yards. Great job by him and TK. ... I thought [Kanaan would be] be stuck behind the lapped cars and I thought it would come down to a duel between Hinch and I, but we fended him off."

Hinchcliffe, who has finished third, fifth, 10th and second in the past four races, admitted that letting a win slip away would burn for a while.

"We'll take that one on the chin, but I'm definitely going to be losing a little bit of sleep over that."

Formula 1 world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have labeled the tire situation ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix as "ridiculous" and "crazy".

Since the tire blowout incidents at Spa Francorchamps last season involving Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, Pirelli began to raise mandatory tire pressures. Amid unusually high temperatures for this event of around 86 degrees  weather set to continue for the race  the super-soft tire in particular is rapidly degrading, leaving a number of drivers stunned and frustrated.

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Hamilton, who faces a tough drive from the back row of the grid, said: "With these tires the way they are, which are a bit of a mess, it's going to be tough out there for everyone  it's definitely tough to come through and get on the podium or win.

"The pressures are so high, I've never seen anything like it in my whole racing career. That doesn't help, plus it's very hot, and with those pressures we get blisters. There is not much you can do to save the tires from blistering and overheating."

Button was equally as scathing.

"The pressures are unbelievably high," he said. "You can see that by how slow we drive round on the way to the grid. Most cars are not going full throttle at all on the way to their qualifying laps. They're not braking, they're not pushing the tire at all.

"They start their lap, get to Turn 1 [La Source] and the tires work. It's amazing what we have to do to get these tires in the working window.

"If you push on the out-lap they're done by Turn 3 [Eau Rouge]  blistering and overheating. What we have to do is crazy; I've never had to do this before in my F1 career.

"It's the pressures, obviously not helped by the temperatures. It's a shame we're so high with the pressure because we're in a position at the moment with the tire where you can't push the car. You're just rolling around the whole time with the tire. Hopefully with the new tires for F1 next year that won't be the case because it's not a nice feeling at the moment."

Force India's Sergio Perez is anticipating problems during the grand prix.

"Where the issue will really come is in the race, how you manage the tires, how early the blisters come," he said. "It can really screw you up if you get the blisters in the first sector. It's such a long lap that once you get the blisters the car is just undriveable. It can be really painful."

Felipe Massa had already slammed the tires as "a joke" during Friday practice.

After qualifying 10th, he added: "I have never had a tire pressure so high like that in my life. With this temperature, it is like you're driving with a balloon. You have no idea what the behavior will be like on the tires. They are so sensitive."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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