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Monday Racing Roundup: Hunter-Reay Tops All-American Podium at Iowa

For the first time since the 2006 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Americans swept the top three places in a Verizon IndyCar Series race. 

Michael Andretti, who followed winner Sam Hornish Jr. and Marco Andretti across the finish line in that thriller, was the winning team owner July 18 in the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.

Reminiscent of the 10-lap duel last July between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden at Iowa Speedway, they again engaged in an exciting shootout on the .894-mile oval.

Hunter-Reay prevailed by .5046 of a second to become the ninth different winner in 13 Verizon IndyCar Series races this season. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Sage Karam finished a career-high third.

Graham Rahal placed fourth for his third consecutive top-five finish, and Carlos Munoz, who won at Detroit in May, was fifth.

It was the sixth consecutive victory for Andretti Autosport at Iowa Speedway and the third victory at the track for Hunter-Reay, who beat Newgarden to the finish line by .5814 of a second in the 2014 race.

“The No. 28 DHL Honda was on rails at the end,” said Hunter-Reay, who had only one top-five finish this season entering the race. “This one we really had to work for. After a tough season, this one is really nice.”

Following a Lap 278 restart, Hunter-Reay held off multiple challenges by Newgarden in the No. 67 Wichita State University/CFH Racing Chevrolet.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s championship points lead appeared to take a hit when the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet made right-side contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier on Lap 10 of the 300-lap race. It was his first DNF of the season and the first in 18 races since the 2014 race at Iowa Speedway.

“We had a good car. It was a little loose the first couple of laps, so I was just really taking it easy, biding my time,” said Montoya, who qualified third. “Something broke.”

With a mechanical issue in the final third of the race plaguing the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Scott Dixon, who entered the race 54 points behind, and an 11th-place finish by pole sitter Helio Castroneves, Montoya heads to the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 2 relatively unscathed.

Rahal moved to second in the standings -- 42 points behind -- while Dixon, who finished 18th, is 48 points back and Castroneves is 54 points arrears. Reigning series champion Will Power is 55 points off the pace.

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Kyle Busch on top again at New Hampshire

The odds in Kyle Busch’s favor made another dramatic surge on Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In winning for the third time in eight starts since returning from an 11-race injury absence, Busch solidified his chances of qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a serendipitous victory at the Magic Mile.

Two critical moves were essential to Busch’s winning for the second time at New Hampshire and the 32nd time in his career. First, with the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota sliding in a patch of oil and thinking he had a tire going flat, Busch brought his car to pit road on Lap 244, sooner than planned.

That allowed Busch to gain time on the track while other contending cars stayed out on old tires. The spur of the moment "strategy" ultimately played out in his favor.

Second, Busch got back on the lead lap with a gutsy pass of race leader Kevin Harvick and second-place Brad Keselowski, weaving through traffic on the frontstretch seconds before NASCAR called a caution for fluid on the track on Lap 251 of 301.

Busch inherited the top spot when the rest of the lead-lap cars came to pit road on Lap 253, and he stayed up front the rest of the way. After taking the white flag, Busch won the race under yellow when Alex Bowman’s accident in Turn 2 on the final lap caused the race’s seventh caution.

Given the discussion on team radios about the probability of that Lap 251 caution being called, Busch felt a strong sense of urgency to make what proved to be the decisive pass.

"I knew I’d been running it hard and I’d been trying to catch (Matt) Kenseth in front of me that entire run, and I had just been so tight that I couldn’t get going and couldn’t get a rhythm going to close in on Kenseth. And I figured I just chewed the right front off of it, because I went into the corner and the thing just went straight one time so I was like, ‘Man, I’m down to cords now, that’s it, it’s done.’

"We shot to pit road and got it changed there, and evidently it was oil on the race track that just made the car slip so bad from out from under me. We got a lucky break and I hauled butt, man, those five laps I ran were five qualifying laps through traffic trying to get back up to the front and pass Harvick to stay on the lead lap. That was our saving bucket right there. That was what we needed to do."

The offshoot of the victory is that Busch’s hopes of making the Chase now are better than realistic. To qualify, he must finish the first 26 races in the top 30 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. With seven races left before the cutoff, Busch is 33rd, trailing 30th-place David Gilliland by 58 points.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race on Sunday at IMS in the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard. 

NASCAR XFINITY Series: Hamlin wins at New Hampshire

To Denny Hamlin, it was just hard short-track racing for the win.

To runner-up Austin Dillon, it was unnecessarily aggressive driving that led to Hamlin’s victory in the Lakes Region 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

On Lap 179 of 200, Hamlin drove his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the inside of Dillon’s No. 33 Chevrolet. Hamlin slid up the track into Dillon, broke the No. 33’s momentum and took the lead.

Eventual third- and fourth-place finishers Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch also passed Dillon, who later regained the positions he lost to Keselowski and Busch but ran out of time in his pursuit of Hamlin.

Earlier in the race Hamlin had two similar incidents with Busch, his teammate. And though Busch didn’t appear particularly annoyed with Hamlin’s tactics, Dillon was incensed.

"He got to me, and I figured he was going to race, but he never even wanted to," Dillon said. "He wrecked his teammate and then proceeded to try and wreck me, and if I had gotten back to him, it would have happened to him."

Hamlin wrote off the contact to all-out racing at a one-mile flat track.

"The bottom line is, if you don’t have any air on the outside of you, you just can’t hold it," Hamlin said. "There was an example of that about three times today ... I want to thank ‘Wheels’ (crew chief Mike Wheeler) for giving me the dominant car. We had the best car, and just, wow, what a day."

In Hamlin’s view, Dillon wasn’t blameless either.

"Well, he jumped the restart, for one," Hamlin said. "I’m the control car, but that’s fine. Eventually I was going to get back around him anyway. Same thing—I was a fender ahead, and he drove in there knowing that he was going to have to hold me low to hold the position, and I just washed up into him.

"But that’s two guys on a short track racing for the win."

The NASCAR XFINITY Series will race on Saturday at IMS in the Lilly Diabetes 250. 

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