Carpenter tests at Sonoma, with Hunter-Reay assist

Leave a comment

For the second straight year, Ed Carpenter enters the new IndyCar season having had all winter to enjoy being the last race winner of the previous season.

Now, the Fontana winner was back on track for the first time this year, as part of a private testing session at Sonoma Raceway in California.

Carpenter and the Ed Carpenter Racing team opted to skip last week’s test at Sebring to concentrate on the flowing Sonoma road course, which unlike Sebring, actually has a date on the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series calendar.

“Anytime there are people testing somewhere and you’re not there you feel like you’re missing something, but we’ll get our turn this week and we’re excited about that,” Carpenter said.

It wasn’t just Carpenter who had a shot at the team’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Dallara-Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending IndyCar champion, had a few laps in the car on Wednesday.

An ECR team spokesman confirmed Hunter-Reay was helping Team Chevy with some developments, as part of a collaborative effort between ECR, Andretti Autosport and Team Chevy. A similar occurrence came in Fontana last December, when Marco Andretti ran the car.

Carpenter struggled in road and street course qualifying a year ago, starting from 20th or worse in the first nine street and road course races. But at Baltimore, the tenth and last of the year, Carpenter and the team adeptly nailed a good enough time in the preliminary round of qualifying to advance into the second round as others hit issues. The eighth place spot on the grid is the best of his career on such a circuit.

“We felt we were getting better with our street circuit setups and Baltimore was a good qualifying performance for us,” he said. “So getting back on the road course at Sonoma will help us work on that process.  It will feel great to be back in the race car again.”

Besides Carpenter, entries from Panther and DRR (JR Hildebrand, Oriol Servia), Dragon Racing (Sebastians Bourdais and Saavedra), KV Racing Technology (Tony Kanaan, Simona de Silvestro) and Sam Schmidt’s two cars (Tristan Vautier in No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Honda, Simon Pagenaud in No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Dallara-Honda) tested Wednesday.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
Leave a comment

John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski