Learning process continues for Allmendinger

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Sunday may have marked A.J. Allmendinger’s first open-wheel race since the 2006 season, but that didn’t stop the Team Penske part-timer from being his own worst enemy after his day took a bad turn on pit road.

Allmendinger had done well leading up to his final stop of the afternoon on Lap 63, having ran in the Top 10 for much of the race. But the former Champ Car star stalled his No. 2 IZOD-backed Chevrolet and needed a re-fire before he was able to get back in the fight. Unfortunately, the damage had been done and he was forced to swallow a 19th-place result in the end.

”I’ve got to be a lot better than that; 19th isn’t going to cut it, whether this is my first time or not,” Allmendinger told the Associated Press’ John Zenor afterwards. “Without the stall, we probably should have been about 10th or 11th, which is OK, but we still want to be better than that.”

‘…It’s all about trying to get better. It’s just frustrating. I want to be great right away, whether it’s realistic or not.”

But team owner Roger Penske knows that the learning process is ongoing with ‘Dinger, who has been announced to race at Long Beach in two weeks’ time for additional preparation going into his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 in May.

”Finish this and just learn, learn, learn,” radioed The Captain to Allmendinger during Sunday’s event. “You are doing fine.”

In addition, Helio Castroneves gave props to Allmendinger and, in particular, his gaining of three positions during the race’s wild and wooly start.

“I thought he did a great job, especially at the start,” Castroneves said according to Matt Weaver of SB Nation. “He was pushing very hard. He did a great job throughout the whole weekend…To come here after seven years, to have only two tests before the first race and be right up here with [the leaders] shows just how talented he is.”

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

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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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.”

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