Potential win for Junior stopped by battery issues

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A battery failure quickly became much worse for Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose bid to win last night’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway turned into his worst result of the Sprint Cup season.

Earnhardt was running third until Lap 187, when he brought his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the pits for an unscheduled stop due to a loss of power. After switching to the back-up battery, he returned to the track only to be hit with a pass-through penalty for speeding onto pit road by NASCAR; Earnhardt’s gauges were off as he was entering the pits, making him unable to determine how fast he was going.

However, his crew chief, Steve Letarte, decided to give his driver fresh tires on his return to the pits. That’s not allowable per the NASCAR rulebook, which says all drivers that earn a pass-through penalty must go all the way down pit road without stopping. That forced a third trip for Earnhardt to the pits, and by the time it was over, NASCAR’s most popular driver was five laps down in 35th.

“All the gauges just went haywire and so I couldn’t read the gauges to really diagnosis what was happening,” said Earnhardt, who gained one of his laps back before finishing 29th. “But once you start to think about it, you are like, ‘Well, if all the gauges are going bad, we have electrical issues.’ Then you go right to the battery. The thing quit running going into (Turn) 3 and I couldn’t stay on the track if it wasn’t the battery — we would have stopped on the track and lost all those laps.

“I came down pit road, sped, no motor, no [tachometer]… Figured out by the time I got to the pit stall, it was the battery.  We changed the switch over to battery two, get fired up, take off, come down pit road and change tires, came down pit road and serve the penalty, and that was the night.”

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

Force’s daughter, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, suffered a hard wreck at Pomona, but recovered in time to race this weekend in Phoenix.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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