It all comes together for Rahal in Long Beach

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Graham Rahal is hopeful that a second-place performance in today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be enough to revitalize his campaign, which started with subpar results of 13th at St. Petersburg and 21st at Barber Motorsports Park.

“We had more fun this weekend than we’ve had the last couple, that’s for sure,” said Rahal, who started 11th. “You know, I think today was just great because it finally came together. I mean, we all felt that we had the speed. You look back at St. Pete, I felt like that could have been a similar result to today — we just couldn’t see it through unfortunately. Without a doubt, it feels phenomenal to be up here.”

Rahal’s best opportunity to pass Takuma Sato for a potential win came on the final restart at Lap 56, but when he was unable to do it, the Japanese driver pulled away to a comfortable first win in the IZOD IndyCar Series. It left the Ohio native wondering what could have been — “God, I was so close to winning yet again,” he said — but considering the high level of competition within the series (and the narrow margin for error that it brings), Rahal was happy to take the runner-up spot.

“It’s so competitive,” Rahal said. “You look at me — last week, I qualified 21st, today I’m finishing second. It’s so competitive. If you barely miss it, that can be 20 spots. So on the points side of it, today is extremely important. The last two races, looking at points, man, that is brutal. But here we are. I don’t know where we are, but I’m sure this had to help us in a huge, huge way.”

Rahal was right. He climbed to seventh in the standings with 66 points, seven points behind sixth-place driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski