Harvick: No Richmond win if race had stayed green

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Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin are both convinced that they wouldn’t have won last night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway without the caution that came out with five laps remaining.

Harvick had moved into second place in the final laps but it looked like he’d be unable to reel in and pass Juan Pablo Montoya for the victory. However, a crash by Brian Vickers scuttled what appeared to be a sure win for Montoya, and after Harvick pitted for fresh tires with four laps to go, he raced from seventh on the green-white-checkered restart to his first win of 2013.

Still, both Harvick and Martin believed that if the race hadn’t gone into overtime, they would’ve been forced to settle for runner-up.

“I think I had a better shot to win starting seventh [on the final restart],” said Harvick. “I don’t think I was going to catch Montoya because he had a little bit better drive up off the corner at that point.”

Martin himself noted a tendency of cars on the move being unable to keep the momentum going once they got closer to the cars in front of them. For that reason, he indicated that it was Montoya’s race to lose — until Vickers’ accident changed everything.

“Within five car lengths of anybody, seems like the advantage you had went away or diminished as soon as you got close to them, then you would have to stay on them for several laps,” Martin said. “The laps were winding down so fast; Montoya was going to have to make a mistake for us to get by him at that point.”

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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