What to watch for: IndyCar at Sao Paulo

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Land of opportunity

Sao Paulo’s multiple passing zones mean that a major climb from the back of the grid can be pulled off. The changes to Turns 1 and 2 included the addition of 10 extra feet at Turn 2 for the drivers to work with, but the key opportunities remain the right-hander at Turn 5 and the Turn 11 hairpin that follows the longest straightaway of any street course in the world (nearly one mile long).

A different Samba

That aforementioned Turn 1-2 complex is known as the S of Samba, which also saw its curbs lowered as part of its modifications from track builder NZR Consulting. It’s a faster and wider section now, but as we’ve seen this weekend, it’s no less tricky as guys like Simon Pagenaud, Tristan Vautier and Tony Kanaan have all been involved in incidents at that part of the course. Could we see more of them there today?

Kanaan fights on

Despite dealing with torn ligaments in his right hand, Tony Kanaan has shown his trademark perseverance this weekend in Sao Paulo. Hitting a tire barrier at the S of Samba in Saturday practice didn’t keep him from cracking the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying later on. He’ll lead the Brazilian drivers into battle today from fourth starting position (Ana Beatriz starts 16th, Helio Castroneves from 18th), and there’s no doubt that a win from TK would set off a raucous celebration in the stands at Anhembi Park.

Is this Viso’s time?

The days of regarding Venezuelan driver E.J. Viso as an also-ran may be coming to an end. He has shown to be more competitive in his first campaign for Andretti Autosport, and on Saturday, he broke through in qualifying with a second-place result (his best ever start in the IZOD IndyCar Series). Things seem to be coming together for him and while he’s always been confident that he could succeed with good resources, those that didn’t have the same sentiments are starting to take notice now.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300
Starting Grid

Row 1
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay
5-EJ Viso

Row 2
10-Dario Franchitti
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 3
27-James Hinchcliffe
9-Scott Dixon

Row 4
7 -Sebastien Bourdais
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 5
19-Justin Wilson
25-Marco Andretti

Row 6
4-JR Hildebrand
14-Takuma Sato

Row 7
22-Oriol Servia
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 8
98-Alex Tagliani
18-Ana Beatriz

Row 9
83-Charlie Kimball
3-Helio Castroneves

Row 10
15-Graham Rahal
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 11
55-Tristan Vautier
12-Will Power

Row 12
77-Simon Pagenaud
16-James Jakes

Row 13
67-Josef Newgarden

Watch today’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski