Rahal tow plus Marco’s car equals Hinch P1 in Tuesday Indy practice

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The No. 25 RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet led Indianapolis 500 practice for a second consecutive day, but the driver who set the fastest lap in said car changed.

James Hinchcliffe – shaking down teammate Marco Andretti’s usual ride – led the speed charts with the only lap over 224 mph. A 224.210 on his sixth of 26 laps in the car was fastest on Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The lap was thanks to a tow from Graham Rahal. Both Graham and father Bobby, his car owner,  tweeted their thoughts after the session.

“Hope Hinchcliffe buys Graham an expensive dinner since Graham towed him around for 5 laps today earning Hinch fastest lap! Have you no shame?” Bobby Rahal tweeted.

Graham followed shortly therafter: “ya hey Hinch, when you buying me a nice steak? Think that’s how it goes ;).”

Hinchcliffe, rather than dismissing the notion, embraced it with his trademark candor and humor in the post-practice press conference.

“So, I guess we’re good at playing ‘tow wars,’” Hinchcliffe said. “Marco’s angry. I rocked the big tow, which he’s famous for, and I did it in his car. So Marco ‘Towdretti’ is mad at me.”

JR Hildebrand was second, with Andretti (in the No. 25), Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounding out the top five.

E.J. Viso, Josef Newgarden, Carlos Munoz, Oriol Servia and AJ Allmendinger completed the top 10.

Newgarden, the only driver practicing with a new Honda engine as yet with most Honda runners swapping out their mileaged-out engines starting Tuesday, was one of only two Hondas in the top 20 (Charlie Kimball in 19th was the other).

Viso (134 laps) ran the most laps while Takuma Sato (20) ran the fewest of the day. Sato was slowest of the 32 normal car/driver combinations that took time; 216.616 on his last lap of the day was his fastest. Andretti also shook down Hinchcliffe’s No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet.

Hondas ended the day 21st through 34th with, as mentioned, their close-to-their-max mileage engines. RLL’s trio ended 29th (James Jakes), 32nd (Michel Jourdain Jr.) and 33rd (Graham Rahal).

A total of 2,226 laps were run on Tuesday without incident.

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