NBCSN crew make their picks for Indy 500 (VIDEO)

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The “Andretti Curse” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t stopping the NBC Sports Network team from making Marco Andretti (pictured) their popular choice to win the 97th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday afternoon.

Andretti will start on the outside of the front row and has utilized a race-first mentality in preparing for this year’s Greatest Spectacle in Racing, unlike last year where he put the bulk of his focus in qualifying. He led 59 laps last year at Indy but constantly had to battle an ill-handling car in the race and crashed out late in the running.

“People said ‘You had a great race car last year,’ but I hated my race car last year even though we led the most laps,” said Andretti on Thursday. “We were hanging on, and that’s why I was so animated on the radio. I knew that crash was coming. I was really hanging on to it, so this year we had a totally different approach.

“Last year, we got suckered in because for me, it was the first time I was able to go for the pole and we fixated on that. This year is the best-case scenario because we didn’t even focus on qualifying and I’m on the front row. And I have a heck of a race car.”

But while Andretti was the most popular choice amongst the NBCSN team on Carb Day (garnering the votes of both Robin Miller and Kevin Lee), he wasn’t an unanimous choice. Marty Snider picked Penske rookie A.J. Allmendinger for the win, while Wally Dallenbach gave James Hinchcliffe his nod. Jan Beekhuis thinks Helio Castroneves can become the first foreign-born four-time winner of the “500,” and Bob Jenkins, who returned to television for NBCSN’s coverage of today’s festivities, is going with Ryan Hunter-Reay.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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