Hamlin OK after taking hard hit in Kentucky

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Denny Hamlin escaped injury after his second tire failure in today’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway sent him hard into the Turn 4 wall while running in the Top 10.

Hamlin said that his knee hit the steering column during the Lap 149 incident, and he also suffered a headache that went away after he left Kentucky’s infield care center.

“For me, it didn’t go down slowly like the tire did the first time — [the second one] just blew out solid and quick,” said Hamlin. “Obviously, when I lost steering, I hit [the wall] flat. I would rather hit head-on anywhere than flat up against the wall on these walls.”

Considering that Hamlin missed multiple races earlier this season due to a fractured vertebrae he sustained in a March crash at Auto Club Speedway, there was concern for the Virginia native after today’s incident. However, he told NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello that his back was fine, saying that it was “the least of the concerns after this.”

Unfortunately for Hamlin, the Kentucky crash may have finally extinguished whatever hopes he had of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. If his post-race comments are an indication, he appears set to simply focus on getting back into Victory Lane as many times as he can.

“We’re just going to try to win races and that’s what my job is for the rest of the year – try to win and do the best I can for my sponsors and my team,” he said. ‘Really, the biggest thing I was pushing for was to get my team into the Chase…This is obviously another hit.”

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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