Detroit winners Conway, Pagenaud look to climb tomorrow in Toronto

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The IZOD IndyCar Series’ most recent street-course winners, Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud, may have to show some patience if they want to contend in tomorrow’s first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Both of them were victorious during the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit weekend at Belle Isle back in early June, but for tomorrows’ race, Pagenaud and Conway will be starting unofficially from 12th and 20th respectively.

Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports’ Pagenaud, who came from sixth starting position to win the second Detroit Dual, said that brake issues on his No. 77 HP Honda kept him from a potential pole run.

“We’ve got a really fast car, and I’m honestly very happy with it,” the Frenchman said. “I’m very frustrated, though, because I couldn’t extract the full potential of what the HP car has in it because we’re having brake problems.

“We’ve had the issue since this morning’s practice. When I hit the brake, I can’t stop the car properly, which obviously makes it very difficult to drive. It’s a shame because we had a pole position car today.”

Also expecting to be quick tomorrow is Conway, who is back with Dale Coyne Racing this weekend after finishing first and third with them in the Detroit weekend.

“We have some work ahead of us in tomorrow’s race, but I am confident that we can get the No. 18 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda up to the front of the field,” said Conway. “This is a long race and anything can happen, especially with this standing start. I know the team is going to give me the best car possible for the race.”

Pagenaud finished 12th in his Toronto debut last season, while Conway netted a third-place finish for A.J. Foyt Racing after crashing out in 2009 and 2011 (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing).

Watch this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto 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.”

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