Dixon delivers pole for Honda Indy Toronto Race 2

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Scott Dixon captured the pole for Race 2 of the Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), with a best time of 58.9686 seconds around the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place street circuit. It’s the 19th career pole for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver, and first this season. It’s also his first front row start – his best start prior in 2013 was fourth at Barber in April.

“Yeah, I saw the first lap and thought it was a lot quicker than we should be,” Dixon told IndyCar Radio. “The whole team worked on fine tuning. Yesterday was more my issue. The first race is a total unknown anyway (with the standing starts).”

Dario Franchitti was fastest again in his group of qualifying with a time of 59.1905. He’ll start second behind his teammate.

Had Franchitti’s time held up, it would have been his second of the weekend, fourth this IZOD IndyCar Series season and sixth in Toronto following his pole in normal knockout qualifying on Friday. Alas, it was not to be for the Scotsman and he’ll start outside the front row.

Behind Dixon in the second of two qualifying groups were Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power, with Sebastien Bourdais next. Alex Tagliani will start ninth in Race 2 after ending fifth in his group, with E.J. Viso sixth.

Bourdais was in the wrong place at the wrong time when Power, who had clipped a banner exiting Turn 8, had it come loose and into Bourdais’ path.

The rest of the group, who will start in the odd positions 11-23, are Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Tristan Vautier, Josef Newgarden, James Jakes and Ed Carpenter. Jakes stuffed his car at Turn 5 to bring out a red flag and lost his two fastest laps as a result.

Franchitti led a resurgent Chevrolet contingent in his group, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology – SH), Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing), Simona de Silvestro (KVRT) and James Hinchcliffe (Andretti) slotting in behind.

From there, it was Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra and Mike Conway in the first group. Those 11 drivers after Franchitti will take the even positions 14-24 on the grid for Race 2.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Hondy Indy Toronto Race 2
Unofficial Starting Lineup

Row 1
9-Scott Dixon
10-Dario Franchitti

Row 2
3-Helio Castroneves
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 3
12-Will Power
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 4
7-Sebastien Bourdais
4-Ryan Briscoe

Row 5
98-Alex Tagliani
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 6
5-E.J. Viso
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 7
16-James Jakes
19-Justin Wilson

Row 8
77-Simon Pagenaud
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 9
14-Takuma Sato
25-Marco Andretti

Row 10
55-Tristan Vautier (R)
15-Graham Rahal

Row 11
67-Josef Newgarden
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 12
20-Ed Carpenter
18-Mike Conway

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