Kasey Kahne looking for more Loudon magic

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Compared to the majority of Sprint Cup tracks, Kasey Kahne reckons that New Hampshire Motor Speedway is “a little different.” And as he comes back to the “Magic Mile” to defend his Camping World RV Sales 301 title, the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is hoping for different luck to go with it.

Kahne was contending for victory in the final laps last weekend at Daytona International Speedway until teammate Jimmie Johnson blocked a charging Marcos Ambrose, who then went into Kahne and sent him skidding into the inside backstretch wall. It continued a string of tough results for the Enumclaw, Washington native, who has only collected two Top-10s – and six results outside the Top 20 – in the last ten events.

Luckily for Kahne, his victory earlier this year at Bristol has kept him in one of the two wild card spots for the Chase. But a little insurance wouldn’t hurt, and another victory at Loudon would be useful in cementing his place in this year’s playoffs. Last summer in the Granite State, he converted a front-row start into a win on the flat mile, pacing 66 laps along the way.

“It’s fun to race at tracks that are a little different so I like New Hampshire,” Kahne said earlier this week. “It’s a flat, one-mile track, and you drive the car a lot different there with the braking and the way you pick up the throttle.

“I feel like Turn 3 is probably the toughest part of New Hampshire because it’s rough getting into the corner, which makes it easy to lock up your brakes, get loose or slide the car over the bumps. So just trying to really work on that through practice and not give up anywhere else in the corner is usually key for me there.”

Kahne will start eighth in tomorrow’s race at NHMS as one of three Hendrick Motorsports competitors within the Top 10 of the grid (Dale Earnhardt Jr., third; Jeff Gordon, fifth). This morning in final practice, he was ninth (132.757 mph) in the session, which was led by Brian Vickers (133.417 mph).

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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