Loudon Update: Matt Kenseth uses two-tire stop to take lead

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Matt Kenseth is threatening for another Sprint Cup victory this afternoon and currently leads the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kenseth took over the lead following pit stops under yellow at Lap 123 after Denny Hamlin suffered a right front tire failure and slowed on the track. Taking two tires, Kenseth came out of pit road ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards, all of which also took two instead of four in a bid for track position. Kurt and Kyle Busch, the early pace setters in the race, opted for four tires and were put back in seventh and eighth place at the subsequent restart (Lap 129).

At halfway (Lap 150), Kenseth led Stewart by about a second, followed by Kurt Busch in third, Stewart in fourth, and Kyle Busch in fifth.

Keselowski started on pole, but was quickly overtaken by Kyle Busch, who would hold the point until Lap 62. At that point, Kurt Busch took advantage of his little brother getting loose coming off Turn 4 and took the lead down the front stretch.

Roughly ten laps later, the first run of green flag stops began and eventually ended with Kurt Busch still up front. A caution for debris at Lap 79 bunched up the field again, but Kurt Busch re-opened a gap between himself and the field upon the return of the green flag at Lap 83.

Joey Logano suffered a left-rear tire failure in the opening laps and hit the wall to bring out the first caution of the day. Shortly after the restart at Lap 9, Marcos Ambrose was spun by Kevin Harvick coming out of Turn 4 and was hit by Casey Mears on the frontstretch, bringing out the yellow again at Lap 14.

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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