Brickyard 400 update: Jimmie Johnson leads the pack

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Jimmie Johnson cycled back to the front following a caution at Lap 59 and currently holds the top spot at the halfway mark of today’s Brickyard 400 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Pole sitter Ryan Newman led Johnson for the first 28 laps, but the five-time Sprint Cup champion was able to take the lead after the first round of pit stops under green. Johnson then led the second stint by roughly half a second over Newman until he took his second stop at Lap 56.

However, on Lap 59, the first caution of the afternoon came out for rookie Timmy Hill, who slowed on the track. At the time of the yellow, the Top 5 – Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski – had not yet made their own second stops under green. Those five subsequently pitted under yellow, allowing Johnson to regain the point.

On the restart at Lap 64, Johnson was able to fend off a brief attack from Newman, who then fell back to fourth as Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne both managed to get by him. Since then, Newman has been able to take third back from Kahne.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had an eventful first half at Indianapolis. A loose wheel caused him to pit on Lap 12 under green, knocking him one lap down. He then ran off-sequence for a while until the Timmy Hill caution enabled him to get back on cycle with the leaders.

At the Lap 80 halfway point, Johnson had stretched his lead over Edwards to three seconds. Newman runs third, followed by Kahne in fourth and Tony Stewart in fifth.

Jeff Burton’s car has now apparently lost power, triggering the second caution of the day at Lap 81.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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