Symbolism as Kanaan to set IndyCar’s record start streak in Baltimore

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He’s run Ironman triathlons before, but this week Tony Kanaan’s status as IndyCar’s “ironman” is cemented. He’ll set a series record for number of consecutive starts, with his 212th in a row eclipsing the mark set by his team principal and former rival Jimmy Vasser in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.

It’s a streak that has spanned more than 12 years, since the 2001 CART season. The last race Kanaan failed to start was at Detroit in 2001, when he suffered a concussion after a practice crash. He’ll break Vasser’s record driving “JV’s” No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Chevrolet.

“It obviously proves that I’ve been around for a long time, that’s for sure. But obviously it’s a remarkable achievement,” Kanaan noted during a media teleconference on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be beating one of my best friends in life and nowadays my boss, Jimmy.  But I guess I get to brag about that.  I guess I can’t brag as much until I get to Sunday’s race because Jimmy has the power not to let me start this race if he wants to!”

There’s been a couple times Kanaan has raced hurt, and after his serious accident in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 when he smacked a non-SAFER protected wall, he came close to missing Milwaukee the following week.

“The closest I think lately was that big crash I had at Indy, was that ’09, I lost the suspension,” Kanaan said. “The next weekend was Milwaukee. I was hurting. I had two broken ribs. I actually could barely walk to the car. That was the closest I got not to race.I had a concussion in Detroit, which I stayed out.  That’s when the streak started out after in Portland.  That concussion, back in the day, the technology and all the resources we have was not as accurate.  I still think I wasn’t right the week after that I went to Portland. I started the race, but I crashed three corners later and took (Alex) Zanardi out with me, my teammate.”

Vasser reflected on his driver’s achievement and noted the symbolism of Kanaan setting the record in Baltimore.

“It just goes to show how tough he is,” Vasser said. “He’s been driving through injuries, not only this year, but many times through the course of this streak. There’s nobody else better. It’s kind of ironic that he’s in the team and driving for us. I think it’s a pretty cool thing. And we’re doing it in Baltimore where the real Ironman Cal Ripken really built the house.”

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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