Kahne picking up the pace as Chase winds down

Leave a comment

For the first time since New Hampshire in September, Kasey Kahne actually has somebody behind him in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Hendrick Motorsports driver climbed out of the 13th-place cellar yesterday by finishing second in the Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Kahne emerged as one of the contenders for the win late at PIR as differing pit strategies played out in the final 100 or so laps. On Lap 224, he took the lead from Joey Logano and held it until Lap 246, when he hit pit road under green to take right-side tires.

Another round of green flag stops began with about 50 laps remaining, and when it was over, Kahne was in second place behind Carl Edwards. Off the final restart of the day with 25 laps to go, Kahne ceded the runner-up spot to eventual race winner Kevin Harvick but got it back when Edwards ran dry while leading with two laps left.

“We stayed out longer so our tires were – Harvick was on a lot fresher tires, I guess,” Kahne said. “He was able to stay out longer and came out there at the end and was pretty quick on that restart, got by us. Carl short pitted. That’s how he got so far out front.

“It was interesting, the strategy plays such a big factor here.  You have half the field doing one thing and half the field doing the other, and everybody is pitting five, six laps difference on those strategies, as well.”

Kahne improved to 12th in the championship and has put together back-to-back Top-5 finishes going into Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’s hopeful that he can continue the trend in South Florida and that he can go into 2014 with some confidence.

“We’ve had a lot of things happen to us this year, but we’ve battled back the last two weeks,” he said. “We ran pretty good, fifth and second, so I’m happy about that.

“We’ll try to finish off strong at Homestead with another Top-5 and maybe prepare a little better for next year and try to have a little more consistent, stronger year from start to finish.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
Leave a comment

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