Menard’s season ends with tire explosion on pit road (VIDEO)

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Paul Menard may have wanted to end his 2013 Sprint Cup season with a bang, but chances are he did not mean that in the literal sense. Unfortunately for him, that’s what he got toward the tail end of tonight’s Ford Ecoboost 400.

With 37 laps to go, flames began to lick outwards from the rear end of Menard’s No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and as the fire began to increase in intensity, he pulled the car into the pits.

But just moments after he had parked the car and with his crew ready to put out the fire, one of Menard’s rear tires violently exploded, forcing NASCAR to throw the yellow flag.

The blaze on Menard’s car quickly grew bigger than it had been before, but eventually, Menard’s crew and track safety officials were able to put it out. Luckily, neither Menard – who quickly scrambled out of the cockpit – or anyone else was injured in the incident.

Menard, who wound up with a 39th-place finish, later pointed to the restart with 74 laps to go that saw most of the field stack up behind cars up front that had spun their tires.

“On that restart, everybody kind of checked up and we got some right rear damage and had a flat tire,” he said. “I guess a bunch of rubber got wrapped up underneath around the axle, I guess. [We] came in a couple of times trying to fix the damage and try to get the rubber off. We didn’t get it all and I guess it just caught fire.

“I didn’t really know it until there was a little bit of spark coming in the car and landed on the window net – I thought that was kind of weird. About a lap later, they said I was on fire; I lost my brakes, then the damn wheel blew right off.”

Menard said when the tire blew, he was thinking about the safety of his crewmen and was glad to know that everybody came away unscathed.

“We’ve seen tires blow before and they are pretty violent,” he said. “I’m just glad everyone is OK.”

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.