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.”

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.