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.”

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.