IndyCar’s 2013 testing period wraps up

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Here’s a brief roundup of teams and drivers that have tested at least one day since the end of the IndyCar Series season at Fontana. Drivers in italics do not have a confirmed seat for 2014:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Alex Tagliani
  • Team Penske: Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya
  • Andretti Autosport: Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Simon Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin
  • KVSH Racing: Sebastien Bourdais, Mikael Grenier
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal
  • A.J. Foyt Racing: Takuma Sato
  • Ed Carpenter Racing: Mike Conway
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing: Josef Newgarden
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Arie Luyendyk Jr., Francesco Dracone, Jack Hawksworth, Giuseppe Cipriani

Confirmed drivers who haven’t tested since Fontana

  • Chip Ganassi Racing: Ryan Briscoe
  • Andretti Autosport: Carlos Munoz
  • Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter

Although Coyne has tested four drivers, none of them drove for the team in 2013. Justin Wilson, who’s projected to return, has not yet tested as he recovers from his injuries incurred at Fontana.

Montoya has had the most testing thus far with outings in Sebring, Phoenix and Sonoma, with another test day at Fontana postponed due to high winds. The 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner is making his open wheel return for the first time since 2006. All of the other drivers who have tested above have had at least one day at the Sebring short course; a recap after Wednesday’s test is linked here.

Barracuda Racing, which has not confirmed its 2014 driver, has not tested this offseason. Nor has Panther Racing, whose 2014 plans are still being determined.

Testing is blacked out from December 21 through January 8. The next scheduled test is a Chevrolet Manufacturer’s Test January 17 at Sebring. Currently Ganassi, Penske, Carpenter, KV and Panther are listed for that, Panther with a driver TBD and Ganassi with Briscoe listed for the first time.

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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