IndyCar: Byrd’s Racing plans Indy 500 return… for 2016

Leave a comment

The elements between the 1990s-early 2000s and modern day Verizon IndyCar Series for the Indianapolis 500 continue, with the news Monday that Jonathan Byrd’s Racing plans an Indy return.

Problem is, the sponsor’s release announces the return for 2016 – a full two years from now.

That year will mark the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 but given the brand’s heritage, having been part of the ‘500 for most of the 20-year period between 1985 and 2005, the decision was taken now for the Greenwood, Ind.-based operation to announce its return plans. It’s had 17 total entries in the race.

“From the beginning , racing has been part of the DNA of our business,” said Virginia “Ginny” Byrd, wife of the late Jonathan Byrd and owner of Jonathan Byrd’s, “and the Indy 500 has been an especially important part of shaping our identity in central Indiana.  The annual participation of the various Jonathan Byrd’s Racing teams in the Indy 500 from 1985 through 2001, and again in 2005, which allowed us to have a place in the event that has provided an identity to the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana, and to which hundreds of thousands of our fellow Hoosiers have such a strong emotional attachment, enabled us to connect with the greater central Indiana community in a profound way.  Since we have been away from Indy, I believe that connection has been missing.”

Ginny Byrd explained the rationale to announce now.

“Even though we won’t be back until the 100th running of 500 in 2016, we thought it would be good to make our efforts on this front public and to share this news with our customers and all those that have supported us over the years.  Not only does it give us something to look forward to, we have what I think is a brilliant plan in place as we will be taking steps to tie our brand to our participation in the Indy 500 in a very meaningful way.  Now that we’re going back, we intend to be there for a long time to come.”

As ever, a driver and the team partnership will be announced later on. It will be good to see an iconic name return to the Brickyard, even if the wait is for a couple years.

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