IndyCar update: Halfway home in time-shortened Barber race

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The 100-minute, rain-delayed and now rain-shortened Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is halfway home. A few moments of note have happened in the opening 25-plus circuits for the third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Polesitter Will Power led from the off, and stretched his lead north of five seconds running laps in the 1:19 range while others were in the 1:20s and 1:21s at Barber Motorsports Park.

But Power ran wide at Turn 5 and traversed through the gravel and grass, rejoining in second behind Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led until the second caution of the race prior to Lap 17, when Sebastien Bourdais made contact with Mikhail Aleshin into Turn 5, spinning the Russian rookie.

All cars except Oriol Servia, who’d made himself the guinea pig to switch from wets onto Firestone’s red alternate slick tires, took the opportunity to pit. On that sequence Helio Castroneves pitted in the wrong box; he was issued a stop-and-go¬†penalty for the infraction.

During the caution, Carlos Munoz spun out exiting Turn 5, damaging his Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda entry beyond repair. Incidentally, the Colombian rookie was also involved in an incident under caution at St. Petersburg.

Bourdais got a drive-through penalty as well for his avoidable contact with Aleshin. Shortly after the restart, then led by Sebastian Saavedra who’d opted not to pit, Juan Pablo Montoya went off course through the Turn 10-11 sequence and brought a gravel-laden PPG Chevrolet back to the pits. It marred what had been a great opening sequence for him, rising to fourth and posting the same times as Power and Hunter-Reay up front.

Saavedra led at lap 28 from Hunter-Reay, Power, Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti. Bourdais had been sixth prior to his penalty ahead of James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Justin Wilson. Tony Kanaan, who started 23rd and last, was up to 11th.

More to come the rest of this race on NBCSN.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

Force’s daughter, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, suffered a hard wreck at Pomona, but recovered in time to race this weekend in Phoenix.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski