Jimmie Johnson wrecks early at New Hampshire after tire failure

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Jimmie Johnson started on the front row for today’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but has crashed early on Lap 13 due to a left-rear tire failure.

Prior to his crash, Johnson had been forced to abandon second on the track when he had a left-rear tire go flat under green at Lap 8. But when he got back to the pits, his Hendrick Motorsports crew started on the right side of the car instead of the left, adding to the length of the stop.

Johnson came back out 42nd and one lap off the pace, and on Lap 13, his new left-rear tire blew and sent him spinning into the Turn 1 wall. USA Today writer and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan passed along this bit from Johnson over the team’s radio:

“The first [tire problem], I was able to drive the car all the way through Turns 1 and 2,” Johnson told TNT. “I knew I had a flat, I got it down the back [stretch] and came in. The other one just blew on one of the straights as soon as I hit the brakes.

“I’m not sure what caused it – I’m sure there will be a lot of speculation and finger-pointing back to our team. But we’ve seen some issues here especially with that particular tire over the last couple of days.

“We’ll try to dig into it and learn more, but I can promise you one thing. It wasn’t low tire pressures. I’ve been out here for two days running around and haven’t had a flat.”

However, Goodyear official Greg Stucker has told reporters at NHMS that the 48’s two tire failures was “in a manner consistent with low inflation pressure.”

On Friday, Joey Logano suffered a left-rear tire failure in practice and crashed his primary car, reportedly sustaining a sprained wrist in the process. Then yesterday in second practice, Aric Almirola wrecked after a tire went down on him as well.

Like Logano, he is racing today in a backup car but had to start from the rear of the field since his own incident took place after qualifying.

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.