IndyCar: Bourdais wins pole for today’s Toronto Race 1 (VIDEO)

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A dramatic conclusion to qualifying for today’s first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader weekend saw Sebastien Bourdais claim his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole of 2014 and Simon Pagenaud crash in Turn 8 as he attempted to take the pole from his fellow Frenchman.

With one minute remaining in the Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves was atop the grid with a 59.1499-second lap. But Team Penske teammate Will Power was able to leap-frog him with a 59.1025 – only to have Bourdais, driving the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet, knock him off with a 58.9479.

Bourdais’ first pole of the year is also his first in American open-wheel racing since taking a Champ Car pole for a September 2007 race in the Netherlands.

“That was a ballsy call by the team,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio. “They saw that we might have left a bit early [in the FF6] and the track was getting better.

“Most everybody was waiting behind us and when they said, ‘Alright, pit now, we’re going to put you on a new set of tires and try again,’ I’m like, ‘Okay? You sure about this?’

“And it worked out to perfection. I didn’t believe in it but they made it happen for me, and the Hydroxycut machine was really strong in qualifying today.”

As for Pagenaud, he was pushing hard for a buzzer-beater lap of his own – only to hit the wall coming out of Turn 8 and near the timing line. Luckily for him, he had been able to post the fifth-fastest time in the FF6 before the crash.

Power wound up earning the outside front row spot alongside Bourdais. Behind him in Row 2 will be Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay; Castroneves holds a slim, nine-point lead over Power in the IndyCar standings going into today’s 85-lap race.

Tony Kanaan, who has dominated the last two races only to come away without wins in each of them, will start on the outside of Pagenaud in Row 3.

Hometown hero James Hinchcliffe is further back on the grid, but not much further. The Toronto area native is slated to start ninth today.

“It’s disappointing, because I think the United Fiber and Data car should’ve been up there,” Hinchcliffe said. “I wanted to be a little higher up there for the Canadian fans and get into that Fast Six.

“But we can work from there. This is a street track that you can definitely make some moves on. I’ve seen my boss [team owner Michael Andretti] come from last place and win here, so we’re still optimistic for today.”

Coverage of today’s race is NOW on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – HONDA INDY TORONTO, RACE ONE
STARTING GRID/TIRE DESIGNATION

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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.

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

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