What to watch for: IndyCar at Sonoma (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

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As winner of three of the last four races at Sonoma, championship leader Will Power is pretty much the man to beat in today’s 85-lap race. This may be a day where all Helio Castroneves (second in the championship, -40 points behind Power) can do is minimize the points damage going into next weekend’s season-ending race at Fontana. With double points in play for that event, Castroneves can still feel somewhat okay about his title chances if he can at least earn a podium this afternoon. He’ll start sixth on the grid.


Sonoma’s low-grip surface is always a major obstacle for drivers, and with the dusty ground surrounding the racing ribbon, a slide up off the kerbs and into the dirt can lead to the loss of precious track position. Tire wear is also going to be an important factor once again.


After this morning’s 6.0 earthquake that centered around Napa, California, IndyCar and Sonoma officials announced that today’s race would go on as scheduled since there was no damage to the road course and its surrounding facilities. However, there are reportedly contingency plans in place should an aftershock occur.


Since Power won last weekend in Milwaukee, we’re still waiting for an 11th different winner this year – which would tie an American open-wheel record. Josef Newgarden has the best chance of being that guy, as he starts on the front row for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (he was also second in this morning’s warmup session behind Scott Dixon). But don’t count out James Hinchcliffe in fourth and Ryan Briscoe in fifth. It’s definitely a good thing for them to have been able to qualify that high, as no IndyCar winner at Sonoma has started from beyond P5 (Dixon, 2007).

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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