Daly in 2013. Photo: Getty Images

Reports: Daly, Jones set for Foyt, Coyne 2017 confirmations

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Before the U.S. Presidential Election went down on Tuesday night, the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series silly season burst open again in the hours before it.

First up was A.J. Foyt Enterprises, where Conor Daly had always been in the frame for one of the two seats but without hedging his bets of being too confident, looks set to secure the second seat there (via Motorsport.com, later via RACER.com).

Daly made his IndyCar debut with Foyt in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 before driving a partial season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing in 2015, and a full season with Coyne in 2016.

Foyt has not yet confirmed its impending switch from Honda to Chevrolet engines and aero kits – nor either driver – but it would be set for a major upheaval of change provided the i’s get dotted and t’s get crossed once contracts are signed and things become official.

In a sentence, Foyt would go from Honda/Takuma Sato/Jack Hawksworth to Chevrolet/likely Carlos Munoz/Conor Daly as a package, and that’s before you get into engineering and other team personnel there. Interesting times ahead.

Coyne, meanwhile, said during an October conference call after Sebastien Bourdais’ confirmation that he was hoping to have both his seats finalized by November.

It doesn’t appear he was kidding.

“Yes. We announced last year earlier than ever in the 18 car,” Coyne said on October 12. “We’re working very close to some programs with all the usual suspects to get something done here by the end of this month so we’ll know both of our drivers going into November.

“We have more tests planned. I should add that this is a two-year program with Sebastien. This is not just a one-year program. It’s two years and possibly more. So we’re excited about that. Especially next year with the equalizer coming in 2018 with an aero kit the same for everyone, I think that will really help us.

“But not sure which car number Sebastien will be in yet. We’re still working on lots of sponsorship programs. Depending on how that comes out, that will determine whether it’s the 18 or the 19. We got a lot of things going and are very excited to be in this position this early.”

That second driver looks set to be Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones, which isn’t the Indy Lights graduate many folks pegged for the seat alongside Bourdais. Following a string of three impressive end-of-year outings, RC Enerson had raised his stock and figured to get a good look in a full-season role there.

However, RACER.com has now pegged Jones in the second car. The Dubai-based Brit admitted to NBC Sports in the days after securing his Indy Lights title he’d had conversations with multiple teams and hoped to get a deal done within the month.

The question was always whether he’d be able to stretch his confirmed three races via winning the $1 million Mazda advancement scholarship into a full-season opportunity with the necessary budget to do so.

Neither seat has yet been confirmed by the respective teams, as noted, but these two fillings would reduce the already dwindling number of available slots left in the 2017 field.

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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