Photo: Race of Champions

IndyCar to be well represented at 2018 Race of Champions

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The annual Race of Champions, which makes its first ever first to the Middle East at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is set to feature four prominent names from the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Of the four, three raced under the Team Penske banner. Juan Pablo Montoya, who raced at this year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500, returns to defend his victory from last year’s Race of Champions, a triumph that came in his first appearance. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2017 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden will join Montoya to complete the trio of Penske drivers, with Newgarden making his debut. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay also returns to the Race of Champions and completes the IndyCar quartet.

Montoya revealed that competing at such an event is a unique honor, and one he ultimately regrets missing prior to his first visit this past January.

“When I came to the Race Of Champions for the first time this year I immediately regretted never having done it before!” Montoya detailed. “It was an amazing experience and Fredrik Johnsson and his team put together an amazing event.  It’s all about fun but when you go to the grid it’s unbelievable how focused you are. It’s like qualifying. Experience plays a part too: after a few laps you start getting the hang of the cars, but you can also mess it up really bad. I still don’t know what gave me the edge in Miami; it must have been beginner’s luck.”

Additions to the full driver lineup will be released in the coming weeks, but other confirmed names include nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen, newly crowned FIA Formula 3 European Champion Lando Norris, two-time Monaco Grand Prix winner and current Formula 1 TV analyst David Coulthard, and two-time FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg.

Now in its 31st year, the 2018 edition of the Race of Champions will be held on February 2-3.

Follow @KyleMLavigne

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski