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NHRA: John Force released from hospital following Funny Car motor explosion (video)

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UPDATE 00:55 a.m. ET: John Force was released from a local Pomona, California-area hospital after suffering a motor explosion during Friday’s second round of qualifying in the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. A John Force Racing team spokesperson told MotorSportsTalk late Friday night: “John is fine. He did go to the hospital as a precaution but was discharged this afternoon and will be racing tomorrow (Saturday).”

UPDATE 2 01:15 a.m. ET: Force said of the incident: “That run just showed you the proof that these race cars, my PEAK Chevrolet Camaro, are built to protect the driver. Anytime I can walk away from an explosion I know these cars at John Force Racing and all our Simpson safety gear are doing their job. I’ll be out tomorrow, the doctor cleared me and I’m ready to race and entertain these fans. Ready to start winning, that’s what PEAK pays me to do.”

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ORIGINAL STORY:

Legendary John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history and a record 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion, started off the 2018 season with a boom.

The 68-year-old Force was making his second qualifying attempt Friday during the first day of the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, when the engine in his Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro suddenly blew up as it approached the finish line at Auto Club Raceway, sending the body of Force’s car flying.

Force appeared to graze the wall slightly but never lost control and completed the ride. While he needed assistance to exit what was left of his car, Force walked to a responding ambulance and entered it under his own power.

A preliminary medical examination found Force responsive and speaking to medical personnel, but he was transported to a local hospital for precautionary reasons.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.