Pole sitter Kenseth leads “Happy Hour” at Kansas

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STP 400 pole sitter and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth may well be the man to beat on Sunday at Kansas Speedway after pacing final practice for the event with a lap of 188.712 miles per hour. Kenseth set a new track record on Friday, besting Carl Edwards late for P1 with a lap at 191.864 mph around the 1.5-mile oval.

Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola (starting sixth) was second-fastest in “Happy Hour” at 188.554 mph, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (starting 19th) in third (188.541), Kurt Busch of Furniture Row Racing (starting 13th) in fourth (188.508), and Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports (starting 27th) in fifth (188.495).

Meanwhile, the Penske Racing duo of Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano continued to hunt for speed one week after their teams were nailed with suspensions and fines after having parts confiscated from their cars at Texas Motor Speedway. Both men qualified outside the Top 20 (Logano in 22nd, Keselowski in 33rd) and in “Happy Hour,” Keselowski and Logano could only muster the 26th and 32nd-fastest laps respectively.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.