Team Target Ganassi pressing on through trying days

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With Team Penske breaking through at Texas and Will Power scoring his first podium of 2013 at Milwaukee, the onus is now back on Target Chip Ganassi Racing to deliver the results it’s been accustomed to in the IZOD IndyCar Series: winning.

It was another tough day at the office for Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti Saturday at the Milwaukee Mile, despite both drivers recording top 10 finishes in the same race for only the third time in nine races this year.

Dixon has done the best job of performing damage limitation despite never quite having the setup on his No. 9 Target Honda. He related after Milwaukee, when he finished sixth and never ran in the top five, that there’s still much more work to be done.

“I think we went down a road earlier in the year and now we’re just trying to regroup and find our way,” he said after the race. “Maybe we’re lacking confidence in our changes with the car but we’ll work hard and get better. We had a good day but went back and forth on some things. We had understeer in the middle of the corner and the car snapped coming off. We had a bit better car then we showed. I got ran wide on the restart by (Tony) Kanaan and didn’t quite agree with it but then again what can you do.”

Franchitti recovered to eighth place after starting 23rd thanks to an engine change. With the field as close as it is, it’s difficult for teams with such a good amount of engineering and crew talent to have their strengths highlighted if the setup isn’t quite there. It’s not as though Franchitti’s forgotten how to drive or engineer Chris Simmons has lost his magic touch. Still, the way the series has evolved this year was an interesting point Franchitti raised in his post-race quotes.

“Obviously we didn’t have a great qualifying effort and then we took the engine change penalty before the race,” he said. “We started in the back, made some good progress, but it was difficult to pass. The guys made good calls to keep me in the hunt but keeping the car pointed straight was a challenge. To pass people was very tough. The cars are so close, so the series might be a victim of their own success right now. We need to start allowing something to differentiate when guys get it right and wrong.”

Their teammate in the Novo Nordisk CGR car, Charlie Kimball, fought an ill-handling race car to 17th.

Dixon is now fifth in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 221 (78 points behind leader Helio Castroneves), while Franchitti holds on to 10th with 192 and Kimball is 13th on 175.

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.