Newman: Indy win “gives us more hope” of making Chase

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Ryan Newman was able to keep his hopes of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup alive last weekend with a well-received victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Now, he’s looking for one more win in the final six “regular season’ events that he thinks could put him and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team over the top.

“Another win would be amazing just based on the history of what I’ve seen with the wild cards,” he said on Friday at Pocono Raceway. “Two [wins] is pretty much going to lock you into a [Chase] wild card spot. And we still have a shot. I think we’re 25 [points] out of 10th and there’s still a lot of racing to go.

“It hasn’t changed my mentality other than the fact that it changed, I guess, your hope. It doesn’t change my drive. My drive is to go out and do the exact same thing regardless.”

Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono could be a make-or-break afternoon for Newman, who sits 16th in the standings and third among the drivers in the 11th-20th rankings that have one win; boss/teammate Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. currently hold the two wild-card spots.

Newman will drive the same race car that he took to victory last weekend at Indy, and with that track and Pocono sharing some characteristics, he should be able to enjoy a solid pace. Yesterday, he qualified fourth for Sunday’s race.

“There are no guarantees, but…I feel like we have been able to sharpen up some of the things that we did in the June race here,” said Newman. “We have done a lot of testing since then and obviously a lot of racing, and the Indianapolis race was huge.

“So hopefully, we can make it happen but like I said, there are no guarantees. It is probably the closest back-to-back races that we have in the season that are somewhat similar on the set-up side.”

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.