Allmendinger takes 2nd NNS win of year at Mid-Ohio

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A.J. Allmendinger withstood a green-white-checkered finish to win his second NASCAR Nationwide Series of the year – both on natural-terrain road courses – in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

A caution with less than two laps to go triggered the first of potentially three GWC attempts and led to worries that his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford would run out of fuel. The final lap saw Aussie pilot Owen Kelly spin out of fourth place and Nelson Piquet Jr. run out of fuel after rolling off fifth on the last restart.

But ‘Dinger, who led 73 of 94 laps, was able to keep ahead of the mayhem and hold off pole sitter Michael McDowell to claim the checkered flag.

Sam Hornish Jr. finished third and was able to take over the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead by 13 points over Elliott Sadler (finished sixth) and Regan Smith (finished 15th).

Austin Dillon, the points leader going in, looked set for a solid Top-10 finish despite having to start from the rear after missing qualifying because of his duties replacing the injured Tony Stewart at Michigan.

But multiple incidents on late restarts eventually took their toll, and Dillon was saddled with a 21st-place result instead; he is now fourth in the standings, 15 points behind the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion.

Stewart’s original replacement racer, Max Papis, came home fourth with Brian Vickers rounding out the Top 5 finishers.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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