Kurt Busch, Furniture Row Racing out to make history

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Since the inception of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a single-car team has never been able to break into NASCAR’s “playoff” stretch. Tonight at Richmond International Raceway, that could all change.

Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing control their own destiny in the Federated Auto Parts 400, which Busch will start from the outside of the front row. Should “The Outlaw” notch his first victory of the season tonight, he’ll have the chance to battle for a second Sprint Cup title.

And for himself and FRR, the single-car squad based out of the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, making the Chase would also stand as a massive victory for the underdog in a sport that’s dominated by multi-car powerhouses.

But while Busch would regard such an accomplishment as a big one, he isn’t racing for 10th in the Cup standings, either.

“Championships are what every driver sets out to achieve,” Busch said Thursday at Richmond. “When they’re building a team, they want to win championships.”

First thing’s first, though, and for Busch and the No. 78 FRR team, that’s making sure to stay within the Top 10 of the standings tonight so they can get in the post-season. Busch holds the 10th spot on the table, but has no wins this year and only has six points between him and 11th place Jeff Gordon.

At several points this season, Busch looked in position to take the checkered flag only to have various issues keep him from doing so. But he doesn’t like to play the “what if” game. All that matters now is tonight.

“We’re here to make the Chase with the 78 car,” he said. “Two weeks ago at Bristol, we had a right rear [wheel] hub failure. That put us up against the fence. We knew at that point Atlanta and Richmond would be the two most important races of the 78 car’s career.”

Busch got the first part down with a fourth-place finish at Atlanta last Saturday night that was fueled by a brilliant late restart. He reckons that restarts will once again play a key role in tonight’s race.

Another possible factor? Pit road. Busch’s FRR team has had its share of pit woes during the year, but Busch is still confident that his crew will shine when they need to.

“I see this coming down to a pit stop or two, down to a restart at the end,” he said. “I know they’re going to put their best stop down when it counts, because we know the whole season rides on this weekend.”

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.