Kenseth earns top seed in Chase for the Sprint Cup

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By virtue of his five regular season victories, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth will be atop the standings for the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kenseth, who finished sixth in last night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, holds a three-point lead (2015-2012) over Jimmie Johnson after the re-seeding of the 12 Chase contenders.

“I think we’re prepared,” Kenseth said when asked he and his team were ready to contend for a championship. “I mean, tonight was a little bit of a struggle, but yeah, it’s been an amazing 26 weeks, that’s for sure.

“[Crew chief] Jason Ratcliff and the whole team, [I] really can’t thank that group enough and everybody back at Joe Gibbs Racing. They give all three of us really good cars every week, and they’re a lot of fun to drive. Kind of a frustrating effort tonight. Happy about our finish and looking forward to going to Chicago and getting this thing started.”

Kenseth was exceptionally strong on the intermediate tracks this season, posting four of his five regular season wins on tracks between one and two miles in length.

All but two of the 10 Chase tracks fit that description, with only the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and the half-mile paperclip at Martinsville Speedway as the anomalies.

Going further, five of the 10 Chase tracks are 1.5-miles long; in the regular season, Kenseth won three times at similar ovals in Las Vegas, Kansas (which will be visited a second time in the post-season), and Kentucky.

Kyle Busch has been seeded third, although he has the same amount of points as Johnson (each having had four regular season wins). Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are fourth and fifth respectively, each with 2006 points.

No. 6 seed Joey Logano and No. 7 seed Greg Biffle are next with 2003 points apiece, followed by the five remaining drivers that will start with 2000 points each – No. 8 seed Clint Bowyer, No. 9 seed Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 10 seed Kurt Busch, and the two Wild Cards, No. 11 seed Kasey Kahne and No. 12 seed Martin Truex Jr.

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.