Jimmie Johnson wrecks at end of first segment of Sprint Unlimited

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Jimmie Johnson wrecked on the final lap of the first segment of Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

It was the only caution of the first of three segments. Johnson had started from the back of the 18-car field and worked his way up to as high as second before the mishap occurred on Lap 30.

“I was trying to set up a pass on the 11 and work the air, and in the end I got turned around there,” he said.

TV replays showed that no other car made contact with Johnson, but that he simply lost the draft and took a hard left, eventually making contact with the inner retaining wall.

The man Johnson was trying to pass, Denny Hamlin, won the first segment.

Jamie McMurray led much of first half of the first segment before having to hit pit road to have tape applied to his car’s grill to reduce an overheating issue. Kyle Busch then took the lead.

Terry Labonte took his car to the garage after the 15th lap and retired from the race.

Tony Stewart fell to last on the 18-car grid after Labonte left the track, but then roared back, going from 17th to sixth in six laps.

Stewart also recorded the fastest speed of all drivers with a single-lap best of 200.3 mph.

Johnson had started in the back of the field and proceed to jump14 spots, from 18th (last) to third place by Lap 17.

Harvick took over lead on Lap 20, with Johnson right behind.

Danica Patrick also impressed, moving from 13th to third (Laps 18 to 21) before falling back.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. flirted near the front of the lead before falling back to 16th.

The second segment, 25 laps, just started.

The third and final segment will be 20 laps.

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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.