NASCAR points observations through five races

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After Sunday’s green-white-checkered shootout at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, some drivers got their seasons sort of back on track and others lost out on potential great finishes.

Here’s where the 2014 points stack up now (view after Race 4, Race 3 here).

IN GREAT SHAPE

Your five race winners – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and now Kyle Busch – appear all but headed for the Chase. Harvick is the lowest of the five in points at 25th place after finishes of 41st, 39th and 36th in the last three races, but none of those finishes have reflected how well he has run thus far for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Jeff Gordon’s string of top-10 results ended when he fell to 13th after the GWC, but he still ranks third in points and has been the most consistent of Hendrick Motorsports’ four cars. His first win feels imminent. Matt Kenseth, fifth in points, is only seven points out of the lead and seems primed to join the winners’ list sooner rather than later.

GOOD RUNS, NOT GREAT RESULTS

Jimmie Johnson leads this list, sixth in points and without that standout result in five races just yet. Like Gordon and Kenseth, seems due for a win, perhaps as early as Martinsville next week. Richard Childress Racing’s trio of Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard are all in the top-15 in points; Joey Logano is 10th after some solid runs on the west coast earlier this year and Ganassi’s pair of Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson are starting to hit their strides. Back-to-back top-fives have Tony Stewart now 17th in points.

TURNING IT AROUND, OR NEED TO

Kurt Busch’s third place Sunday was very much needed in the fourth SHR car. Kasey Kahne is the lowest ranked driver with two top-10s (19th) and those big names with only one or zero top-10s include Greg Biffle (21st), Clint Bowyer (23rd), Busch (24th) and Martin Truex Jr.  (30th). Truex has probably had the worst luck thus far this year, between accidents, engine failures and needing to go to backup cars.

POINTS: Through 5 of 26 regular season races.

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.