Bowyer wins Sprint Showdown All-Star preliminary; Allmendinger, Wise also advance

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It may not be a points race win, but for Clint Bowyer, a win is a win after a year-long drought since his last regular season triumph in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Bowyer took the lead twice in Friday night’s Sprint Showdown, once from AJ Allmendinger on Lap 19 and again past Allmendinger and Austin Dillon on Lap 24 to take the overall lead after an intermission between the two 20-lap segments.

At that intermission, Bowyer opted to take four tires while some of the other cars ahead of him only took two. Once he got into the lead, he stretched his lead by more than two seconds to take the win and advance into Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

Allmendinger wasn’t challenged for second and will also advance.

Casey Mears finished third ahead of Richmond sparring partner Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Polesitter Austin Dillon finished eighth.

Meanwhile on the strength of the Dogecoin-supported effort, Josh Wise won the Fan Vote and from 18th, will advance in as well.

At the halfway mark, Bowyer led Allmendinger as well. Bowyer took the lead from Allmendinger with an inside move of Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 19. Polesitter Dillon fell to third with Paul Menard fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The rest of the top 10 was Mears, Ambrose, Kyle Larson, Danica Patrick and Almirola.

The “holy cow!” moment of the race occurred in the early laps when Stenhouse Jr. contacted  Ambrose in Turns 1 and 2. Ambrose slid his car through the turns, and while putting up a smoke show, managed to save the car without spinning or contacting anyone else. Ambrose made it back to seventh by the end of the first 20-lap segment.

At the intermission, most of the field pitted with Dillon emerging at the head of those coming in. He, Menard, Allmendinger and Patrick took two tires with everyone from there on back taking four.

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.