NASCAR AMERICA: Dale Jr. & Steve Letarte’s winning chemistry (VIDEO)

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After winning Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about having a “fighting spirit” in the closing laps that he had not always possessed since his migration to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Some of the credit for that can certainly go to his crew chief, Steve Letarte, who has helped guide Earnhardt to his first multi-win season in a decade.

With Letarte heading for NBC Sports to work on their NASCAR coverage next season, Earnhardt knows he has one chance to give him a championship. It’s something he desperately wants to do.

“It would be very disappointing and sad if this was his last year and we struggled,” Earnhardt said Sunday. “But we’ve won two races, and I won my first Pocono race, he won his first Daytona 500. It seems a bit storybook, and we’re having a real thrill.

“We’ll continue to be such great friends after working together this year. I still have him as a big part of my life, and I think that will continue to positively affect me in whoever I work with in the future.”

Today on NASCAR AMERICA, veteran crew chief Frank Stoddard talked about how Earnhardt and Letarte’s chemistry has led to the No. 88 team emerging as a title contender. You can check out his thoughts in the video above.

A new episode of NASCAR AMERICA comes at you tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra. For more clips, head over to the show’s archive page.

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.