Paul Menard continues to boost Chase bid with Top-5 in Sonoma

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With 10 races remaining in the regular season, Paul Menard is doing all he can to stay in the Chase picture.

After finishing fourth last weekend at Michigan, the Richard Childress Racing driver followed that Sunday with a fifth-place performance on the road course at Sonoma.

The result enabled him to move up to 12th in the standings, and while he remains winless, he continues to stay in position to make the post-season through points.

“It was a good day,” said Menard. “We unloaded fast on Friday, and we qualified ninth. We were disappointed with ninth actually. We felt like we had a little bit better car than that.

“The first run was pretty brutal…We got really loose, and the guys tightened it up with some air pressure, and we got a lot better. From then on, we were a 10th place car probably and then drove up to [the] Top-5 with tires.”

After his Top-10 start, Menard would stay in that bracket up to his first pit stop at Lap 30 for tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment.

From there, Menard and crew chief Slugger Labbe were able to get their final result on three additional stops in the remainder of the 110-lap event.

“I think if we had another caution come out there at the end, we could have contended for a top-three finish for sure,” Menard said. “My guys gave me great stops on pit road and helped us be where we needed in regards to track position.”

Menard continues to be the standard-bearer at RCR, and has equaled his 2013 results with his three Top-5 and nine Top-10s in the first 16 races of this season.

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.