Sprint Cup: Brad Keselowski leading at halfway in New Hampshire

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As today’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is moving into its middle stages, Brad Keselowski is taking control.

Keselowski started 10th on a restart at Lap 119 after taking four tires under the preceding caution. But in just 21 laps, he went all the way to the lead and holds the point at halfway over Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano.

Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag, but on Lap 7, Johnson suffered a left-rear tire failure and had to go to the pits under green.

Johnson came back to the track in 42nd place and one lap off the pace. Then on Lap 13, things went from bad to worse when Johnson had a second left-rear tire failure that sent him spinning into the wall.

Under caution, the Top 15 drivers on track chose to stay out. However, a group of more than 15 drivers chose to take advantage of the yellow to make an early stop.

The green came back out at Lap 21, and Kyle Busch proceeded to settle in as the leader until Lap 63, when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin got past him for P1 down the backstretch into Turn 3.

Green flag stops began just a few circuits shy of Lap 75, with Hamlin giving up the lead for service on Lap 74. However, Hamlin regained the lead by Lap 82 when the pit cycle played out among those that chose to go in on Lap 18.

On Lap 89, Keselowski – yesterday’s Nationwide Series winner – managed to get under Hamlin in Turn 3 and take P1. When the first green pit cycle had been completed, he was down two seconds to the leader.

Taking advantage of a car with great acceleration in the middle of the corners, Keselowski began stretching out his lead. The gap eventually grew to more than three seconds before the caution came out at Lap 113 for debris – the end of a 92-lap stretch under green.

Keselowski led the leaders to the pits under yellow, but while most of them decided to take two tires, Keselowski opted for four tires instead and fell all the way to 10th. Also, Kurt Busch was unable to get to his stall for service since Hamlin was coming out of his own; the Outlaw had to go back a second time and tumbled to 20th on the pylon.

Kyle Busch won the race out of the pits but Larson stayed out to get the lead on the restart at Lap 119. Larson was able to turn back a challenge from Busch in the opening laps of the stint, and on Lap 122, Kenseth was able to take second place behind the Sprint Cup rookie.

Kenseth moved in on Larson over the next several laps and on Lap 127, he moved to the inside of Larson down the frontstretch and cleared him off Turn 2 for the lead. But shortly after, Keselowski dropped Larson to third, continuing his march back up front on those four fresh tires.

Keselowski drew to within a car’s length of Kenseth, whose car was spotted with a piece of debris stuck to its grille. Then, on Lap 139, Keselowski went to the inside and re-claimed the lead while Kenseth used the airflow to knock his debris off the car.

NHRA: Tony Schumacher breaks Top Fuel speed record twice, hits a best of 336.57 mph

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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The “Shoe” put his foot into it Friday during the first of two days of qualifying for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Tony Schumacher, an 8-time NHRA Top Fuel champion, rewrote the Top Fuel mph record book twice, while Clay Millican did so once, marking the first time in NHRA history that the national speed record was broken three times in the same day.

Schumacher ran a speed of 334.65 mph in his first qualifying run at 3.649 seconds. Millican surpassed that speed mark in the second round of qualifying with a 335.23 mph effort.

Then Schumacher broke the record yet again in his second qualifying attempt in the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster with a blistering speed of 336.57 mph at 3.667 seconds.

And with one more day of qualifying Saturday and final eliminations on Sunday, there’s a possibility that the record-setting may not be over.

“It’s only Friday in Phoenix and there is a lot of racing left to be done this weekend, but today tells me that we have an awful lot of power in this car,” Schumacher said. “Working with my crew chief Mike Neff this season continues to pay its dividends, and this team has really gelled so far.”

Also, Brittany Force returned to the track after suffering a hard wreck two weeks ago in the season-opening race in Pomona, California. Force, who did not make a full pass, is currently in the 13th qualifying position with a 4.454-second pass at 172.72 mph.

“It’s going to take a few runs to figure out this car. It is our car from last season. The guys had to haul back to Indy (after the Winternationals), pull this car out, rebuild it and get it here in time,” Force said. “We get two more tomorrow. I’m not worried. Plus, it works better for me, getting slowly back into it.”

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman took the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a second qualifying run of 332.43 mph at 3.845 seconds in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T.

“When it’s this cold the tracks get so tricky, because it can get so cold that the window for hitting a great run closes,” Beckman said. “I like the fact that we were able to make great back-to-back runs like that, especially after we had some trouble with the car in the semifinals in Pomona.”

In Pro Stock, Alex Laughlin had the hot foot, taking the provisional top spot with a second qualifying run of 209.43 mph at 6.537 seconds in his Hot Wheels Car Care Chevrolet Camaro. Laughlin is looking to earn his first No. 1 qualifying spot of the season and just the second of his Pro Stock career.

“It’s awesome to be able to go to sleep tonight as the current No. 1 qualifier,” Laughlin said. “Obviously anything can change tomorrow, but we ran stellar times during testing and I don’t know if it’s the car or the track but I definitely hope that we are finally connecting the dots.”

Qualifying continues at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

TOP FUEL — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649 seconds, 336.57 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85; 3.

Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 329.58; 7. Antron Brown, 3.717, 333.66; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 316.45; 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.755, 291.07; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 321.42; 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 13. Brittany Force, 4.454, 172.72; 14. Greg Carrillo, 4.553, 176.49; 15. Troy Buff, 4.560, 164.53; 16. Kebin Kinsley, 9.187, 74.21.

FUNNY CAR — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.845, 332.43; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.845, 328.70; 3. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.866, 317.27; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 328.62; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.944, 324.20; 9. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 10. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.148, 306.67; 11. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 12. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.333, 209.59; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.474, 188.81; 14. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 15. John Force, Camaro, 6.745, 96.00; 16. Del Worsham, Camry, 7.374, 93.25.

Not Qualified: 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.

PRO STOCK — 1. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.537, 209.49; 2. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 210.54; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.546, 211.13; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.553, 210.57; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 209.49; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.558, 210.31; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.561, 210.41; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.572, 210.50; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.573, 209.65; 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.36; 12. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.582, 208.84; 13. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.591, 209.65; 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 208.65; 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.690, 206.83.

Not Qualified: 17. Joey Grose, 6.730, 205.94.

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