Ryan Newman leads Pure Michigan 400 at halfway point

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After a wave of pit stops among the leaders at the halfway point, Ryan Newman (who last pitted on Lap 77 as part of an alternate strategy) stayed out on track and is currently leading in the Pure Michigan 400 ahead of Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

Several incidents slowed the early stages of the race. On Lap 4, Kyle Busch hit the outside wall coming off of Turn 4 and had to go to the garage for suspension repairs (he would return to the race on Lap 29).

A Lap 20 competition yellow soon followed and brought the leaders to pit road. During that sequence, Earnhardt made contact with an oncoming Kyle Larson on pit road, inflicting notable left-front damage to Larson’s car.

Then off the restart at Lap 25, Danica Patrick appeared to slide up into Jeff Burton before spinning out in front of multiple competitors.

Seven cars in all were involved in the incident, including Patrick, Martin Truex Jr., Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, Michael Annett, Aric Almirola, and Matt Kenseth. Several of them made their own way to the garage, while others got their repairs on pit road.

Before the Patrick incident, Jimmie Johnson and Newman had cycled up to the lead by staying out under the competition caution (Johnson had pitted during the first caution for Busch).

They both pitted again under another caution at Lap 37, this time for debris, and Logano cycled back to the lead. Logano maintained the lead off the restart at Lap 41, but Gordon jumped to second place and later at Lap 56, Gordon and Logano split the lapped car of J.J. Yeley down the frontstretch as they fought for P1.

Logano would win the battle, but just three laps later, Gordon came back and took the point from the Penske pilot. At Lap 61, the green flag cycle began with Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, giving up fifth place on track for service.

On Lap 63, Gordon led Logano, Kevin Harvick and others to the pits. But Logano was able to beat the 24 out and then pulled a sizable gap to Gordon as they came back up to speed.

Those stops handed the lead to Earnhardt, who went in for his stop during the cycle at Lap 68 and gave the lead to Johnson. At that point, Johnson and the rest of the Top 12 were on the same alternate strategy while Logano, Gordon, and Harvick occupied 13th, 14th, and 15th respectively.

But not all was well for Johnson, who had reported earlier that his shifter handle was gone. During his stop at Lap 76, Johnson was handed a set of vise grips and wire cutters during the stops to try and help, but he was still slow to get out of the pits after his crew pushed his car for a time.

Johnson dropped one lap down following the stop. But Gordon had gotten past Logano in the interim, and it was Gordon who re-assumed the lead when Johnson pitted. Harvick also got by Logano for second at Lap 80.

Two laps later, Jeff Burton was spotted in the pits with potential electrical issues on the No. 14 car he’s driving this weekend in place of Tony Stewart. Burton eventually had to roll the stricken car behind the wall, and he later told ESPN that it was starting to smoke.

Gordon was still leading when Larson’s rough afternoon continued when he slammed into the wall between Turn 3 and 4. His No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet caught fire, but Larson was able to climb out and walk toward safety personnel.

NASCAR recently implemented rule changes to keep drivers in their cars under cautions, but in cases of emergency such as fire or smoke in the cockpit, drivers are allowed to get out.

That led to the leaders making pit stops under yellow at the halfway point. A two-tire stop enabled Earnhardt to beat the rest of the frontrunners out, but Newman stayed out to assume the lead. Logano and McMurray had pitted just before Larson’s wreck and cycled to second and third, while Earnhardt and Gordon were set to take the restart in fourth and fifth.

NHRA: Schumacher, C. Force, Kramer No. 1 qualifiers at Phoenix

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NHRA press release

The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continued Saturday as Courtney Force set both ends of the Funny Car track record at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the second of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Force took over the top spot in the category with a record run of 3.826 seconds at 335.98 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro during her second pass of the day. After recording seven No. 1 qualifiers in 2017, she is aiming for her first event victory since Houston 2016.

“That last pass today was pretty incredible, we have run well here in the past and I’m excited to be back in that top spot,” Force said. “We are hoping to turn this consistency into a win, we just have to keep being consistent on race day.”

Force is set to face off against Del Worsham in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Ron Capps sits second after a 3.844 at 330.80 in his Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T during the final pass of qualifying on Saturday. The defending Funny Car champion Robert Hight qualified 11th after a 3.927 at 329.26.

Schumacher led the category with a run of 3.649 at 334.65 in his U.S. Army dragster posted during the first qualifying session on Friday. Schumacher also set the Top Fuel national speed record at 336.57 with a time of 3.667 seconds during his second pass on Friday. After securing four No. 1 qualifiers in the 2017 season, Schumacher locked in his first of the year in day two of qualifying.

“We earned our three points and kept the top spot so it’s been a great weekend for us so far,” Schumacher said. “The car continues to be great and [crew chief] Mike Neff is comfortable and knows what the car is doing, so I think tomorrow is going to be great day.”

He will go head-to-head against Greg Carrillo in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Steve Torrence qualified second after a 3.665 at 331.45 in his Capco Contractors dragster, while the defending world champion Brittany Force qualified in the 14th spot.

In Pro Stock, Kramer took over the top spot after driving to a 6.522 at 210.80 run in his American Ethanol Dodge Dart during the fourth qualifying session of the weekend. He secured the first No. 1 qualifying position of his career as Kramer also chases his first-ever victory in the class.

“It feels great to get that first No. 1 qualifier, and we had a great package put together this weekend and that was able to move us to the top,” Kramer said. “There were definitely some tuning adjustments from Pomona, but we went back to our old game plan with that KB power and it was a great combination.”

Kramer matches up against Alan Prusiensky in the first round of eliminations. Erica Enders is second in the qualifying order after a 6.527 at 209.98, while Alex Laughlin sits in the third spot.

Eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649 seconds, 336.57 mph vs. 16. Greg Carrillo, 4.227, 220.91; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85 vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 4.089, 281.30; 3. Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23 vs. 14. Brittany Force, 3.828, 253.52; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.679, 334.15 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.809, 318.77; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 6. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45  vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.742, 328.78; 7. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 332.59 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 325.85; 8. Antron Brown, 3.712, 333.66 vs. 9. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Kebin Kinsley, 5.118, 136.79; 18. Terry Totten, 8.158, 69.73; 19. Terry Haddock, 10.095, 91.23.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.826, 335.98 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 5.089, 173.99; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.844, 330.80 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.845, 332.43 vs. 14. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.864, 332.51 vs. 13. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.120, 307.79; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.866, 317.27 vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 329.91 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.927, 329.42; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.919, 324.20 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.00 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.663, 207.94; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.527, 209.98 vs. 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 3. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.529, 209.59 vs. 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 209.69; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.530, 211.66 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.82; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.531, 211.03 vs. 12. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 210.60 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.553, 210.14; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.534, 211.63 vs. 10. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.550, 210.41; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.542, 210.05 vs. 9. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.550, 211.39.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Joey Grose, 6.720, 206.64.