Jamie McMurray is halfway leader in Bristol night race

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Jamie McMurray is leading at the halfway point of Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Brad Keselowski is running second, followed by Jimmie Johnson.

Kasey Kahne was leading at Lap 237 when his car got extremely tight, allowing McMurray to take the lead while Kahne dropped to fourth place at the midpoint.

Kevin Harvick, who had the lead before Kahne, also started having issues with his car, dropping as far back as ninth before moving back up to fourth at halfway.

Jeff Gordon made contact early in the race with Kurt Busch, sustaining significant tire rub. Gordon remained on the racetrack, waiting for a caution to come out, but none occurred in the next few ensuing laps.

On Lap 125, Kyle Busch appeared to get loose, spun and collected Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer. While Busch was able to get his car repaired on pit road, Almirola’s car was towed to the garage and Bowyer’s had heavy damage that his team was attempting to repair.

MORE: Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola involved in Bristol crash at quarter mark

Then on Lap 161, Harvick was battling Denny Hamlin for the race lead. Harvick tried to tuck in behind Hamlin, who was leading at the time, but apparently misjudged the distance between the two cars.

Harvick spun Hamlin, who was then hit by Dale Earnhardt Jr., knocking both of the latter two drivers out of the race.

Hamlin threw his HANS device when Harvick circled around the track two laps later, which will likely result in a penalty from NASCAR in the coming days.

MORE: Harvick wrecks Hamlin, Dale Jr. collected

Ironically enough, Harvick emerged from the fray with what he was hoping to do in the first place: he got the lead.

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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.