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29th Race of Champions to be held for first time in Middle East, Montoya defending winner

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This may be Super Bowl weekend in the U.S., but there’s a different kind of Super Bowl taking place for the first time ever in the Middle East.

The 29th Race of Champions takes place Friday and Saturday at King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

The ROC features drivers from a number of different motorsports series driving identical and equally prepared race cars on ractracks that are typically constructed inside stadiums.

Other stadiums that have played host to the event in recent years include Marlins Stadium in Miami last year; the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium in Beijing; London’s Wembley Stadium and the Stade de France in Paris, among several others.

Both IMSA and IndyCar will be well-represented in the 20-driver field. Among key drivers to keep an eye on:

  • The U.S. will be represented by defending Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay, participating in his fifth ROC.
  • Latin America will be represented by Helio Castroneves and defending ROC champion Juan Pablo Montoya, who won last year’s event in Miami.
  • Montoya is coming off a 10th-place finish in last weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, while Castroneves was part of the ninth-place finishing team, both for the new Acura Team Penske group.
  • This will be both Montoya’s and Castroneves’ second appearance in the ROC.
  • The United Kingdom will be represented by David Coulthard and Lando Norris.
  • Mexico will be represented by Memo Rojas and Abraham Calderon.
  • There’s even a driver from the Sim Racing world, who has done most of his racing on a computer than an actual race car, Rudy van Buren.

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.