Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Multiple USF2000, Pro Mazda teams announce driver signings

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Teams featured in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires had a busy week, as several teams in both series announced drivers for the 2018 season.

Pro Mazda actually sees a couple of new entrants. Exclusive Autosport, which contested last year’s USF2000 season with Parker Thompson, officially revealed that they will be full-time Pro Mazda entrants as well, with Thompson staying on as their driver.

The combination of Thompson and Exclusive Autosport was a potent one in USF2000, winning three times in a four-race stretch between rounds on the streets of Toronto and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Elsewhere, European team RP Motorsport will make the jump to the United States in the 2018 Pro Mazda season. Race winners in the now defunct Formula 3.5 V8 Series and runaway champions in the 2017 Euroformula Open Championship, they will bring with them Harrison Scott, with whom they won the aforementioned Euroformula Open crown, and Lodovico Laurini.

In USF2000, Pabst Racing announced that 15-year-old Kaylen Frederick has joined them for the 2018 season.

Frederick was one of the surprises of 2017 when, as a 14-year-old when the year started, he scored five podiums on his way to fourth in the championship with Pabst Racing.

Also, Newman Wachs Racing detailed that they have signed F1600 competitor David Osborne, who will join Darren Keane and Oscar Deluzuriaga in a three-car effort.

Pro Mazda and USF2000 begin their 2018 seasons on the streets St. Petersburg, Florida as part the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

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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.