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Ashley Force fastest in Funny Car qualifying

SONOMA -- Ashley Force grabbed the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway on Friday.

The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force, the daughter of driver John Force, had 4.096-second pass at a top speed of 301.60 mph. If she can hold the top spot it would be her first career No. 1 qualifier in her 36th career race.

Today's forecast of temperatures in the mid- to upper-80s are favorable for Force to maintain that position.

Her father needed 59 races to earn his first career No. 1 qualifier (Baton Rouge, 1986).

Brown had a run of 3.805 seconds at 316.45 mph.

For Edwards, if his 6.609 at 208.71 holds up today, it would be his sixth career No. 1 qualifier but his first since 2001, a span of 146 races.

HE SAYS, HE SAYS -- Ryan Newman's long goodbye to Penske Racing isn't going as smoothly as planned.

Two weeks after Newman and team owner Roger Penske announced the current Daytona 500 champion would not return next season -- a decision Newman called "mutual" -- former Series champion turned commentator Rusty Wallace said Newman was fired.

"He didn't leave," Wallace said. "Roger Penske called Ryan Newman up to his offices and said 'I don't need your services next year.' Ryan Newman didn't come to him and say 'I'm leaving.' "

Newman brushed aside the claim: "I don't know what Rusty's grounds are, what he's trying to prove by saying that. That wasn't the case."

Newman said Wallace's comments may have been residue from their frosty relationship while driving for Penske before Wallace's retirement following the 2005 season.

Newman enters Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway 16th in the season standings and is in danger of missing the Chase for the championship for the third consecutive year.

He is considered a leading candidate to join Tony Stewart next season at the newly formed Stewart-Haas team.

TONY AND A.J. -- Tony Stewart has spent his entire career emulating A.J. Foyt, his childhood hero who dazzled the young racer with a tough-guy bravado and swashbuckling style.

So when given a chance to pay Foyt the ultimate compliment, Stewart didn't hesitate: He'll use the No. 14 next season in honor of the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner when he leaves Joe Gibbs Racing to move into an ownership role at Stewart-Haas Racing.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS, at Clermont, Ind. -- Johnny Benson waited until just the right moment to pull to the outside of Ron Hornaday Jr. He knew he might not get another chance.

Benson survived a late flurry of cautions and held off Hornaday in a two-lap shootout at the finish to win the Power Stroke Diesel 200. His first win on O'Reilly Raceway Park's .686-mile oval also avenged his narrow loss to Hornaday in the same race a year ago.

Benson finally pulled around him on the 162nd lap after a restart and stayed in front through four more yellows, beating Hornaday to the checkered flag by .484 seconds.

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