Thursday, Dec 02

Good Sam 500 Preview

Friday, Mar 11

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into the Valley of the Sun for the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Thirty-Nine cars are scheduled to compete in Sunday’s race at the short-track. Kevin Harvick has dominated the spring race there over the last couple years.

 

Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) is a one-mile oval with a dogleg on the backstretch. PIR was completed in January 1964. The backstretch dogleg and turns one and two are banked at 10 to 11 degrees. Turns three and four are banked from eight to nine degrees. The frontstretch is banked at three degrees, while the rest of the backstretch is banked at nine degrees. The length of the frontstretch is 1,179 feet in length, while the backstretch is 1,551 feet in length. Pit Road is 1,140 feet in length. The Good Sam 500 is 500 kilometers in length, 312 laps long.

 

This will be the eleventh spring race at Phoenix International Raceway, but it is the fortieth race at the speedway since its inception in the 1988 season. Kevin Harvick leads active drivers with three wins. Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Neman, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin all have one win at Phoenix in the spring. Kevin Harvick won last year’s race from the pole. Jimmie Johnson holds the qualifying record set last year in the fall race at 143.158 mph.

 

Last year’s race experienced eight lead changes among seven different drivers, and only two cautions. Will that happen again with the low-downforce package being run for the first time at Phoenix?

 

Goodyear will be bringing the same tire for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series. This will be the first time that the tire codes will be run at Phoenix giving the cars more grip. The teams will not run liners in the tires this weekend.  Sprint Cup Series teams will be allowed five sets for practice and qualifying, and nine sets for the race.  Teams participated in a Goodyear Tire Test last year at Phoenix International Raceway in October with the new rules package to help Goodyear.

 

Drivers are excited to be returning to Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in 2016.

 

Michael McDowell will be racing in front of a hometown crowd this weekend. “It’s fun to race at Phoenix in front of a hometown crowd. The track makes for really good racing with a lot of side-by-side action. The new pavement and dogleg create a whole new level of excitement,” said McDowell in a release. “This race in particular is very competitive – there are usually a lot of cautions and plenty of opportunities to pass.  It’s a good race for our Thrivent Racing team to come to after being at the mile and a half tracks for two weeks.”

 

“Phoenix is a really flat racetrack where you want to have the freshest tires possible, but track position is really important. A lot of what happens at Phoenix depends on the weather and how hot it is – how much fall-off and how you have to manage track position throughout the day. The cooler the day is, the more you have to manage your track position. The hotter the day, the more you have to manage the fall-off. Better-handling cars will have a little easier time of getting through the field,” says Kevin Harvick, defending race winner of the Good Sam 500 in a release.

 

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevy, believes Phoenix is tricky. “It’s tricky. It’s gotten a little slicker. The grip is not quite there. It’s always a fun place because it is unique. We don’t go to really any other track like it. It makes the setup and driving it a bit different. I think over the last couple of years the gears that we’ve used, we’ve been downshifting. So, when do you use the downshift to help turn the car and when does that over slow the car? There’s a lot of stuff that goes into racing at Phoenix. I think it’s going to be the same thing.”

 

"Phoenix is so unique. The key is to have your car good in both ends of the track and that's not easy to do. I think it's a fun track. It's so unique that it makes it a little bit of a different kind of fun. It really about finesse, too. You really can't take your car past its limit because there is no banking to catch you,” says Ryan Newman, driver of the Grainger Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in a release.

 

Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott will be performing double-duty this weekend.

 

Coverage for the NASCAR Spring Cup Series from Phoenix International Raceway will begin on Friday, March 11, 2016, at 12:30 pm Eastern on Fox Sports 1 and the Motor Racing Network.

 

TV and Radio Schedule

 

Friday, March 11
12:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1, MRN
6:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS2, MRN

Saturday, March 12
10:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1, MRN
1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1, MRN

Sunday, March 13
2 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FS1

2:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500, MRN
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
3:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500, FOX

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was awarded the victory at the Phoenix International Raceway late Sunday night when the rains came and put a halt to the championship parade of fellow competitors. Following a seven hour rain delay prior to the initial green flag, the cutoff race came up 93 laps short of completion.

It was a caution during the midst of green flag pit stops that allowed the No. 88 team to edge in front of Kevin Harvick. Harvick had led 143 out of the 219 laps in the desert, but Earnhardt pitted a few laps later than the No. 4 and with where his pit stall was slotted only had to beat Harvick to the finish line to be in front of him.

After leading 22 laps on the evening, Earnhardt picked up his third career win in the desert and his first since 2004. This is also the No. 88 team’s third victory of 2015, the other two coming at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.

“You like to win them at the checkered flag,” Earnhardt said. “A win is a win, you take it and put it in the record book. My team is very proud of this. They gave me a great car to get me a good qualifying effort. We’ve qualified so poorly all year, and the reason why we won tonight I think is where we qualified this weekend.”

Earnhardt was left questioning what could have been if he had another 100 yards at Talladega where he finished second to Joey Logano, he would be competing for his first career championship at Homestead.

 Instead, Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. are the drivers looking to capture the Sprint Cup trophy next weekend. All of them have unique stories in their own right of how they have gotten to this point.

Harvick finished in the runner-up position on Sunday. After having the dominant car, he was unable to get ahead of Earnhardt as there was a lengthy yellow flag prior to the rain down pouring on his chances of getting a fifth-consecutive victory in Phoenix.

However, Harvick is looking to put a second big trophy into his trophy box at Homestead.

“We made great adjustments over night,” Harvick said of his racecar. “We found a little bit of balance that we were looking for in practice. Just the way that the caution fell, I didn’t get all my distance back on the race track under green and Dale was able to beat us out. You win some and you lose some like that, but in the big picture you’re racing for a championship next week.”

“I feel like we’ve overcome a lot of things in the Chase. We’ve survived and advanced, it hasn’t been 100 percent pretty from one end to the other. When you look at the Chase it’s been championship material and that’s proven by making it to the championship race.”

Gordon will be racing for a championship in his final race behind the wheel of the No. 24. In Phoenix, Gordon finished in the sixth position and led four laps through a round of green flag pit stops. This solid run for Gordon builds him confidence going down to Miami as he looks to leave the sport on top. He has six-consecutive top 10 finishes heading into his final race.

“I’m excited about our chances and the opportunity and our team is fired up, they’ve been working hard on that Homestead car ever since we won Martinsville,” Gordon said. “We know we have some tough competitors to go up against, but I love Homestead. I couldn’t be more excited or more determined to go down there and do what it’s going to take with this race team.”

Busch was able to advance to the championship race by having more points than his teammate Carl Edwards. The No. 18 finished fourth on the evening and was able to stay out in front of all the trouble and move toward the front near the end of the race.

After having a subpar 19 second pit stop during one of the two green flag pit stops Busch fell down to ninth in the running order. Over the course of the next 80 laps Busch was able to place himself solidly into the top five and when the rain came, he was in front of his nearest competition in the point standings.

“We did what we needed to do tonight,” Busch said of his night and advancing to Homestead. “I think the biggest thing is just being able to go to Homestead, a place where I feel like I’ve run well at in the past and get an opportunity to race for a championship. I think that you try to limit your distractions heading into that race and just try to do the right things in practice, in qualifying and everything . I’m going to have to lean on my teammates at Homestead, they are really good there. We know that we are going to have to win that thing.”

The fourth team heading to Homestead with a chance at a championship is the single car No. 78 team out of Denver, Colorado. Truex has been consistent all season long with 22 top-10 finishes, and has been on point since the Chase began at Chicago.

At Homestead, Truex has run well. More than likely, he will need to win the race to capture his first championship. For a guy that has overcome a ton of adversity in the past year, he is thankful for this opportunity.

“It means everything to us,” Truex said of advancing to Homestead. “What can I say about the whole team and everyone at Furniture Row Racing, everybody back in the shop in Denver? It’s just a dream come true for us. I’m really proud of what we accomplished this year and to be able to put nine really good weeks together, it was just awesome. I got a little nervous when the caution came out on us tonight, but Homestead is a really good track for me and that’s our kind of race track with this team.”

Those were the winners on Sunday. There were many disappointing drivers who either just missed the championship round or unable to finish the remaining 93 laps under the green flag.

Edwards came up five points short of advancing to his best track and competing for a championship. If the race went back green Edwards was in the 12th position with Truex back in traffic and thought he could have made up those five points. Unfortunately, for Edwards it was not to be and will have to wait for next year to try to win the Cup. Edwards thought that he had the car to get up there and gain those points.

Kurt Busch had to overcome adversity from Lap 1 of the race. The No. 41 beat the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson to the green flag and was then penalized for doing so. In a race that was a must-win, Busch came up seven positions short of a victory.

Joey Logano was also in a must-win situation and his night was very steady as he ran second to Harvick for the majority of the longest green flag fun of the season. After finishing multiple laps down in the first two races, the No. 22 team finished third, but was two positions short of his alluded victory. After having six wins in 2015, he will have to wait until 2016 to try and win his first championship.

The last competitor who had a shot at a win-and-in scenario was Brad Keselowski. After leading 312 laps in Texas, but ultimately losing the race with four laps to go, his championship hopes looked to slip from his grasp. Keselowski struggled all weekend in Phoenix and finished with a disappointing ninth.

There is no doubt about it that the anxiety leading up to Homestead will be through the roof. There are many stories that could have a perfect ending depending on the driver who wins the championship in one of the most competitive championship battles in recent memory.

 

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was awarded the victory at the Phoenix International Raceway late Sunday night when the rains came and put a halt to the championship parade of fellow competitors. Following a seven hour rain delay prior to the initial green flag, the cutoff race came up 93 laps short of completion.

It was a caution during the midst of green flag pit stops that allowed the No. 88 team to edge in front of Kevin Harvick. Harvick had led 143 out of the 219 laps in the desert, but Earnhardt pitted a few laps later than the No. 4 and with where his pit stall was slotted only had to beat Harvick to the finish line to be in front of him.

After leading 22 laps on the evening, Earnhardt picked up his third career win in the desert and his first since 2004. This is also the No. 88 team’s third victory of 2015, the other two coming at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.

“You like to win them at the checkered flag,” Earnhardt said. “A win is a win, you take it and put it in the record book. My team is very proud of this. They gave me a great car to get me a good qualifying effort. We’ve qualified so poorly all year, and the reason why we won tonight I think is where we qualified this weekend.”

Earnhardt was left questioning what could have been if he had another 100 yards at Talladega where he finished second to Joey Logano, he would be competing for his first career championship at Homestead.

 Instead, Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. are the drivers looking to capture the Sprint Cup trophy next weekend. All of them have unique stories in their own right of how they have gotten to this point.

Harvick finished in the runner-up position on Sunday. After having the dominant car, he was unable to get ahead of Earnhardt as there was a lengthy yellow flag prior to the rain down pouring on his chances of getting a fifth-consecutive victory in Phoenix.

However, Harvick is looking to put a second big trophy into his trophy box at Homestead.

“We made great adjustments over night,” Harvick said of his racecar. “We found a little bit of balance that we were looking for in practice. Just the way that the caution fell, I didn’t get all my distance back on the race track under green and Dale was able to beat us out. You win some and you lose some like that, but in the big picture you’re racing for a championship next week.”

“I feel like we’ve overcome a lot of things in the Chase. We’ve survived and advanced, it hasn’t been 100 percent pretty from one end to the other. When you look at the Chase it’s been championship material and that’s proven by making it to the championship race.”

Gordon will be racing for a championship in his final race behind the wheel of the No. 24. In Phoenix, Gordon finished in the sixth position and led four laps through a round of green flag pit stops. This solid run for Gordon builds him confidence going down to Miami as he looks to leave the sport on top. He has six-consecutive top 10 finishes heading into his final race.

“I’m excited about our chances and the opportunity and our team is fired up, they’ve been working hard on that Homestead car ever since we won Martinsville,” Gordon said. “We know we have some tough competitors to go up against, but I love Homestead. I couldn’t be more excited or more determined to go down there and do what it’s going to take with this race team.”

Busch was able to advance to the championship race by having more points than his teammate Carl Edwards. The No. 18 finished fourth on the evening and was able to stay out in front of all the trouble and move toward the front near the end of the race.

After having a subpar 19 second pit stop during one of the two green flag pit stops Busch fell down to ninth in the running order. Over the course of the next 80 laps Busch was able to place himself solidly into the top five and when the rain came, he was in front of his nearest competition in the point standings.

“We did what we needed to do tonight,” Busch said of his night and advancing to Homestead. “I think the biggest thing is just being able to go to Homestead, a place where I feel like I’ve run well at in the past and get an opportunity to race for a championship. I think that you try to limit your distractions heading into that race and just try to do the right things in practice, in qualifying and everything . I’m going to have to lean on my teammates at Homestead, they are really good there. We know that we are going to have to win that thing.”

The fourth team heading to Homestead with a chance at a championship is the single car No. 78 team out of Denver, Colorado. Truex has been consistent all season long with 22 top-10 finishes, and has been on point since the Chase began at Chicago.

At Homestead, Truex has run well. More than likely, he will need to win the race to capture his first championship. For a guy that has overcome a ton of adversity in the past year, he is thankful for this opportunity.

“It means everything to us,” Truex said of advancing to Homestead. “What can I say about the whole team and everyone at Furniture Row Racing, everybody back in the shop in Denver? It’s just a dream come true for us. I’m really proud of what we accomplished this year and to be able to put nine really good weeks together, it was just awesome. I got a little nervous when the caution came out on us tonight, but Homestead is a really good track for me and that’s our kind of race track with this team.”

Those were the winners on Sunday. There were many disappointing drivers who either just missed the championship round or unable to finish the remaining 93 laps under the green flag.

Edwards came up five points short of advancing to his best track and competing for a championship. If the race went back green Edwards was in the 12th position with Truex back in traffic and thought he could have made up those five points. Unfortunately, for Edwards it was not to be and will have to wait for next year to try to win the Cup. Edwards thought that he had the car to get up there and gain those points.

Kurt Busch had to overcome adversity from Lap 1 of the race. The No. 41 beat the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson to the green flag and was then penalized for doing so. In a race that was a must-win, Busch came up seven positions short of a victory.

Joey Logano was also in a must-win situation and his night was very steady as he ran second to Harvick for the majority of the longest green flag fun of the season. After finishing multiple laps down in the first two races, the No. 22 team finished third, but was two positions short of his alluded victory. After having six wins in 2015, he will have to wait until 2016 to try and win his first championship.

The last competitor who had a shot at a win-and-in scenario was Brad Keselowski. After leading 312 laps in Texas, but ultimately losing the race with four laps to go, his championship hopes looked to slip from his grasp. Keselowski struggled all weekend in Phoenix and finished with a disappointing ninth.

There is no doubt about it that the anxiety leading up to Homestead will be through the roof. There are many stories that could have a perfect ending depending on the driver who wins the championship in one of the most competitive championship battles in recent memory.

 

While the race at the Phoenix International Raceway centered on the championship battle, Timothy Peters took advantage of some of the championship contender’s misfortune to win the Lucas Oil 150 Friday night at the one-mile oval in the desert.

After some contact between championship contenders and race leaders Erik Jones and Matt Crafton, Peters took the lead with 25 laps to go. The win at Phoenix is Peters second win of the season and his 10th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory.

Peters win also helped Toyota clinch the 2015 Truck Series Manufactures championship.

“You know we were a top five truck tonight and you know we earned this one. This is just awesome,” said Peters in Victory Lane. “Well the track was still pretty slick, pretty oily when they gave us the one to go. Our truck was good on the short run and we would get a little tight on the long run, corner exits, so it’s all about not over driving the entry.”

For most of the night the top three drivers were the three championship contenders – Jones, Crafton and Tyler Reddick. Jones led for the majority of the race after starting off on the pole. Crafton was the race leader after a restart on lap 120 and after battling side by side with Jones, the two had contact, with Crafton receiving the most damage and taking out his teammate Johnny Sauter.

Post-race Crafton took responsibility for the contact between him and Jones.

“I just got loose, I made a mistake and said mistakes happen, we’re all humans. I said I hate it for the guys, we had such a good, good truck. So we’ll go on, pick our head up and head to Homestead,” Crafton said post-race.

After having started on the pole and finishing in 10th after the contact with Crafton, Jones said he was disappointed and would have wanted to race for the win.

“Well, you’re disappointed. I really don't want to talk about it that much. It’s disappointing, you know. It’s unfortunate when we're racing for the win and that kind of situation happens you know, but everybody makes mistakes and unfortunately Matt made one tonight and it cost both of us a shot at the win. He got the worst end of it, but it doesn't take away from, we had a fast [Toyota] Tundra, we definitely thought we had the best truck here all night,” said Jones after the race. “We still have a 19 point lead. We need to go to Homestead and have a 15th place day, so hopefully we can do that, but just like I said, it’s unfortunate. Wish we could have raced for the win.”

With one race left in the 2015 season and before a champion is crowned at Homestead, Jones remains at the top of the point standings. He will go into the season finale 19 points ahead of Reddick and 32 points ahead of Crafton. 

Jimmie Johnson will lead the field to green as he won his first pole of 2015 at Phoenix on Friday. Johnson had not won a pole in the last 58 Cup races, dating back to Charlotte in May of 2014. Coming off of a victory in Texas, the No. 48 is ending the season on a hot streak.

Though he has five wins on the season, Johnson has only won once since the end of May. If he isn’t in the hunt for the championship, he wants to spoil it for all of the teams who are remaining in the Chase.

“We didn’t have the summer that we wanted, but these guys have been working so hard on the No. 48 team,” Johnson said. “I’m very happy to see the progress and the direction things are going. It’s been a little bit everywhere and if we keep doing that, we’ll close the season out the way we want to.”

Johnson stated that the new reconfiguration of the one-mile flat track has been very tough on him. Although on Friday, Johnson was the quickest in opening practice and set a new track record in his qualifying lap at 25.147 seconds.

Kurt Busch was in the top three in all three rounds of qualifying, and was the quickest in round two. However, he came up one position short in a race that the No. 41 team needs to win in order to advance to race for the championship in Homestead.

“You always want to get the pole, it’s a feather in the team’s hat to wear all weekend,” Busch said of being so close to winning his fourth pole of 2015. “For us to be outside pole in the Haas Automation Chevy it means a lot of all the hard work that’s gone into the car and the car showed a lot of speed in race-trim as well.”

It was an unusual third-place qualifying effort for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has publicly stated that he is a poor qualifier, but in all three rounds his car was steady. He is looking for his first win at Phoenix since 2004.

Carl Edwards is coming into one of his favorite race tracks needing to make up seven points on the cutoff in order to advance to Homestead. On Friday, the No. 19 team had a fourth-place qualifying effort and is looking for his third career win in the Arizona desert.

The current cutoff driver is the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. In a track where Truex has more last-place(2), then top-five finishes(1), the No. 78 team is hoping that a test last month will help them improve on Truex’s career statistics in Phoenix. Truex has been the dark horse all season long, and is looking for a Cinderella ending to advance to race for his first career championship.

“We adjusted quite a bit,” Truex said of his qualifying effort after being just quick enough to advance into round two. “The thing was we knew that we were going to be off that first run just because our car for whatever reason was really bad on stickers. It was like that in practice. After that, the second and third run it was really good.”

Truex believes that his car is better during race runs and expects to be better than fifth on Sunday.

Seven-time Phoenix winner, Kevin Harvick will start eighth on Sunday. Harvick has won all three Phoenix races since joining Stewart-Haas Racing and won in the fall of 2013 behind the No. 29 car. He is the heavy favorite for the 312-lap event and is looking to punch his ticket to Homestead and compete for his second-consecutive championship.

After missing the spring race in Phoenix, Kyle Busch was 10th fastest in qualifying on Friday. The former winner in the desert is looking to clinch a spot to race for his first championship and heading into Sunday he is 11 points ahead of fifth-place.

“We need to be better than 10th,” Busch said. “I’m not so sure that 10th is going to get it done for us. We unloaded really good, better than we have in the past. I feel like as a company we unloaded better. That’s thanks to Matt Kenseth and the No. 20 team for coming out here and giving us a good test. We need to get it where I can run probably seventh or better.”

The only driver that is worry-free this weekend is Jeff Gordon. After being fastest in the first round of qualifying, the No. 24 team faltered to 11th on the speed chart in round three. After Phoenix renamed the track Jeff Gordon Raceway this weekend, Gordon will look to be first at the checkers.

“We’re just trying to get ourselves ready to go battle it out in Homestead, in order to do that we’ve got to be fierce, and aggressive and push hard,” Gordon said of this weekend. “I thought we made gains from practice. It was a solid day for us. We’re just approaching it to go out and win.”

The only Chase drivers to qualify outside of the top 12, was the Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. The No. 22 will start from 14th, after the No. 2 will begin Sunday from the 18th position.

Both of these drivers are in “must win” situations in order to advance to Homestead. After sweeping the Contender Round, Logano has not had a good Eliminator Round. After being involved in the incident with Matt Kenseth in Martinsville and the cut tire at Texas, Logano is in a huge hole and the only thing he can do is win at a track that he’s never won at before. Mathematically, Keselowski can still point himself in, but would need an absolute prayer and it’s unrealistic. The No. 2 team’s best shot to advance was last weekend in Texas when they lead 312 laps, but finished second to Johnson.

Both teams were also outside of the top 10 in practice and will need to make adjustments to have race winning cars.

“I wish we could have run a little faster,” Logano said. “We were close, just a little over a hundredth would have put us in the next round. We still need to find quite a bit more speed to go faster. We just didn’t go fast enough.”

If Sunday’s race at Phoenix is anything like last year’s cutoff race it will come down to the last lap in who advances to Homestead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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