Monday, February 28, 2011

Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Odds To Win Las Vegas Kobalt Tools 400

4-time Vegas winner a 9/2 favorite this week







































Las Vegas Kobalt 400 Storylines

The City of Entertainment gets more of it with NASCAR
NASCAR continues its two-race western swing, heading to yet another style of racing.

After a restrictor-plate race at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway and a run at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series hit the fast 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is coming off two consecutive record-breaking races. The most recent, at Phoenix, featured a track-best 28 lead changes. This Sunday, the schedule shifts to Vegas for the Kobalt Tools 400.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series saw some history – again – at Phoenix, as race-winner Kyle Busch led all 200 laps. Busch, a Las Vegas native, will try for career win No. 45 this Saturday at the Sam’s Town 300.

A number of storylines heading into this weekend’s action …


Gordon Chases More History
Ending a 66-race winless drought, Jeff Gordon’s Phoenix victory on Sunday also made it career win No. 83 – tying Cale Yarborough for fifth on the all-time list.

On deck in the record books: Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip, at 84 wins. If Gordon does win this weekend, it would be the first time since October 2007 that he won consecutive races (Talladega and Charlotte).

Can another jackpot be in the cards? It sure seems that way: Gordon ranks first in pre-race Driver Rating with a 117.0. Last year, Gordon dominated much of the race, leading 219 laps only to finish third.

Family Reunion Atop Standings
The Busch brothers – Kyle and Kurt – enjoy the first and second spots in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings heading into their hometown race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kyle holds a three-point advantage over older sibling Kurt.

It’s the first time family members have sat 1-2 in standings since father-son duo Bobby and Davey Allison did it after the season-opening Daytona 500 in 1988. Since 1975, when the position-based points system went into effect, no brothers have been 1-2 in the standings.

Kyle won the 2009 Las Vegas race; Kurt’s best finish at Vegas was third in 2005.

Return To Normalcy For Johnson
He didn’t win, but five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson landed back in the top five. It was the most recent example of a developing trend: Johnson shrugs off a tough Daytona 500 finish with a top five in race No. 2.

Johnson’s last five Daytona 500 finishes: 39th (2007); 27th (2008), 31st (2009), 35th (2010), 27th (2011).

Johnson’s last five finishes in the season’s second race: 3rd (2007), 2nd (2008), 9th (2009), 1st (2010), 3 rd (2011).

Expect more the same. Johnson has four wins at Las Vegas, more than any other driver.

Return To Glory For Iconic No. 43
AJ Allmendinger has opened the season with finishes of 11th (Daytona) and ninth (Phoenix). The resulting points position: 4th.

That put the iconic Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 back near the top of the points standings for the first time in more than two decades.

The last time the No. 43 car was this high in the standings was after Martinsville on April 26, 1987. The driver: Richard Petty.

Weekend Marks 50th Anniversary of Wendell Scott’s First Start
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wendell Scott’s first start -- March 4, 1961 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Spartanburg, S.C. -- every car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series will display a decal with Scott’s photo this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Scott, the first African-American to win a premier series race, ran 495 career races in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Labonte Stays In Top 10
Bobby Labonte, 2000 series champion, sits in the top 10 in points for the second consecutive race, the first time he has done that since August, 2004.

- NASCAR Media Services

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Cup Series Facts and Records

2010 Pole Sitter: #2-Kurt Busch, 188.719, finished 35th

Current Track Config Qualifying Record: Kurt Busch, 2/26/2010, 188.719mph

Old Track Config Qualifying Record: Kasey Kahne, 3/5/2004, 174.904mph

Oldest Pole Winner: Dale Jarrett, 44 years, 3 months, 6 days, 3/04/2001

Youngest Pole Winner: Kyle Busch, 22 years, 10 months, 0 days, 3/02/2008

2010 Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson, 141.450, started 20th

Track Race Record: Mark Martin, March 1998, 146.554mph

Slowest Race Record: Kyle Busch, 2009, 119.513mph

Worst Starting Spot to Win: Matt Kenseth 2004, started 25th

Oldest Winner: Sterling Marlin, 44 years, 8 months, 1 days, 3/3/2002

Youngest Winner: Kyle Busch, 23 years, 9 months, 29 days, 3/1/2009

Most Wins: 4 - Jimmie Johnson

Most Poles: 2 - Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Busch

Most Top 5s: 6 - Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon

Most Top 10s: 10 - Mark Martin

Most Cautions: 14 - 3/1/2009

Most Caution Laps: 66, 3/1/2009

Fewest Cautions: 2 - 2 times, most recently 3/5/2000

Fewest Caution Laps: 9, 3/1/1998

Most on the Lead Lap: 30 - 3/12/2006

Fewest on the Lead Lap: 10 - twice, most recently 3/7/1999

Most Running at the Finish: 42 - 3/5/2000

Fewest Running at the Finish: 33 - 3/7/2004

Most Leaders: 16, 3/11/2007

Fewest Leaders: 7, 3/5/2000

Most Lead Changes: 25 - 3/7/1999 and 3/13/2005

Fewest Lead Changes: 12 - 3/1/2009

Most Laps Led: 219 - Jeff Gordon, 2/28/2010

Most Laps Led by a Race Winner: 123 - Matt Kenseth, 3/7/2004

Fewest Laps Led by a Race Winner: 1 - Jimmie Johnson 3/12/2006

Most Wins by Manufacturer: 6 - Ford; 5 - Chevy; 1 - Dodge; 1 - Toyota

Closest Margin of Victory: 0.045 second - Jimmie Johnson over Matt Kenseth, 3/12/2006

Greatest Margin of Victory: 9.104 seconds - Matt Kenseth over Dale Earnhardt Jr., 3/2/2003

Races won from starting pos 1: 1 [of 13]
Races won from starting pos 2: 1
Races won from starting pos 3: 1
Races won from starting pos 4: 0
Races won from starting pos 5: 0
Races won from starting pos 7: 1
Races won from starting pos 9: 1
Races won from starting pos 11: 1
Races won from starting pos 17: 1
Races won from starting pos 19: 1
Races won from starting pos 20: 1
Races won from starting pos 23: 1
Races won from starting pos 24: 2
Races won from starting pos 25: 1
Races won from the top 5: 3 of 13
Races won from the top 10: 5 of 13

Gordon Dominates Phoenix to End 66 Race Winless Streak

Associated Press

Drive to End Winless Streak at 66
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Jeff Gordon's car was solid, he was able to overcame a slew of obstacles and led the most laps around at Phoenix International Raceway. Regardless of whether he won the race or not, he was going to be pleased with his weekend.

To actually grab those checkers, ending the longest winless streak of his career, well, it couldn't have gotten much better than that.

Gordon overcame several potentially troublesome incidents and passed Kyle Bush with eight laps left, ending his winless streak at 66 races with a persevering victory Sunday.

``It hasn't been fun, I can tell you that much,'' Gordon said of the previous two years. ``Today, that's what made this victory so special. We battled, we raced them and it was so cool to experience.''

Gordon joins a running list of drivers to end long winless streaks at PIR. Ryan Newman ended his checkerless drought at 77 races at PIR's spring race last year and Carl Edwards stopped his at 70 races without a win in the fall.

Read More Here

Subway Fresh Fit 500k Results

Saturday, February 26, 2011

No Two-Car Tandems This Week at Phoenix, Drivers Now Control Their Own Destiny

By Micah Roberts

Drivers get to use their brakes just a little bit more this week at Phoenix
Even though Daytona began the season last week, it could be argued that this weeks race at Phoenix is the real beginning to the season. Restrictor-plate racing only has four races a year and in those races, anything can, and usually does happen. The other races have more to do about the set-up of the car, engine, individual driver and who can be consistent in those races over that stretch.

The points count the same for all races, but there’s just more of these type of races to make it a major priority for most teams. You can have a poor race at Daytona and not be concerned, but to run poorly at Phoenix, and then Las Vegas next week, that will sound the alarms.

For some of the drivers, they just simply like being able to race on their own for the first time.

“That style of racing (Daytona) we only have four times a year," said Carl Edwards, winner of the last Phoenix race. "The other 32 times they are races like this, so this really is the style of track that you need to be good at and this is the start of the season that you can control more. That race on Sunday, that’s a tough one. That’s a tough one to be in control of your own destiny and your own fate.”

Tony Stewart is also ready to control his own desitny heading into Sunday's race.

"Daytona is a restrictor-plate race and, unlike Daytona, four guys can’t get in a line at Phoenix and go to the front", said Stewart. "Daytona and Talladega have always just been two different forms of racing. With the draft being so important at those two tracks, it’s more of a team deal than an individual deal. What happens at Phoenix and the races after that has to be done on your own. You can’t help each other at Phoenix. You just have to go race.”

Bayne wrecked his primary car early in Friday's practice
After watching Friday’s two practice sessions, it was no surprise we didn't see the names of Trevor Bayne, David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte -- top four finishers last week in the Daytona 500 -- anywhere near the top of the charts. Unlike last weeks race, there is no freakish two-car draft that can be the great equalizer. This week, It will be all about the top teams battling it out for the win.

Only two practice sessions were run leading up to qualifying. Of the two, the first practice should be used as the best barometer because most of the teams were running in race trim. The three known exceptions who used a qualifying set-up in the first practice were Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Burton.

The driver who looked the best during that first practice was Kevin Harvick who had the fastest average speeds and fourth fastest single lap overall. Seeing Harvick do well at Phoenix shouldn’t be that big of a surprise because he finished 13th or better last year in the six flat mid-range races at Phoenix, New Hampshire and Richmond. Kyle Busch was the only driver to match Harvick’s feat last season.

In 2006 Harvick won four of those six races, including a sweep of Phoenix. There is some uncertainty because he’s using a brand new chassis, but it appears that all the successful notes from last year transferred well into the new car. Following the practices, Harvick Tweeted that his Cup car was “really, really fast in race trim.”

He's not just blowing smoke either, his car is really fast and likely the one to beat Sunday.

Denny Hamlin had the second fastest times during the first practice and third fastest single lap. He is currently the favorite to win the race and it’s easy to see why on paper. Last year coming into the fall Phoenix race, he had been on a roll at tracks like this having won at Richmond and then runner-up at New Hampshire. He led the most laps at the ensuing Phoenix race but finished 12th because of some late miscalculations on fuel mileage. Overall, Hamlin has four third-place finishes at Phoenix and has an average finish of 9.8 in the eight COT races.

Edwards hopes everyone is in his mirror come checkered flag time 
During last years fall practices, Edwards blew everyone away and looked like the easy choice to win. He was first in every practice, sat on the pole and then won the race. Edwards is on the pole again this week, but his practices weren't near as good. He was much faster in qualifying trim than in a race set-up. He's debuting a new chassis this week.

Kyle Busch came out with the fastest lap in the final practice while in qualifying trim. During the early session, Busch was fifth fastest, but had the fastest 10 consecutive-lap average of the session meaning that he should be one of the best on the track in short runs.

Ryan Newman was excellent on the short run last season in this race when he beat Jeff Gordon off the line in the green-white-checker finish. In the fall, Newman came back with a runner-up finish to give him top-11 finishes in five of the six races on similar tracks. He didn’t do anything spectacular in practice, but he didn’t in either of his Phoenix practices last year. This week, he’s using the same chassis from both those Phoenix races.

A couple of long shots to take a look at begin with Kasey Kahne who had good average speed times and was the fastest for 10 consecutive laps in race trim during the final practice. David Ragan was right behind Kahne in the final practice on 10-lap speeds and was second quickest overall.

The was one initial surprise of the practice and qualifying sessions was a sluggish Jimmie Johnson. He finished 14th and 21st in practice, but before we get too worked thinking Jimmie may be sliding, we need to look back at his practices from the fall where they were worse than Friday’s. In that race, Johnson finished fifth. Over his career at Phoenix, no one has been better than Johnson’s 4.9 average finish in 15 starts. It’s his best track statistically.

Kurt Busch was fastest in the first session which got me kind of excited about his prospects, but I later found out he was in qualifying trim. He came back with only the 39th best lap in final practice.
Busch finished ninth in the fall last year and won at Phoenix in 2005.

Top 10 Phoenix Driver Ratings Following All Practice and Qualifying Sessions

Final Phoenix Driver Ratings Following All Practice and Qualifying Sessions

Roberts Weekly Driver Ratings 
Each week I will provide an analysis of my top rated drivers on how well they will do in the race based on the following criteria:
• Practice sessions leading up to the weekend’s Sprint Cup race
• Chassis information on what was brought to each track by each team, good or bad
• Driver tendencies at certain tracks
• Recent and overall histories for each driver at each track
• Decipher poor past results with what really happened, good car -- or bad luck?
These final ratings should help assist in final betting strategies with the Las Vegas books or match-up and prop plays, as well as help in NASCAR fantasy leagues.

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
Subway Fresh Fit 500k
Phoenix International Raceway
Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 12:15 pm (PDT)
Rating    Driver     Odds          Phoenix*   Practice 1  Practice 2    Qualified  

 1. Kevin Harvick 12/1              6th              4th             25th             17th
Swept Phoenix races in 2006. Fastest average speeds in first practice; new chassis.                  
 2. Denny Hamlin 5/1               12th            3rd             34th             12th         
Led the most laps in 2010 fall race; 4 third place finishes in eight COT starts on track.
 3. Carl Edwards 6/1                1st              12th            3rd                1st          
Won the 2009 fall race; 11.8 average finish in 13 starts. Using new chassis this week.
 4. Ryan Newman 30/1            2nd             15th             7th               14th        
Won 2010 spring race and was runner-up in the fall; using same chassis this week.
 5. Kyle Busch 7/1                    13th             5th             1st                4th 
Won as a rookie in 2005, no top fives since. Fastest consecutive 10 lap practice average.     
 6. Kasey Kahne 30/1              30th             7th             17th               3rd           
Never been his best track, but showed great average lap times in both practice sessions.                     
 7. Jimmie Johnson 6/1            5th             14th             21st             28th              
Four-time winner with an all-time track best average finish of 4.9 in 15 starts.
 8. Joey Logano 25/1                3rd              8th             15th              6th           
Looks to be a track well suited for him, 10th and 3rd in the 2010 races; practiced well.
 9. Tony Stewart 12/1               17th            21st             8th               18th     
1999 winner with 12.0 average finish; using runner-up chassis from June’s Loudon race. 
10. Kurt Busch 15/1                  9th              1st              39th              2nd           
2005 winner with 13.3 average finish in 16 starts; using rebuilt chassis from fall Charlotte race.                                         
* Results from the November 14, 2010 fall race at Phoenix.
Note: Practice 1 was primarily used in race trim with exception of Kurt Busch. 
Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.
Micah Roberts, a former race and sports Director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to

Friday, February 25, 2011

Phoenix Practice Quotes from Kurt Busch, Edwards, Stewart and Johnson

Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch 
KURT BUSCH ON WHY HE WAS ALMOST A HALF-SECOND FASTER THAN EVERYONE IN THE FIRST PRACTICE: “What’s interesting right now is that we have the ability to do what we want in qualifying practice. You’re seeing guys in race trim and guys in qualifying trim. We went out in qualifying trim and I think that I got a draft or at least the air was broken up when I chased Bowyer down right in front of me and that might have added to our car running a little bit faster. The only other car that we saw in qualifying trim was my teammate Brad Keselowski and Jeff Burton and those guys didn’t get the perfect lap in. Our car was just perfect right off the bat. It qualified third here last fall and it’s the setup that we started with today. The second run that I made was much slower. The track seems to be real fast in the beginning and then it slows up. Our goal was to go out right away, post a fast lap in case qualifying is rained out.”

CARL EDWARDS ON PHOENIX AFTER THE FIRST PRACTICE: “It’s good. The tire seems to work really well. The cars are fast and I’m just glad to be here. I love racing here. This is fun. It’s Subway weekend. We’ve got the Subway Ford Fusion and a Ford Mustang that’s pretty fast on the Nationwide side. I’m excited to race here.”

EDWARDS ON WHETHER THIS IS THE REAL START TO THE SEASON: “I think that’s one way to look at it. Auto racing is about driving down into the corner and managing the throttle and the brakes and the grip of the tires. I feel like that’s what racing is about. Now, you can’t argue that cars running two-by-two at 202 miles an hour at Daytona, that’s racing too. It is a different style of racing. That style of racing we only have four times a year. The other 32 times they are races like this, so this really is the style of track that you need to be good at and this is the start of the season that you can control more. That race on Sunday, that’s a tough one. That’s a tough one to be in control of your own destiny and your own fate.”

EDWARDS ON WHETHER HE FEELS LIKE THE FAVORITE THIS WEEK BECAUSE OF WINNING LAST YEAR: “I didn’t know there were only 40 cars here. That’s too bad. I’m pretty excited to be here. I feel like we ran so well in the Nationwide car and so well in the Cup car at the last event. I don’t know if I’m a favorite. I’m planning on winning the race. I don’t know if it’s gonna work out like that, but the biggest thing is we’d love to get the win in the Subway car. That would be huge. I don’t feel like there’s a track in the first half of the season at least that we have a better shot at winning. I have a lot of confidence here is the way to put it. As far as 40 cars, I don’t know the reasons exactly for what’s behind that, but I hope that we can have a full field at Las Vegas.”

Edwards Jumping Off the Stratosphere in Las Vegas

TONY STEWART ON HOW PRACTICE GONE AND ANY BIG DIFFERENCE WITH THE NEW NOSE: “I don’t think we’ve noticed anything with the new nose so far. I think the tire is a little different — it has more grip so it’s really hard to compare apples to apples anymore at this point.”

STEWART ON WHEN HE THINKS HE'LL HAVE A GOOD GAME PLAN ON HOW THE NEW PIT STOPS ARE GOING TO WORK: “We don’t talk about it. It’s still just when it’s full you go. Honestly, I don’t know. It’s not really my department. You have to ask the pit stop coaches and you would have to talk to the fuel guys and the crew chiefs — they’re the ones that are going to know how long they think it’s going to be until they get it all sorted out.”

Johnson will have a layover in Vegas 
JIMMIE JOHNSON TRYING TO EXPLAIN HIS SUCCESS AT PHOENIX: “It’s weird because in the Nationwide Series this was one of my worst tracks. We came back in the Cup Series and things have been a lot better for me. In the past this wasn’t a good track for Hendrick; so I think over the last six or seven years our company and the drivers at Hendrick have learned how to get this track down and what we need, along with the crew chiefs. It’s a fun track. You have two different ends and drive them differently with different banking in (Turns) 1 and 2 than in (Turns) 3 and 4. I run well on quirky tracks. This is one of those tracks. It’s low-grip, it’s odd-shaped, you can’t get the car perfect on either end of the track and you’ve got to make up for it and slide around yourself.”

JOHNSON LOOKING FORWARD TO VEGAS: “Vegas, the last few times, has had so much grip between the re-surfacing they did a few years back and the progressive banking and the new tires that we take to the track. So when I think of Vegas, I think of pulling (his belts) tight and taking a deep breath, especially in qualifying. You go out there and lay it all on the line (during qualifying). And in the race, you’re not tiptoeing around there either. In the race you’re laying it on pretty hard.”

JOHNSON ON THE HENDRICK TEAMS ALL TRING DIFFERENT TINGS THE FIRST FEW WEEKS: “We haven’t really thought about points that much. We certainly didn’t finish (Daytona 500) where we wanted to but there is so much racing left that we’re not concerned with that yet. We’re just more interested in what we worked on during the off-season and if it’s going to produce speed.

“All four teams are trying a few different things. We feel we can cover more territory that way. And then the fact that we have great drivers and crew chiefs, we can find our way back after a practice session and we’ll take what’s working from each car and apply it and hopefully get to the end result faster and have our cars as fast as possible.

By the end of these practice sessions to day or Vegas or soon to come. We’re working hard. There is a lot that has changed with the concept of our car and the way our cars are set-up and the set-ups underneath them. We worked really hard over the off-season to come back and have the speed that we should have.”

JOHNSON ON WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS AN ADVANTAGE OF STAYING OUT WEST LIKE HE IS THIS WEEK NOT NOT GOING HOME: “I don’t think so. For us, we realize that the season is long; and for myself and my family to take breaks in the action between races is important. Granted we just got started, so we don’t really feel like we need one, but we’ll take this chance to spend a couple of days and have some fun with some friends. But then actually Wednesday, I have to be in Las Vegas. Lowe’s has a big thing they do out there each year and there’s two days of work at Lowe’s before we go to the race track. So it is somewhat of a work week for me.”

Kurt Busch Fastest in First Phoenix Practice Session

Busch leads the first Phoenix practice session
By Micah Roberts

Kurt Busch led the way through the first -- and most important -- practice and was third best in average speeds while running 22 laps. After being the darling throughout speed weeks, Busch has come right out of the gate flexing his muscles in a completely different type of racing climate. I must say I had some reservations about the how the No. 22 team would perform this year with the switch, but it's clear that they are on the right path to equaling or bettering their 2010 run in the No. 2 car. It's only practice, but it's pretty revealing. (Note: Later revealed that Busch came out in Q-trim explaining the speeds)

Kevin Harvick was best in average speeds followed by Denny Hamlin. Jeff Burton ran the second fastest lap with teammate Clint Bowyer finishing 16th. Kasey Kahne was also very pleased with his car and it showed as he ran the 7th quickest lap. The Final practice will have some race trim practice early, but the last half will be almost exclusively in qualifying trim.

Top 5 Speeds From Practice No. 1 of two scheduled on Friday at Phoenix:
#22-Busch 136.539
#31-Burton 133.869
#11-Hamlin 133.754
#29-Harvick 133.412
#18-Busch 133.398
slowest: #92-Keselowski 125.209, #21-Bayne 98.047
no speed: #60-Cassill, #66-McDowell
notes: #21-Bayne had brake problems on his first lap and hit the wall coming off turn 3. He will have to go to a backup. #34-Kvapil also scraped the wall early but there was no major damage. #60-Cassill blew an engine on his first lap.

Second and Final Phoenix Practice - Happy Hour
All the top times of this session were run with qualifying trim. The top times prior to the set-up switch had Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr as the fastest.

Top 5 Happy Hour Speeds:
#18-Busch 136.085
#6-Ragan 136.034
#99-Edwards 136.034
#1-McMurray 135.993
#16-Biffle 135.716
slowest: #71-Lally 130.317, #92-Keselowski 128.255
notes: #36-Blaney spun coming off turn two and slid into the inside retaining wall. He will have to go to a backup.

Practice Quotes from Kurt Busch, Edwards, Stewart & Johnson Practice Page

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Driver Chassis Selections for Phoenix Subway Fresh Fit 500k

Note: Some Team Press Releases do not list chassis'

Compiled by Jeff Wackerlin

Edwards looking forward to Phoenix return with a brand new car
1. Carl Edwards: Coming off first win in 13 starts after leading 93 laps; Sixth-best average finish (11.9) in the eight races with the COT; 180 total laps led have all come with the COT; Led 87 laps in the 2007 fall race from the pole before an engine failure; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 726) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

2. David Gilliland: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in nine starts; 35.0 average finish in two starts with Front Row Motorsports; Finished 38th last November due to brake issues.

3. Bobby Labonte: 18.2 average finish in 24 starts; Last top 10 (eighth) came in 2007 spring race with Petty Enterprises; Will make first track start with JTG-Daugherty Racing.

4. Kurt Busch: Coming off ninth top 10 in 16 starts; His ninth-place finish in November was his fifth top 10 in 10 starts with Penske Racing; Ninth-best average finish (13.5) in the eight races with the COT; Has combined to lead 212 laps in the last five races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 738) that finished 30th at Charlotte last fall; This car has been completely rebuilt since then.

5. Juan Pablo Montoya: Led 104 laps last April en route to a fifth-place finish; Finish was second consecutive top 10; Finished 16th last November to give him an average finish of 17.0 in eight starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 1109) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

6. Regan Smith: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in five starts; Equaled best finish, of 23rd, last fall; Has yet to lead a lap; 25.6 average finish in three starts with Furniture Row Racing.

Kyle Busch won at Phoenix in 2005 while driving for HMS
7. Kyle Busch: 11.3 average finish in six starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Won the 2005 fall race with Hendrick Motorsports; Led 113 laps en route to an eighth-place finish last spring; Fourth-best average finish (10.4) in the eight races with the COT; Will race chassis No. 280 for the third time; This chassis most recently finished 35th at Auto Club after engine problems took him out of the race.

8. Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in eight starts; Best finish (21st) came in a Chevrolet with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in the 2008 spring race; Will make first track start with Richard Childress Racing; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 342) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

9. Mark Martin: 6.9 average finish in seven starts with the COT; Third in laps led (225) with the COT; Won the 2009 spring race from the pole in first track start with Hendrick Motorsports; Finished eighth last November for fourth consecutive top 10.

10. AJ Allmendinger: Won the pole and finished 15th last April; Finish was second consecutive top 15 driving a Ford; Started second and finished 18th last November to give him an overall average of 19.4 in five starts.

11. Bill Elliott: Will make first track start with Phoenix Racing; Last of four top 10s came in 1993.

12. Tony Stewart: 16.8 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas; Best finish with the team came in the 2009 spring race in third; 17th-place finish last November raised his average finish to 12.0 in 18 starts; Posted one win and six top fives in previous 14 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 587) that he most recently finished 24th with at Martinsville.

13. David Ragan: Only top 10 (10th) in eight starts came in the 2008 fall race; Has yet to lead a lap; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 737) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

15. Robby Gordon: 27.9 average finish in 17 starts; Best finish in 10 starts with Robby Gordon Motorsports came in the spring last year in 14th.

16. Clint Bowyer: Scored fourth top 10 (ninth) in 11 starts last year in this event; 13.8 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will pilot a new chassis (No. 340) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

Using 10th place Richmond car
17. Jamie McMurray: Coming off second top 10 in 15 starts; 17.0 average finish in two starts with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing; 16.2 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1008) that he finished 10th with at PIR last fall.

18. Martin Truex Jr.: 16.0 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Last of four top 10s came in the 2009 fall race when he won the pole and finished fifth with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing; The 2007 fall race was the only time he's led laps (72).

19. Denny Hamlin: Third-best driver average (9.8) in the eight races with the COT; 12th-place finish last fall put his finishing average to 11.6 in 11 overall starts; Second in laps led with 260; Finished 30th last spring 10 days after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee; Finish ended streak of four consecutive top 10s.

20. Ryan Newman: Winner of last year's spring race; Finished second last fall to give him an average finish of 20.2 in 17 starts; 9.8 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Will return in the same car that he ran in both Phoenix races last year.

Notable Drivers Outside the Top 20
Joey Logano: Coming off best finish in four starts in third; Finish was second consecutive top 10; 13.8 overall average finish and no laps led.

The No. 24 & No. 88 swapped garages for 2011 season 
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 17.5 average finish in six starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Has led a combined 150 laps with the team in 2008 and 2009 spring races; Won the events in 2003 and 2004 with Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

Kasey Kahne: Finished 30th last fall in first track start with Team Red Bull; Last of three top 10s came in the 2006 fall race with Evernham Motorsports; Has yet to lead a lap in 13 starts.

Jimmie Johnson: Winner of four of the last seven races; 4.9 average finish leads all drivers; Finished fifth last fall for 11th consecutive top 10; Leads all drivers with a 2.5 average finish and 744 laps led in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 590) that he last finished third with at Richmond.

Jeff Gordon: Finished second and 11th, respectively, in 2010; 17 top 10s in 24 starts; 14.0 average finish and 56 laps led in the eight starts with the COT; Won the 2007 spring race from the pole.

Brad Keselowski: 31.7 average finish in three starts; Best finish, and only inside top 30, came in this event last year in 16th.

David Reutimann: Only top 10s came in the 2009 season; 26th-place finish last fall raised his finishing average to 19.9 in seven starts.

Brian Vickers: Finished 37th in this event last year; 30.3 average finish in six starts with Team Red Bull; Only top 10 (fifth) came with Hendrick Motorsports in 2005.

Matt Kenseth: Finished in the top 10 in both races in 2010; 14.9 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Winner of the 2002 race; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 725) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

Greg Biffle: 10.5 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Coming off fourth top five (fourth) in 14 starts; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 727) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

Jeff Burton: 11.0 average finish in 13 starts with Richard Childress Racing; Finished 25th in this event last year after a penalty on pit road; Both finishes in 2010 were first outside the top 15 with RCR; Won the 2000 and 2001 events with Roush Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 323) that he finished 18th with at Kansas last fall.

Marcos Ambrose: 15.2 average finish in five starts; Will make first track start with Richard Petty Motorsports.

Kevin Harvick: Won both Cup races in 2006; 14.4 average finish and 54 laps led in the eight races with the COT; Best finish since season sweep came in the 2007 and 2010 fall race in sixth; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 332) in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Driver Notes & Quotes For Phoenix Subway Fresh Fit 500k

Busch bringing a car to Phoenix with a poor resume 
KYLE BUSCH ON PHOENIX AND WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN THERE: “I’m glad to go back to a racetrack that drivers matter and car handling matters. You always want to win at Daytona, so don’t get me wrong. But taking everything into account, I’m pleased to get a top-10 finish and start off the season on the right foot as far as the points go. I ran really well at Phoenix in both races last year, but circumstances kept us from winning there last year. The late caution in the spring race hurt us and not being able to stretch out fuel mileage in the fall race obviously hurt us, as well. I’m looking forward to getting back there, for sure, and hoping we can get Combos into victory lane again, as well.

"You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have good brakes. You’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but being a day race and being hot and slick, it makes it that much more interesting.”

KYLE BUSCH CHASSIS SELECTION - Chassis No. 280: This chassis will make its third career start during Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. In its maiden start, at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn last August, Busch qualified No. 280 in 18th and ran within the top-10 before a scrape with the wall relegated him to an 18th-place finish. In its most recent start at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., last October, Busch started 16th but finished a disappointing 35th as a blown engine ended his day on lap 155 of the 200-lap race.

Pole sitter in spring 2010 Phoenix race
A.J. ALLMENDINGER ON THINKING HE COULD GET HIS FIRST CAREER WIN AT PHOENIX BECAUSE OF PAST SUCCESS THERE: “I look at every track that way. We go in every weekend trying to go with the same attitude of winning, but, yeah, I think you look at tracks where we have had success at, Phoenix, Dover and Loudon especially, and you get a little more excited about it. Like I said, even though we have qualified well there and ran decent during the races, I don’t feel we have been contending for top-10s there and we need to get better at that. Over the offseason we have really been able to sit down and pinpoint the areas we needed to work on. In the little bit of testing we have done, we have focused on those areas and have ideas of how we can make it better. You don’t really know until you go to that place and get on the race track and feel what it is like, but I feel like we are going to have better race cars and the motors will be better. I think we have better ideas of what to do, so I am looking forward to it.”

DAVID REUTIMANN ONE WHERE HE NEEDS TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS IN 2011: “Our 1.5-mile program is pretty good. I think our speedway program is decent, as well. Obviously, the road course deal is what it is. It seems like we need to be better at the flatter-type race tracks. I think our 1.5-mile program and race tracks that have some bank to them are going pretty well. The flatter-type race tracks, like Phoenix, Martinsville and Loudon — places like that we need to get better at those race tracks. We’ve run well there, so we know we can run well, we just don’t do it consistently.”

REUTIMANN ON WHATHER FLAT TRACKS SUIT HIS DRIVING STYLE: “I would have thought they would have, coming from a background of short, flat race tracks — I thought we would have been better there. I don’t feel like I’m better at 1.5-mile tracks, I just feel like our cars are better at those tracks. We have a better product for bigger race tracks and we just need to make our product a little bit better for the flatter-type race tracks. We struggle there a bit. I know Rodney (Childers, crew chief) is working awfully hard to make it so it’s not like that any more.”

ROBBY GORDON RECAPPING EFFORTS AT DAYTONA: “Daytona was a very exciting race this year. We had a very fast Dodge Charger, and the Penske power was awesome. I was really bummed that we spun our dancing partner, Brad Keselowski, because the two of us were very fast together. We knew that we needed to be there at the end to have a shot at the win. With two laps remaining, I felt that since we ran in the top 10 for most of the day that we would easily finish there, but it is Daytona and anything can happen. Unfortunately, we got moved out of line with only one to go. I honestly have no idea how I saved that one, but did and went on to finish 16th. It was a good finish for our team, but we could have easily finished better had we not got moved out of line. The team did a great job, and I’m really looking forward to Phoenix this weekend.”

New Blue Deuce this week
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON HOW HE'LL PERFORM AT PHOENIX: “I enjoy the challenge that Phoenix provides. It’s a very unique layout that has little – if any – grip. The track is worn down and it sits in that Arizona sun and just bakes, so it’s hard to get your car hooked up. But that’s part of the reason it’s so much fun to race there. It just seems like you are sliding around the entire race because it doesn’t take long for your tires to wear out. You really have to be smooth. That’s what I focus on when I get there and I think anyone that runs well there does the same thing. It’s also really important to work with your crew chief to come up with a setup that is balanced and will work well with the asphalt at Phoenix.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will use chassis PRS-736 during Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). This is a brand-new chassis to the No. 2 team.

JEFF GORDON ON RACING AT PHOENIX: “There will be some new things that we will need to adjust to this weekend. In the past, the sun can be difficult to deal with while driving into turn 1. Friday’s practice session will give us an opportunity to see what kind of challenge that gives us in February. And those practice sessions now determine our qualifying order. This should make qualifying very interesting with the fast drivers going out later and later. We could see the top spot changing after each run. Qualifying well here seems to help on race day. It’s not like Daytona where you can go from 10th to the lead in one lap. Sometimes it can take several laps just to gain one position. And the fewer positions needed to gain to get to the front, the better.”

JJ bringing 3rd-place Richmond car
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON PHOENIX RESURFACING THE TRACK AFTER THIS RACE: “Definitely disappointed that they needed to resurface the track. I understand that at some point all tracks need it and they are at that point. We love the tracks that are worn out and on the verge of needing to be resurfaced. I think we put on our best races there. So, disappointed to hear it go but Phoenix has done a good job in speaking with folks, drivers, trying to understand the track from a safety standpoint and to make sure that we don’t have single-file racing starting at the first race after the repave. I’ve been in talks with Phoenix and the crew that is working on the track and I feel good about things and where they are going with it. If we don’t like it, which sounds like the chances are low, in time it will come back, just like a lot of the other tracks.”

Johnson has made 15 Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix, where he has earned four wins, 10 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes.
. Johnson has completed 100% (4750 of 4750) of competition laps at the one-mile track and has led 857.
. He has an average start and finish of 11.7 and 4.9.

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot chassis No. 590 in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race. He last drove that car to a third-place finish at Richmond in Sept. 2010. Backup chassis No. 540 crossed the finish line fifth at Phoenix last November.

DENNY HAMLIN ON THE KEY TO GETTING AROUND PHOENIX: “For me, the key to being fast at Phoenix is how you brake getting into the corner. It’s a tricky place to get around, but I have found that if I set my car up good getting into the corner, we get so much more speed getting off the corner and down the straightaways. I really like racing at Phoenix and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it reminds me a lot of the places I raced when I was growing up. I spent my early career running flat tracks in Late Models and this track feels like that to me. It’s flat and requires you to be really good with your setup if you are going to be quick through the corners.”

Other Phoenix Team Notes From the Week:
RCR Phoenix Preview
Roush Phoenix Preview
Chevy Driver's Phoenix Preview

Chevy Drivers Look to Dominate Phoenix Again; 10 Straight Wins Before Loss Last Fall

McMurray and Montoya discuss strategy before practice last week
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – 17TH IN STANDINGS: “I am looking forward to Phoenix this weekend. Daytona is always a race that requires some luck and being in the right place at the right time. Moving on to some of the intermediate tracks that we run on more frequently, we can get a better gauge on what our team has to show. Phoenix offers a challenge because the corners are so different from one end of the track to the other. It is a place that is real fun to race if you hit the right balance. I am excited to get our Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet back on the track.”

No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1008. Kevin “Bono” Manion will bring chassis #1008. This was the chassis that McMurray drove to a 10th place finish in the fall race at Phoenix last year.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 6TH IN STANDINGS: “Phoenix is a cool place. It is really tricky. Both ends are very different. It’s one of those tracks you look forward to going to because it’s so different. From what I heard they’re going to change it up a bit when we go back there in the fall so that’s a little disappointing. I haven’t seen the proposed plan but they are probably looking for better racing or something different. The racing has always been pretty exciting there I thought.”

No. 42 Target Chevrolet (NSCS): Chassis #1109. Brian Pattie and the Target team will be bringing Chassis #1109 to Phoenix International Raceway. This is a brand-new chassis.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/ AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET – 22ND IN STANDINGS – HAS TWO (2) PIR WINS – ’03, ’04: “I have a lot of respect for Steve (Letarte) as a crew chief. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him better these past couple of months. I’ve seen him make some awesome calls and do a lot of great things with Jeff (Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet). I really enjoy the way the team approaches their jobs and what their goals are. I like the way they go about business, how they conduct themselves. Those guys are used to winning. I like that pressure and sense of entitlement to winning. Handling is really important at Phoenix. It takes something special to make a car work really good there. Turns 3 and 4 have been a challenge for me lately. Both ends can be challenging but (Turns) 3 and 4 create a longer corner, and they are just so different from each other.”

Gordon one to watch at Phoenix with team changes 
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – – 26TH IN STANDINGS — HAS WON ONCE (1) AT PIR – ’07: “Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the entire No. 24 crew did a great job during Speedweeks. We had a fast car and were able to sit on the front row for the ‘500. Then, after the wreck in the Duel, they did a great job repairing the car so we could keep our starting spot for the race. The car was fast in the race, we just got caught up in an early wreck. They did an amazing job of getting that car back on the track Sunday, and that type of determination and teamwork is why I’m looking forward to racing with this group at Phoenix and the rest of the 2011 season. There will be some new things that we will need to adjust to this weekend. In the past, the sun can be difficult to deal with while driving into turn 1. Friday’s practice session will give us an opportunity to see what kind of challenge that gives us in February. And those practice sessions now determine our qualifying order. This should make qualifying very interesting with the fast drivers going out later and later. We could see the top spot changing after each run. Qualifying well here seems to help on race day. It’s not like Daytona where you can go from 10th to the lead in one lap. Sometimes it can take several laps just to gain one position. And the fewer positions needed to gain to get to the front, the better.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – 25TH IN STANDINGS – HAS FOUR (4) VICTORIES AT THE ONE-MILE OVAL – ;07, ’08, ’08, ’09: “Definitely disappointed that they needed to resurface the track. I understand that at some point all tracks need it and they are at that point. We love the tracks that are worn out and on the verge of needing to be resurfaced. I think we put on our best races there. So, disappointed to hear it go but Phoenix has done a good job in speaking with folks, drivers, trying to understand the track from a safety standpoint and to make sure that we don’t have single-file racing starting at the first race after the repave. I’ve been in talks with Phoenix and the crew that is working on the track and I feel good about things and where they are going with it. If we don’t like it, which sounds like the chances are low, in time it will come back, just like a lot of the other tracks.”

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – 9TH IN STANDINGS – HAS TWO (2) PIR VICTORIES – ’93, ’09: “I love racing at Phoenix. I’m a big fan of short track racing. I grew up racing on short tracks and it’s just always been something I’ve enjoyed. I’ve had a lot of success at Phoenix, too, so that gets me pretty geared up when I get out there. There comes a time when you really aren’t sure you’ll ever get a win again. I was at that point (when he won Phoenix with Hendrick Motorsports in 2009). I knew our team was capable, but I hadn’t won in so long. That night was incredible. I was just so happy. Beyond happy. And to see the guys, Alan (Gustafson) and the crew guys, to see their faces. I’ll never forget it. Then to have as many of the other drivers and owners in this sport come to see me. It will be one of the most memorable wins of my career for sure.”

Newman beat Gordon off the line in a G-W-C Phoenix finish in spring 
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET – 20TH IN STADINGS – HAS ONE (1) PIR WIN – ’10: “Phoenix is really one of my favorite racetracks because the design of the racetrack makes it fun and challenging to drive. It’s definitely a driver’s racetrack. We’ve always said that because it’s so unique. It’s different from one end to the other. And, therefore, the crew chief can only get one end perfect, it seems, and the other one the driver has to adapt to. It’s not a compromise if your crew chief does a good job setting up the race car, because you can do things to try to manipulate those opposite end of the racetrack. But when your car is not working it’s up to the driver to make up what you can of what’s left, and that I think separates the men from the boys at Phoenix. Phoenix is interesting because, I think every time we come back here, it seems like the track loses just a small percentage of grip, and that’s a good thing because the driver has to drive and hustle the car a little bit more and a little bit differently and still be smooth. It’s those aspects that make this track a lot of fun to me. And it is a special track to me. It’s where I started my Sprint Cup career. It’s the first track I raced on in NASCAR, so it’s an important place. And after last year with our win, it’s a special track for our team, too, so we are looking forward to going back there. It’s kind of funny actually. After the Daytona 500 on Sunday, I was making my back way to the bus lot and Jimmie Johnson saw me and he was like ‘Are you ready for Phoenix?’ and I said ‘Yeah, since like last Tuesday.’ It’s just a track that I have always liked from my USAC days. Back then, Phoenix was the place to race, so it’s kind of like a track that’s the backbone of how I’m used to racing. We ran so well there last year, and we seem to be in-tune with the racetrack, so we’re looking forward to continuing our streak of solid finishes there.”

NEWMAN CHASSIS SELECTION - Chassis No. 39-536: For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 team, chassis No. 39-536 has been a favorite. The Subway Fresh Fit 500k marks its first outing in 2011. Prior to this season, Newman piloted this chassis at three races in 2010 – twice at Phoenix International Raceway and once at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. In the car’s first outing at Phoenix last April, Newman took the lead on the final restart of the race and held on to the top spot for the final two laps to score his first win driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. In November, it was a key pit call, once again, that led to a runner-up finish. At Richmond, Newman finished 11th. The chassis also saw action four times in 2009 – twice at Phoenix with 16th- and 20th-place finishes and twice at Richmond with fourth and 10th-place finishes, respectively. During the offseason, the car’s front clip was updated for 2011. The car was also wind tunnel tested in early February with good results.

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/ MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 12TH IN STANDINGS – HAS ONE (1) PIR WIN – ’99: “I think everybody’s pretty worn out after being in Daytona for so long. Phoenix means a normal routine and a chance for the crew guys to get back to their families for a couple of days before heading to another racetrack. I think so. Daytona is a restrictor-plate race and, unlike Daytona, four guys can’t get in a line at Phoenix and go to the front. Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) have always just been two different forms of racing. With the draft being so important at those two tracks, it’s more of a team deal than an individual deal. What happens at Phoenix and the races after that has to be done on your own. You can’t help each other at Phoenix. You just have to go race.”

Stewart is bringing a strong chassis this week 
STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE - Chassis No. 14-587: This car made its debut in March 2010 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where it qualified fifth and finished 26th. Prior to Martinsville, Chassis No. 14-587 never turned a wheel on the racetrack. With a new body honed in the wind tunnel, it was tested at The Milwaukee Mile June 1 in preparation for its second career start in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. There, Chassis No. 14-587 earned a hard-fought second-place finish, for after starting 25th, it fell to 33rd after a lap 36 pit miscue on the team’s first stop. Two late-race cautions allowed Stewart to regain his lost track position, and with a savvy two-tire pit call, Stewart wheeled Chassis No. 14-587 to pass second-place Kurt Busch on the penultimate lap. The car returned to New Hampshire for the first event of the 10-race Chase for the Championship, where in its third career start, it qualified third before leading three times for 100 laps. But while leading with less than two laps to go, it ran out of fuel. Stewart coasted around the 1.058-mile oval for the final circuit of the 300-lap race and finished 24th, the last driver on the lead lap. Clint Bowyer, who served as Stewart’s primary competition for much of the race, wound up with the victory. Chassis No. 14-587 revisited Martinsville for round six of the Chase, where it qualified sixth and rallied back from two pit-road miscues during the race, but a flat right-front tire with less than 10 laps remaining relegated it to a 24th-place finish. With another new body, this car makes its first start of 2011 and fifth overall this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET – 6TH IN STANDINGS: “After Daytona 500 I found time to take a few deep breaths, and for a short time, rehashed what could have been. But then it was all about Phoenix and thinking about how important it is to maintain the momentum we gained during Speedweeks. While in Daytona, Phoenix’s one-mile oval was on our mind and we went to Disney World Speedway to conduct a test session. We were pleased with what we learned in the test and feel that Phoenix and the following races should be good for our Furniture Row Chevrolet. We’re looking for big things and know that we have the potential to produce positive results on a weekly basis.”

Roush Fenway Racing Subway Fresh Fit 500 Phoenix Preview

Edwards jumped into the stands after ending 70 race winless streak 
CARL EDWARDS ON RACING AT PHOENIX: "I’m looking forward to going back to Phoenix after our win there last November. I’ve always loved racing there and I will be out there laying in front of the excavating equipment trying to get them to leave it after the race. I really like that surface a lot. I don’t think you can mess that track up though, it’s the right size, the sun beats down and it gets slippery. It will be neat after the new pavement as well.”

EDWARDS CREW CHIEF BOB OSBORNE ON PHOENIX: "It would be great to repeat our performance from last fall and get another win at Phoenix. We are taking a brand new car that should be even better than the car we won with there last year. It was a relief to come out of Daytona with a good finish and the points lead. It’s nice when you don’t start the season in a points deficit and spend the first several races trying to fight your way back into the top 10.”

FAST FACTS: Carl Edwards enters Phoenix leading the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings by one point over David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte after his second-place finish in the Daytona 500.

DEFENDING WINNER…Edwards won the last race at Phoenix in November after leading 93 laps. He broke a 70-race winless streak for his first Sprint Cup win there.

FOR THE RECORD… In 13 starts at the one-mile track, Edwards has one win, five top-five and nine top-10 finishes. His average start and finish is 11.8. Edwards has completed 94.4 percent (3896 of 4126) of laps in Cup competition attempted at Phoenix.

IN THE LOOP… According to NASCAR’s Loop Statistics compiled over the last 13 races at Phoenix, Edwards has turned 234 of the track’s fastest laps (fourth most), spent 2,777 laps in the top 15, and has led 180 laps. He has a driver rating of 101.7 (second best).

ON THE TRACK… The No. 99 crew will unload RK-726 at Phoenix. This is a brand new car and the first of three races where Subway will be the primary sponsor.

Biffle has a 14.6 average finish at Phoenix
GREG BIFFLE ON RACING AT PHOENIX: “I really can’t wait to go to Phoenix this weekend. I love that track and I love going out west. We’ve run well there but we don’t have a win there yet in the cup car. In order to run well at Phoenix, you really have to work on getting your car to handle well at both ends which can be difficult because they are very different. I would say the only other track that is so different at both ends is Darlington. If we can get that figured out, we should have a really good race in Phoenix.”

BIFFLE CREW CHIEF GREG ERWIN ON PHOENIX: “Well, we have a couple of variables that we are going to have to work with when we get to Phoenix. Goodyear has changed the tire base on a test we actually were a part of in Richmond last year. So that may change our setup a little. Roush Fenway as a company also just made a decision to use Raybestos brakes across the boards. That will be something that Greg (Biffle) will need to work with and get used to this weekend as well. Beyond that, I would say that as a company, we gained on out short track program last year and we are also looking forward to seeing how the new Ford nose and splitter combination works for us at a non-restrictor plate track.”

• Biffle is currently 32nd in the Sprint Cup point standings following his 35th-place finish at Daytona.
• Biffle has an average finish of 14.6 from an average starting position of 13.6 at PIR.
• Following this weekend’s race at Phoenix, Biffle is planning to stay on the west coast and enjoy some time at the sand dunes with his sand cars. Going to the dunes is one of Biffle’s favorite activities away from the racetrack.
• Interesting fact: 3M developed the first refastenable diaper tapes in 1985.
• Visit to learn more about all of the innovative products 3M has to offer.

LAST TIME IN PHOENIX: Greg Biffle started fourth in the 3M Scotch Brand Ford but fell back over the course of the race with an ill-handling racecar. The Pit Bulls made several adjustments to the car throughout the race but in the end the part that mattered was the fuel tank. With 22 laps remaining, Biffle was running ninth and reporting that the car had no grip. Just a few laps later, however, several of the front runners began to run out of fuel and Biffle began picking up positions. He was able to move up five spots and score his ninth top five of the season. The fourth-place finish moved Biffle up one position to eighth in the point standings.

Kenseth's last win came in race No. 2 of the 2009 season at Fontana
MATT KENSETH ON RACING AT PHOENIX: "Phoenix is a track that I really enjoy racing at. There are a lot of challenges when we race there since it’s such a unique track, so we usually focus on handling in order to make sure that our Crown Royal Ford handles well in all of the track’s different corners in race trim. Qualifying is important at Phoenix since it’s a track where it can be difficult to pass, so track position is always a focus for our team when we unload. If we can get our car to handle well, get good track position, and have fast pit stops, those are usually the keys for a successful run at Phoenix.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON PHOENIX: “We earned a top-ten finish the last two times we raced at Phoenix, so I’m hoping to have another strong run on Sunday. One of the main challenges of racing at Phoenix is always making sure the driver can see since the sun drops into their line of sight during the race. This is a weekend where it’s hard to pass, so track position will be important and we’ll work on qualifying set-ups in an effort to get good track position right from the start of the race.”

KENSETH PRIMARY CHASSIS: RK-725 (brand new chassis)

DAVID RAGAN ON RACING AT PHOENIX: “Phoenix is the second race of the year and the last year for the current track surface, so it will be good to try and go all out and get a good run. We think we’ve improved our short track stuff from a year ago, so it will be interesting to see how we perform right off the truck with our new short-track program.”

RAGAN PRIMARY CHASSIS CHOICE: RK-737 Brand new chassis; Backup: RK-640 Last ran California – finished 32nd

- Roush Fenway Racing Press Release

RCR Driver Previews for Phoenix: Only Burton Coming With Race Used Chassis

New chassis for Bowyer this week
Clint Bowyer
No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 340 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 33 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps on the track at Phoenix.

Where It All Began … Bowyer returns to the “Desert Jewel” where he made his Sprint Cup Series debut in 2005. Running a No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress, Bowyer finished 22nd after starting 25th.

Last Time Around … Bowyer pulled out a 21st-place finish after running out of gas in the waning laps of the Kobalt Tools 500 last November. He started in the 14th position.

Career Phoenix Stats … The Fresh Fit 500 marks Bowyer’s 183rd NSCS start.
* In 11 NSCS starts at the one-mile oval, Bowyer owns two top-five and four top-10 finishes.
* He has completed 99.7 percent (3,489 of 3,499) of the total laps contested at PIR during his career.
* The Emporia, Kan., native has led 21 total laps at PIR.
* Bowyer owns an average starting position of 19.4 and average finishing position of 15.5.
* His best effort at the Arizona facility is a second-place finish in the April 2008 event.

With all of the hype around the 500, is it hard to get yourself excited for Phoenix because you expend so much energy traveling to Daytona for the 500?
“Well, not really. The way I see it is that it’s the start of the regular season. Our Super Bowl is the start of our season; the playoffs are at the end with no Super Bowl. It is different, but none the less, Phoenix is an important race track. It gives you that first shot at looking where you stack up against the competition. Do you have work to do? Are you behind? Are you looking good compared to the competition? That’s your first look at how you stack up to the competition.”

You’ve ran in the top 10 the last two of three races at Phoenix. Do you feel like you’re getting a little more out of that place now?
“Not really. That’s one of my favorite race tracks. We’ve really put a lot of emphasis on Phoenix this year in the off season because I know our package isn’t right. I don’t know what it is, but that’s one of my best race tracks. It’s where we should run well at. For what ever reason, we can’t, so we’re working hard on Phoenix. Hopefully, we’re going to come up with a better package, so we can go there and run better with it.”

Not the start Harvick wanted at Daytona
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Jimmy John’s Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 332 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 29 racer is a brand new car which will see its first laps on the track during Friday’s practice session.

What a Career … The Fresh Fit 500 marks Harvick’s 360th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He currently owns 77 top-five and 155-top-10 finishes with 14 wins. Harvick has also led 3,503 laps during his NSCS career.

Phoenix Career Stats ….6 percent (5,041 of 5,062) of the contested laps at PIR and led 316 of those In 16 starts at the one-mile oval, Harvick has earned two wins (back-to-back victories in 2006), three top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He has completed 99 laps.

In the Loop … Harvick owns some impressive loop statistics at PIR: Fifth in most laps led (316), Fifth in fastest driver early in the run, Sixth in laps in the top-15 (2,714), Sixth in fastest driver on restarts, Seventh in fastest laps run (147), Seventh in green flag speed and Eighth in running position (11.906).

With all the hype around Daytona, is Phoenix the real start of the regular season?
“To carry that momentum from Daytona to Phoenix is going to be exciting for all of us. I know that I look forward to going there just for the fact that I grew up racing there, and I enjoy the race track.”

There’s quite a bit of hype difference between the first and second week of our sport unlike other sports.
“Well, when you lead off the season with your biggest race, the Daytona 500, there’s really no other race on the schedule that can match the hype and anticipation of that particular race. It is really the first official week of what it’s going to be like on the weekly grind as we go to Phoenix this year.”

This is no longer a night race. Will the track be different from a night race? Will it be a different kind of race?
“I love racing during the day because I like when the race track gets slick. You have to manage the car, tires and everything that goes with it. That is definitely something you have to do at Phoenix. It really changes the complexion of the race when it’s in the day there. I think it’s the right thing to do – race on Sunday afternoon.”

Burton has been one of the most consistent at Phoenix
Jeff Burton
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 323 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s 312-lap affair. Built new for 2010, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put through its first paces at Kansas Speedway in October where the 18-year veteran finished 18th after starting 23rd.

Phoenix Minutes … In 23 starts at PIR, Burton boasts back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2001, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Additionally, the South Boston, Va., native captured the checkered flag in the 2000 NASCAR Nationwide Series event at PIR.Burton has also been running at the end of every Sprint Cup Series race at PIR and has completed 99.8 percent of laps (7,175 of 7,191) contested.

Good Start, Impressive Finish … Over those same 23 races, Burton boasts a 24.3 starting average bested by an impressive 11.7 average finish. The 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner has finished outside the top 15 only twice (April 2010 and November 2010) in the past 20 races.

Right Mix at Phoenix … Since joining RCR in August 2004, Burton has run 13 races at PIR, garnering an 11.2 average finish with two top-five, seven top-10 and 11 top-15 finishes.

Loopy in the Grand Canyon State … According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, which was initiated in 2004, Burton is the sport’s best Green-Flag Passer. Over the past 12 races at the desert oval, he has completed 590 passes under green-flag conditions. Additionally, the 18-year Sprint Cup Series driver is the sport’s fifth-best Qualify Passer. Of the 590 passes made, Burton has completed 305 of them while running in the top 15 under green-flag conditions.

Jeff Burton Quotes:
With all of the hype and energy that surrounded Daytona, is it hard to get excited for Phoenix?
“No, I think you’re establishing a rhythm. You’re establishing the flow. You’re establishing the tempo of your team this time of year. I know that’s hard to explain. The work that goes on from the when the race ends until the next one is very important, including the communication and things you need to do to make sure you’re prepared to go to the next race. This starts to get you into that rhythm. I think one of the smartest things NASCAR has done in a long time is to put Phoenix as the second race of the year. I’ve always thought that going to Daytona, with all of the action and excitement of the Daytona 500, and then going to California was always the wrong thing to do. Nothing against California, but Phoenix is a heck of a more exciting race than California. To be able to go to Phoenix next is, I think, a great move by NASCAR. I think it keeps momentum and excitement. It’s a short track. When we leave Daytona, you’re going to have people mad at each other, you’re going to have a Daytona 500 winner, you’re going to have people that lost, and then you’re going to go to a short track. I think that’s what racing is all about.”

Clint (Bowyer, RCR teammate) said it’s kind of weird that your Super Bowl is at the beginning of the season, then you go through the regular season and have playoffs at the end. Phoenix becomes the start of the actual regular season. What are your thoughts on that?
“I think it’s the start of understanding where you really are. Someone can go to Daytona and win the race, then go to Phoenix and run 30th. The two races are just so different. If there’s somewhere you want to run well and you pick the first three races – Daytona, Phoenix and Vegas – and you run well at two of them, you pick Vegas and Phoenix because that means you have a handle on your down force program. By far, the majority of the tracks that we run on are down force tracks. It’s important to be able to go to Phoenix and Vegas and run well.”

What challenges do drivers face at Phoenix?
“It’s a really cool race track. Both ends of the race track are completely different. It’s not really a short track. It’s like a small superspeedway. The straightaways are real long and restarts are really aggressive. The front straightaway is down hill which leads to a really sharp turn one corner. The exit of turn two is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. Turns three and four are big, long, sweeping corners. Some people can run the top and some can run below the apron which gives the drivers different options. It’s a challenge because it’s so different on both ends of the race track.”

Menard brings new RCR chassis
Paul Menard
No. 27 Vertis/Menards Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Vertis/Menards Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 342 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet, and will see its first laps on the track at PIR.

Phoenix is said to be a “driver’s track.” What is your approach to this challenging one-mile raceway?
“PIR is a great track and is a lot of fun to drive. It’s a short track, but in a lot of ways it drives like an intermediate-style track. Brakes will be important, but mostly we’ll work to keep the car turning without giving up the drive off. The last few times I’ve been there, keeping the rear tires from spinning has been the key.”

You and the No. 27 team had a solid Speedweeks at Daytona. What did you learn and what will you take with you to Phoenix?
“Slugger has assembled a great race team. I was very proud of the way my guys worked together and with our team cars. Unfortunately, Daytona and Phoenix are completely different style tracks, so there won’t be any translation there, but it gives me the confidence that we’ll have another fast Chevrolet and have the ability to make it better throughout the weekend.”

Richard Childress Racing Phoenix Notes

RCR at PIR … Team owner Richard Childress has three victories, tying him with Robert Yates for third on the all-time car owner victories list at the Avondale facility. In 68 races at Phoenix, RCR has earned three wins, including Kevin Harvick’s sweep of both races at PIR in 2006. Prior to that, Dale Earnhardt won the Checker 500 on Nov. 4, 1990. Additionally, the Welcome, N.C.-based organization boasts 12 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes.

RCR Daytona 500 Rewind … In last Sunday’s Daytona 500, RCR drivers led a total of 19 times for a combined 52 laps, more than any other organization, despite posting finishes that don’t reflect how they ran all day. Jeff Burton and Harvick exited the Great American Race early for engine failures that resulted in 36th- and 42nd-place finish while Clint Bowyer was collected in a multi-car incident, while running in the front pack, with just four laps remaining. He went on to finish 17th while Paul Menard brought home a ninth-place effort.

Get to the Points … RCR’s four Sprint Cup Series drivers rank eighth (Menard), 16th (Bowyer), 32nd (Burton) and 37th (Harvick) leading into this weekend’s race at Phoenix.

RCR on Twitter … To keep up-to-date with the latest news and information and to view exclusive content, visit RCR’s Twitter page – @RCRracing – along with the RCR Sprint Cup Series team Twitter pages – @RCR27PMenard, @RCR29KHarvick, @RCR31JeffBurton and @RCR33CBowyer.

- Richard Childress Racing Press Releases